IoT in Smart Buildings: Foundations for Success

Eseye author

Eseye

IoT Hardware and Connectivity Specialists

LinkedIn

Commercial building guidelines have traditionally focused on the performance of the physical infrastructure and on meeting the most basic requirements for environmental and safety standards. Environmental factors affecting the occupants were largely considered the building manager’s problem. 

But in 2020, the global pandemic caused a significant rethink in the way commercial buildings are used, and now with efforts to encourage people back to commercial spaces in full-swing, the focus has shifted to the consideration of smart building design in relation to the health, wellbeing, and productivity of occupants, from layout to environmental factors such as access, temperature, and cleanliness.

Making better, more effective, use of space is moving up the agenda on both a macro and micro level, with sustainability shifting beyond a PR campaign to an actual money-saving, productivity-driving endeavor.

According to the United Nations, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050, and the commercial buildings in urban areas continue to have a significant impact on the local environment, accounting for 40% of local energy consumption, 60% of emissions, and 40% of landfill volume.

An estimated 25% of energy consumed in the commercial real estate sector is also wasted and around 75% of buildings in the EU are considered energy inefficient, according to research from smart building analyst Memoori.

Given that Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and lighting can account for up to 50% of energy use in typical commercial buildings there is a clear case for leveraging IoT and M2M smart building technologies to reduce energy consumption – by as much as 50% in some estimations. This would not only mean reduced operating costs, but a lower environmental impact as well. An all round win for building owners, managers, occupants, and the environment.

Smart building

Smart buildings use building-wide connected systems, devices, and automation to improve efficiency, safety, and comfort for the building owner/manager and the occupants. This IT managed network infrastructure typically encompasses HVAC, lighting, alarms and security and may extend to more specific innovations depending on the venue’s use case.

Some definitions also include one or more building automation systems where devices and connectivity converge, and can be controlled and monitored remotely through a web portal management system.

‘Smart’ buildings take technology beyond mere building automation, due to the fact that the various systems are aware of each other and exchange data to improve occupant wellbeing, safety, or comfort. This might be as simple as the HVAC system controlling ventilation in a room, or a soft alert letting building managers know the building is nearing maximum occupancy. In a concert venue this could identify overcrowding or a risk to effective evacuation. 

Early smart buildings used Power over Ethernet (PoE) fixed line connectivity to accomplish this convergence but as IoT and M2M devices have become more affordable and connectivity options more varied, wirelessly-connected IoT devices are now common in smart buildings.

Juniper Research predicts that the number of buildings globally deploying smart building technologies will jump over 150% to reach 115 million in 2026, from 45 million in 2022, on the back of explosive demand for energy efficiency as energy costs continue to spike.

Commercial buildings – offices, warehouses, shops, venues and the like – will account for 90% of smart building spend globally in 2026 as these deployments provide a stronger return on investment.

Manufacturers of sensors used in smart buildings will also see demand skyrocket, to exceed 1 billion units annually in 2026 from 360 million in 2022; representing a growth of 204%.

Berg Insight notes that developments in wireless and cellular connectivity, interoperability, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are enabling new and improved services to create growth in the marketplace.

Across Europe and North America, building automation systems include a wide range of solutions for controlling, monitoring and automating functions in buildings, such as commercial office spaces, retail stores, hotels, schools, hospitals and industrial buildings.

Smart cities

Smart building IoT devices either connect directly or via a gateway back to a centralized management system like a BMS (Building Management System), BOS (Building Operating System), a BIS (Building Information System), or an EMS (Energy Management System), all of which perform similar functions streamlining the process of building operation and management as well as assisting with data visualization, analysis, and prediction.

IoT sensors in the building encompass a wide range of devices designed to measure and control various aspects of the building and its environment.

Temperature sensors monitor and regulate heat, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) in individual rooms and common spaces. Building temperature controllers enable real-time temperature monitoring, analytics, and automated control. Volatile organic compound (VOC) sensors and thermostat valves also contribute to improving air quality and comfort.

Brightness sensors adjust lighting according to dynamic needs, such as turning lights off in vacant rooms and corridors, adjusting brightness depending on season or time of day, and saving energy while enhancing occupants’ experience.

Electricity meters and sub-meters allow for the accurate tracking of energy consumption, water meters do the same for water. Reduced usage, inefficiencies in aging infrastructure, energy security, and price volatility are some of the issues that might be mitigated with IoT energy sensors. Water monitoring can also extend to the quality of the water.

