Smart buildings were a staple of only Hollywood Sci-Fi flicks. However, the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) and wireless technologies has allowed smart homes and buildings to become fact, and soon a norm. Despite the exorbitant costs associated with the transformation of smart buildings, they are still being increasingly adopted by both individual homeowners and business firms. However, it IoT makes a stronger case for businesses because at the moment it has a higher ROI for them. This is because with IoT it gets easy for office managers to efficiently allocate their resources when they know which part of the building needs their resources the most and which part is idling away at precious energy.l
The Main Advantages of Smart Buildings
This is possible because all of the equipment in the office is interconnected with each other. These include telephones, lighting, HVAC systems, window blinds, computer monitors and even security systems. Gartner says that just in 2017, there will be 8.4 billion connected equipment in use, an increase of 31% from 2016, which is further predicted to grow to 26 billion devices in 2020.
Moreover, the seamless connection between all these devices is neatly displayed on a user-friendly dashboard. Office managers can use these to remotely monitor operations without having to physically go to the equipment. When everything goes to plan, the end result is lower electricity bills and increased office space. Worker motivation is highly improved resulting in increased productivity and lower employee turnover.
The devices are backed up by Power-Over-Ethernet (POE) technology, which sends low voltage over data cables, minimizing the number of traditional wires that must be used resulting in lower cost, lower maintenance and increased flexibility. It also ends up looking aesthetically pleasing.
The main problem with managing IoT for smart buildings is seamless integration at scale. IoT for a smart building would generate large amounts of data which is only useful it is processed and analyzed in real-time. This requires a powerful software base. It is imperative that the software which is responsible for connecting these items be as streamlined as possible, a clunky design of the dashboard will inevitably lead to under-utilization of the building’s automation capabilities. Often times, these ‘smart’ buildings are poorly optimized and the technology only ends up getting in the way.
An example is window blinds randomly opening and closing without any justified reasoning. This is why proper advice from expert consultants is needed to ensure that the proprietary software is working in tandem with the equipment.
Another problem is displaying the massive amounts of data that is being generated by the IoT in an actionable manner for viewers. Hence, the need for an expertly designed dashboard that neatly presents all the data. The bigger challenge here is not the storage of the data per-se, it can be stored on local servers or even the cloud – the issue is the processing power required for the data. These require dedicated super computers which can sometimes only be provided by third party vendors, usually the cloud computing solutions of Google, Microsoft and Amazon.
How it’s done — Building Smart Buildings
Any smart building worth its salt needs to have an effective BEM (building energy management) system in place allowing them to account for all energy ins and outs within the structure, while effectively sending feedback to the building owner. This is accomplished by using the emerging Power Over Ethernet (POE) technology which sends low electricity over data cables.
The electrical current enters the power-supply end of the cables without affecting the data, ensuring that there is no overlap of these two signals. It is a result of the latest IEEE 802.3at standard. The IEEE 802.3at provides up to 25.5W of power per port, which is double that of the older IEEE 802.3af standard.
What it will eventually feel like
It is after office hours, an employee working at a smart office has a project to finish within the stipulated deadlines, and as they approach the security door, the camera recognizes the employee, letting them in. The thermal sensors built in the building borrow climate data in real time from the internet, thus sensing that the ambient temperature has gone down below a certain threshold, start the air conditioning systems which quietly raise the temperature so the employee doesn’t feel chilly inside.
Each room that the employee occupies recognizes their presence, automatically flicking on the lights so he doesn’t have to individually go to each switch and turn them on or off. Once the employee has left the building, all lights, computers, monitors and HVACR systems shutdown on their own without ever needing a human input to shut them down.
Utilities will be used based on demand, ensuring that there isn’t incessant wastage of electricity and heating. This reduces the overall carbon footprint of the building as well, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, placing both the owners and the employees on the right track to fight climate change.
Some Case Studies
The Duke Energy Center
An impressive platinum certified LEED building, it not only allows tenants to monitor their power consumption over an app, but also finds one of the most interesting ways to conserve water, having underground storage for groundwater and rainwater. The building has its own irrigation system and water saving plumbing devices which even track the evaporation rates of water for their roof garden.
The first zero carbon building in Hong Kong, it has one of the most impressive building management systems (BMS) in the world, with over 2800 sensing points placed strategically throughout the building. The BEPAD (Building Environment Performance Assessment Dashboard) is a custom proprietary software designed with the specific intent to act as a friendly graphic user interface between the smart tech and the user, allowing for real time data track records on energy use, room occupancy and water usage among other things.
The ISS Group
They’re deploying the expertise of Watson, IBM’s supercomputer that can cure cancer, to power the software behind their smart buildings. Watson will be using sensors and devices installed within a building to provide state of the art analytics, allowing proper usage of the massive amounts of big data that is being generated. Over 25,000 of such buildings will benefit from IBM’s IoT capabilities, making the buildings user friendly and more personalized.
Data will be collected from millions of devices including chairs, windows and dispensers allowing ISS to properly manage their resources more effectively.
IoT is the next combined evolution phase of smart devices and the internet, and smarter environments and buildings are the first practical implication of this evolution. All that is left to see is how rapidly this evolution takes place.
by Bobby J Davidson
As the President of Percento Technologies, I provide day-to-day leadership to the company’s senior management and I am personally involved in the strategy, business development and sales activities of the company.
The company was founded in 1999 with the purpose of providing a Business Technology | Anytime | Anywhere for organizations in need of Managed IT Services, Professional IT Consulting, and Infrastructure Projects. We have a fantastic suite of boutique-managed Cloud Servers to choose, along with Network Cabling and high end professional website services.
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