If walls could talk: what smart buildings can teach us

Buildings are set to become more than just places we inhabit, work in or visit. With the rise of ‘smart buildings’, our traditional bricks and mortar buildings are poised to learn from our actions to help us become more productive and efficient.

So what exactly do we mean by ‘smart buildings’?

Smart buildings are structures that harness smart technology, including IoT and machine learning. At a basic level, smart buildings can automatically control internal operations such as heating, ventilation, lighting and security amongst other things. What makes a building truly smart though is how it uses sensors embedded in the myriad of systems throughout the building to collect huge amounts of behavioural data. Using machine learning, this data can be analysed in real-time to create a two-way conversation between the space and its inhabitants. A smart building is aware of the users’ presence and moulds itself to their preferences.

Importantly, unlike a building that simply integrates IoT devices, smart buildings are equipped to develop, learn and adapt over time to ensure the smart solution is always relevant to its inhabitants. Take an integrated digital ceiling for example, one that can sense the presence of the people in the room and from that manage the temperature, air ventilation and even let other colleagues know the room is in use. The creation of a smart building means integrating individual intelligent elements, collecting data from them and repurposing it to make a building more productive.

Ultimately, it is about the culture and needs of the building’s users – smart infrastructure is designed to interact with the people who spend every day there. The infrastructure and networks are meaningless unless you can make it do things for people.

So now we know what smart buildings actually mean, let’s take a look in more detail around how they can teach us to be more productive and improve efficiency.

Promoting productivity 

One of the biggest shifts in business seen over the last few years has been the move away from traditional 9 to 5 working structures towards a more flexible, personal way of working. Companies are now, rightly, increasingly concerned with employee welfare and how they engage with their working space. People are conducting business differently to how they used to, and technology can help optimise this.

Within a smart building, its inhabitants become smart and are able to explore and evolve new ways of working, boosting their productivity and creativity as the building moulds itself to provide the optimal environment to support their goals; from enabling users to find free space to work, whether that be a desk, meeting room or quiet space where they can concentrate, or find colleagues while navigating complex campuses.

Energy Optimisation

One of the most significant benefits associated with smart buildings is energy optimisation. For most commercial buildings, energy use is the most substantial operating expense. On average, approximately one-third of a typical operating budget is spent on energy consumption. To increase a building’s efficiency, the occupant must have active control of its conditions. To remain energy efficient, they must monitor usage to ensure that consumption is adequate at all times. A smart building is designed to increase efficiency regardless of external or internal structure conditions.

Predictive Maintenance

Sensors used in smart buildings can gauge a facility’s technical performance and activates maintenance procedures in the event of equipment malfunction even before an alert is triggered. This makes it is possible to track the parts and systems in your smart building to detect and immediately repair any malfunctions. In the event that an error message is sent, the system collects data that will help to determine the reasons for the malfunction. Depending on your platform, the system can also be programmed to automatically adapt to any problem by managing the remaining components.

Additionally, monitoring machinery and equipment allows for more efficient management of equipment lifecycle. As a result, you can replace equipment when it becomes too costly or when it reaches the end of its service life.

There’s no denying that the smart building revolution is gaining momentum, as the technology behind them becomes more sophisticated and more prevalent. Bringing IoT solutions to life is becoming easier and more achievable for every organisation. Microsoft is leading the charge and have recently committed to investing $5 billion in IoT solutions over the next 4 years. In this time frame we expect to see IoT solutions becoming yet more sophisticated still. Rigorous security and clear policies on how building operators and other entities can use the data will also be key to the mass adoption of smart building technology.

To discover how an IoT solution actually works, click here

Alternatively, to see how a smart building solution could work for your organisation, watch the video below.

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