Smart building is a concept that doesn’t yet have a precise definition, still, the mentions of smart facilities pop up here and there more often than not. Do the smart buildings have any commercial value and are they worth investing in? Let’s dive deeper into the topic.
What’s a smart building
What makes a building smart? Smart — or IoT buildings — are equipped with systems and sensors that are connected to the internet. The devices perform various tasks and can help with smart building automation and management of the HVAC system, facility maintenance, video surveillance, smart parking, measuring the building performance, and more.
What’s the difference between a smart home and a smart building
The smart home encompasses automation of various routines within a household, or for individual usage. In contrast to smart homes, IoT buildings are used for commercial purposes. The range of IoT applications in smart buildings is wider than those used for smart homes. For example, commercial buildings include measuring various indexes on how the building is performing, while smart homes usually don’t need such analytics.
Value of smart buildings for commercial real estate
The most important value of smart buildings is that they address the pain points of all concerned people: owners, managers, and tenants.
Thanks to smart building technologies the owners or landlords can get a more precise picture of how the building is used. This information can help further improve the facility, manage risks, and cater to the needs of the tenants. As a result, it will increase the competitiveness of the building, attract new clients and retain the existing ones. IoT buildings are also environmental-friendly, which is a good contribution to the future of the surroundings.
2.Managers and staff
Maintenance of the facility falls on the building managers and it’s not an easy task. Keeping all systems in order, managing waste, ensuring timely cleaning and refilling the consumable materials, preventing incidents can be much easier with IoT. Smart sensors will alert the staff about the potential issues, remind them to do the cleaning or to empty waste just in time. This will decrease pressure on the staff and help them be more efficient while keeping the building in perfect condition.
It goes without saying that working in an environment that caters to the needs of people working there is an obvious advantage for them. IoT helps control multiple aspects of the occupants’ everyday routines including temperature, parking, meeting room booking, checking the occupancy of coffee rooms, etc. The automated tasks and improved management help the tenants concentrate on their direct tasks, so be more productive.
IoT solutions for smart facilities
While the general principle of IoT is the same — connecting a device to the network and automating a task — different domains can benefit from IoT innovation in different ways. Let’s consider some examples of how IoT can help in commercial real estate.
Business centers, offices
IoT in business centers is aimed at optimizing energy consumption, making the work more comfortable, efficient, and distraction-free.
The system allows maintaining the pre-set temperature not only in the whole building but also in specific sub-zones. For instance, if the temperature near a window is lower than expected, the HVAC system will automatically adjust it only in that particular place and use only the resources necessary for this purpose while saving energy.
Air quality monitoring
The smart sensors can check the carbon dioxide level in a room. When the level increases, the system increases the airflow accordingly so that the air quality is comfortable and safe for the people. This is especially convenient during meetings when large groups of people gather in a room and spend several hours there.
The daylight sensors can adjust the lighting levels more precisely and either turn on or off the light accordingly, depending on the daylight. This maintains the optimal lighting level all day long which meets two principal needs: energy saving and keeping the necessary illumination levels for the comfort work of the occupants.
Occupancy and optimizing space usage
Occupancy sensors collect the data on the presence of people in a spot. When properly analyzed, the data can show if the building space and resources are used optimally. Furthermore, if the occupancy sensors are integrated into a smart system, they can communicate with other sensors and switch off the lights, adjust ventilation, turn off heating, etc. as soon as they detect nobody uses the resources.
Wireless sensors inside pavements, car counting tools, cameras help car drivers find parking spaces faster or even book one beforehand. Looking for a parking space may distract drivers and lead to an accident, and smart parking minimizes the risk. This way the system solves several of the biggest drivers’ pain points.
It’s not only about calling the elevator from the smartphone. Smart elevators can detect how many people are in it, and if the cabin is at capacity, the elevator won’t stop at another floor in vain. It’s also safer than a usual elevator: if anything’s not right, it will notify the maintenance team beforehand so the workers aren’t stuck in the cabin.
A hilarious example of a smart business center is Karvesvingen 5, named one of the smartest office buildings so far.
The purpose of a smart hotel will be quite different from that of a smart business center. On the one hand, it’s aimed at creating a better guest experience. On the other hand, it helps administrators and staff streamline the management process. From a long-term perspective, the solutions are to attract more guests and make the building more energy-efficient. Here are several IoT solutions for smart hotels.
Security and access
The digital cards are integrated into mobile apps that may have various functionalities. Apart from accessing the room, the app allows users to remotely lock the door and control other systems like air conditioning or water temperature.
