Building Smart Walls Into Buildings with Conductive Paint

Smart surfaces, and more specifically, smart walls are part of the future of the Internet of Things (IoT). Turning ordinary walls into smart interfaces, sensors and data collectors, can lead to optimised energy consumption or increased efficiency. Indeed, sensor deployment is forecasted to reach 1.3 billion within the next couple of years, according to Deloitte.  But with what technology can these walls be built? Smart walls technically already exist. Created by using cameras, microphones and drones, but these are cumbersome and expensive solutions. Conductive paint and interactive wallpaper can be used to create smart walls which are cheaper, and more seamlessly integrated than current technology.

Smart walls will help to build the future of smart buildings, allowing for buildings to be more efficient in terms of energy consumption and preventing damage as well as adding more comfort for occupants. Smart walls used as an interface, would allow users to adjust temperature or light levels. They can be used for occupancy sensing, acting as a heating element or light switch to save energy. They can also be used to create responsive interfaces to create engaging environments for occupants to interact with.

At the moment, the technology used for creating smart walls is limited to cameras, microphones and motion sensors. This set-up, however, is expensive, cumbersome to install and, in the case of cameras and microphones, not anonymous. Smart walls built with conductive paint allow occupants to remain unidentified and anonymous. Using conductive paint to print directly onto wall material also provides a scalable solution. Not to mention the fact that printing conductive paint offers a much cheaper alternative to the aforementioned technology, especially when calculating by the area each sensor can cover.

With our Dynamically Functional Surfaces technology, we provide the tools to implement a smart wall with printed electronics. Our products and technology are accessible to both individual consumers looking to prototype specific use-cases as well as to industrial partners seeking to build solutions into their portfolio or supply chain. We use capacitive sensing in combination with our conductive paint, Electric Paint, which can turn any surface and any wall smart.

One case study showing how printed electronics technology was integrated into walls is a project by the designer Alexandre Echasseriau, who created a smart wall by printing interactive wallpaper. Printed with the Electric Paint and using the Touch Board to add interactivity, this project encompassed a complete ecosystem for musical wallpaper. Alexandre developed a bespoke wall speaker and wallpaper which combined to create a decorative and functional pattern.

A sound is activated by placing a hand on the wallpaper, through the capacitive sensing of the Touch Board, the wall acts as an interface to the user. This interactive wallpaper project involved the development of a custom wallpaper printing process and this was made possible through a collaboration with the company Ugépa. Together with the combination of conductive paint and capacitive sensing, Alexandre was able to scale his smart wall project and create customisable interfaces.

Another example of a smart wall was created by Dublin-based studio, Lightscape, who created an interactive mural experience that brings commonly searched for information into the physical environment. The aim of the digital was to reduce their own screen time, so they created an informative map that details the real-time movements and schedules of public transport, weather reports and messaging capabilities.

They used the Interactive Wall Kit to create their wall, using conductive paint to create graphics and connecting them to each electrode of the Touch Board. The capacitance on the conductive paint changes through human touch to trigger events in the software, which then controls the projector. This system made it possible for the software to recognise the sensors and respond with a projection, designed to relay information or send a pre-programmed message. Running on their Mac Mini server, the projections were controlled by a custom-built interactive animation, that communicated with public data APIs to get the train, bus, bike and weather updates, which in turn change the animations to match.

Bare Conductive’s smart surface technology allows users to create smart walls within their environment and bring IoT into their buildings. At Bare, we work closely with leading companies and researchers in manufacturing and construction to integrate smart surfaces directly into walls and materials at scale. The goal? To create smart buildings with IoT using smart materials, so reprogrammable interaction and intelligence are built directly into the walls, floors and surfaces around us. We envision a future where there is no need to add wires and sensors to a wall to build interfaces, as the underlying functionality will be printed onto these surfaces, waiting to be programmed or activated based on the user’s specific application and goals.

For more information on how we work with industrial partners to develop scalable solutions make sure to visit the Technology page.

To build your own smart wall, check out the Interactive Wall Kit. Or explore more projects via our Blog and Resources pages.