IBM partners with Delos to find connections between health and indoor spaces

The insights gained from combining IBM's cognitive technologies and Delos' data should be useful for building healthier living and work environments.

IBM on Tuesday announced it's venturing into yet another realm of health analytics, in a new partnership with Delos, a company that bills itself as a "wellness real estate and technology firm."

In a multi-year collaboration, the companies will use IBM cloud and cognitive technologies to glean insights from Delos' data into how the design of indoor spaces impacts human health.

"We spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, which is why it is critically important to ensure that indoor spaces are not only livable, but also healthy," said Delos COO Peter Scialla in a statement.

Delos, launched in 2009, provides services to integrate health considerations into real estate design and development. It offers technology, design, research, and consulting services, and the company has also pioneered standards in its field, such as the WELL Building Standard.

Delos has also invested in major research efforts to learn more about the impact of indoor environments on health. In 2015, the company partnered with the Mayo Clinic to open the Well Living Lab, a lab space that simulates real-world indoor environments to monitor the effects of factors like indoor light, thermal settings, acoustics, and air quality. The lab uses IoT sensors to monitor those variables, as well as technologies like wearable devices to collect biometric data from lab participants.

That's where IBM comes in -- after accumulating terabytes of data from the Well Living Lab and other research efforts, Delos and IBM plan to analyze it using IBM's Watson technology and Bluemix data analytics services.

"As the healthcare community increasingly recognizes the many factors that impact health, the Well Living Lab is improving our understanding of how indoor environments impact health and wellness," said Shawn Murray, worldwide director of Bluemix Garage, in a statement. "By infusing the Lab with advances in cloud innovation, cognitive computing and the Internet of Things, we believe we can help create rapid insights that deepen and accelerate this important research."

Together, IBM and Delos will create cognitive applications to gain insights on how to improve the design, construction, and management of indoor spaces. They also aim to identify the potential return on investment that can be achieved through healthier indoor environments.

While the collaborative effort starts with data collected from the Well Living Lab, Scialla said that Delos looks forward to working with IBM to analyze real-world data.

"When you combine the work in the Well Living Lab with the fact that we're talking about millions upon millions of square feet of real estate in the real-world environment that is employing wellness programming, either via the WELL Building Standard or other traditional measures, there is a wealth of data we're going to need to interpret," Scialla told ZDNet. "Data mining this and looking for patterns and learning how to interpret the data to inform the industry is something that is right in IBM Watson's wheelhouse, and we're excited to be a part of it."

The market for this kind of data spans a range of industries, Scialla said, from companies with HR departments interested in establishing healthy environments to real estate development and the insurance industry.

"If you think about the prospect of rallying the insurance industry to understand how the [indoor] environment affects long-term human health, I'm sure they're going to be quite interested in what we find," he said.

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