What is Smart Building?

Any structure that uses automated processes to control the operations of the building automatically is called smart building. These operations can include things such as heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, security and other such systems. Although this looks like a novel idea, companies are already implementing this idea owing to the several advantages that come with it. These buildings basically use different sensors and devices to collect data and then analyze and process it according to different functions given in the main computing unit.
Intelligent Buildings Institute was one of the first institutes to give a formal definition of smart buildings. According to their definition, a smart building is “one which provides a productive and cost-effective environment through optimization of four basic elements: structure, systems, services and management, and the interrelationship between them.”

Smart Buildings and IoT:
Internet of things or IoT is a new technology that connects different sensors and devices and then uses the data collected by these devices to perform different data analytics. This new technology has found its use in almost every field of life and is now being considered by the builder to make smart buildings. IoT has proven to be of great value in building management applications and is defined as “a large number of data points brought into a cloud environment where analytics can be applied to influence outcomes”.
IoT is being seen as a promising technology that will help in creating smart buildings by using different sensors and devices. With different IoT applications integrated into the buildings, we will be able to manage and control different features of the building such as lighting, ventilation, security, access, parking, capacity, elevators, energy consumption. This monitoring can either be done by onsite control rooms or even remotely using cloud technology. According to a report published by Memoori Business Intelligence Ltd, the IoT in Smart Buildings will reach $76 billion by 2020.
Although these applications sound futuristic and novel, a lot of these are being implemented in different buildings even today. With rapid growth and increase in IoT technology, we can be sure that the concept of smart and efficient buildings will definitely increase in the near future. It has been shown in a number of surveys that it is possible to see a return on investment (ROI) within 12 to 18 months. Building automation contractors (BAS) are constantly on the lookout for new improvements in IoT so that they can implement them in smart buildings.

Applications of IoT in smart buildings are endless and researchers are still exploring new possibilities. Some of the most common applications are discussed below.

  • Using sensors and connecting them with a central unit we can optimize utilities such as lighting, air conditioning systems, gas according to the requirement and desire of the residents. This not only makes the building more eco-friendly but also helps in reducing cost of living.
  • We can use different sensors to monitor several important systems in the building such as pressure in water pipes of the temperature of electric cables. This real-time monitoring can help in detection of any catastrophe before it strikes such as exploding water pipes or short circuits.
  • Some of the improvements such as notifying the resident about empty parking spaces will not only save the time of the residents but also make their lives easier. These improvements will cost very less but add great value to your building.
  • Using a combination of audio, video and picture detection and analysis sensors and systems we can greatly enhance the overall security of the building. Using face recognition software in combination with CCTV cameras you will be immediately notified when any unknown person enters the building.

Creating and developing smart building is not only beneficial for the residents but also for the owner of the building. These benefits range from energy optimization to reduction in operational costs. Building owners can use IoT based applications to significantly reduce the working energy costs of the building and also achieve an increment in productivity of the facility staff. By increasing operations of the building owners and support sustainability efforts and ensure enhanced decision-making capabilities in the building. One of the examples of energy and cost saving in smart buildings is that these buildings will be able to judge the outside weather and indoor temperature conditions to automatically operate the air-conditioning system reducing the electricity costs.

As the overall cost of IoT applications is decreasing and the technology is becoming more easily accessible more traditional building management companies are moving towards automated building management. By using inexpensive and cheap sensors and cloud computing technologies companies are giving smart buildings more preference as compared to old building techniques. This is mainly because of the benefits associated with the integration of IoT in buildings. Although a lot of work is yet to be done, the future is hopeful. According to Peter Middleton a research director at Gartner “By 2020, component costs will have come down to the point that connectivity will become a standard feature, even for processors costing less than $1. This opens up the possibility of connecting just about anything, from the very simple to the very complex, to offer remote control, monitoring, and sensing.”