SAG_Twitter_MEME_IoT_changed.jpgToday’s Internet of Things (IoT) devices are changing rapidly and they increasingly have their own specific needs, requiring the physical space in which to perform their tasks efficiently.

Once architects fully understand the implications, we will see substantial changes to the layouts of buildings as they digitalize.

Imagine you are running an old, worn-out hospital and you just got a grant to build a brand new one; one that will last for decades and will be a leader in medical services and expertise. What would you do? Whom would you involve in planning the new layout of your hospital? With the rapid evolution in technology innovation, how can a hospital building continue to constantly renew itself in terms of its functions and operations?

The architects of today have to design for humanity as well as for innovation. This can be a daunting task when it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly how the changes will play out in the real world. Instead of designing hospitals to respond to the health care system of today, or even of tomorrow, hospital officials have to figure out how to design for the unknown, said to Michael Covert, former president and CEO of Palomar Health. 

Currently there are four top priorities when building the hospital of the future, according to the AHA's Performance Improvement Committee. It must first be in alignment with physicians’ needs in order to support them in the journey ahead. Then quality and safety programs that can save patient lives are essential. With increasing costs, new hospitals need to be efficient and support high productivity.  IT is the fourth priority.

However, it is telling that many hospitals see digital innovation through the eyes of IT and not OT. Having Wifi and computer networks in place, together with the right e-health systems, seems to be as advanced as it currently gets. Very few consider the implications of robotics and how they could change the logistics of a hospital. For example, right now most patients are moved from their beds to specialized areas for treatment. But what if those treatments could come to the patient? A newborn baby could be flown to its mother by a drone for feeding!

If Amazon can drop you a parcel via a drone at home, why can’t a drone bring you your medicine in the hospital? Sounds pretty convincing, but imagine drones flying overhead through the hallways with patients walking around as well.  Wouldn’t it be better if drones had their own fly zones?

And how would they move to different floors – use the same elevator as sick patients? It would be better if they had their own lift shafts. And where would they recharge? A large hospital might easily have a few dozen drones, so a repair and maintenance area is needed too. And what if there are robots that support doctors and nurses? They, too, would need their own space.

The real challenge is that these kinds of changes cannot be retrofitted in any hospital without major reconstruction. Most hospitals need to last for a few decades, so architects have to start designing now for the digital future now, anticipating what innovation is really going to mean for hospitals and other large infrastructures. Because Things have changed - and they are still changing fast.

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