The smart room encompasses a huge variety of IoT-enabled devices: lightbulbs, air and water temperature controllers, curtains, TV, digital food menus, and more. Such systems allow guests to customize the room to cater to their specific needs. Sometimes it’s even possible to remember the guests’ preferences for future visits.
The automated check-in has become almost a must-have option for hotels for good reason. The mobile hotel kiosks allow guests to check-in whenever they want, sparing them the hassle of waiting in line in front of the reception. While a traditional check-in at the desk is still available, the automated check-in gives the visitors choice of when and how to register. Besides, the smart hotel kiosk also allows requesting other amenities like additional towels or room service.
Automated asset tracking for hotel management
The NFC, QR, or barcodes allow staff to monitor the inventory and assets in guest rooms, track inventory stock, receive reminders to re-order the assets on time, track disposals, food and beverages in guest rooms, and more. This helps the hotel administration to deliver timely servicing and improve the business processes.
Smart warehousing is aimed at digitizing and modernizing business processes. By implementing the proper IoT solutions, many tasks can be automated, and this results in more streamlined operations and higher efficiency. Smart warehousing can eliminate the pen-and-paper way of doing business, which can reduce human error, lower the risks for employees, increase efficiency, reduce labor costs. Here are some practical examples.
Robots and AI
As a rule, the warehouse robots do the low-skilled work: pick or pack goods, or carry them to a required spot. Robots are able to carry more goods at a time and move faster than a human, which significantly contributes to the efficiency. The involvement of artificial intelligence can make the process even more efficient. The AI-enabled robots will be able to optimize the routes for carrying goods and find out an appropriate size of the box for packaging.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID)
The RFID tags eliminate the need to track goods using pen and paper. Unlike the barcode tags that need to be precisely aligned with the scanner to be read, the RFID tags can be read on bigger distances. This allows to minimize human intervention and to automatically track the goods as they arrive. Automatic tracking is more precise and decreases the risk of human error.
Warehouse management system (WMS)
WMS is a multipurpose digital tool that allows to collect and analyze data, make predictions, detect the bottlenecks or deficiencies, and more. It’s a convenient way to keep track of how the warehouse is performing: all the data is in one place, it is continually updated, and is accessible anytime. The information in the system can give insights into possible improvements.
The risks of smart buildings
No system is foolproof, as is IoT building. Here are the important aspects to take into account:
- Smart devices are entirely dependent on electricity and network. Think about backups for the vital functions in case of electricity shortage or network issues
- Some devices don’t offer built-in protection. Think about the additional security for such devices
- Default passwords for IoT devices are weak and can be easily brute-forced. It’s recommended to use two-factor authentication where possible
- The smart building is as safe as its weakest link. Don’t overlook a thing while projecting security for your facility
- Old devices put the system at risk as they don’t get updates and security patches. Choose the newest technologies for a long perspective
- Connecting devices or using solutions from different vendors can represent a challenge. It’s recommended to check out the compatibility beforehand
- Hardware, software, and network have to properly work together. Make sure you entrust the IoT development to a reliable provider
Smart building: where to start and what to consider
The best way to start off with a smart building project is to have a concept of what technologies should be integrated at the stage of planning the smart building construction. The smart facility is a complex system consisting of the premise, hardware, software, and network components that should be adjusted to work together. Having in mind the plan of the technologies to be implemented, it’s possible to project the structure in a better way.
While some devices could be installed at the final stage of construction or repair works, the wiring and network should be projected at the very beginning. That’s why it’s important to consult an IoT development company with proven domain experience and get help with the right placement of the necessary components. This way, the building could perfectly fit into the digital infrastructure and there will be no further need for repair works to embed a smart system.
Why smart buildings are worth investment
- Sustainability: due to improved automated maintenance technology, the smart facility will serve longer
- Resource-efficiency: smart building technologies help allocate only the necessary resources
- Carbon neutrality: smart buildings are more energy-efficient using only the minimum required power
- Higher safety: automated systems can prevent accidents caused by human error
- Higher competitiveness: modern smart buildings’ tenants value comfort and digitization of the smart technologies
- Long-term perspective project: the smart buildings are at the dawning and the project started now will still serve well the future generations
IoT in commercial real estate creates a safer, more productive, and comfortable facility that will pay off on multiple levels — from adding to the comfort of the building occupants to mitigating the carbon footprint. Smart building automation creates a better experience for all people involved. From a business perspective, smart buildings are worth investing in, and it’s a perfect time to start off with a smart facility project.