Power accounts for around 30 percent of a typical office building’s total operating expenses, according to EPA. So it’s no wonder that facilities owners and managers increasingly are transforming their properties into smart buildings—helping reduce energy costs by nearly a third, as shown in a report by the Institute for Building Efficiency.
IoT Solutions Enhance Smart Buildings
Improving energy efficiency has long been a goal of building owners and designers, but it’s only now that technology is enabling the vision. Today’s powerful, low-cost Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are poised to dramatically improve the efficiency of buildings. Importantly, this applies to existing buildings too—what the industry calls brownfield or retrofit sites.
IoT-based facilities management systems can now control an increasing variety of devices, ranging from air conditioners to car park sensors to soap dispensers. They can analyse data from all these devices to:
- Dynamically adjust power consumption, matching energy use to occupancy patterns
- Optimise the operations of air conditioners and other equipment
- Proactively perform equipment maintenance tasks
- Automate devices to provide a more desirable working environment
Smart Buildings Reduce Carbon Emissions
Energy efficiency is not just an issue for individual businesses. Buildings are the single largest contributor to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The imperative to reduce emissions is universal, but the pressure to do so is particularly strong in Asia, where the global trend toward urbanisation is having a big impact.
Today there are 28 mega cities globally, defined by the United Nations as those with populations in excess of 10 million. By 2025, there will be 41, and 10 of them will be in Asia, according to Professor Haresh Shah, chairman of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research.
Clearly, the question is no longer whether we should have smart buildings. The question is how soon can we make the transformation?
Making a Building Smart with IoT
A smart building comprises a number of components, including:
- Sensors that monitor things like temperature, power consumption and occupancy levels
- Actuators to turn heating, air conditioning and lighting on and off
- IoT gateways that aggregate and securely route data
- Back-end infrastructure with powerful analytics capabilities
- Decision-support tools that automate functions and provide actionable insights
Those planning a new building today typically make it smart from the outset. Every piece of infrastructure can be selected for its ability to provide information on its status and its ability to be analysed, controlled, automated, or optimised from a central system such as the Intel IoT Platform. But with tens of thousands of existing commercial buildings across Asia Pacific, retrofitting existing, or ‘brownfields’ buildings is a critical need.
In the past, making an existing building smart required a massive and costly upgrade. Even where it was possible to add functions to a building’s existing infrastructure, the mix of legacy systems and add-ons was unlikely to have a common means of communication and control. A further limitation was the rudimentary capabilities of most legacy building management systems.
That’s where IoT solutions comes in. Powerful, secure IoT-based platforms provide interfaces with many different devices, transforming data from the devices into common formats for secure transmission to a central platform. Such platform can include software that automatically manages the building’s operations, analytics that seek ways to optimise operations, and a management console. Once centralised and analysed, the resulting insights help identify efficiency opportunities.
Offering a Better Working Environment
KMC Controls is a building automation company that helps its customers improve indoor environmental quality and energy efficiency with a range of customisable products that gather and aggregate data.
The company sets itself a goal of capturing 80 percent of a building’s data using only 20 percent of the time and labor associated with traditional solutions. By working with Intel, KMC can integrate data from a wide range of legacy systems, implement a simple way to get data from the building to the cloud, and enable data to be analysed locally or remotely.
In Canada, KMC and partner firm Lar-Mex used IoT technology from Intel to turn Ontario’s Gisèle‑Lalonde Secondary School into a smart campus. KMC was able to integrate proprietary communication protocols using Intel IoT Gateways. Data on the building’s status and performance is now aggregated and analysed in the cloud. Insights from this data are accessed by building administrators using mobile applications, and by occupants via kiosks in the school.
The system can track occupancy in real time, measure electricity consumption per student and manage carbon dioxide levels. The result is a safer, more comfortable, and more productive learning and working environment that is also highly energy efficient.
Managing Any Thing with IoT
Smart building technology isn’t just about energy efficiency. It can also include all the devices an office manager is responsible for and that require frequent attention—coffee machines, towel dispensers, copiers, printers and so on. It can also encompass the many things that occupants probably never think about, such as environmental and perimeter sensors, and security and access control devices.
Coor Service Management provides office management services to businesses and has teamed up with IoT systems integrator Yanzi Networks to make buildings more efficient. Yanzi puts sensors in everything ranging from garbage bins to soap dispensers and connects them via Intel IoT Gateways to a central monitoring system that office managers can access via an easy-to-use tablet application.
This is just one example of how IoT technology works with existing infrastructure to make it much more feasible for owners and managers to turn their properties into smart buildings. IoT makes it easier to gain a competitive advantage in the form of reduced energy costs, improved efficiencies and better facilities to offer occupants.
Want to Make Your Building Smarter?
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