Albert-Seubers

Connected buildings

Clara Pezuela

FIWARE Foundation Technical Steering Committee, Atos Research Innovation – Innovation Lead

Continued population growth and rapid publicization are placing ever-increasing pressure on cities all over the world. One way for city authorities and other providers to maximize scarce environmental and financial resources is to create connected buildings in which every square meter optimizes returns on investment with maximum security.

Automation and analysis

The key feature of a connected building is that it incorporates devices and sensors which, via the Internet of Things (IoT), collect data to manage and control all aspects of the building. Using this data, automated adjustments can be made to lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, air quality and so on, in response to changing requirements and real-time demand. It is this versatility that makes connected buildings so attractive to investors, owners and operators.

Connected buildings offer all the advantages of minimum energy and utility costs for operators, combined with maximum flexibility and appeal for residents, workers and visitors. Use of space is optimized, which is especially important given the pressure on real estate in many cities.

Data collected from sensors and devices can be integrated with data from other systems in a building (such as climate management) to produce a more comprehensive view.
It can be aggregated and analyzed to identify usage trends, set precise “rules” for regulating conditions in the building, predict future needs and identify opportunities for savings and improvement.

Environmental, economic and ergonomic benefits

Perhaps the most obvious — and most urgent — driver for the increasing importance of connected buildings is the environmental efficiency they offer. Connected buildings are designed and constructed to meet high environmental standards — operated and maintained in a way that maximizes energy efficiency and reduces carbon emissions.

There are also economic benefits. A smart and integrated design, construction and maintenance of buildings all reduce the cost of facilities management. The life of buildings can be prolonged because connected buildings are much more easily adaptable than traditional alternatives.

For people that use the buildings, there are many advantages. First, connected buildings are inherently designed to be accessible, comfortable and ergonomic for all users. They keep people safer because, for example, fire risks are reduced and external security threats can be minimized thanks to extensive real-time monitoring and rapid alerts in the event of any kind of incident. Connected building technology is also increasingly used to monitor conditions such as temperature, humidity and static electricity, in order to better understand and ensure health and wellbeing.

Building the case

While there is a broad range of IoT providers and sensor manufacturers in the market using different protocols and technologies, in Atos’s experience, anyone considering
a connected building should start not with which technology to use, but by defining their objectives and key priorities. These could include decreasing energy consumption, making more economical use of space, or making the building more comfortable. From there, a business case and go-to-market plan can be developed, including what data is needed and how success will be measured.

Not surprisingly, connected buildings are easier to create when they are built from scratch. However, it is possible to adapt existing buildings to become smart. Legacy systems can be integrated and data migrated into a format ready for smart systems.

Strategic assets

While smart buildings have existed for some time, cities are increasingly focusing on incorporating them into the landscape. Many cities are launching public tenders for the provision of smart buildings, especially given the challenges of climate change. More advanced solutions can combine data from the building with data from other sources (such as weather forecasting systems) for more predictive analytics.

With more and more people spending time in shops, offices, transport hubs and other public spaces, connected buildings are a strategic asset for any city authority. Some cities are developing open data portals which store data collected from different sensors in the city and by public administrations. As we look to the future, connected buildings will be an important way to make best use of ever-increasing volumes of data to create sustainable environments while improving quality of life for a city’s workers, families and visitors.

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