IoT – A Game Changer For Smart Buildings!

The juggernaut of IoT has started casting its influence on many industries and this multi trillion $$$ industry is going to change the way how we live or work, for ever. From managing smart phones, smart watches, smart homes, smart cities, smart communities, smart manufacturing processes, smart logistic operations, smart health systems, smart energy systems … well, the list is growing day by day! IoT has changed the normal life and added “SMART” to everything we do…

Quantum of change

Gartner predicted the “Internet of Things” will include 26 billion connected devices by 2020, and will result in $1.9 trillion in global economic value-add through sales into diverse end markets (Forecast: Internet of Things, World Wide, Nov 2013)

In 2012, Rockefeller Foundation and DB Climate Change (A Deutsch Bank Group Company) estimated, an investment of $289 billion in enhancing the building efficiencies can produce a savings of $ 1 trillion and above in United States alone. Which means, every dollar investment on energy efficiency will bring-in a savings of three dollars from the operational expenditure.

The hype…

The most talked about topic of late is, Smart Cities and IoT (Internet of Things). What really goes into these Smart Cities!? Smart cities are futuristic and works on artificial intelligence. This artificial intelligence is supported by the back bone of IoT. These cities identify their requirements for the living things & non-living things by way of assessing the past data and creating a realistic picture into the future.  Various parameters controlled through these smart cities are,  electricity requirement v/s consumption, garbage generation & disposal, potable water requirement v/s consumption, utility water requirements for household & colonies, sewage generation & actual treatment requirements, street light control on the basis of day light, grid networked cooking gas support, identification of number of vehicles and their requirement of fuel, the roads & traffic management, telematics, crime identification & management, food grains production-storage-transportation-consumption, healthcare facilities based on actual data, improvised children education system… and many more, to that extent of identifying a person’s life time and book the burial space (cremation area) based on the longevity. Albeit, it is a taboo to talk about this last point in India, it is already happening at many a developed countries across the globe. Booking one’s grave yard space for burial is quite a norm and there are 7 star facilities for affordable people to reserve a place for their body, at a premium after death! Smart has created the hype and the industry is going to surf on this new found (or rather the old bottle with new wine!?)

Why, Isn’t it happening earlier!? why, so much of rush all of a sudden?

Of-course, it was happening in bits and pieces, without a connecting link. IoT made it  possible now to connect all these loose ends to bring up a useful backbone, which will show case the final picture in 3-dimensions and filled with all kinds of hollywood big-bang actions. Here comes the importance of big-data and data analysis. Data in its current form is useless unless it is analysed to come out with some useful information. Data analysis will help the smart city operators identify the trends in the past and connecting multiple variables, which are dependent on each others existence. Variable in mathematical form is about, a characteristic which could be an output such as number of births, number of deaths, power consumption units in KWh, water consumption in gallons, waste generation in tons etc., or inputs such as what goes into this process to create the required output. As an example, increased number of births will need better living conditions, better hospital care, education and other basics. When we plot the growth of births against various input characters and identify the correlation by way of mathematical model, (Regression Analysis), it gives up a predictive model to smart city operators, on what is to be done and what the future looks like! 

Regression analysis is a statistical model to estimate multiple variable relationships. This is done by way of many techniques and models, which will identify the key variables that have impact on several other variables, and come up with a relationship between the dependent variable and one or more independent variables… It is easy for the governments to understand these requirements for future. Accordingly, other departments which support enhancing the quality of life of new born & existing citizens will work on, with those projections in mind.

Isn’t it happening now!? Yes, it is very much happening but what we get in the current scenario is the post mortem information. Much of the time is wasted in coordination between various agencies in the government and private enterprises. Also, it is not the real time data. This is the big advantage with IoT! IoT not only help getting the data in real time but will also help the smart city operators simulate various conditions to prepare well for the eventual requirements. It is all about, getting back to grass root information, connect loose ends and see the big picture on a silver screen in high definition!

What is in store for smart buildings?

How does the smart city impact the smart building, which eventually host a colony of people and should be considered to meet the smart colony requirements, much like a smart city!?

As an example, ABC company with 40 offices across the Globe would like to understand how their office buildings are performing from time to time, in terms of meeting the employee expectations, regulatory norms, sustainability initiatives, corporate social responsibility etc., Here the variable parameters change slightly. However, the output variables like power in KWh, water in Gallons etc., will remain same. Thanks to the Building Management Systems (BMS, BAS, BacNet etc.,), which are able to address a part of building process requirements and operating the buildings efficiently (rather smartly, at individual building level!?). Connecting multiple buildings spread across the globe through these BMS systems is complicated as well expensive. Here comes the saviour, IoT.

IoT is now revolutionising this part of the smart building management. For these 40 offices of ABC company, entire building operational data can be collected, collated, analysed in real time to get the best out of the smart building concept. Sitting in New York Office, the building operators can challenge the way how buildings are managed across the globe. Compare multiple buildings against some real time criteria and noise (noise is a parameter too but that cannot be controlled…like the government regulatory requirement or ambient temperature etc.,). These operators have the info in their hands, at the right time. Unlike the dependency of various protocols with BMS companies, IoT is a free and open world to communicate across the globe without any constraints. All IoT needs is a back bone internet wifi connection, which senses the information from various locations of the building (temperature parameters, electricity parameters, utilities parameters, sewage parameters, wet/dry waste parameters etc.,) and operates on personal area network, which is also called as Zigbee network. Zigbee provides low cost, low powered wireless mesh network standard for wide development of long battery life devices in wireless control and monitoring applications. Zigbee devices consume less power thus reducing the average power requirement of devices. However, industry is now looking at the next level to reduce the sensor power consumption requirement further.

Sensors & Receivers

There is a great amount of discussion happening in IoT conferences across the globe, and many discussions are centered around wifi / blue tooth sensors, with reduced power requirements. Incidentally, 3-D printers are going to play a key role in printing pv sheet based sensors, that can be easily attached to the ceilings or walls. All these sensors are integrated through multiple receivers, which are programmed to link with the wifi modem in the floor location. Various organizations are doing good amount of research, including US Department of Energy to address the gaps by developing wireless technology and system-level integration to enable energy harvesting wireless sensors with significant range, to reduce networking infrastructure requirements.

By far, this is the grid lock that is creating resistance to offer smart building solutions and the way how the developments are happening, this market is poised to revolutionise the way how buildings are managed, of course smartly!

Who will get benefited?

IoT for smart buildings is going to benefit the small and medium size office buildings immensely. Unlike the big developers, big corporates owning huge office space, small and medium buildings are always at the receiving end in using technology solutions. Majority of the time, these buildings operate manually with out the support from even the basic structure like, Building Management Systems. These small and medium buildings will see this as a great opportunity due to the ease of installing the solution and managing the buildings efficiently, at par with the big buildings with complex IT solutions.

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Rao is the CEO & Co-founder of Kowni Technologies, with offices in Canada & India. Kowni is offering cloud based technology solutions for IoT based Space Management, which is a patent pending technology and is first of it’s kind in the real estate industry. It helps real estate industry to manage building floor plans in a digital format, without the need for Auto CAD but visualise the floors with all  building operational parameters dynamically linked to the floor plan. 

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