Smart building is the office or home of the future, and is also seen as the future of AV integration. Kevin Hilton looks at the meaning of the concept and related technologies.
In the science fiction stories of the 1950s and ’60s, homes and offices of the future were thought of as places where any work or function previously performed by humans was performed by robots or other technologies. Some automations were introduced in the 1970s and 1980s, but the model is now for smart buildings that use technology to create a more efficient and environmentally conscious environment.
Existing technology from the AV, building management, mechanical engineering and robotics departments forms part of the overall concept, with more control, analytics capabilities and demonstration functions by IoT sensors, artificial intelligence / machine learning (AI / ML) presented. And augmented reality (AR). Sensors are a key element in defining smart buildings and play an important role in providing automation and independence.
Stijn ooms, Crestron Europe’s director of technology, argues that the concept of smart buildings is based on the use of interconnected technologies to produce something that is more responsive, sustainable and productive for those who use them. While smart buildings are a region in themselves, they are also part of a long-term process, which Ooms recognizes as the digital transformation of business and everyday life.
The role that sensors play in all of this is just beginning to be realized, with great potential for realization. A sensor – also known as a transducer – is any device that can convert energy such as sound, light or pressure into an equivalent electrical signal. This process can also go in another direction. Among the different types of sensors are: Sensors that can detect motion. Measurement of temperature, humidity and light intensity; Or count the number of people in a room.
Sensor technology is considered by those who seek to further strengthen the concept of smart buildings as a convenient tool for work, rather than APIs (application programming interfaces). An API is defined in terms of a set of functions and procedures used by an application to access features in an application. Smart building experts, including Eric obels, owner and senior consultant at MetisReal, do not see APIs as a means to full integration. Instead, Ubels uses sensors in conjunction with the MQTT network protocol to perform cloud operations and the Internet of Things.
Ubels was previously CEO of EDGE Technologies, a real estate developer committed to building buildings that are not only environmentally sustainable, but also consider the well-being of the people who work or live there. This philosophy established the company’s headquarters in Amsterdam, the EDGE Olympics.
The building utilizes the Internet of Things and a single cloud platform, with sensors that connect to smartphone apps and enable users to create their own work environment by customizing light, temperature and noise levels.
Stijn Ooms observes that sensors and APIs complement each other, and that the information of a sensor can be routed using API subsystems inside the building. However, this kind of coexistence changes, if all the technology inside the building works according to a standard. In this case, no API is required and the sensors can be used throughout it.
Tobias Anders, CEO of German Integrator, GMS (Global Media Services) agrees that API integration may be necessary for some functions such as access control, but is increasingly moving towards integration.
One of the platforms that can offer this is the platform developed by EnOcean Alliance. This is an international association of companies in both the building and information technology sectors. Since 2008, the company has been developing open and interactive ecosystems that form the basis of smart homes, smart buildings and smart spaces.
At their core is the radio standard without the need for ISO / IEC 14543-3-10 / 11 maintenance. This specifies a wireless protocol for low-power devices, including home power units. It is a WSP (Wireless Session Protocol) system designed to keep the power consumption of sensors and switches low.
The goal of the EnOcean Alliance is to create an ecosystem of wireless sensors with independent functionality that can be used for smart homes, smart buildings,
spaces. EnOcean estimates that this kind of wireless network is now operating in over 1,000,000 buildings around the world. Right now the ecosystem itself comprises 5,000 product variants based on 1,500 basic products.
These are being joined by new units regularly. Because these have standardised sensor profiles, the products can be used together easily. Information from the sensors is sent to cloud-based IT platforms, connecting with other data available on the web as well as smart data analysis systems.
GMS started out as a traditional AV contractor but moved into smart buildings approximately four years ago when clients pointed out that although conference rooms had been booked for meetings, very often people did not show up or the spaces were not being properly utilised. This led Enders and his team to explore IoT sensors so that room occupancy could be measured.
To achieve this GMS teamed up with fellow German company, Thing Technologies, developer of the Thing-It smart building software platform.
Enders explains that while smart buildings are both IT and AV related, an integrator such as GMS is now communicating more directly with digital real estate teams, development companies and asset management firms. The main message is that the key requirement in a smart building is an IP backbone. This provides the infrastructure on which everything else – software, apps, AV hardware – hangs.
Enders adds that the main difference between traditional AV installations and smart buildings is the equipment installed has to follow the use case. Instead of people learning to operate a piece of hardware for one purpose, smart systems adapt to do what the user needs or wants to do.
Right now the three main drivers for smart buildings are seen as: energy efficiency/sustainability; space optimisation, something that has become ever more important in light of Covid as people return to offices; and the workplace experience. This last category is about improving the interface between people, technology and the building itself. For all of these AI/ML is providing the means of analysing data and adapting functions so that the entire system can be regulated and run efficiently.
As Crestron’s Stijn Ooms observes, the aim with smart buildings is to create something more responsive, sustainable and productive than conventional offices. This is likely to go beyond just a green building, with heating and lights turned off in rooms that are not in use, and into the realms of plants being watered automatically when sensors detect they are dry, and executives knowing visitors have arrived because the system has detected their car pulling into the car park.
Ultimately the movie depiction of future homes and offices could come true, with everyone being like Tony Stark in the Iron Man films, telling a computer to make the coffee. But, as Philip Meese at Lightware concludes, humane things might be best left to humans, with technology improving our overall well being and helping us to live better, smarter and environmentally well.
Parsaland Trading Company with many activities in the fields of import and export, investment consulting, blockchain consulting, information technology and building construction