Real estate and technology firms are actively engaged in exploring ways to improve people’s lives while reducing energy use and operating costs, says Manoj Asrani
The concept of the Internet of things (IoT), where ordinary objects are connected to the Internet presents unprecedented possibilities, for the management and operation of real estate. With IoT, any part of a building can become a point to capture and send data. The emergence of IoT comes at a time when we are seeing major advances in the speed of data transmission and computer processing, and the ability to store massive amounts of information in the cloud. When these developments are combined with advanced analysis – to make the data actionable – we have the opportunity to explore, relate to, and interact with buildings in amazing new ways, to move from building management to full building automation.
Whether it’s a scanner that lets you gain entry or a thermostat to provide basic temperature monitoring, many buildings today have some form of electronic controlsystem. But those systems are largely built on proprietary technologies with data silos that don’t interact, and any reports they generate are most likely static, representing what has happened, instead of what could happen. With a building automation system that uses IoT, you could have an integrated solution that senses and adjusts heat and humidity based on the number of people that have entered the building.
Building owners and managers across the globe are excited at the prospect of adding more intelligence to their building management systems for existing and future structures. But many are hampered by a lack of information about where to start and how to bring it all together. Some are put off by the high costs proposed to ramp up intelligent solutions or by the perception that costs will be high. And with the technology still in its infancy, the difficulty of accessing data from building management systems is still a challenge. But as with other technologies, as IoT applications mature, the costs and challenges are likely to lessen.
For those that do step up to the plate, the benefits are bound to be substantial. Corporations that own and occupy their own real estate could reduce their costs significantly with a building automation system using IoT. Let’s say a financial services company has a building portfolio with annual energy costs of a billion dollars. If a system could reduce those costs by 1 percent while still maintaining a comfortable work environment, which would generate big savings.
Real estate companies that are less driven by operating costs, which they recover from tenants, could use the technology to offer occupants a better-functioning environment. Tenants are attracted to buildings with comfortable temperature and humidity, and timely elevators that rarely malfunction. With a building automation system, a real estate company could adjust equipment remotely to ensure that it works properly and efficiently. And with global warming an important issue, real estate companies could score some points by providing energy-efficient properties. An intelligent building might have elevators that recognise your speech when you tell them what floor to go to. All of these features can contribute to occupant satisfaction, and ultimately, occupant retention.
IoT enables enhancements that go beyond building operations to provide owners, operators, or tenants with information about the flow and movement of people in a structure. This capability could offer a major advantage to retail tenants. With data gleaned from sensors, a store could track the behavior of customers to understand, for example, how long they look at a particular display or where they go after that. Tracking movements of many customers could enable a store to generate metrics that reveal what percentage of people viewing the display converts into sales or to provide information that helps stores better serve their customers.
The use of IoT holds limitless possibilities for building management. Real estate and technology firms of all sizes are actively engaged in exploring how it can improve people’s lives while reducing energy use and operating costs. With IoT, the future of building management will undoubtedly be interesting.