Smart Building Challenges and Opportunities

Working together

No one company can achieve truly smart buildings that address all of the internal and external requirements alone. We need to be aware of all of the challenges and opportunities within the market both for our own development but also to be able to smart enable other solutions and continue to improve the industry. To succeed, we need to work together. 

Below is a summary of some of the core points hindering and accelerating the Smart Building industry today. Each of these have varying degrees of influence however it is evident that the pandemic has boosted adoption. There is a renewed focus on occupant wellbeing, contactless technology, occupant analytics and remote management tools and solutions.

Challenges

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity has typically been the number one barrier to smart buildings. Security, privacy, integrity, and availability of data are top concerns. We have seen some solutions beginning to address this issue, but the concern is high on the agenda of most customers. As more and more components connect to the internet, naturally the risk increases and as a result, it will always present a challenge for the industry.

Personal Data

Building occupants willingness to provide or share personal information and sign up to IoT services will increasingly depend on whether they trust the entity responsible for storing and analysing the data to protect their privacy and to use the data in a fair, legal and accountable manner- something which is increasingly hard to obtain given the publics wariness of data storage and usage.

There is a balance to be stricken between exceptional experience and data privacy. People will be more willing to comply with data capture if they understand the ways in which it will be used and stored.

Legacy Construction and Retrofit Process

It is hard for new entrants to break through the complex supply chain and get their solutions specified, as the traditional construction and procurement process is very

Within the new build process, smart systems aren’t considered until the later stages, which stifles innovation and causes issues with interoperability.

A retrofit process often offers more opportunities for smart system specialists, but stakeholders typically only gain visibility of specifications after they have been filtered through multiple contract layers. The project manager will tend to go for “tried and tested” approaches that carry minimal risk.

There is an absence of key skills that are needed to create smart buildings further up the chain. Smart building Consultants and System Integrators aren’t standard on every project, there is a need for people who possess knowledge of networking, systems integration, data management and data security.

Without the contribution of appropriately skilled building automation and IoT specialists to the process, sub-optimal lowest cost options with limited interoperability are often selected.

Interoperability

The complexity of growing systems and the interconnection of multiple data streams from building and business systems presents new challenges that few building operators are equipped to address.

Building systems on new build projects are often commissioned with little regard for overall systems interoperability or compliance, and there is little incentive for vendors providing each system to collaborate on systems integration if a dedicated Smart Systems Consultant or Systems Integrator is part of the team.

However, open standards are now a lot more common; there is a steady progression from proprietary to open across the industry. Some challenges remain when it comes to integrating with legacy systems; however, this challenge will continue to ease over time as legacy systems are progressively replaced with modern IoT enabled systems based on open protocols.

Opportunities

Partnership and Collaboration

A Collaborative approach can yield far greater results; it ensures that everyone understands the value of smart technology and how smart systems can be leveraged to deliver improved outcomes in terms of efficiency, sustainability, flexibility, connectivity, and occupant comfort.

Open standards provide more choice and flexibility throughout the supply chain, allowing the very best solutions to be created and executed. This also future proofs buildings as they are not locked into one supplier.

Health and Wellbeing

The pandemic has increased demand for occupancy analytics, air quality monitoring and control, remote management tools and contactless solutions which offer a means for building owners to better understand changing behaviours and patterns of utilisation. There is a focus on encouraging employees back to workplaces and offering them an experience they cannot get at home. Businesses are also trying to encourage customers back into shopping centres, leisure centres and entertainment venues. There is pressure to make occupants feel safe and instil trust and safety for the wider public too.

Employees are the most expensive asset within any organisation; prioritising their needs also increases productivity rates, happiness and retention. Therefore, although health and wellbeing are still viewed as secondary to cost and energy saving, the two are synonymous. By making employees feel safe and looked after, businesses will save money on recruitment costs, sick days, and productivity will increase.  

Sustainability

The number one influencers of smart buildings remain cost and energy saving. This is encouraging more businesses to adopt smart technologies that provide improved insight and reveal changes that can be made to not only save costs but also to save energy.

Buildings and their construction together account for 36% of global energy use and 39% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions annually, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. 80% of buildings in 2050 have already been built; therefore, it is essential we upgrade and future proof them, making them more sustainable.

As well as being driven by Government initiatives to reach net carbon zero by 2050, smart building technologies are consistently specified, high-level data integration is made much simpler, data quality is higher, and long-term systems maintenance/upgrade costs are lower.

To allow the quick adoption of Smart building systems, specialists need to work collaboratively across the supply chain, engaging with forward thinking clients, lead contractors, systems integrators, smart building consultants and architects, to ensure that everyone understands the value of smart technology and how smart systems can be leveraged to deliver improved outcomes in terms of efficiency, sustainability, flexibility, connectivity, and occupant comfort.

Phil Cross is CEO of amBX

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