Smart buildings may offer enormous benefits when it comes to security, comfort, ecology and value retention. But according to Julian Dömer, Head of IoT at Swisscom, today’s connected buildings – a conglomeration of separate systems or “spheres” – are still a long way from true smart buildings. He has some ideas on how to make them a reality.
Text: Felix Raymann, Images: Daniel Brühlmann, 21
“People have been talking about smart buildings for years. But they still fall in the realm of wishful thinking. Today’s ‘networked’ buildings are not half as intelligent as we’d like them to be. Why? It’s because individual systems like controllable shutters and lamps, networked air conditioning sensors, or IoT systems for managing workspace capacity all use different networks – and they’re not connected to one central building control system.
“This greatly reduces the overall benefit, since there is no universal smart ecosystem.”
So, to make a building smart, the first step would be to connect these systems within an integrated network rather than creating siloed applications. Second, it would need to be connected with the building system, or BMS. The BMS is a secure, dedicated closed-circuit control system within which things like the building services systems, fire and burglar alarms are all connected.
The overall benefit of the BMS is greatly diminished, however, if no other smart building applications are connected to it, because then there can be no single, universal smart ecosystem. Example: If a meeting room has been reserved but is not occupied, a smart building would identify the room as vacant again, switch off the lights and lower the heating. With the separate systems we have today, this is not yet possible.
“Right now, the various players are competing, battling it out for supremacy in the networked building.”
The reason the different spheres cannot be consolidated is not technical limitations, for example. Rather, there are various stakeholders – such as the builders and real estate owners, tenants, users and facility managers – who often fail to work together on planning and coordination. We are seeing initial cooperation in some areas, but the various stakeholders are often competing with each other and battling it out for the supremacy of their platform in the networked building. This results in dedicated networks, non-scalable solutions and floundering proprietary application silos.
“The technology already exists. We just have to use it.”
Networked buildings also have the potential to improve the level of comfort for employees or residents, to be more eco-friendly or to better retain their value. After all, the technology already exists – we simply have to use to tap into the potential. If we want to take advantage of these benefits, everyone involved needs to share a common vision. Only then will we see true smart buildings.”
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