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The Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly revolutionizing the way people and things operate, and buildings are no exception. A Gartner report from March 2014 estimated the IoT would include 26 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020. Combined with the IDC Energy Insights prediction that spending on connected buildings is expected to more than triple from 2013 to 2018, representing a 28.4 percent compound annual growth rate, it is safe to say that connected buildings will be the wave of the future.

Connected Buildings in Focus
Connected building technology allows the thousands of devices in buildings (e.g., lights, fans, heating units, air conditioners, cameras, sensors, etc.) to be monitored and controlled remotely, whereas traditional systems require onsite control. While being able to monitor and control a building’s devices remotely is convenient, connected buildings take it a step further by analyzing the data produced to optimize the use of devices.

For example, instead of maintaining a conference room’s temperature at 68 degrees, a connected building would be able to detect an increased occupancy in the room during a meeting and adjust the temperature accordingly. Or, instead of turning an office building’s lights “on” during business hours, a connected building would be able to detect the amount of natural light an office receives and adjust the use of artificial lighting.

This technology also creates a single view of the building (or multiple buildings) for end-to-end operations by converging multiple building management systems, network operations and security operations. This gives all authorized personnel access to hardware statuses, service statuses, network performance, operational technology (OT) device statuses, security operations, building management, energy management, video analytics and data analysis.

For commercial real estate developers and investors who are under increased pressure to better manage costs, these are exciting developments, as the benefits of connected buildings can be seen across four major areas: IT operations, safety and security, energy management and property management.

IT Operations
Connected building technology allows IT and OT infrastructure to be joined together, consolidating IT hardware, services, network and OT devices into a centralized view. This gives organizations greater visibility into their infrastructure, removes data silos that divide different systems and helps prevent costly downtime. Connected building technology also uses preventative and predictive analysis to forecast actionable events that will impact a building’s efficiency.

Safety and Security
With connected building technology, data from video surveillance can be analyzed in real time to determine potential threats, such as intrusion or vandalism. It also can determine when there is an increased chance of a threat, such as after business hours. When a threat is detected, automatic trigger notifications are sent to the appropriate personnel, allowing for immediate action to be taken to prevent a security breach.

Energy Management
Technology allows for a building’s utility systems to be remotely and automatically controlled so they run as efficiently as possible. Through the use of programmable algorithms based on building usage, occupancy, holiday schedules, outside weather conditions and energy cost fluctuations, devices can be automatically turned on and off when needed.

Real-time monitoring of a building’s entire energy consumption and performance allows for a complete picture of power usage. This falls in line with increased awareness of energy-efficient buildings and provides a proactive solution to managing a building’s energy use. Additionally, the technology can benchmark performance metrics across different energy vendors to provide the intelligence necessary to select vendors during contract renewals.

Property Management
Because connected building technology allows for automation of maintenance services with data analysis, building faults can be diagnosed remotely, and resolutions can be tracked in real time. This helps resolve maintenance issues more efficiently and can predict issues before they have arisen, which results in major cost savings. Additionally, property managers can benchmark against different locations to provide insight into which sites are performing better and why.

On the Horizon
Connected building technology will become increasingly common in the coming years in newly constructed offices and commercial spaces as more real estate developers begin to harness the benefits of the technology. According to IDC Energy Insights, $6.3 billion was spent globally on connected buildings in 2013; this number is projected to rise to $21.9 billion in 2018. The benefits of reduced labor costs and shorter turnaround time will continue to grow as system fragmentation is eliminated, leading to cost savings, process efficiency and real-time decision-making.

Software and technologies that allow for the integration of various networks, vendors and control systems also will become more prevalent. Tools such as the Honeywell Command Wall—an 80-inch screen that displays the physical systems within a building and the data produced by those systems in real time—allow a user to quickly view, analyze and make decisions to help ensure a building runs safely and efficiently. More examples of this technology will follow as demand increases for seamless user interfaces and systems.

As the number of connected buildings grow, it’s expected that the emergence of connected cities will soon follow. GE believes streetlights will be the network for connected cities. Connecting streetlights to the Internet and embedding sensors in them will help cities gain new data on vehicles and pedestrian traffic, allowing for safety and efficiency improvements on roadways. Further, Gartner believes there will be a rise in connected cities as mayors work to balance the challenge of resource constraints and environmental sustainability concerns. The firm estimates that 1.1 billion connected things will be used by smart cities this year, and the number will rise to 9.7 billion by 2020.

Businesses have only scratched the surface in seeing how they can harness the power of connected building technologies. And while it remains to be seen just how quickly these solutions will be adopted, one thing is for sure: The future looks bright.  

Mani Gopalaratnam is head of innovation at Xchanging, a multi-national, publicly listed business and technology services provider. For more information, visit xchanging.com/us/internet-of-things


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