Smart buildings will be even more relevant after Covid

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The global smart buildings market is expected to grow from EUR 11.8 billion in 2020 to EUR 32.6 billion by the end of 2025. The figures are from a recent study by Reportlinker.com and prove just how much interest in digitized infrastructure and analytics solutions for building management optimization is increasing.

While the total number of truly intelligent buildings worldwide remains small, an impressive array of technology has been developed for this emerging market. These innovations promise to do for buildings what smartphone technology has done for the phone, radically altering the way people interact with the built environment.

A single building, whether office space, shopping center, school, museum, university campus, government building, or civic center, can serve hundreds or even thousands of people every day. These places have a tremendous impact on people’s daily lives, especially since we spend most of our time indoors. Results vary between countries, but we know that Americans spend on average 90% of their time inside buildings, for example. This means that transforming just 10% of the construction sector can significantly impact the lives of a wide range of people, very quickly.

Imagine: it’s a Friday, sometime in the not too distant future, and you’ve just walked into a nearly empty office building. You are there to attend a meeting – one of the few times a week that you actually have to go to the office, as much of your work is now done at home. The moment you enter the dimly lit reception desk, the lights come on; you walk across the open office floor and then up an expansive wooden staircase, saying hello to some lost colleagues sprawled on the steps drinking coffee. Having booked your meeting in advance, the conference room is already prepared for your arrival, freshly cleaned, and air at the perfect temperature. As soon as the meeting is over, you stop at an unoccupied table, send a few emails, and within minutes you’re in the middle of organized traffic heading home.

None of this, of course, is so hard to imagine. And that’s the point: heat and motion sensors; automated mechanical features; cloud-based data aggregation, readily accessible through easy-to-use digital platforms – all the ingredients for a more energy-efficient, humane, and healthy working and living environment are already available.

So, from the health of building occupants to their energy efficiency, having an interconnected smart building system is fast becoming the norm rather than the exception. Not coincidentally, in the World Economic Forum‘s view, smart buildings could be the key to creating a sustainable post-pandemic society. So much so, that smart buildings are slowly beginning to be considered microcells of future smart cities. The development of a holistic ecosystem where everything will be connected and interoperable should be the primary goal of public managers.

The technology exists, the experience exists and, with the advent of Covid-19, more secure and flexible standards are also coming into play. Conditions seem ripe for a paradigm shift in how our buildings are designed and managed.

Advances in IoT and AI already bring together smart buildings, smart electricity grids, and EV charging to form a new ecosystem of an increasingly efficient smart society, helping us to live comfortably and safely, protecting our planet for future generations.

To make it all work, however, IT managers and network engineers have increasingly resorted to using Artificial Intelligence-enabled IoT and IT infrastructure monitoring solutions. Integrating analytics makes it easier to manage the heterogeneous and complex network spread across the smart building, helping to reduce implementation and operating costs.

The effectiveness of Smart Building depends on management able to integrate and analyze a myriad of protocols, creating bridges between IT and OT technologies. It is recommended that monitoring data from all types of protocols can also be visualized in a single dashboard.

In a recent article, Luis Arís, Business Development Manager at Paessler LATAM, recalls that controlling environments and technologies as different as a boiler and access turnstiles, the most diverse protocols come into play. The main ones to control the Internet of Things and networks are SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), REST APIs, and XML. These protocols coexist with NetFlow, FTP, WMI, or HTTP. Smart Building environments also include IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) devices with protocols such as Modbus TCP or OPC UA, specific to achieve communication with air conditioning devices and environmental sensors.

Arís also points out that, in addition to offering a predictive vision essential for the continuity of the building’s digital services; the multiprotocol monitoring platform can produce KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) critical for the environment’s optimization.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Internet of Things in general and smart buildings, in particular, is that there seems to be no limit to what can be connected. In terms of monitoring, this creates challenges that can be solved by creating new sensors and custom reports. In addition, modern IT systems are usually very chaotic; it has become incredibly easy to spin up a virtual machine, download and run cloud software or connect a smart device. Mapping (and tracking) every part of the smart building complex will save a lot of time in the long run.

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