Living in the buildings of tomorrow
Another glimpse into a future which is already here today. The control of important parameters should start where people spend most of their lives: in buildings, be they offices or apartments. Intelligent (or smart) buildings deliver actionable information about the building complex itself or a specific room inside it, so that owners or tenants can better manage it. Such a smart building combines building physics, technologies, and modern energy systems.
Let’s talk numbers
Smart building systems represent a market with enormous potential; it is projected to grow from USD 60.7 billion in 2019 to USD 105.8 billion by 2024, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.7%. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), smart technologies will save an estimated 8-18% of total energy consumption in sectors that include offices, small retail chains and independent stores, middle-tier franchise hotels, and regional hospitals. Governments in all major economies are taking initiatives toward energy efficiency and sustainability in the construction sector.
The market is mainly driven by the addition of new technologies and specific adaptations to attract more end users. Companies are highly focused on offering innovative products and solutions that can optimize energy consumption and provide a high level of automation in buildings. In other words, companies want to reduce operating expenses, improve occupant comfort, and meet increasingly stringent global regulations and sustainability standards.
Building something smart
When does a building really become “smart?” Let’s first differentiate: a smart building is more than a centrally-controlled structure. The centralized control of buildings is relatively old, various sensors with automation have been used for some time and we should distinguish this from building automation.
So strictly speaking, “smart” may even be the step after automation. A smart building “knows” when and where to minimize resource consumption, it can integrate into the opitmization efforts of a city or community by determining energy volumes upfront, reserving parking space capacities or reporting other needs and products to its surroundings. This is why predictions based on machine learning can also be of interest.
In the following, however, the term "smart building" will be defined more broadly, as it has become largely established in the market in general language use.
What’s a sensor? In Paessler language, "sensors" are the basic monitoring elements. One sensor usually monitors one measured value.
Which components turn a building structure into a modern “smart building?” Basically, three steps are necessary:
The building must use sensors to collect information about its surroundings. A system must evaluate the data and put appropriate measures into action. The levels of artificial intelligence in such systems can vary greatly. In the end, physical elements must implement the control commands.
So, there are three components that you can always expect in a smart building:
- Sensors: They monitor the environment and record or send this information (data) to a processor. They can also communicate with an access point placed inside a building, which in turn is connected to a gateway.
- Software: A key component in smart buildings is the software that will help to understand the data collected by the sensors. Software extracts and analyzes the rich insights the data provides (“energy intelligence”), and helps you determine how these insights can be transformed into action.
- User interface: This is simply the interaction between a user and the software. It is important that information is delivered in a way that is easily accessible and easy to understand; and since the amount of data can be quite large, the data should be processed efficiently. This may seem like a less important element of a smart building, but in combination with a user-friendly, easy-to-use monitoring solution, it is a crucial one.
Because you want to go from data to insights:
- Transparency: monitoring and reporting on the current situation
- Insight generation and action triggers
- Predictive: calculation of the near future and machine learning
- Preventive: Automated controls to prevent malfunctions
When it comes down to monitoring a smart building, the big picture can be segmented as follows:
- Building infrastructure
- Smart water
- Elevators and escalators
- Security and emergency
- Access control systems including CCTV
- Safety systems
- Energy management, including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
- Lighting systems
- Network management
- Waste management
Here are three tips on how to prepare for smart building monitoring:
- Prepare to integrate and understand the protocols: While some connected devices in a building complex are designed to fit seamlessly into your network, others will rely heavily on customization. With these different device types, integration becomes a challenge. It’s critical that all connected devices are brought under one roof so that they can be accurately monitored. But what about the protocols? There are three main ones to connect the Internet of Things: SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), REST APIs, and XML. With a sophisticated monitoring solution and a better understanding of how devices interact, you’ll be able to design better network architectures.
- Keep in mind that anything with an IP address can be hacked! And as part of the Internet of Things, smart buildings widen the threat vector. Before you connect smart elements of a building complex to the central IT, be sure to have a security plan in place. A monitoring solution can help you to keep an eye on this.
- Customize² and keep every “thing” in order: One of the most exciting aspects of the Internet of Things in general and smart buildings in particular is that there seem to be no limits to what can be connected. In terms of monitoring, this creates challenges that can be solved by creating new sensors and custom reports. Also, modern IT systems are often very chaotic; it has become incredibly easy to spin up a virtual machine, download and run cloud software, or to connect a smart device. Mapping (and tracking) every part of your smart building complex will save you plenty of time in the long run.
Check out our short guide “Are you ready to monitor the Internet of Things” for more tips.
Check out this latest case study
Together with the Rehnig Group we can present the following case study on the topic of building status monitoring.
Who is the Rehning Group? First and foremost, this name stands for performance and innovation in the operation of cable TV networks. In doing so, Rehnig secures its customers' investments in future-proof cable networks by using state-of-the-art components that are tailored to the respective requirements. Their experience in the cabling of over 500,000 households flows into every single project and lays the foundation for what we present to you here. Increasingly, city network operators are also using Rehnig's products and services. The areas of TV supply and integration of IP services are being merged into a triple play service portfolio for customers in city networks. Smart metering solutions and the operation of open networks open up a wide range of partnerships guaranteed to succeed.
PRTG for a modern smart building
Many of our customers already monitor, control and optimize processes in buildings with PRTG.
You're using PRTG and have an interesting use case like the one above? We are more than happy to talk with you about it... You're just curious? For more information you can speak to our great support team today or get a first-hand impression of PRTG using our trial.
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