Smart buildings are the wave of the future and not only for environmental reasons, as Andreas Schneider, CEO, EnOcean, explains


he idea of ‘sustainability’ has been around for several decades, with its three pillars –

Ecology, the Economy and Society – varying in emphasis. But, sea levels continue to rise, polar ice caps are melting, rain forest habitats are disappearing, and devastating fires are raging. However, COVID-19’s lockdowns have given the world a glimpse of clearer skies, quiet and unpolluted roads, and more people using green spaces. The global pandemic may just enable things to come together in a radically different way – to the point where the ‘Sustainability Triangle’ gets equilateral. And many of the technologies that will make this happen are already in place. Take the example of energy harvesting

switches and sensors in building automation from EnOcean. They are environmentally friendly because the technology does not require batteries or wires and therefore doesn’t pollute the environment. They are economical because battery-free wireless sensors are significantly cheaper in the long term. They benefit society because people can live and work better and healthier in smart buildings. And, they make buildings greener and help to reduce their CO2

emissions. Based on this innovation, sensor and switch

manufacturers, digital platform operators, system integrators, gateway producers and automation companies form partnerships to create ‘smart spaces’ – whether this is in office buildings, at home, in hotels, in retail and in medical facilities. There are many ideas to make rooms smarter, safer and healthier and, at the same time, reduce CO2

consumption. Smart, networked use of existing buildings

and infrastructure will make a balanced triangle. While technology cannot be the sole answer, when combined with other factors, digitalization supports this change and makes it easier for people. After all, digitalization supplies data for new workplaces and living environments.


Buildings account for one third of all CO2 emissions in Germany and the EU, so the energy savings potential is equally high – for example, with smart building control in residential and commercial structures. To meet the energy efficiency standards

mandated by national, international and provincial legislation, networking and smart building control facilitate digitalization of heating and air-conditioning systems by providing information about a building’s actual energy efficiency. Likewise, conformity to regulations dictates that the various disciplines must be intelligently interconnected and digitalized in


keeping with a smart building or smart home. Standardized interfaces and open wireless standards like those specified by the EnOcean Alliance, Bluetooth SIG and Zigbee Alliance form the basis for this. As an example, Thermokon, a member

of the EnOcean Alliance, supports customers all over the world with climate-friendly solutions that supply optimal room temperature, hot water, electricity and good air quality in equal measure for human environments. In the future, all systems will be networked, making them even more efficient and comfortable to operate. The pending energy transition can be managed

only with future-oriented energy systems. Networked and smart devices are almost indispensable in this regard. At its heart, the Thermokon solution consists of a scalable microservice architecture, which enables the company to respond quickly and flexibly to changes and customer or partner requests. Another key element is the use of an IoT Hub for the secure and reliable connection of, and communication between, the devices and the cloud. Older heating systems are being retrofitted for communication with the hub, and new equipment generations will be connected directly to the IoT platform. Installers and end users can set such things

as heating times and desired temperatures on their smartphones. The compatible heat pumps can also be networked with myriad devices from other manufacturers and be automated collectively. For example, a temperature sensor measures the current room temperature for demand-driven individual room control.

REDUCING BUILDING EMISSIONS Due to the legal requirement to lower carbon footprints, companies are obliged to lower

their energy consumption and reduce the CO2 emissions of buildings, with a logical step being to invest in a smart, radio-based heating control system. At first glance, this pays off only where energy consumption is concerned, but in fact it is an initial step toward digitalized building spaces and thus offers additional savings potential. If a certain basic infrastructure consisting of

radio-based sensors, gateways and actuators is already in place, the system can be easily expanded. One common application is to optimise the use of rooms in commercial buildings. For example, if 30-40% of the desks remain unused on a regular basis, it is worthwhile to introduce a hot-desking concept. To do this, additional presence sensors are needed that record the presence of people in a room or at a desk and send this information to the cloud,

where an algorithm controls occupancy. This approach can reduce the cost of space, especially in expensive urban locations. Advantages under coronavirus measures are obvious with the drive to manage increased home working and for workplaces to implement measures such as social distancing, track-and-trace and antiviral hygiene. It has also recently become recognised that monitors could significantly help to mitigate


the coronavirus threat itself. There is increasing evidence that carbon dioxide levels in buildings correlate strongly with the airborne spread of infection, so monitoring the workplace air quality to determine the levels of CO2


meeting spaces is highly beneficial. To achieve this, CO2

monitoring devices need

to be dependable and easy to place. Wireless, battery-free CO2

sensors are the solution

and ideally need to be connected, for example, to trigger alarms when CO2


goes above a certain threshold, sending alarms to building management networks, or to smartphones via wireless networks.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE Even when the pandemic restrictions are removed, benefits continue, with attractive and healthy work environments proven to increase employee productivity. Smart buildings are the wave of the future and

not only for environmental reasons. The ability to charge electric cars must be provided, while demographic change requires new approaches to looking after people in need of care, and crowded conditions in cities demand better use of space. Raw data collected by millions of sensors can be the solution for all these scenarios. This

data forms the basis for energy efficiency, CO2 reduction and better use of resources. Considering the large number of sensors

required, these devices must be standardized, radio-based, self-powered and easy to retrofit. The energy harvesting technology from EnOcean enables new and existing buildings to be sustainably digitalized and made smart – without any cables or battery waste.


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