Smart Building concepts have existed for some time, even though the exact definition of a Smart Building may have seemed elusive. “Smartness” rightfully implies a form of intelligence. Thus, the recognized need for “Smart” Buildings likely represents an indictment on the relative lack of intelligence in buildings today. This lack probably points to the desire for more intelligence and the basis for today's IoT Smart Building trends.
Historically, CRE has moved slowly. Expect that to change going forward.
Many believe that Smart Buildings will provide greater connectivity in building systems. Certainly, buildings contain complex mechanical Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems as well as control systems that can improve the comfort and productivity of building occupants. Smart Building technology can therefore provide the means for greater levels of integration between existing building systems. We expect that to increase as open standards continually pave the way. Smart Building technology will go far beyond those concepts, however.
Smart Buildings feature an amazing capacity to connect people with technology. Not only will Smart Building technology assist in facility management efforts, but Smart Building technology will also provide valuable insights to the use and enjoyment of the building spaces. Energy efficiency, building sustainability, and workforce management efforts will all benefit.
IoT at the Core of Smart Buildings Trends
IoT can leverage inexpensive wireless devices that can retrofit an existing building to monitor and control critical systems (e.g., HVAC). Certainly, retrofit IoT installations incur a fraction of the cost of installing or replacing an existing Building Automation System (BAS). Don’t become infatuated with the many projections seeking to estimate the potential size of the IoT market. It’s big, so we’ll leave it at that.
Significantly, IoT has the capacity of solving real, everyday problems. Far beyond technology for technology’s sake, IoT delivers practical results needed by your enterprise.
Let’s look at some of the top IoT Smart Building trends.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data
AI can deliver game-changing analytics based on Machine Learning, Anomaly Detection, Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD), Predictive Maintenance, and more. For example, any and all of these AI disciplines can be used to deliver insights on the present and future performance of critical HVAC assets in a building. Wouldn’t you like to know that your Roof Top Unit (RTU) was performing outside of the normal specifications established over the last 60 days? The potential for catastrophic failure could implicate far more than energy efficiency. Emergency repair costs and landlord reputation costs would vastly outweigh deviations in the monthly electric bill.
Every building owner, facility manager, building engineer, service provider, and tenant can benefit from the insights delivered by AI. AI needs data, however. Without rich supplies of IoT data, AI application engines would starve and fail to run and its full potential. AI will play an increasingly significantly role in Smart Buildings. Certainly, AI could be the key to producing peak IoT.
2. Asset Digitization
We consume digital information on a daily basis; it's the new normal. Asset digitization is revolutionizing CRE as it catches up to the rest of the market economy. Frankly, the opaqueness of historical CRE operations cannot live on.
IoT facilitates asset digitization at the whole building or individual asset level. Consider, for example, Asset Condition Monitoring (ACM). Most organizations have little to no visibility into critical HVAC assets such as chillers, cooling towers and RTUs. They may have some understanding of monthly electricity consumption, but have no insight into the real-time operational status of those assets. For assets deemed critical, and that represent the largest consumers of electricity and water in a building, this seems difficult to comprehend.
IoT can capture granular data from those critical HVAC assets in the building, including supply/return temperatures, fan speeds, vibration, flow rates, compressor run times, total energy consumption, etc. All of these measures can be captured in real-time to enable key operational insights (e.g., AI). Critically, IoT connects you to key assets in a building. When aggregated across the entire building, IoT delivers asset digitization across the entire building.
3. Real-Time Cloud Visualizations
4. Energy Efficiency
IoT will continue to produce outsized results in the quest for energy efficiency because market penetration has only just begun. An alarmingly low percentage of buildings today have access to any form of real-time energy reporting. Too many buildings continue to rely on manual meter reading.
IoT provides access to real-time monitoring of electric, water and gas meters. Moreover, IoT can go beyond the main meter to provide real-time wireless sub-metering that enables granular energy monitoring of individual tenant spaces, critical assets, etc.
