Technology has become such a necessity to daily living, both work and leisure, that it is no longer enough for a building just to house our electronics. Now, we expect a building to be “smart” and work for us. Buildings will no longer be passive shells that simply house operations, they will become automated and responsive, adapting to their users and the environment around them.
Monitoring and managing building conditions has always been a time-intensive job for the facilities management team and many facilities managers find themselves trapped in a reactive role. As such, the rise of smart buildings is a positive development. Smart technology allows facilities managers to take a much more predictive, proactive role as these technologies can provide a clear picture of everything that’s happening across all your buildings or spaces at any given time. Sensors can measure thousands of different variables on an ongoing basis, a no brainer when compared to the limitations of processing times and action by human teams.
Perhaps no technology trend has had a bigger impact on facilities management than the investment into “smart” building technologies. Like every other aspect of industry, facilities management will be transformed by digital technology even more so over the coming years.
What are smart buildings?
Smart buildings are buildings or structures that use automated processes to manage and control its operations (HVAC, lighting, security, and a variety of other systems). It is one that uses technology to enable efficient and economical use of resources. Smart buildings may use a wide range of existing technologies and are designed or retrofitted in a way that allows for the integration of future technological developments. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, building management systems, artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented reality are amongst some of the mechanisms and robotics that may be used in a smart building to control and optimize its performance.
Types of smart building technologies
Internet of Things (IoT)
There’s no substitute for data-backed decision-making. Data is cultivated and harvested from strategic technologies dedicated to measuring specific variables. The more variables you track and measure, the more of your workplace you can quantify and ultimately control. The go-to collection mechanism is the workplace Internet of Things (IoT), which takes physical variables and turns them into digital insights.
- Sensors measure a quantifiable action. Someone walks past a motion sensor and triggers it. The A/C kicks on from a smart thermostat reading. That action becomes a data point, studied by facility managers to affect change. The more sensors measuring different variables, the more insight and understanding facility managers have in how the workplace functions and what it needs.
- Beacons are the nodes of the IoT. In a workplace with dozens of deployed sensors, beacons tie them all together and relay the continuous data they’re transmitting.
A few key reasons why facilities managers and landlords opt to make their buildings smarter is to cut costs, save energy and reduce downtime and ultimately to enhance the guest and employee experience too.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning
One such technology that is bringing in new waves of change in the way buildings function is AI. Artificial intelligence is the process by which machines or software mimic human behaviour and intelligence, with an ability to both acquire and apply knowledge. This allows for automation within the machine or software without human intervention. #efficiency
AI has the power not only to automate buildings but also to make them truly adaptive, smart, and agile, with the use of AI analytics helping to improve operations, reduce inefficiencies, and lower costs across building platforms. Implementing AI into is easy and the applications thereof within smart buildings are extensive thanks to how easily AI integrates into IoT sensors and systems.
The most fundamental feature of a smart building is that the core systems within it are linked. Connecting smart technology, and other management systems together, means you can share information that can be used to automate various processes. A building automation system is a system, or set of systems, that provide automated control and monitoring within a building. Control is centralized, meaning that these systems can be monitored and adjusted from a small number of stations located throughout the building.
Building automation also ensures your facilities comply with all industry standards. With smart sensors, you will know what happens around your facilities, and can make any required updates or fixes in a timely manner to maintain the highest industry standards.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) might have started life as a niche product in the gaming industry, but its benefits have now transferred into the wider business sphere. Though virtual reality is not yet widespread within the facilities management industry, the technology has begun to become more powerful and affordable over recent years.
VR technology allows facility managers to perform virtual walkthroughs of a facility and these walkthroughs can be undertaken more frequently than traditional ones. Virtual walkthroughs can help users visualize a facility’s layout and assets. Potential risks and hazards can be spotted and addressed more timely. Improved efficiency and the higher frequency of walkthroughs helps to improve overall site safety.
Building Information Modeling (BIM)
BIM software is used to create a realistic model of a building, but unlike a simple drawing, this model is aware of all of the building’s properties. BIM allows you to record facility information such as blueprints, emergency plans, plumbing, electrical installations, model them in 3D, and store them digitally, allowing easy access to your staff.
Building information modeling enables real-time collaboration between everyone involved in a construction project, leading to massive improvements in cost, safety, and efficiency. As a result, BIM is one of the most influential construction trends today. This kind of visual and spatial information is incredibly helpful during facility repairs or renovations, among other things.
Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are transforming our world. Within facility management, drones are primarily being used for convenience and its cost effective nature to conduct inspections in hard to reach areas such as rooftop equipment or building façades etc. Thanks to their size and agility, drones can also be used inside a building or retail space to provide intelligent support, taking over many routine or time-consuming tasks and freeing up employees to focus on more important things. Essentially they keep workers safe, and costs down. #winwin
Driven by the opportunities that new technologies bring; great things are already happening in the industry. Here at RCR Infrastructure, our goal is to equip ourselves with knowledge of these current and future developments in order to continue to be the driving force of the organisations which we service, as well as keeping the buildings and inhabitants alike working to peak performance.
If you would like talk about how we can help your asset keep up with the ever changing landscape of tech get in touch. We’d love to help out.