Smart Buildings: Build Your Digital Fortress with IoT1
Biz + Tech

Smart Buildings: Build Your Digital Fortress with IoT

The last decade could be termed as a decade of technological innovation. We’ve witnessed some radical changes in our lifestyles, real fast. Pager became telephone, the telephone became mobile phone and mobile phones finally transitioned to smartphones. And, hence started the journey of “smart” devices. These days most of our everyday normal things are being innovated on and turned into smart ones. Smarter computers, smart cars, smartwatches are a few examples. So, if we were to follow this trend the biggest question goes: What’s next? What will we focus on making smart now? Is this the end of the smart era or there’s more to this? 

Buildings have long been at the end of innovation. It has often been the last place that you’d look when you think of innovative advanced technologies. But turns out in the smart era even buildings have started to become smart.

Smart buildings with IoT technology are becoming prevalent day by day. In some cases, they have successfully replaced conventional building management systems. Nowadays, smart building solutions enabled with IoT, influences building owners to remodel their business strategies. Stabilization and optimization are the two main reasons for developing these smart buildings.

In this article, we are going to take a dive into the specifics of smart buildings with IoT technologies. Let’s start with understanding IoT in terms of building management.

What is the Internet of Things? 

IoT can be described as bringing together a large number of data points in a cloud environment so that analytics can be applied to drive the required outcomes. 

In terms of building management, IoT has a variety of applications using connected devices and data-driven decision support systems. Perhaps one of the most amazing things about IoT is that it provides predictive or pre-emptive knowledge of building/facility operating parameters even from outside the target zone. 

Some of the popular examples include maintaining space temperatures, energy consumption rates, etc. The analytical advancement of IoT helps us understand what’s happening in the building and make appropriate corrections, or take pre-emptive steps to resolve problems before they emerge. Let’s see how it actually works.

How is IoT Implemented: Three-layered Architecture of Smart Building IoT platform

A smart building is connected to the users and gives rapid responses to their demands. Here’s a figure that shows the basic three-layer architecture of a smart building IoT platform.

These three layers perform tasks including data sensing, data processing, and data reproduction, respectively. The first layer does the data collection from sensors. The data comprises individual users’ demands for operation states of appliances and indoor conditions such as temperature, humidity, etc. This data is transferred via a network gateway and stored in a dedicated big data cloud.

Next is the data processing layer. Here the data is classified and then processed. Comfort-related problems such as the HVAC system, lighting system, and temperature system require data from individual users. The data is accumulated in time series and processed. This processed data is reproduced as information concerning individual interaction between occupants and appliance. 

Finally, the accumulated data informs system efficacy and efficiency enhancements. Hence, it helps in providing better services for the occupants.

So, this was a mere basic idea of how the mechanism of IoT generally works. Let us now have a look at what smart buildings can accomplish, its use-cases, and the potential problems that it solves. 

Smart Buildings: Applications

IoT solutions can be used to optimize the operations up to a greater extent. In the post-pandemic era, the new focus of the industry is to gradually manage space while corroborating the health, safety, and wellbeing of every person. The same building space must now be reimagined and redesigned to prioritize indoor health and efficient operations and that too with low occupancy. This could be made possible with the help of automation. 

A large number of commercial and private buildings are incorporating the concept of smart buildings in their design and operations. Smart buildings built using IoT are a lot more convenient for property managers as well as occupants. Smart buildings bring multiple benefits including but not limited to security, flexibility, easy management through automation. Let us go through these benefits and applications one by one. 

Occupant Comfort

A lot of buildings these days are still uncomfortable for their property-holders. Plenty of surveys and studies notices that most buildings do not meet the occupant’s comfort. If you have ever worked in an exceedingly industrial edifice that’s somehow too cold within the summer or too hot in the winters, you’ll have encountered this same conclusion. As we saw earlier in the three-layered architecture, the individual interaction between occupant and appliance is stored, and this accumulated data is maintained to drive higher services for the occupants.

Maintenance

With the implementation of IoT in buildings, maintenance becomes an easy job. Everyone is familiar with the mechanical and technical faults in buildings, things being broken, and staying that manner for long amounts of time. This leads to multiple issues.

Unrepaired equipment leads to health and safety concerns. Especially for essential facilities like hospitals. Some studies even recommend that reactionary or corrective maintenance overwhelms so many maintenance people that it takes up to 98% percent of their time, exploit solely a small fraction for doing preventative maintenance.

Energy Consumption

Buildings contribute to around 40% of world GHG emissions. The engineering community has stormily pursued new technologies and approaches to scale down the energy consumption of buildings since the seventies and succeeded in making progressive improvements. However, there is still a long way to go. 

Improving Building Automation System Infrastructure using Cloud

There is great potential in automation systems used to operate buildings together. Universities, governments, industrial facilities, commercial facilities, and campuses of all kinds can have a central automation command center. They can have operators to identify operational problems. But many buildings do not have this advantage.

Finding problems using an existing automation system is a tough task. It not only requires a particular skill set but takes a long continuous time commitment from building operators. By implementing this automation system infrastructure, most building operators can save time without staring at the computer screen all day along with improving efficiency.

This vast amount of operative data can be used to perpetually monitor the on-going operational problems. Hence, building operators can free themselves from the focus of first finding the problems and then fixing it. 

Challenges faced by smart buildings

Smart buildings bring a lot of conveniences to property managers and occupants, however the network of the Internet of Things (IoT) technology that allows buildings and devices to communicate, introduces a range of cybersecurity issues. The location of the Building Management System (BMS) doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether it is centrally situated within the structure or off-site at a secure location. The threats of IoT brings fear and concern into building owners to do something about cybersecurity.

Most building automation systems did not seem to be upgraded until the point that a significant update/replacement is absolutely necessary. In a survey by Intel of around 500 building managers to determine which BMS components posed the greatest cybersecurity risks, the five biggest concerns the managers mentioned are:

  • Security systems
  • IoT/M2M sensors or solutions
  • People/Asset management
  • Energy management
  • Fire detection and alarms

Hence, keeping people, and building data safe has also become a high priority for property managers who used to worry solely about an intruder coming through the front lobby. 

Part of a solution to this problem could be virtualization of the data, i.e. using a secure cloud to store the data. Most building managers use local computers and servers. This computer has the entire automation data, graphics, and runs the whole operation in the building. Hence making it vulnerable to cyber threats. If the data is stored in a secure cloud, this threat can be minimized. The internal firewalls of the cloud can also be used to maintain the cloud security.

Future of IoT based Smart Buildings

Smart buildings are fast becoming a trend across the globe. As stated by Mordor Intelligence, the smart building market is expected to see an annual growth rate of over 23 percent between the years 2019 – 2024. 

Nations around the world are developing smart cities to improve efficiency, reduce maintenance, reduce operating costs, and bring ease to the life of residents.

It is important for building managers to keep in mind while implementing a solution that smart buildings present a set of distinctive challenges. Hence, long-range and low power capabilities have become essential. They ensure the working of sensors, optimizing utility usage, and improving safety.

Recapitulating 

Over the subsequent few years, building investment is anticipated to quadruple. There are many chances for buildings to adopt new technology to resolve the foremost vexing issues of all time. Along with this, it needs that property managers work closely with a security partner or firm specializing in IoT that can identify gaps and risks in a building’s smart-management platform. 

We are a reliable IoT web-development firm who understand tomorrow’s threats and acknowledge how to secure a BMS like a fortress. We specialize in mobile app development for both platforms: Android as well as iOS and cross-platform apps. For any query or assistance, contact us here.

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