Smart buildings are a new way of harnessing technology to create a building that better serves its tenants. From minimizing costs for businesses to improving the safety of tenants and visitors, there are a myriad of things that this new approach to building design can do.
The smart buildings market is huge — and growing. It’s estimated that in 2022, there were 45 million smart buildings worldwide, a number that is expected to increase to 115 million in 2026 — that’s a projected increase of over 150% in just four years.
With 90% of smart buildings being commercial rather than residential, it is clear that businesses are embracing the benefits of smart building applications to improve security, increase efficiencies across their premises and cut costs.
Keep reading to find out how smart building technologies can benefit your business and your people.
What are smart buildings?
So, what is a smart building? A simple smart building definition is this: a building that delivers information about either the whole building or a room within it, utilizing technology to create a smarter, safer building that better meets the needs of its residents.
There’s no single set of software or technology that must be used in smart buildings. Smart buildings can use a wide variety of different technologies that either already exist within the building or are fitted specifically for the purposes of collecting information to improve the way the building operates. The key to smart building design is integration, with core systems like lighting, business security cameras, alarms, sensors and control systems all linked together to share information to make the building more efficient, reduce costs for residents and increase safety. Intelligent building technology utilizes Internet of Things (IoT) devices, which may include:
The data gathered from these devices is then reviewed and applied using artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand how the building is being used, discover usage patterns and trends and detect any anomalies.
IoT smart building technologies
The Internet of Things (IoT) is at the heart of any smart building system. IoT refers to a network of objects that have sensors and other technology, allowing them to connect with other devices and exchange data.
Smart building IoT solutions, then, mean that the network of ‘things’ within your building can be used for a wide range of purposes, from simplifying tasks to detecting unusual activity. IoT smart building technology collects smart building data and processes it in real-time for a variety of different uses, including:
Temperature control and air quality
Detection of fires
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and energy costs
Smart building design and features
IoT building automation tends to have three distinct parts all working together to keep your building running smoothly and safely. These are:
Smart sensors, actuators and microchips, which are integrated into your devices such as your lighting systems and cameras. These little pieces of technology collect and collate data on how your devices are being used.
An artificial intelligence system that takes the data from the sensors and uses machine learning to provide intelligent, useful insights about how your devices are used. After all, data is only useful if it can be used to improve the way your business operates and how your building is being used.
One central dashboard, which allows all of your data to be tracked and analyzed in one place.
Smart building examples and smart building use cases
A smart building management system and its respective software allow you to get more granular with the data you have about your building with information on equipment and devices you may never have had insights into before. The more data you have about different elements of your building’s operations through building technology systems, from air ducts and refrigeration units to PTZ security cameras, the more opportunity there is to make significant improvements that enhance the way your building functions.
Some great examples of smart buildings include:
Microsoft’s Frasers Towers in Singapore is one of the most cutting-edge smart buildings in the world. On the premises, 179 Bluetooth Beacons and 900 lighting, air quality and temperature sensors gather data in real-time to automatically update and optimize the different systems across the building to offer comfort for its business residents. The building also makes use of Smart Building CampusLink, which is fully integrated with both Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office 365, helping staff and visitors alike to get directions across the campus, book rooms and determine what workspaces are available — all in real-time.
Over in London, UK, the Vodafone Global Headquarters is making a mark on the smart buildings scene. In 2020, after working with GE to develop and install a multi-sensor network throughout the premises, the business won the Verdantix Smart Building Innovation Award in the Corporate Headquarters Retrofit category. This smart system collects information on everything that affects the employee experience, including air quality and energy use, and that data is used to automatically improve the working conditions while also making the building more efficient.
The Corning Optical Communications Headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, is another golden example of intelligent building systems — it was even a pilot for the SPIRE Smart Buildings program’s criteria, a program aimed at assessing and rating smart building performance. Its smart systems include monitoring for overcrowding, energy consumption regulations, improved cyber security and working conditions in the building.
With the right intelligent building systems, you can improve your security. Smart security systems for apartment buildings or commercial properties can help building managers understand and improve operations by getting a better handle on how people are coming in and out of your premises, pinpointing security threats in real-time and highlighting any blind spots. As well as serving as a guiding beacon for any issues with your building’s security, the smart analytics built into your smart infrastructure will enable you to see what’s working — and what isn’t — so you can continually improve and upgrade your business’ security strategy.
Smart building systems do not only keep your business safe and secure — the technology can also be used to improve such basic building functions as heating and air conditioning. For example, these smart technologies reduce unnecessary operational costs by keeping the heating turned off in areas of the building that are infrequently used or unoccupied rooms or only turning on the air conditioning when the surrounding temperature reaches a certain level.
IoT building automation
Integration is at the core of any smart building technology system and allows your different systems and devices to share information with each other. One of the benefits of this is IoT building automation, allowing processes and functions like heating, lighting and security to work together to automatically create an optimized building without the need for manual intervention from your building manager.
Integration with different smart building systems
One of the benefits of smart building operations and solutions is that all of your systems work together — not just for automated processes but also for building management systems. You can, for example, use smart building software and smart building apps to monitor how many employees are in your building at any one time and update your desk booking system accordingly.
