What are smart buildings?

What are smart buildings?

It seems that many areas of life today are turning ‘smart’ – from phones to homes and even whole cities.

Technology is developing at such a rate that it is able to recognise who we are and what we’re doing, and adapt and offer information to help us complete these tasks.

The world of buildings is no different, with smart structures able to automatically respond to changes in light levels, temperature and security to make them operate more efficiently while creating a more comfortable environment for occupants.

So, what exactly is a smart building?

At a simple level, a smart building is one that uses automated processes and interconnected technologies to become more responsive to occupants’ needs while improving a building’s performance against key metrics such as energy usage.

Sometimes known as automated buildings or intelligent buildings, they will benefit from technology such as building management systems (BMS), adaptive energy systems, networked appliances and devices that gather and analyse data.

Nowadays, most buildings have some level of intelligence built in, whether in the heating and ventilation system, sensor-led lighting or safety systems.

However, the Internet of Things (IoT) – the network of devices that are connected via the internet – has added a new element to smart buildings, offering even greater analytics and insight into how a building operates and bringing disparate devices onto the network.

IoT relies on connected sensors to collect data that is then aggregated and analysed to deliver useful and actionable insights. And this is the crucial part of IoT, it doesn’t simply provide more data, it provides better data that can truly be used to meet specific challenges. In addition, with the IoT it is also possible to integrate existing automation tools to further enhance this data, offering a scalable and credible means of implementing change.

Historically, smart buildings and the IoT has been seen as something only useful to large enterprises, but as technology develops there is a now a compelling business case for small and medium-sized business. This has increasingly become the case as prices for IoT solutions and devices has fallen, deployment has become quicker and less intrusive, and the ability to easily track metrics such as energy usage and other operational efficiencies has led to a clear, demonstrable ROI.

Across the corporate sector, smart technology is having an ever-greater impact as it is proven to increase building and occupant efficiency and as solutions have been simplified and become more cost efficient. It should be noted, however, that smart buildings don’t only have a role to play in the corporate sector; their benefits can be felt across multiple markets.

Consider retail, for example. Shoppers won’t stay and browse if it’s too hot or too cold, but in a smart building temperature can be monitored to ensure it is at a comfortable level, while sensors could enable more personalised shopping experiences. In restaurants and food outlets, refrigeration can come under the control of a smart building, reducing food waste and the costs associated with it.

With the expected growth in 5G networks and development of the Intelligent Edge, where data is analysed and aggregated in a spot close to where it is captured in a network, buildings only look set to become smarter.

To ensure you are making the most of the technology available to boost efficiency and productivity no matter which sector you work in, get in touch to let us know your requirements and download the whitepaper below for more information.

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