By Lexie Lu
For as long as anyone can remember, buildings have always been rigid, unintelligent things. Most are nothing more than a frame or structure used to provide shelter, a place of work or general space. However, as is evident from the advancement of modern technology, that’s soon to change with the next generation of structural areas.
Intelligent, more-aware buildings are being developed to offer unprecedented levels of energy and resource efficiency, organizational management, general optimization, and improved occupant health and productivity.
It sounds a bit mad at first, but smart technologies — namely IoT and AI — are making it possible to create intelligent and heavily automated spaces for the modern world. These new structures are also forming the basis for the smart cities of the future.
A Memoori report reveals that the global market for the Internet of Things in Buildings (BIoT) will grow from $34.8 billion at the end of 2017 to $84.2 billion by 2022. That equates to a compound annual growth rate of 19.4 percent.
In addition, the report reveals that the Asia-Pacific region is leading the charge when it comes to the adoption of these platforms and technologies, with the U.S. not far behind.
The question is, why the sudden and exponential growth? What does smart technology truly offer the commercial world? What benefits will smart buildings provide?
1. Smart Tech Improves Energy and Resource Efficiencies
The extent of improvements depends on the technologies implemented and how they are used, but overall smart systems can vastly improve resource usage. In particular, buildings become much more energy efficient not just through better resource application, but also from enhanced monitoring solutions.
Smart lighting, for instance, can turn off expensive systems when no one is present in the building, or even to better manage them during off-peak hours. Leak detection sensors can discover potential water leaks and fix them sooner. Smart climate control systems can automate the cooling and heating processes to eliminate costly temperature changes.
Renewable energy application also becomes more viable thanks to smart technologies. Solar-powered systems can be supported through supplementary energy solutions when generation is paltry. That also opens up organizations to renewable energy accreditations and tax breaks.
2. IoT Empowers Autonomy
IoT and smart, connected devices are designed to collect and report vast quantities of information. The resulting data is used to improve conventional operations, as well as automate them in full. This augments user-focused processes to allow for more efficient worker and personnel tasks.
In a smart building, any rote and repetitive tasks are handled by an automated system, freeing up the workforce for more important and user-centric responsibilities.
3. Enhanced Convenience and Control
In addition to the many conveniences and enhanced control options smart technologies provide, there’s a remote element introduced too. Not only do decision-makers and management teams gain a boost in control options, but they can also handle such duties anytime, and from anywhere. This relates to all operations and aspects of a building’s management.
Imagine being able to fine-tune payroll and scheduling while on an international business trip. Adversely, climate control systems can be managed in this same regard to keep operating costs down. The improvements are offered in the enterprise and professional fronts, as well as property management.
4. Unprecedented Analysis and Intelligent Reporting Opportunities
With more robust information flowing in, decision-makers and personnel can continuously discover new opportunities. Operational data might reveal entirely new solutions that were never considered in the past.
The initial benefit is that efficiency is enhanced in many ways. This translates to the bottom line, allowing for lower operational costs and higher revenue streams.
5. Predictive Maintenance Is Now Possible
For decades, building maintenance has either been a preventive or reactive operation. Thanks to real-time data and more nuanced information, it’s now possible to carry out predictive actions. Sensors can measure building, space and equipment performance and deliver alerts based on contextual information.
If a system is losing efficiency, maintenance crews will not only be able to identify why but also take action to change course. In this way, equipment and spaces can be kept optimized and healthy for longer periods while mitigating downtime for the entire property.
6. Real-Time Space Management Is Enabled for All
Whether you’re talking about an entire corporate-owned facility or a smaller, sublet space, there are always situations where proper management is necessary. Maybe a meeting room needs to be properly managed or leased? Perhaps individual offices are constantly being swapped to accommodate a changing workforce?
Whatever the case, smart buildings introduce the concept of real-time space management and not just to higher-ups, but for everyone. Teams can reserve conference spaces. Employees can book offices or private rooms. Management crews can monitor — in real-time — how their building and rooms are being used.
7. IoT Increases Safety and Security
Understandably, it’s incredibly important for people to feel safe in their workplace or on the corporate campus in today’s landscape. Smart building technologies like IoT can enable real-time reporting and security assessment tools to help make total safety a reality.
The possibilities go far beyond conventional security solutions like cameras and general surveillance, however. An entire building can be controlled and interfaced remotely, which means security teams can do things like lock down specific areas to prevent unauthorized access. Colleges and universities are using smart technologies to track people on the property and deliver real-time safety alerts. There’s also a disaster awareness element, allowing for greater evacuation and management opportunities during emergencies.
8. Self-Diagnosing, Self-Monitoring and Self-Healing Spaces Are a Reality
Because smart buildings are constantly gathering information, the data can be used to structure systems and create more reactive situations. A building or facility can become self-diagnosing, self-monitoring and self-healing, allowing the people spending time within to focus on more important matters.
For example, if an elevator breaks down in a smart building, a control system can identify the problem, attempt to correct it and then report its findings to the necessary team. As a result, maintenance crews can respond in person, or simply remain informed about what the system did. This means problems are fixed much sooner, but also that the resulting teams can remain more hands-off.
9. More Synchronized Services and Operation
By nature, expansive properties are more siloed, keeping departmental teams and various sections separate in terms of operation and even communication. Smart buildings can break down these barriers and allow for a much more streamlined corporate process.
Imagine knowing when another department is on break or unavailable. Because internal teams are often dependent on one another at varying times and in different ways, this helps generate a much more organized environment. For instance, remote teams can see when HR is going to be out of the office, allowing for better schedule management and ample reaction times.
10. Smart Buildings See Increased Tenant Retention
For property managers and owners, smart building technology also allows for stronger controls over resource and space usage. New opportunities to improve convenience for tenants also help boost retention.
Managers can see not just how their spaces and buildings are being used, but can also identify ways to enhance convenience and functionality. Maybe adding another type of amenity is necessary? Perhaps tenants are leaving because they don’t have access to a particular service or function?
The data coming in can reveal the necessary insights to make these changes and optimize the entire property so it’s better suited for tenants.
The Future Is Smart
After considering many of the benefits listed, it’s impossible not to see a brighter, more intelligent future, particularly when it comes to the application of buildings and physical spaces. IoT, AI, cloud computing, remote technologies and much more will be key players in the next generation of physical spaces — rightfully dubbed the smart buildings and smart cities of the future.