How smart building technology can keep your business safe
Smart building products can help to put your mind at ease as a business owner or facility manager and support your development of a more robust security system.
Smart video systems
Smart infrastructure provides security teams with actionable insights, enabling building managers to review what’s happening on your premises in real time. A smart CCTV system will support your building’s access control system, giving a visual verification of people’s identities through an ongoing video feed.
Smart video systems also ensure that you can stay on top of your security from anywhere in the world, with remote tracking to notify you of any potential security threats — even when you’re not in the building.
Additionally, video management systems can be connected to smart alarm kits, using motion sensors or detectors to trigger an alert if there are any unauthorized persons entering your premises. You’ll be notified of any alerts instantly via smartphone. Smart building technology can also trigger certain actions, and you’ll have the ability to automatically contact emergency services. Other actions include, for example, automatically starting a video capture in the event of unusual activity or sending key stakeholders an alert if a door is left ajar.
This type of technology can be applied to all areas of your building, including front doors and interior doors, 360 panoramic cameras and other common camera models, turnstiles and elevator controls, to create a more integrated security system that offers stronger security than traditional building management systems.
Smart key technology advancements
Smart building technology can even reduce the risk raised by lost keys. Rather than having multiple keyholders, which could be a security risk for your business, you could utilize smart key technology to lock and unlock doors. Not only will this reduce the risk of lost keys and unauthorized entry, but it also ensures that there is valuable data on everyone coming in and out of the building, which can be used to improve your building’s security.
Improved camera coverage
You can also use intelligent building technology to determine what areas of your building are being frequented the most, reviewing access data in tandem with camera footage to understand whether there are any areas on your premises that need better camera coverage.
Your camera system and entry system can also work side by side with the lighting on your premises to make it safer, particularly on large premises or open spaces like airports, corrections facilities and parking lots.
For example, when someone punches in their keycode in a particular door, information will be sent from your access system to your lighting, and you can light the way for them to get from A to B. That means you don’t necessarily need to have the lights on all the time, with lower energy costs saving you money. The lights will come on automatically when there are people in the vicinity, ensuring that your people and visitors can safely navigate your premises. You can also integrate your video security system with your sensor and lighting system, allowing video parking lot security camera footage to be recorded and sent to your security team instantly.
Cybersecurity is an ever-increasing concern for business owners, with malware and spyware incidents on the rise. These types of attacks can compromise both the physical security and cyber security of your business, but an IoT smart building can help to keep you protected. These systems will monitor your network for any potential threats, keeping you informed in real-time of any suspicious activity so you can stay one step ahead of cyber attackers — as well as using the information gleaned from this data to build a more robust cyber security strategy for the future.
Smart building controls can work together, monitoring your premises for any unusual activity or unauthorized entrances and then using that information to respond appropriately. You can, for example, set your system to trigger a complete lockdown if an unauthorized person enters your building or automatically contact the emergency services if an emergency situation is detected.
Overall, smart building technology, when used as part of your security system, can give you useful real-time data to help you get an in-depth understanding of what your building’s security currently looks like and whether there are any opportunities for improvement.
A more intelligent approach to video security
Smart Analytics deliver the information you need to understand what is happening on your site
Cameras that seamlessly integrate with any third-party VMS for a comprehensive security strategy
Smart Compression Technology lowers bandwidth and storage requirements up to 70%
What to consider when choosing smart infrastructure
Technology in buildings is usually bespoke, and no two businesses will have the same needs when it comes to their smart building design. However, there are some important questions to ask any smart buildings company when it comes to deciding what smart building technology is right for you.
How well do your systems work together?
Integration is of utmost importance. Before investing in any smart building products, it’s important to understand whether they will work with your existing systems, such as your video monitoring software. Be sure to ask any smart building companies you’re considering whether their systems will integrate with what you already have in place — ideally, they should, allowing new and old systems to work together seamlessly for a truly smart, integrated building.
Can smart building systems be scaled up or down?
When you’re investing in smart building technologies, it’s important to know that it has longevity should your business needs change. From expanding your premises to installing new HVAC systems, it’s likely that your business will have multiple changes over the next few years, and it’s crucial that you have a smart building system that can expand and grow along with your business.
Smart infrastructure installation costs
How much will it cost to install and integrate your smart building technology? Different suppliers will have different costs, so make sure to get multiple quotes to find a system and an installation company that works for you.
Smart infrastructure maintenance costs
Smart building technology is a living, breathing system — and to keep your building running seamlessly, it requires all of your systems to be in top working order. Consider, then, the ongoing maintenance and upkeep costs that you might incur. You may be able to save money by looking for smart building companies that can install remote updates rather than sending out an engineer to manually install and update your systems. This will ensure that you’re always using the latest technology, and it should minimize any system downtime, too.
Final thoughts on smart technology in intelligent buildings
Leveraging smart building technologies alongside your existing camera systems can help to improve commercial buildings’ security, as well as increase efficiency and reduce costs. There are some fantastic future-forward smart building solutions available for commercial buildings, offering building owners and management the ability to make their building smart and collect data to improve their overall building operations and systems for a more secure future.
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