Connecting people, processes, and things for truly smart buildings

Connecting people, processes, and things for truly smart buildings

By Kelly Allen, Director at Nokia Alliance EMEA,  Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise

It would be fascinating to know what the creators of the 1919 Téléphone Privé would make of today’s connected landscape. Rapid innovations over the past 100 years have seen us evolve from connecting one private telephone line with another, to the expansive connectivity we experience today. Technology is now a means of bringing people, processes, and things together, and in the case of smart buildings, all under one roof.

The age of the smart building

The technology deployed in smart buildings is developing constantly, but the essence of a smart building and its function remains the same. A building that implements technology in order to use resources more efficiently and economically, whilst also creating a safer, more comfortable environment earns itself the title of a smart building.

No longer is the shell of a building and space inside enough, buildings now provide multiple services which impact business in terms of minimising costs, increasing energy savings, providing enhanced safety for occupants, and automating services for a user-friendly experience.

The foundation for a smart building

At the core of a smart building is a secure, robust, high-performance network, essential for delivering the information, applications, and IoT connectivity that power the building’s operations. Such a network provides the tools needed to meet the business needs of smart buildings, including high-performance LAN and WLAN products and architectures, and network management that provides predictive analytics and supports automation tools securely and efficiently.

A building cannot be smart without an intelligent network, without establishing this level of performance, a network will not be able to keep pace with the demands asked of it and will result in inefficiency in terms of time and money. So, it is essential to think smart with your network in order to lay the foundation for a successful smart building.

Innovations in IoT

Developments in IoT technology have enabled smart buildings to take connectivity to the next level, linking with existing building management systems to further support the goal of ensuring time, cost and energy efficiency.

Real-time IoT occupancy sensors can share information that can be used to automate various processes, including heating, lighting and ventilation to deliver cost and sustainability benefits.   

Similarly, IoT occupancy sensors can be used to enhance productivity and workflow. Consider instances such as booking a meeting room or workspace with the help of real-time alerts. 

Monitoring traffic within a building also informs a business as to how the space is used. Using this information, improvements can be made to optimise operations and ensure that heavy footfall areas receive the upkeep and maintenance required.

Allowing different systems within a smart building to communicate with each other and create an ecosystem makes for smoother, more productive operations with benefits on multiple levels.

A focus on security

When it comes to security, IoT is in some senses a double-edged sword. On the one hand, IoT enabled sensors and cameras can be used to detect intruders, trigger alarms and alert authorities. Whilst wireless door locks and facial recognition systems provide an extra layer of security protection that isn’t prone to human error.

However, increased use of IoT devices also results in increased risk in terms of cybersecurity, as the number of entry points for hackers is multiplied. And in the mission to bring together siloed data onto one network, if a hacker should gain entry, they gain access to everything.

Here again, we return to the network, the reliable foundation of the smart building must be capable of handling many devices and the constant transfer of data, without its security being compromised.

Smart buildings built for the new normal

In light of the events of the past 18 months, smart building facilities have really come into their own, proving their value on a whole new level. IoT use cases such as people density monitoring and wearables to ensure a safe distance is maintained would simply not be possible outside of the realm of the smart building. Temperature tracking and air purifying have become recognisable aspects of the new normal and can be optimally used through smart building technology.

Many operations which began as crisis response mechanisms are likely to stand the test of time and become a part of our everyday lives and as such, integrating technology with the way we live and work will see the evolution of smart buildings go from strength to strength.

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