IoT in fire and smoke detection systems creates a sophisticated network of alerting and rapid response capabilities, with advanced sensors, capable of detecting early signs of fire.

A smart building fire system provides more detailed information, like the exact location of smoke or heat detectors, number of occupants in that area, and if and when a water flow switch or sprinkler system activates in response to a fire. This also means instant alerts to occupants and emergency services, directly improving safety outcomes.

Modern access control systems already make good use of IoT technology, but wireless or cellular connectivity now means each component such as locks, access controllers, card or fob readers, or other devices can communicate seamlessly with the network and building management system.

IoT-enabled access control can be further enhanced with other technologies such as facial recognition, smart cameras, or biometric authentication ensuring that only authorized personnel can enter restricted zones. This also introduces real-time monitoring of employee access, visitor management, and better integration of emergency evacuation protocols.

Occupancy monitoring works in tandem with access control and security, providing detailed insights into building usage and occupancy through automated tracking. This helps manage environmental comfort, but also contributes to building safety by helping to identify unusual patterns that could indicate security threats.

In more sophisticated deployments smart solutions can also analyze things like CO2 levels in tandem with occupancy to ensure indoor air quality and optimal space utilization.

Working alongside access control, smart building burglar alarms contribute to a comprehensive security framework, looking for unusual behavior or events.

IoT-driven access control systems with remote management allow administrators to modify access rights in real-time for any building in their remit, no matter where they are. Door and window control systems could also potentially optimize other operations like cleaning schedules.

Integration of IoT into vertical transportation can introduce features such as real-time monitoring and remote diagnosis to ensure efficient operation and maintenance for smart buildings.

This reduces the need for manual inspections, significantly improving the reliability of elevator control and escalator maintenance.

While smart buildings can improve the productivity of occupants through environmental optimizations, the network of connected audio visual devices, such as screens and digital whiteboards in offices can boost individual productivity further.

In publicly accessible venues such as malls or stations, connected digital signage even offers opportunities for revenue generation.

Lady using paper dispenser

To achieve a smart washroom tracking goal, Haltian and Lindström used Eseye’s highly available cellular connectivity for IoT devices in washroom machinery like towel dispensers which need regular maintenance.

The result was 30% less steps for cleaners due to a 40% reduction in manual checks, 17% more time spent cleaning more critical areas, and improved customer satisfaction, with 66% of end users recommending the facility based on cleanliness.

Man working at desk

Tieto’s Empathic Building solution uses IoT to help occupants find a vacant workstation, locate colleagues, get information for meeting room availability, track the quality of atmosphere based on temperature, noise and air, and create service tickets and share feedback.

The result was more collaborative activity-based working, and a 15% savings on facility maintenance time.

Fraser Towers Singapore

Fraser Tower in Singapore, home to Microsoft, is a 38 floor smart building that makes use of IoT sensors that monitor temperature, air quality and lighting and feeds the data into a digital twin to help with modeling future smart buildings.

The Edge Amsterdam

The Edge, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, is a building that has received a 98.4% sustainability rating from British green building certification agency BREEAM, making it the highest rating ever awarded. Through a smartphone app, visitors to the Edge can have their calendar app automatically book them a room or desk and set the space’s environmental conditions to their own preferences ahead of time.

Traditionally, the connectivity of smart building control systems has been hampered by network penetration limitations, but now there is a wide range of LPWA and cellular technologies delivering close to 100% connectivity to choose from.

Integration of IoT in smart buildings plays a crucial role in the management of properties and transforms traditional buildings into intelligent structures capable of dynamically and efficiently meeting occupancy needs and environmental challenges.

Eseye’s AnyNet SMARTconnect gives IoT devices the intelligence to swap to another network if connectivity drops, and future-proofs the device by allowing new networks and operators to be easily introduced. It also provides the building blocks to enable connectivity applets with access to multiple RATs – for example cellular, Zigbee, Thread, Bluetooth, LoRaWAN and satellite.

Hera – our range of specialist IoT edge hardware – meets your evolving IoT needs for ruggedness and reliability.

Hardware and software is underpinned by Eseye’s Infinity IoT Platform, connectivity management software that gives operators oversight and control of the entire smart building estate from a single pane of glass. This makes it possible to optimize connectivity for each device, as well provide full-lifecycle management.

Eseye author

Eseye

IoT Hardware and Connectivity Specialists

LinkedIn

Eseye brings decades of end-to-end expertise to integrate and optimise IoT connectivity delivering near 100% uptime. From idea to implementation and beyond, we deliver lasting value from IoT. Nobody does IoT better.