The city and the connected building
By 2050, 66% of the world’s population will live in cities. Such fast-growing urbanization creates more and more mega cities (with populations over 10 million), with Tokyo still the largest (with nearly 38 million people). In this context, the question of how to efficiently manage buildings and real estate to address energy, safety, sustainability concerns becomes a key priority.
To help address these challenges, smart and connected buildings – which are fitted with connected devices and sensors for collecting and using data – are increasingly common. While they perform the same functions as traditional buildings, they are designed so that every square meter can optimize return on investment with maximum security.
Data can be used to create buildings with low energy and utility costs, optimum flexibility and appeal for users, maximum control of access that is proactively monitored.
Connected buildings retrieve information from all kinds of sensors, and it is the versatility of large connected buildings that makes them attractive to investors, owners and operators who want to save costs and maximize performance. The environmental sustainability of these buildings focuses not only on energy consumption and production, but also on maximum flexibility in how the interior space is used – especially given the pressure on space. For example, the need for indoor space on particular days, weeks or months changes. 4D buildings with flexible interior designs can adapt to these fluctuating needs. Using artificial Intelligence, walls that are sound- and light-proof can be provided for maximum flexibility without the need for reconstruction or rearrangement. This is a perfect solution for offices that require meetings rooms one day and office space the next.
As we spend 90% of our time in buildings, we want to stay connected when we enter a building. We want information about the local area, the facilities, emergency plans, or maybe just to find our colleagues more easily. We can connect to buildings via readily accessible networks, or via an app with our own profile for adjusting lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and so on. Do we need to create our profile for every building we regularly spend time in? Wouldn’t it be smart and connected if each of the buildings we frequent (the office, the library, the mall, the hospital, the school, the station and so on) connects to us and our profile when we arrive? For some buildings (such as a mall), visitors who have ‘commercial information’ ticked in their profile could receive advertisements during their visit. Of course, because the connected building uses our personal data, it should be completely secure: cyber threats today are as serious as fire has always been to the buildings that shape our cities.
Safe in our homes
What about our own homes? More and more appliances – the oven, the fridge, the television and so on – are becoming connected, enabling us to control them remotely through apps on our smartphone. Smart meters provide grid operators with large volumes of information on our daily routines and consumption patterns – data that must be protected through effective cyber security measures.
Feeling safe in our own homes is a priority for all of us, and smoke and fire detectors are vital to this. The data collected through smart meters and connected appliances can enhance safety measures through predictive analytics. Detecting deviations in energy usage by the tumble-dryer, the oven or the dishwasher might indicate that an appliance has become a fire risk. A smart and connected home could alert you and emergency services even before the smoke-detection alarm goes off.
It’s clear that smart buildings are an important way of making our day-to-day experiences at work and at home easier, more seamless and more efficient. As the world becomes ever more connected, smart buildings are a strategic asset for city planners to address environmental challenges and attract new residents and new investment.
 2014 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects report from the United Nations .