Making buildings smart and creating the agile workplace

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Office building representing Schneider smart buildings

Smart buildings are on the rise, but not all buildings are operating smartly, according to Schneider Electric’s PAUL CROTHERS.

Across our cities we see more and more smart buildings, equipped with sophisticated technology to monitor almost every aspect of their environment, but not all buildings are operating smartly.

The data captured by a building’s traditional operating technology (OT), including building management systems for air conditioning, electrical and energy, security, lighting and more, often sits unanalysed and underexploited. We need to ensure the newly created opportunities provided by the Internet of Things (IoT) can interact with a building’s fundamental operating technology to allow its data to be leveraged to enhance a building’s ability to become intelligent or smart.

With the advances in integrated technology, a building can be more than just smart; it can adapt and evolve an environment to the requirements of a business and the businesses desire to be flexible and productive. It can also assist in attracting and engaging a workforce that is more excited about experiences than tangible assets, and well-being with flexibility over traditional work/life balance.

For me, it’s frustrating we don’t always allow buildings to achieve their intent. Without accessing building data, you are simply flying blind and missing a tremendous opportunity to truly enable a space and its environment. The increasing quantities of valuable data trapped within traditional operating technologies needs to be unleashed through the convergence of OT and IT solutions that can be enabled with an IoT enabled platform.

Smart building systems monitor and alter parameters according to the user needs; it comes back to helping people work productively, everything from the right light, CO2 levels, heating and cooling, security, space utilisation. This all impacts on productivity and engagement at the end of the day. For the occupant, the building can alter all these systems according to their needs, providing more comfort and an enhanced working experience.

In the smart building so much comes down to space utilisation and space activation, understanding what is going on across the workplace, around the workplace and where people are most productive. It’s about making the right, functional space available at the right time.

Implemented properly, workspaces can be more nimble and flexible. We already have systems that are adaptable and can accommodate rapid change within organisations.

As we know, what enables smart buildings is the IoT element, activating rich data so it becomes active, available and actionable. That’s why Schneider Electric provides IoT enabled platforms such as EcoStruxure Building Operation that allow for the integration and activation of building data into the IT space, which then allows further integration with activities and services that are more user or business centric.

IoT platforms enable a people, space and place philosophy, maximising space utilisation and efficiency but importantly connecting people to both the work environment and also the spaces surrounding services. This philosophy can increase occupant productivity, well-being and also improve building operating costs.

Buildings and the spaces within them can adapt and evolve. Analytics and advisory platforms can learn and understand what a building should and shouldn’t be doing, utilising a combination of an IoT platform with smart devices and digital services.

We want to boost engagement in the workplace, so that work is a win-win – there is improved productivity for the business, and improved satisfaction for employees. It’s a combination of people, work and place – and we’re looking at the actual ‘place’ far more closely than we ever have to activate it as well as people.

The combination of connectivity, IoT sensors and location-based services is the key to enabling the best combination of people and place. We’re now linking the data that the business needs to work productively to the data that the building is gathering and you can then track these productivity improvements back to activity that’s being done in the space.

A true people and place vision take this even further, to how the building integrates and interacts with its environment, associated services, public transport, the entertainment and lifestyle that surrounds the precinct, even the weather conditions come into play to create the best combination of people and place possible.

Imagine your smart device letting you know the optimum time to leave for work, so that you meet your bus on time, equipped with your umbrella for that sprinkle of rain. When you approach your local work café they know you are coming and your coffee is waiting, the building welcomes you by directing you to the day’s activity based area and your allocated workspace is activated to your preferred settings as you team joins you to get another productive day underway.

That’s the next frontier – the smart precinct.

For more information on Schneider Electric’s smart building solutions, visit:

Article by Paul Crothers – General Manger Partner Solutions, Schneider Electric Digital Buildings division.

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