By Nick Sacke, head of IoT and products, Comms365


he topic of ‘smart buildings’ has dominated IoT conversation since 2015, with analysts discussing how building owners will be able to leverage IoT technology to deliver a more efficient and monetizable structure, coupled with greater occupant satisfaction. As a market estimated to reach $31.74 billion by 2022, the anticipated growth highlights the investment opportunity, however the approach and outlook that building owners adopt when implementing these changes, will determine what business benefits and efficiencies they will see. Thanks to the availability of lower cost IoT devices

that in their millions can harvest data at scale; integration of local area and wide area wireless communication networks to relay sensor data, enhanced data processing via cloud-based data analytics, and mechanisms to enable action from insight, the design of commercial, industrial, buildings and their operations blueprint has now changed. So what are the opportunities that smart building technology can offer and how can the barriers to adoption be overcome to ensure the growth of the IoT market continues at its predicted rate?


One of the most significant barriers to adoption within the smart building market is cultural. The UK is one of the most CCTV intensive nations in the world and in recent challenging times, we have become used to the fact that our movements are constantly being observed. However, when the subject of big brother is raised, the majority are of the opinion that 24/7 monitoring makes people very nervous, especially when it comes to the issue of data protection. In order to realise the true benefits that intelligent building technology can provide, a wide range of data measurements need to be taken and this could cause concern for those who are apprehensive about having their personal data recorded. For an environmental monitoring solution, for example, information such as energy usage, humidity, carbon monoxide and acoustics needs to be monitored. But what happens to that data, and who owns it? Many do not understand how smart technology can have a positive impact on elements such as energy usage, not just in

Intelligent building automation with IoT: The benefits

terms of lowering bills but in turn reducing the impact on the environment and many more subsequent benefits. Without this insight, the automatic response to new technology can be nervousness and scepticism. Education is therefore key to overcoming these cultural concerns and by encouraging collaboration between all parties at an early stage of the plans, the benefits can be clearly explained. The potential upfront investment of investing in

or retrofitting IoT technology to an existing building can be a perceived barrier; in the majority of cases, once installed, running these buildings becomes increasingly cost effective for the building owner with a rapid return on investment achieved as utilities and other costs are made efficient. For example, IoT technology can help to lower the maintenance quotient of a building by monitoring key parameters such as water usage, temperature and movement of people. With this approach, maintenance can be performed swiftly when it is required, rather than waiting until a system breaks down.


With concerns regarding energy consumption and climate change now a global priority, the energy optimisation that IoT technology offers to building owners is a major driving factor in its popularity. For example, IoT technology can help to identify the causes of energy spikes and in turn result in an overall decrease in energy bills. By interfacing IoT- enabled devices to a building management system, key data parameters can be used to anticipate needs, take the requisite action and control the entire process from end to end e.g. turning the air conditioning on or off when required – without the need for human interaction. Whilst this involves monitoring a level of personal information, with data protection legislation in place individuals cannot be identified but can still play their part in the smart building measurement model. Furthermore, the lower costs of running building utilities, can be passed on in part through lower fees to the customer, boosting appeal and the customer experience. Therefore identifying the value in IoT, and understanding the ways in which these technologies can deliver potential

efficiencies and monetise additional services, generating further revenue streams, can play a big role for many building owners in justifying the initial capital investment.

There are many new developments that may stir the market of Intelligent Buildings, including wafer- thin sensors that can be placed unobtrusively in challenging areas, robotic assistants that are able to ‘walk’ with you around a facility, tiny drone surveillance of perimeter security, and many, many more. These new developments seem to be focused on a single main objective: improvement of operational processes with the attendant commercial impact and increase in user satisfaction. A good example of this is shared office facilities in the Nordics where resources are dynamic, flexing desk space and facilities for tenants and guests based on actual demand on any given day.


With the ability to work from just about anywhere, building owners are under pressure to provide a service and environment that people want to work and benefit from. Due to this, workspaces are now becoming more ‘aware’ through an ecosystem that allows buildings to flex dynamically to the requirements of users, whether they are temporary or permanent, through the convergence of IT and Operational Technology (OT) such as building management systems, energy and space management.

Smart building technology is shaping the future of commercial buildings, and we expect this flexibility to go even further, with an increase in the availability of highly customisable buildings that will provide individualisation and personalisation of the environment for the users by profile, bringing together multiple ergonomic parameters that can be flexed at will. From technology that matches the seating settings in your car to your desk chair, individual temperature zones by desk, to structural integrity that tracks how a building responds to ambient vibrations, this myriad of technologies will work together to provide a more productive, pleasing and personalised environment for users.


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