We all want to have smart buildings, but what does it take to make one?

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Smart cities, smart buildings and smart facilities: these buzzwords are raising the expectations for great user experiences and better facility management. Yet, we are not seeing many actual use-cases of smart buildings. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: workers, customers and business visitors are starting to demand more than a coffee machine and a desk at the office, and no-one wants to return to a business that has bad air quality, is too hot or cold, or is just dirty. In this article, Janne Kilpeläinen from Haltian introduces some of the actual requirements to build IoT solutions in buildings.

Great working environment makes great employees

Connected buildings offer great opportunities for the wellbeing and satisfaction of the building’s users. A great example of a human-centric approach to smart building solution is  Empathic Building, where the entire IoT service is built around creating the best possible working environment. The employee satisfaction over their working environment is known to ripple down to better work efficiency, motivation and fewer sick leaves. Measuring the temperature, CO2 levels and humidity are just some of the ways smart buildings can help in creating a better work environment or customer experience.

The IoT solution connected to the building’s automation system has not only possibilities to the user wellbeing, but it can bring vast savings in energy consumption, for example, the rooms that are not occupied do not need to be heated or cooled down. Why would you AC the entire building when only 60% of it is being used?

What kind of features can smart buildings actually offer?

Planning efficient facility management is a difficult task without factual information on how many people use certain spaces, at what time they use it, and how often. While this information might be available for people using the space, the actual data might not ever reach the facility management. In addition, trying to do facility management planning based on estimations and opinions from several different people can often go wrong.

When IoT solutions are implemented to measure occupancy rates and presence facility management services, including cleaning, can be adjusted based on the gathered data and the analytics made from it.

Imagine how much time the cleaning staff can save when they don’t unnecessarily clean rooms and desks that have not been used. Could an unused conference room be turned to a more useful space? What is the best time for the cleaning to come so that the office workflow is least disturbed? Using all this information can result in better wellbeing and saving in effort and money.

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In smart buildings, facility management can be optimized according to the data received

The need for integration and scalability puts pressure on the IoT system

Integrating IoT to the building’s automation systems is actually not very widely done yet. This type of integrations set a lot of requirements for the IoT system: it needs to be able to integrate to several different types of systems, which are probably not originally built for IoT integrations.  When building’s automation system is already a cloud-based system, integration to available IoT sensor data is much easier.

Many buildings already have intelligent building management systems implemented that collect data to control mechanical and electrical equipment such as ventilation, lighting, power systems, fire systems, and security systems. So how can we add even more “smartness” to make a smart building?

This brings us to one of the most important features of IoT solution today: retrofitting cost-effective wireless sensors into the building. It is imprudent to even think about making massive scale rebuilding or changing all equipment to new, smart ones to get IoT data. Retrofittable IoT solution are the best way to start getting IoT benefits fast without large investments.

By adding a retrofittable sensor solution into an already existing building creates an opportunity for a new layer of applications. Creating solutions that can be tenant, space or floor specific, can be easily applied by making the data available for 3rd party solution providers, such as workplace management software.

Get to know Haltian Thingsee IoT devices

In addition to being easily integrated into all kinds of systems and retrofittable to existing buildings, IoT solutions need to scale globally. Many companies start testing IoT in small parts of their operations, only to find that their solutions either do not scale to thousands of devices or do not work globally. At this point, some companies start using another IoT service which creates a whole new set of difficulties when these two IoT solutions don’t communicate with each other.

Finally, your IoT solution should be simple to use and to deploy. It’s one thing to build a small DIY (do it yourself) IoT system to measure a single thing in a small area. It’s a whole other thing to discuss massive scale IoT where thousands or even millions of devices need to transfer loads of data securely and reliably in different locations and even countries. You might want your own staff to be able to easily install and start using IoT wherever they are, and that is why truly plug-and-play solutions are crucial.

What about the future?

Even with the best kind of planning, no-one can be 100% sure what kind of IoT data they might need in, let’s say 10 years. Future needs should also be taken into account when IoT solutions are concerned.

We are already seeing some unpredictable consequences of the Covid-19 epidemic, which has suddenly made remote work the new normal. Many employees say that they will increase the possibility of remote work in the future as well, so it’s about time to start thinking about the usage of office spaces in a new way: does everyone need their own dedicated desk or could there be some number of easily reserved working stations, with more room for conference and phone rooms?

Already today, building’s energy consumption is one of the biggest drivers for applying smart technologies in them. It is estimated by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development that all the buildings consume 40% of the energy produced in the world. This includes heating, electricity, air conditioning, water heating and so on. In the future, the importance of applying solutions that help save energy will definitely grow.

Thingsee presence sensor under the table, smart buildings

Conclusion

What is a smart city or smart building? Who is the beneficiary of new services and how? A lot of different silo solutions are in place, but do they make cities or buildings smart? Implementing IoT solution to existing buildings is the quickest and most cost-efficient way to create a smart building, and in order to make it happen your IoT solution needs to be easily integrated, scalable, easy to use and ready for future development.

If you want to discuss smart buildings with a Haltian expert, contact us.

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