As the world emerges from Covid-19 restrictions, questions over how buildings will be used in the future are rife. When, and how will people be working from offices? What will their expectations be of blocks of flats, leisure facilities, workplaces? One thing seems certain – efficient, intelligent and adaptable building management is going to be crucial – and this is where the Internet of Things (IoT) comes in.
The IoT is transforming smart building automation in a number of different areas. Here is a selection.
This is perhaps what first springs to mind when most think of smart building automation. Connected sensors are placed throughout a building, and connect to various systems – lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and so on. They might be combined with other tracking systems, for example motion detection to determine when particular areas are in use.
From there, the possibilities for automation are numerous. Systems can be set to automatically switch on or off according to environmental conditions such as light levels or temperature, or how an area is actually being used. On-demand, micro-zoned system control becomes possible, enabling a highly granular approach to energy usage across different parts of the building.
Energy efficiency can also be achieved through wireless utility submeters, which pass consumption data for particular building areas or even individual physical assets to centralised analytics platforms. Facility managers can then make smart decisions in relation to energy suppliers and physical assets.
Facilities management visibility
Facility managers can benefit from the centralised visibility offered by the IoT in other ways, too. Wireless sensors can be used to track a host of key facilities management features including security, waste management, the condition of key equipment and fire safety. In turn, they can transmit this information to centralised platforms which offer a single pane of glass view of the building’s status and condition.
Once again, the opportunities for proactive management are vast. Facilities managers can, for example, spot small issues before they escalate, perhaps because of a water leak or a bottleneck in a waste management process.
Improved tenant relationships
The health and wellbeing of tenants in their homes has come under particular scrutiny throughout the various Covid lockdowns. As more people work from home for at least some of the week, so it will become increasingly important for the managers of residential buildings to offer genuine comfort, security and even productivity.
Here, again, connected IoT sensors can play a valuable role. The various environmental management processes outlined above can apply in residential buildings, ensuring that communal areas are kept ambient and clean for all. IoT sensors can also play a role in enabling value-add services such as intelligent security systems and parking systems.
IoT-enabled building automation is often thought of as a tool for saving money rather than directly making money, but the intelligent insights generated by a building automation system may in fact be worth selling on to certain tenants.
For example, corporate tenants who wish to better understand their energy consumption or patterns of usage around their spaces could be provided with either raw or analysed data from IoT sensors, enabling them to make smarter decisions in regard to both human and machine resourcing.
These are just some of the ways in which the IoT is transforming smart building automation, across multiple different sectors.