The digitalisation of buildings remains relatively undeveloped compared with factory automation and businesses such as car manufacture or retail. But as awareness of the benefits from the internet-of-things and cloud computing grows, large opportunities are rapidly emerging for property and construction.
Buildings have had some level of automation since the 1970s, but it was built on proprietary hardware and software stacks, resulting in highly fragmented systems affordable only in large buildings. However, new IoT-enabled technology and the cloud are now allowing the transition to open and connected systems in ‘smart’ buildings.
Smart buildings leverage the cloud to connect intelligent functionality and real-time analytics in access-control and lighting systems, plus heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, creating a common framework in properties of all sizes.
The IoT and the cloud have enabled a new wave in building automation by delivering intelligent functionality with cheaper installation and energy cost-savings compared with traditional systems. This intelligent functionality helps optimise processes, improve energy efficiency and drive predictive maintenance.
Greater environmental awareness and tighter regulatory standards are also driving increased building automation. Real estate is estimated to represent 40 per cent of current global energy demand with 30 per cent of the energy used wasted because of inefficient management systems. More energy-efficient buildings are a key part of limiting global warming to 2°C by 2100, the goal set in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
IoT-enabled connected products for smart buildings and homes range from smart doorbells to a smart plug. Software products include the building-management platform, while controls include items such as actuators, sensors and valves.
System integrators provide solutions for complex building networks and leverage the cloud to perform real-time data analytics.
Together, they will provide a ‘layer’ of connectivity through, say, a connected circuit-breaker, or by adding functionality to a meter, thermostat or lights so they can measure power consumption and be controlled locally or remotely.
Currently, cloud-computing and the internet-of-things are used most in large non-residential buildings but usage is rapidly growing in smaller properties and housing.