6 Technologies You Need to Know about Smart Buildings
The term intelligence about buildings or their related technologies is essentially a product of marketing.
All smart technologies have two intertwined goals: perception and control. For buildings, this means learning more about what goes on in the structure and increasing control over its operations and environment.
In practice, this usually involves three techniques:
Sensors and other data collection tools measure different aspects of a building.
The network infrastructure collects and monitors the collected data and forwards this information to the user.
Automated software and tools optimize a building's systems based on incoming data, often for comfort, safety and efficiency. Human operators can also use these as needed to intervene in the operation of buildings, often remotely.
In addition, many smart technology vendors, especially those selling networking and automation, often offer tools to analyze data about buildings (and sometimes around them). These will often employ algorithms or machine learning processes to assist facility managers in making decisions about building systems.
This is probably the smart technology most people are most familiar with. Companies such as Google (with its Nest line of devices) and Amazon (with its Honeywell smart thermostat) have heavily marketed it to home owners.
It's also one of the easiest smart technologies to implement. For decades, buildings have been equipped with digital wall-mounted controls for building heating, cooling and air quality control. Making them smart is often just a matter of adding controls with networking capabilities.
For commercial buildings, we can use a variety of functions that go beyond what is available at home. For example, building occupants can be made comfortable remotely and save money by avoiding unnecessary heating or cooling of unused rooms.
Commercial building sensors monitor things like humidity, air pressure and carbon dioxide levels. Siemens Variable Air Volume Systems, for example, manages air purification systems to limit the spread of viruses and bacteria.
This is another smart technology that most people are familiar with. It has been sold in large numbers in consumers' homes.
The main appeal of smart lights is cost savings. The energy cost of lights out can add up quickly when you realize how many kilowatts you're using to light up an unoccupied room. But smart lighting features can go much further than motion sensors that check if there's someone in the room before turning off the lights.
Manufacturers have long been able to make lamps with adjustable light balance. Integrated into a smart building's system, lighting can be used inside that mimics external lighting conditions. It makes living and working indoors more comfortable and uses less energy than the harsh fluorescent lights commonly found in commercial and industrial buildings.
Smart water resources management
After energy, water is another utility that building owners and facilities management are looking at to improve efficiency. Smart water management is easy to deploy - all buildings have key points to access water.
Much of the work boils down to strategically placing sensors to give early warnings of spills or flooding. This needs to be combined with a strong local network that allows managers to see all the Spaces where flooding is possible -- much of it invisible.
Smart water management protects and saves on three levels:
Reduce the cost of water loss (called unprofitable water).
Early warning to limit possible damage from spills or flooding.
The cost of insurance is reduced as the risks associated with the system are significantly reduced.
Intelligent occupancy management and security
Introducing any of the aforementioned smart technologies we've described above will likely require the use of sensors. This isn't very new technology -- building safety requirements already have cameras and motion sensors installed in almost all modern commercial buildings.
What has changed is the development of more advanced, sophisticated systems that help you improve user comfort. Sensors, such as those made by Purple, can now track almost perfectly how many people are in a room. If it becomes too crowded or noisy, plans can be made and people can be moved to quieter, less busy areas.
Smart Windows are probably best paired with smart lighting and energy management. Also known as smart glass, like the Windows made by View, it responds not only to occupancy but also to light conditions outside. They can be self-dimmed without the need for blinds to reduce glare from direct sunlight and adjust the best lighting throughout the day according to your interior lighting.
In addition, smart Windows can greatly help control heat levels, supporting HVAC systems by reducing the radiant heat effect of the glass. By integrating the technology, it is also possible to turn Windows into built-in digital displays and send safety warnings if someone tries to break them.
Intelligent disaster management
The last one may depend a little bit on where the building is located. Still, smart building technology continues to evolve to warn you of threats and help you identify damage and assess structural integrity after a disaster.
For example, Grillo makes sensors and networking tools that can detect and warn of earthquakes long before users actually feel them.
They also make sensors to detect damage to buildings. One of the effects of earthquakes on multistory structures is called interstory drift, where one or more floors of a building deviate from each other. This leads to structural weaknesses that may not be visually obvious but are dangerous to anyone re-entering the building. Grillo's sensors measure the alignment of the building and warn if the structural damage is too severe or unstable to safely re-enter.
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