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The Future of Smart Buildings

Did you know that the term “Smart Building” actually dates back to the 1980s? The term was coined when the prospect of networking and connectivity opened up new avenues on what could be achieved. In the modern digital age, the term “smart building” has come to be associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).IoT and AI can be used to develop a strong connection between the cloud system and the physical world. It can help us create a virtual model of all the people, spaces, and objects that will be present within the physical space, thus allowing us to better optimize the space and meet people’s needs, ensuring enhanced productivity and customer satisfaction.

A small example of how smart buildings can help employees in a commercial building would be to take the example of the thermostat. How many times a week do you (or someone around you) comment on the temperature? In offices, one of the greatest battles that employees fight amongst themselves is over the thermostat because different people have different temperature requirements. Furthermore, due to sunlight, shades, etc, different areas in the office have different temperatures. Consistency in temperature across an office building is nearly impossible. However, with Smart Building, the temperature can be automated so that you experience the optimal temperature at all points and there are no hot or cold pockets in the office.

While the aforementioned example is just a single form of utility for smart buildings, their utility actually goes a lot wider. In this article, we’ll explore what the future of smart buildings looks like.

Smart Cities Development

Cities in the future will be connected to the cloud via networked technology that can control various aspects of city life like the flow of traffic, air quality, water supply, etc. As population migration from rural communities to cities continues at an increasing pace, the future is likely to see the development of several smart cities across the globe. It’s believed that in the next 10 years, Europe and North America will hold half of the world’s smart cities.

However, before we can bring forth the future of smart cities, the buildings must also be transformed into smart buildings. They are, after all, the individual cells within the larger organism of the city. Buildings consume over 30% of the world’s energy. As such, it will be necessary to first deal with smart buildings, enhance energy management, and save energy costs before those changes can be made to the cities as a whole.

An example of an energy-saving change that can be made is the HVAC systems. They’ll likely be upgraded so they can automatically detect changes in time, temperature, and environmental conditions in order to respond automatically without human intervention. This will increase convenience but also lower costs and save energy.

Sensory Technology

In order for a smart building to function optimally, it must combine the functionalities of various technologies. These include:

  • A software that can assess and optimize the building’s operational conditions including temperature, lighting, humidity, etc. The data collected by the software is also tracked over time and AI is used. As such, the software can evolve with time to respond to changing occupancy and seasons as well.
  • Sensory technology that can assess changes such as the change in environmental conditions, temperature, motion detection in certain rooms, etc. These inputs are then sent to the software for an appropriate response.

The sensory technology can be thought of as the empirical senses in a human body. The software can be thought of as the brain, it receives input from the sensory technology and deploys the appropriate response. As such, when it receives a stimulus or information from the sensory technology, it can make sure that the relevant changes are only made in the rooms or areas requiring those changes.

For example, the sensory technology — in combination with the core software — can also be used to detect which rooms are empty and turn off all the lights and power in those rooms. This can help save a lot of energy over time as humans inevitably neglect to turn off the lights after they’ve left a room. In addition to lighting, these changes can also be made for temperatures so that vacant parts of the building aren’t being either heated or cooled.

Furthermore, by inputting personal preferences regarding lighting and temperature, an ideal standard can be established. To quote a representative at Automated Buildings, “Our traditional offices are changing and so too are the people working in them. IoT is presenting new opportunities for creating, operating and servicing our facilities and is leading the way for new business value delivery.”

Spatial Intelligence

Over the next four years, Microsoft has announced that it will invest $5 billion in IoT. As companies continue investing heavily in smart building solutions, we are fast approaching a time when smart buildings will be the norm. As such, most customers will be able to afford at least a basic smart building solution. These smart building solutions can help facilitate a seamless relationship between people, their devices, and the buildings they reside or work in.

Spatial Intelligence technology has already been introduced to a certain extent and they further enable the interconnectedness of devices. One example of how spatial intelligence can be used in reference to office buildings or hotels is through room-bookings. The spatial intelligence technology can detect which rooms are occupied and which are vacant and allocate bookings.

Conclusion

IoT and AI are transforming and rapidly disrupting industries one after the other. The rate of adoption of network connected solutions is at an all-time high and likely to continue growing exponentially. The ability to model the digital and physical spaces and gain a deeper insight into how people interact with them will transform how we manage buildings and cities.

As such, spatial intelligence technology, sensory technology, etc, will seamlessly allow us to automate all building management operations and spearhead the path towards a future of smart cities.

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