Buildings of the future - what is a smart building?

Artificial intelligence is playing a critical role in integrating next generation technologies and automating networks - and smart buildings represent one of the most exciting elements of that, allowing workspaces to become more efficient, agile and productive.

We are undoubtedly in the midst of a fascinating period of connected innovation with huge possibilities. Such sweeping AI developments are serving to significantly increase the use of telecom networks, with the advent of 5G expected to lend them further momentum in the coming years.

However, with the digital connectivity of commercial premises now among the key considerations for any tenant or prospective occupier, smart buildings are at the very heart of the revolution.

They’re underpinning smart cities and creating more efficient, more harmonious workplaces that positively impact bottom lines through the intelligent management of assets while enhancing job satisfaction for occupants and supporting sustainability efforts too.

By overlaying an IT network, connecting all traditionally unconnected equipment, and applying automated analytics and controls, building owners and managers can significantly reduce energy waste and cut costs.

Smart buildings are also speedy indeed - those aforementioned 5G networks are expected to provide data rates of one gigabyte per second simultaneously to many workers on the same office floor, not to mention several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections for wireless sensors.

Effectively then, smart buildings can actively collect data and constantly react to the needs of their occupants. Amongst many benefits, those sensors are able to record information about movement, light, temperature and carbon dioxide levels to moderate the building’s systems at all times.

Heating, air conditioning, and lighting can automatically be turned off in a room that’s not being used, while areas of the building that are being used more than others can trigger a notification that expedites extra cleaning. Similarly, areas that are not being used can trigger less frequent cleaning, while heating can be better regulated throughout the year, so no more radiators on full blast at the height of summer.

Taken further, the collated data could be used to inform executive-level-decision-making - for instance, the reconfiguring of layouts, a move to a smaller building that’s better suited to a company’s specific needs, or even the leasing of car park space that’s going unused.

On a more basic level, a smart building can be thought of as a significant recruitment tool. Offering significant personal customisation can be a major advantage for attracting top people to your business and then retaining them.

Facial recognition systems in smart buildings will replace card-activated barriers, while facilitating the use of restricted areas to authorised staff and preventing access from others.

Simultaneously, the building can log the activities of its occupants, so when they return after a gap in time, they may receive an automatic alert asking them if they want to repeat a previous meeting with the same attendees, thus reducing admin.

Significant security benefits can include alerts for potentially suspicious activity - for instance, the potential to alert management to the presence of people who don’t use a particular part of the building.

However, these many developments represent only the tip of the iceberg. The possibilities of what can truly be achieved by smart buildings are effectively endless.

There is also a considerable opportunity for those providers leading the way - the global smart building market is expected to grow to $31.74bn by 2022 - and for building owners, the benefits can be realised right away, so now may be the time to get involved.

With that in mind, it’s important to firstly consult a smart building provider that has experience in creating similar solutions to those that will be at the centre of your own smart building. They should then be able to design and provide solutions that are bespoke to your needs.

With the advent of smart building technology, it’s never been easier to uncover new business insights that are capable of driving real value and enhancing performance. Are you a smart business?