The Future of Smart Buildings

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The way we live, work, and play has changed radically in the past two decades. A key driver of that change is the internet and the connectivity that it gives everyone to the world at large. However, the changes we have seen already are simply the tip of the iceberg of what is coming. Previously the changes we have seen have been built around better and faster ways of improving person-to-person communication. The technologies that have been released in recent years have flipped this paradigm on its head.

IoT devices are taking the world by storm. These devices are transforming and changing the way we interact with technology and each other. The Internet of Things (IoT) powers devices from kitchen appliances to airline jet engines and everything in between. Using IoT devices, we can not only gain access to information faster; decisions can be made automatically based on previously programmed conditions.

The popularity of IoT devices continues to skyrocket around the world, with a current count of over 50.1 billion connected devices in 2020. Considering that only a few short years ago, it was 22.9 billion devices, it is not out of the realm of possibility to see another doubling with these devices soon.

Understand the Future of Smart Buildings

What is Smart Building?

One area where IoT devices are making significant inroads is within commercial and residential property. With the cost of sensors and cloud computing falling in price almost daily, the use of smart devices in buildings is becoming ever more common. In fact, the Internet of Things in Buildings (BioT) is one of the fastest-growing areas of technology in relation to the property.

It is estimated that by 2020 there will be close to 10 billion devices installed in buildings around the world. While many of the more popular uses revolve around improved energy utilization, there are other applications where BIoT also plays a part. Overall revenues from smart building projects were in the region of $8.5 billion in 2016. This number is expected to skyrocket by 2022 to an astronomical $58 billion globally.

Understand the Future of Smart Buildings

When it comes to Smart Building’s here are some of the key trends to consider for the years ahead:

Smart Lighting

Over the past decade, many homes and businesses have transitioned away from the older halogen style bulbs to newer LED lighting. These more modern bulbs are extremely energy efficient and utilize 80% of the electricity in comparison to the older bulbs. However, while these lights are growing in popularity, many older homes and buildings have not yet transitioned.

Smart lighting (or human-centric lighting) is the solution to this problem. Human brains are sensitive to light, and based on the lighting conditions; we feel different physiological symptoms. As such bright light after lunch can help keep employees motivated, and lights that gradually fade out at home can help you fall asleep. The bulbs themselves have sensors that can detect whether or not a human is present. This way, if no-one is in the room, they can automatically turn off, which saves even more energy.

Understand the Future of Smart Buildings

The benefits of smart lighting are not just in the immediate energy savings that it generates. Building facility managers can use the data generated to better plan occupancy levels helping ensure spaces are used more cost-effectively.

Intelligent Parking

Finding a parking space can be a challenging exercise at the best of times. Fortunately, the use of sensors in the building and the parking area can help rectify this gap. By detecting what spots are available, this web of sensors can quickly notify commuters helping them save valuable time. The network can be further extended to let individuals reserve spots also.

Building Security

IoT devices are extremely useful for security when used with access control systems and cameras. These systems can use local WiFi access or the cloud and can be paired up with key fobs, personalized key cards, and even smartphones.

Integrated cloud-based systems provide homeowners and facility managers remote management capabilities removing the requirement to be physically present for access. In addition, integration with other services helps expand the capabilities of many of these devices, lets users create customized schedules, designate actions based on intrusion alarms, and more.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Monitoring

Office buildings are plagued with a lack of ventilation. Many facilities in the larger metropolitan centers are forced to make do with older air circulation systems, which can lead to high levels of CO2. Studies have directly linked these higher concentrations of CO2 to a reduction in performance; hence the more significant attention organizations are now paying to IAQ.

IoT sensors can integrate with a Building Automation System (BAS) and provide detailed measurements to facility managers and companies. An understanding of the Particulate Matter (PM) present as well as details of any Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), can be crucial in caring for the health of your workforce.

By using IoT sensors linked to demand control ventilation systems, BAS systems can intelligently bring in outside air based on usage and activity. Organizations that can regulate the amount of outside air based on CO2 readings save on energy consumption costs and improve employee performance and health.

Predictive Maintenance

Sensors can be placed on machinery and equipment to help provide warnings to technicians and engineers. These sensors can be further expanded to detect and alert based on temperature, noise, or vibration based on pre-designated thresholds.

Based on the issue detected and the complexity of the problem, repairs can be conducted at an earlier stage, helping save on further wear and tear and more costly repairs.

Cybersecurity

While IoT devices are beneficial when used correctly, devices that are not correctly protected and secured can cause significant issues. With more and more smart home devices being added to homes and businesses daily, more opportunities exist to introduce malware.

Understand the Future of Smart Buildings

Gartner predicted that by the end of 2018, close to 20% of all smart buildings would suffer some form of cyber attack. Some of these can be quite catastrophic for businesses with criminals holding companies hostage. Fortunately, newer IoT devices incorporate better security, and patches are released regularly to plug any vulnerabilities discovered. Recent trends in cybersecurity incorporate biometrics to frustrate malicious individuals further and improve overall safety.

Real-Time Cloud Visualization

Historically, the management of a building required on-site visits, which for buildings geographically distant, could be time-consuming and costly. Currently, sensors and information about issues and alerts within a building, even if centralized, are only accessible through these site visits.

However, with many IoT devices and services providing access through the cloud, this requirement could be flipped on its head. Smart building technologies continue to be created and deployed, and one of the driving reasons for their popularity is the improved access they provide to information.

With cloud services, we have all become accustomed to having information readily available. With smart sensors now able to share that data and the insights provided to facility managers around the world, valuable time and money can be saved. In addition, information about failures and problems can be shared with senior engineers and other specialists. This can help speed up problem resolution. Finally, a shared cloud environment can improve the ability to understand trends across sites that might not otherwise be apparent from an in-person visit.

Operational Technology (OT) Focus

IT or Information Technology is all about networks, servers, security, databases, and other systems we’ve grown accustomed to using daily. Operational Technology or OT is somewhat different. With OT, the intention is to understand the changes. So while IT is the infrastructure, OT is the hardware and software that is used to determine how that infrastructure is being impacted.

This is a playground that is ideally suited to IoT, where smart devices can provide operational insights that businesses can use to make decisions. OT has been around for a while, but it has only really been appropriately defined in recent years.

Understand the Future of Smart Buildings

Historically IT and OT have been separate and distinct, but in recent years that line has started to blur with an increased convergence between the two technologies.

Conclusion

The IoT market is growing by leaps and bounds on an almost daily basis. Whether you are trying to improve building efficiencies, save money on your energy costs, or simply improve the information and management ability of your teams, IoT devices and platforms have a lot to offer.

Companies that wish to take advantage of these benefits need to partner with a business that understands how IoT works and how to utilize it to its best. The NIX team have the know-how you are looking for when it comes to IoT. They can work with your organization to take a project from a simple idea to a fully fleshed-out product that is suitable for commercial use.

A recent IoT project, the team at NIX successfully completed, was for an intelligent HVAC system. Working with the client, the team navigated multiple challenges that cropped up during the course of the short project. Upon completion, the client had a system that allowed them to control two-million square feet of mixed-use space, helping maximize energy savings and costs.