Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of joining Amii’s board of directors as a representative for the University of Alberta. Amii, spun out of the U of A, is one of the most elite artificial intelligence and machine learning groups in the world.
There are so many entities, right here in Edmonton, that are innovating and using AI to address complex, global problems and attracting and retaining top talent to the area while they’re at it. So, where will these talented folks and flourishing businesses reside? The answers lie within Edmonton’s real estate and commercial development sphere.
This month I’ll be moderating a session at the Edmonton Real Estate Forum where we’ll examine the continued diversification of Edmonton’s economy and what it means for employment, growth, and consequently, real estate demand. The AI industry is a key selling point for potential investors and a competitive advantage that Edmonton offers over many other markets. AI doesn’t just influence how we attract and sell real estate and commercial development. It also influences how we construct and use our physical spaces.
Here at the U of A, I’m fortunate to have a front-row seat to the practical application of AI in our own spaces. On our north campus we are reimagining a 100-year-old building called University Commons that will be a crossroads for academic and student services in our community and a gathering and learning place for everyone. When it opens this year, it will be much smarter too.
Researchers, like Eleni Stroulia, vice dean in the Faculty of Science, are creating a complex system that will allow us to understand exactly what happens in the building — from occupancy levels and types of activities to temperature, ventilation and lighting control, so that we consume less energy and reduce the cost of the building’s operation while maintaining or improving the comfort of the occupants.
Using sensors — from thermostats to WIFI access points and personal devices — the building’s AI will be able to adapt to the needs of its occupants in real time. It will improve health by monitoring and improving air quality, security by controlling personalized access codes for each occupant, safety by detecting dangerous events and aiding in evacuations and content by informing and connecting the community.
“This building will house amazing people and amazing students doing cool stuff,” says Stroulia. “We’ll be able to showcase it, giving access to the occupants to show their research and tell everybody what they’re doing, and make connections and discoveries together.”
University Commons is just one example of how AI is changing how we live, learn, work and interact with each other and with our natural and built environments. While you may not have an expert team of AI innovators behind your business, you do have opportunities to benefit from AI.
Whether you invest in some practical applications to improve your security access system or conserve energy — and one day, even sell your excess energy to the building across the street — the more AI continues to grow in our region, the more people and organizations will put down roots here; and that real estate, commercial development and economic growth will benefit us all.