What’s Next for Smart Buildings?

Our buildings are getting smarter. They can tell us all sorts of things about the way we work and live our lives – and building automation systems and energy management systems have been keeping an eye on their hosts’ performance for years. But the IoT is about to send the average building’s IQ into the stratosphere. Smart buildings are going to get very smart indeed.

Energy Management Leads the Way

We’re already starting to see the IoT make a difference in energy management. Having built its business on providing energy-efficiency products to the construction industry worldwide, Kingspan is using the Intel IoT Gateway built on the Intel® Quark™ SoC to super-charge its energy-management solutions – and is on its way to achieving net-zero energy status for its headquarters in Dublin.

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Kingspan is not alone: Daikin Applied is using the Intel IoT Gateway to support more proactive management of buildings’ performance. Inspired by the problem of people getting stuck in elevators during a regional power-cut, Rudin (the leading private manager of business and residential property in Manhattan) has had a smart building strategy since 2008. But now Rudin and Intel are exploring how the IoT and machine learning can improve productivity and efficiency, maximize operations and enhance day-to-day life for its tenants. Its operational efficiency tool, Di-BOSS, has already helped achieve seven percent savings in energy consumption – worth about $1 million a year.

Sustainability and Moore’s Law

What’s driving all this? Partly it’s regulation. Across the EU, buildings are responsible for 40 percent of energy consumption and 36 percent of CO2 emissions. As a result, the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive requires all new buildings to be nearly zero-energy by the end of 2020. All new public buildings must be nearly zero-energy by 2018.

But it’s also driven by technology development. Think about progress in the last five years alone: touch-screens were once niche, now they’re normal. We carry the internet in our pockets – and access it almost wherever we want.

And over the past 10 years, the costs of sensors have gone down by 50 per cent. The cost of bandwidth is down by a factor of 40 and computing costs are 60 times lower. Moore’s law – now in its 50th year – is as healthy as ever. The IoT is cost effective!

Better Building and Facilities Management

So where does this leave facilities and building management more generally? These are interesting times for those of us involved in the IoT. As we have seen, companies in the field of energy management are starting to embrace the IoT. But there’s still more to be done to persuade companies that there is an opportunity to take control and define what is needed from technology to improve the way we occupy and use buildings.

This is even more true of facilities or general building management. As Yoga Systems is demonstrating, it is not just about energy use. Its Yoga PRO1 (based on the Intel IoT Gateway and using the Intel Quark SoC) can be used in commercial and industrial buildings to connect and control almost anything - wired and wireless security detectors, cameras, thermostats, smart plugs, lights, entertainment systems, locks, and appliances.

That’s a lot of use cases. Facilities management service provider Coor is putting some of them into practice by using the IoT to simplify the office manager’s job. But generally speaking, facilities managers are yet to fully embrace the possibilities of the IoT and truly smart buildings.

Security and Manageability

However, as these examples all demonstrate, smarter buildings means ever more connected devices for IT teams to worry about, and even more data to secure. Tight integration of hardware- and software-based security will be essential. IT professionals will also need solutions that enable them to configure, monitor, and securely manage all those end-point devices, and then remotely maintain them and diagnose any problems. Both security and manageability are key tenets of the Intel IoT Gateway (alongside scalability and interoperability) to help make this happen.

So What Can We Expect in the Near Future? Here Are a Few Predictions:

  • More small companies will get involved. The IoT creates an open and diverse ecosystem with plenty of opportunities for niche players. Change in facilities management in particular is likely to come from the small specialist players.
  • The IoT will drive development in Operational Technology (OT) – and the long-projected convergence of IT and OT will finally happen (Although this will depend in part on the level of security and manageability in place.)
  • Vertical solutions and proprietary infrastructure will not scale to meet the rate of anticipated change so we’ll see more and more common infrastructure driven by open standards that can benefit all.
  • Facilities management will eventually embrace the IoT. Their IT departments recognize that change is coming, it’s merely a question of time – and who gets to market first.

What do you think? Who is embracing truly smart buildings? What are the business cases that will drive adoption? Have your say in the comments below.

Rob Sheppard is IoT Product and Solutions Manager at Intel EMEA

Keep up with him on Twitter (@sheppardi) or check out his other posts on IT Peer Network.