New white paper shines light on the future of smart buildings
A new white paper from Siemens highlights the role smart buildings are set to play in meeting the needs of a society in shift.
To first understand the paper’s findings, we must first define what a smart building is. Far from simply being digitised brick and mortar, a smart building is one designed to recognise the needs of its stakeholders and adapt to create an interactive, supportive environment. As cities expand at a rapid pace matched only by technical innovation, and climate change throws new and unpredictable threats our way, experts sat smart buildings will transcend the already vital role traditional buildings play in our lives, ensuring stability that will be critical to our work and our well-being.
Siemens’ white paper refers to smart buildings as if they are living, breathing team members. It may sound odd, but the phrasing is important in defining the functions smart buildings will have. We use the term Internet of Things (IoT) – Things – to group the 50 billion devices that will exist as of 2020. Twenty percent of these will be used in building applications, but they alone aren’t what make a smart building. As AECOM Associate Director Chris Pountney puts it, “Technology is not an end in itself – we need to take the conversation beyond technology”.
What makes a smart building is how it uses the diverse technology it houses to support the needs of the people using it on a personal level. It might do something as simple as order coffee for when you arrive at the office, or as complex as interpreting the requirements of a project and connecting you with people in the building who can provide a useful contribution.
This level of personalisation is why smart buildings are being talked about as team members, and also why they’re a concept facility managers should be keeping abreast of. Beyond merely implementing a smart system, it will be the facility manager’s duty to determine the needs of building users to make sure the right systems are put in place. It may seem like a monumental task, but undertaking it effectively will provide the facilities they oversee with a commercial and competitive advantage.
For facility managers and other decision makers eager to transition their building into a smart building, Siemens lists a range of considerations to take into account. The most important three are:
- Data connectivity and analysis. As systems grow more complex, the data it compiles grows too. Left too long, it can become unwieldy. That’s a problem because this data will form the brains of a smart system. Furthermore, making sure different technologies can communicate will allow for constant growth without the need for new infrastructure.
- Digital twinning. Digital twinning is the process in which a building and its systems are recreated in a virtual environment – often before construction begins – for the purpose of simulating and testing the introduction of new elements. Everything from the inclusion of a new IoT device to alternative energy supply options can be trialled through digital twinning, eliminating much of the risk that comes with change, and putting the minds of decision makers at ease.
- Security. A recent report from Microsoft on the use of IoT found that 97 percent of respondents are concerned about IoT security, yet only 19 percent say they take security into account when adopting new technology. Can you hear the alarm bells? The integration of any new technology should only be undertaken after the cyber security risks are considered.
The future of smart buildings is one of unconscious interaction. One in which building users do recognise their place of work as a team member that is always ready to support them and improve their output. When that future will be realised is unclear, but one thing is for sure: it will be realised.
To read the white paper in full, click here.