Mere access to real-time submetering data will highlight clear inefficiencies in your buildings. You don’t necessarily need advanced analytics and algorithms. Mere access to a structured data-gathering platform for collection of granular energy usage in your building will provide valuable insights to all stakeholders. Most organizations have barely even begun to address energy efficiency. Energy efficiency will remain at the forefront of IoT Smart Building trends.
5. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Monitoring
IoT provides the fastest, most economical method of augmenting your building’s infrastructure to enable real-time IAQ monitoring. Even the most advanced BAS will barely support modern IAQ measures such as Particulate Matter (PM) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Certifications such as WELL have identified strategies to limit pollutant and contaminant concentrations using evidence-based guidelines. Fitwel has also collaborated with RESET to promote IAQ globally.
Certainly, IAQ will establish an even greater footprint in the IoT Smart Building market.
6. Virtual BAS
Smart Building technology will always play a large role in the retrofit market, particularly with older buildings that have an obsolete BAS or small/medium-sized buildings that don’t feature a BAS. IoT enables virtual BAS technology that can manage HVAC and lighting systems using cloud-based controls. These cloud-based controls can implement schedules for weekends and holidays, while also implementing complex control routines based on an array of IoT sensors (e.g., temperature, humidity, IAQ) in heating/cooling zones.
The lightweight nature of a virtual BAS provides high-impact functionality at a fraction of the cost of installation of a conventional BAS system. As is well known, HVAC and lighting represent the largest percentage of the electricity consumption in commercial buildings. Energy efficiency efforts should primarily target HVAC and lighting sources for energy savings. Virtual BAS technology ensures that no building gets left behind.
7. Operational Technology (OT) Focus
The business case for IoT in buildings often revolves around Operational Technology (OT), not Information Technology (IT). In one definition, OT can represent hardware and software that detects or causes a change through the direct monitoring and/or control of physical devices, processes and events in the enterprise. IT, on the other hand, typically focuses on data infrastructure concepts such as computer networking, switching, security protocols, data integration, databases, etc.
The edge represents the playground of IoT, the place where inexpensive wireless devices can bring much needed visibility into a building. Too often, little to no visibility is available for monitoring HVAC equipment, pumps, meters/submeters, pipe temperatures, environmental conditions, etc. Management of critical Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) equipment in a building represents a simple example of why IoT will make an even greater impact solving real OT problems.
8. Workspace/Workforce Management
The "3-30-300" principle is quoted frequently in reference to the estimated amount a company pays per square foot annually for energy costs, real estate costs, and workforce costs, respectively. Clearly, IoT can produce measurable ROI for energy savings. IoT’s effectiveness can produce even greater savings when considering workspace/workforce costs.
IoT sensors have made increasing amounts of data available to understand how occupants actually use the space. For example, wireless lighting control systems can embed occupancy sensors in lighting fixtures to gain a granular understanding of workspace usage. Reconfiguring space based on employee usage shows much promise in minimizing lease costs, while also increasing employee productivity and tenant satisfaction. Thus, the savings potential goes way beyond the usage of IoT for energy savings.
IoT will provide an even greater impact in directing building usage . The potential benefits are too large to ignore.
9. Horizontal Platforms
There has long been a debate between a horizontal vs. vertical approach to the IoT Smart Building market. Many IoT companies have focused on narrow vertical markets in executing their go-to-market strategy. Success has been limited when considering the IoT market as a whole. The horizontal approach, on the other hand, has produced IoT platforms (e.g., Amazon and Microsoft), which have probably had the earliest success in IoT so far.
Certainly, horizontal platforms will continue to evolve as they expand their capabilities for data ingestion and data analytics in the cloud. Cross-platform operability will also evolve as they increasingly support platform tools for their growing user base. Horizontal platforms will drive the IoT Smart Building market in increasing measure.
10. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)