The relationship we have with the buildings we inhabit, from offices to homes, is set to change forever. With the rise of ‘smart buildings’ and changing attitudes toward working practices, the ‘soft’ digital infrastructure that overlays hard bricks and mortar is becoming equally fundamental to our everyday working life.
Yet, what it actually means for a building to be smart is not clear. One of the biggest barriers to widespread smart building adoption is the lack of a clear, holistic view of what’s possible and what the ROI is likely to be. Organisations today are more often than not offered siloed solutions, with piecemeal returns, that seem like more work on an already full plate.
However, the essence of a smart building is to create truly connected environments that bring people and information together in a meaningful way. The power of smart infrastructure is that it not only empowers employees to explore new ways of working to boost productivity and creativity, it also enables companies to make informed business decisions based on empirical evidence about real estate management. Smart buildings work for those who use them, as well as those who own them.
There has been a sizable shift towards a global uptake in smart buildings, however this will falter if the business case for smart infrastructure isn’t properly made. What is needed is greater understanding of what it means for buildings to go smart, and the benefits they can bring to all who use them.
Demystifying smart buildings
Smart buildings are structures that harness smart technology, including IoT and machine learning. At an elementary level, smart buildings can automatically control internal operations such as heating, ventilation, lighting and security amongst other things. What makes a building truly smart though is how it uses sensors embedded in the myriad of systems throughout the building to collect huge amounts of behavioural data. Using machine learning, this data can be analysed in real-time to create a two-way conversation between the space and its inhabitants. A smart building is aware of the users’ presence and moulds itself to their preferences.