The term “smart”, when paired with a base term (such as a smartphone), is indicative of any device connected to the internet for the express purpose of remote connectivity and data exchange.
So the question is…
What is a Smart Building?
A smart building is best defined as any building possessing the capabilities to allow an individual to make more informed decisions about that building based on the data it provides. Data is aggregated via IoT (Internet of Things) controls and sensors in a web-based application from which equipment can be monitored, controlled, and acted upon in real-time.
These buildings serve to help facility and property managers gain insight into the detailed workings of their locations and gather useful data to improve building performance and efficiency.
In general, smart buildings are optimized for energy efficiency, comfort, and safety.
In the energy management space, lighting and HVAC integration are the two most common systems integrated into a smart building strategy in order to reduce the energy footprint, but the IoT industry has opened the door to more sensors for added intelligence.
Some of the most common IoT sensors have applications for smart metering, occupancy sensors, water detection, humidity sensors, contact sensors, and carbon monoxide detection among many others.
Based on the client, the best effect for their smart building solution will be driven by their needs. For example, a bank’s main concern may be ensuring lighting and security systems remain on 24/7 to ensure customer safety.
Smart Building Industry Examples
A restaurant may be concerned with the temperature of the dining area as more people open and close doors and crowd the space to make sure customers are comfortable while eating.
A retail store’s top priority may be automating the HVAC to pre-cool or pre-heat the store before it opens to maximize energy savings. Regardless of the need, incorporating any of the above technologies and being able to tie them together into one ecosystem provides the best smart building program.
IoT Technology and Smart Buildings: The Next Five Years
One of the most important elements of IoT technology and smart buildings in the next 3-5 years stems from being open. Customers will not only want to connect various devices, but they will want to be able to bring it all in one interface.
The latest IoT devices use wireless protocols such as Zigbee, Z-Wave, Enocean, WiFi, and Bluetooth. With this in mind, it is important to have a web appliance that will be able to communicate with multiple technologies and have the ability to be expanded to accommodate new standards as they emerge.
Smart Buildings and Disparate Systems
In addition to anticipating the newest IoT offerings, companies must also anticipate working with customers who need to tie legacy systems, such as Modbus and BACnet, into their smart building technology.
Many large buildings that have expensive, legacy systems will need to work with a company that can integrate their existing equipment with IoT sensors and devices to provide a complete package.
The Future of Smart Building Technology
As IoT products continue to evolve, the smart building market will inevitably evolve outside of its current realms. While current applications generally tie into energy-specific systems, such as lighting and HVAC, the next step in the evolution is to expand the automation of the building with integrations of POS systems, scheduling software, beacon technology, and artificial intelligence to name a few.
The speed at which new IoT products and services are being offered means that companies in the smart building space must be able to provide web appliances that can communicate with multiple protocols, as well as partner with device makers, software vendors, and hardware vendors in order to make custom solutions for clients.