If I asked you to define a building, would you look at me with confusion, and say it’s a structure with walls and a roof?
It’s not a trick question, but it underscores the need to update our thinking. Traditional building definitions imply that they’re static structures, or dead and depreciating assets. They don’t mention the evolving nature of buildings, and how technology is enabling them to be strategic assets to an organization. The key is knowing how to effectively tap technology to help bring buildings to life. That’s where the concept of smart buildings comes into the picture.
While “smart buildings” aren’t new, the possibilities for smart buildings, thanks in large part to connectivity, are ever-expanding. The concept of the internet of things — which centers on the fundamental notion of connectivity between everything, from infrastructure to devices — is helping fuel the advancement of smart buildings, and how they can benefit an organization and its occupants.
Whether you manage, own, service or just occupy a building, there’s good news to be had: when put into practice, the underlying technologies that comprise the concept of IoT can enable buildings to be meaningful contributors to organizations. Simply put, organizations can put their buildings to work.
At their core, IoT opportunities are realized when intelligent devices connect people and building systems, enabling the application of advanced sensing and big data analytics for enhanced monitoring, decision making and control. This transforms buildings from passive vessels to smart entities that can dynamically shape their environments to ever-changing contexts within their walls. And when this happens, new kinds of conversations can happen that go beyond achieving higher energy efficiency and greater comfort for occupants.
Smart buildings leveraging IoT concepts push the boundaries of how we interact with buildings, enhancing the experience for occupants while unlocking new sources of value for building owners and operators. Buildings of all kinds — from airports to hospitals to shopping malls — are vessels for experiences. Smart, connected buildings can make those experiences better, and ultimately contribute to organizational missions.
Numerous IoT trends are enhancing the value buildings can provide to those who interact with them. Following are the top areas driving these changes:
- Connectivity enhances experiences — We use our smartphones for everything from hailing a car service to viewing real-time traffic — technology-enabled actions that enhance our day-to-day life. Add the right connectivity and these experiences can now extend to a building. For offices, this could entail employees easily locating an empty conference room, accessing a locked area with their smartphone or adjusting the temperature in their area. In an airport, connectivity might help ensure checkpoints are staffed to meet demand.
- Data analytics drives smart decisions — Have you listened to what your building is telling you? Believe it or not, buildings can talk — in the data output sense. The right technology framework can lend itself to intelligent data analytics for improved decision making, like how nurses are moving about a hospital to drive efficiencies that ultimately reduce patient waiting times.
- Cloud services optimize performance — A building doesn’t have to be a depreciating asset. Instead, it’s teeming with opportunities for optimization — if it’s set up to realize them. Today, the connectivity enabled by IoT is making this optimization possible, thanks to the emergence of cloud services. A great example is remote monitoring and notifications for building system and equipment issues before they become significant and negatively impact operations.
The internet of things is a concept that’s here to stay, and it’s enabling dramatic shifts in how buildings operate. With the right technology and connectivity in place, organizations can put their buildings to work for benefits ranging from reducing customer waiting times in line at the airport, for example, to empowering employees to make their environments more comfortable. The possibilities are endless, but all feature a common thread: improvements that, when all is said and done, can help impact an organization’s bottom line.
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