The future of buildings is smart

The future of buildings is smart

Lighting can be difficult to integrate, no matter the industry, yet it is an essential part of any building. Lighting used to be static and analogue and it did not pass data or communicate with other systems; yet with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and as technologies evolve, this has created problems for the industry that were not previously considered.

Most challenges for smart buildings come from the lack of smart technology infrastructure in place, yet the explosive growth of the IoT and the connected device market means that buildings are now expected to implement smart technology. The rise of IoT has created an influx of smart, internet-connected devices entering the market, including sensors, security, and HVAC, which need control, monitoring and maintenance.

Building Management Systems (BMS) aim to pull everything together and offer a single source where all data can be viewed and interacted with in one interface. Yet with BMS installation, lighting has historically been overlooked, and the lighting industry has developed its own communication protocols separate from other building systems.

It can take too much time and cost to maintain these separate systems, especially if the data collected by each of these systems cannot interact. The initial cost of installing smart lighting can be off-putting without evidence of success and effectiveness to back it up.

Interoperability

A key focus for smart buildings is to improve interoperability to integrate systems across different vendors. As the industry works together, this creates opportunities through collaboration to yield greater results and improved outcomes, with reduced costs and greater energy savings.

Nowadays, there are a collection of commonly used protocols and open standards that make integration easier, and these smart buildings are becoming increasingly connected assets that give energy managers detailed data on building performance. This data not only allows them to understand and improve energy performance, but also helps to make buildings more responsive to changing occupant requirements.

Due to this change in technology and industry attitude, we now focus on connecting various systems and devices within buildings, collecting and aggregating data, and creating custom dashboards, allowing data to be utilised in real time either in the building or via the cloud. We are often the intelligence inside a building solution; we white-label their software to save clients such as MSIs or smart building platforms development costs, add additional value to their solutions, and help them overcome technical challenges.

This allows the customer to have a building that contains solutions from multiple vendors which work together. Smart lighting control and integration platform bring all the lighting sensor and data management functionality demanded by smart buildings to new levels of efficiency and interoperability. The software powers Emergency Lighting Control, Circadian Lighting, Facility Manager Tools, Energy Management Tools and Occupancy Management; whilst also simply bridging the gap between systems and devices, acting as a middleware integration layer in buildings.

Data can be aggregated and sent to the cloud, a BMS, a UI, or another system. This kind of software can save a great deal of cost as it breaks down barriers that were previously only solved with expensive hardware-heavy solutions. The software can be adjusted and updated remotely, allowing data to be continuously monitored, and the solution is, therefore future-proofed.

Through intelligent use of infrastructure, sensors and devices, it can provide end-users with total control over lighting, heating, security and more in any building. This gives clients full visibility of how energy is consumed, allowing them to adjust as required for maximum efficiency. This also allows for continuous adaptability as users can evolve how they use a space based on changing needs and tasks.

The investment in smart connected lighting, therefore, becomes an investment in the whole building. It extends the life of assets by future-proofing them and lowering operating and maintenance costs. Smart lighting can even support occupancy analytics, energy management, asset tracking and wayfinding by using lighting as a medium facilitating communication throughout the building by utilising a pre-existing, reliable network.  

Data and cybersecurity

One of the key issues with smart buildings is the huge amount of data that is collected and the implications this has on cybersecurity. Data availability and privacy can cause concern, building owners and occupiers need to understand how their data will be stored and used in order to feel comfortable sharing it.

Phil Cross
Phil Cross of amBX

This kind of data is extremely helpful as it can provide analytics to predict future maintenance failures or the efficiency of a building’s components to assist with building planning and maintenance. As smart buildings have evolved, there has been an overload of data from multiple vendor’s products, with no clear communication protocols or strategy. This has an impact on project cost and also the environmental effects of the building.

This has resulted in the industry beginning to adopt common metadata, allowing building operators to understand and interpret building data easily, as well as software applications that were not part of the original installation, therefore allowing for future upgrades. By using a common language, OEMs can create products and components that can seamlessly communicate throughout the development and use of a building. Having data that is standardised and tagged in a consistent way allows analytics and insights to be easily achieved, and it minimises problems arising in the future if newer technology is added.

Lighting forms a large part of these valuable data sets. We focus on supporting and aligning with this process to speed up smart building traction by minimising the complications of accessing this data. As we are hardware agnostic, we offer the standardisation of lighting control for smart buildings, removing the barrier of proprietary and closed system integration issues.

This unified approach creates the best experience for occupants, maximises efficiency and creates a more environmentally friendly building that can be easily controlled and monitored. Data normalisation also hugely reduces the cost of installation. System integrators will not have to spend weeks or months developing complex solutions therefore, the whole process will be much simpler, and this clear strategy should encourage further adoption of smart buildings.

ESG reporting

Having effective building controls also assists companies and building owners with Environmental Social Governance (ESG) reporting. ESG reporting is vital for monitoring how buildings that businesses operate out of having an impact on their environmental footprint and the health and wellbeing of their employees. Many businesses are operating inefficiently and are not collecting the relevant energy and carbon data to be able to set out an improvement strategy. In order to reach net zero, companies must implement effective control and monitoring.

This is an issue that is prevalent in the minds of both investors and consumers. The value of ESG data and reporting is that it gives investors the ability to see the full picture of their asset's performance and how they are responding to long-term climate and technological changes.

Green-certified buildings are viewed as a lower risk to investors as they aim to deliver healthy, sustainable spaces that tenants want to rent. Buildings need to be beneficial environments that are suitable for the occupants’ needs. We can provide circadian lighting and air quality monitoring as well as data visualisation to improve health and well-being and build trust with occupants. This then results in stronger financial performance as investors can charge more per month, retain tenants, and secure future capital.  

The industry can only achieve net zero goals if it works together, sharing data to create a holistic ESG score. We can assist with this, acting as a system integrator to aggregate data, presenting lighting energy and carbon data, and simulating changes in the virtual environment before applying it to the physical asset. The use of digital twins is very beneficial, as having a lighting digital twin can offer the ability to map how a building is running now and, in the future, creating a forecast which shows an owner where they could get to from lighting energy and carbon perspective.

As smart buildings and technology controls continue to be integrated, the industry must work together to improve interoperability, common data sets, and ESG reporting to meet the demand of end users and investors. As the industry works together on overcoming these barriers, a more efficient, effective, and environmentally friendly smart building installation can be created for the future, with the integral factor of lighting control considered in the planning process.

Phil Cross is CEO at amBX

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