The built environment comprises rich streams of data with much of it remaining invisible. Capturing and properly harnessing this data will allow building owners and occupants to better manage risk and create ‘smart’ buildings. The advent of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies is accelerating this collection of data, enabling greater insights into how buildings function. Comprehensively interpreting data can highlight possible failure points, identify where opportunities may lay to improve the indoor environment, reduce absenteeism, improve productivity and decrease operating costs associated with maintenance, energy, insurance and employees.
The collection of most real-time data within the built environment has been derived through what could be termed ‘man-made’ or via Building Management Systems (BMS). One example is fire extinguishers and the reading and recording of data on the registration attached to the device. Currently, a technician must locate each extinguisher regularly to determine when it was last tested and weighed.
With the introduction of IoT technology, the humble fire extinguisher can be made to be ‘smart’. IoT sensors can alert and send an email or SMS to the building manager as soon as the pressure in the extinguisher drops below a predetermined level, or if the device is removed from its mount. Thus, greater occupant safety is provided in the event of a fire requiring the use of an extinguisher with the assurance that it will be where it should be and it is in working order.
A number of IoT devices can now be installed into the built environment. These devices better manage people movement and density, monitor comfort and environmental conditions and assess equipment performance. For example, HVAC systems in conjunction with IoT devices can help to avoid excessive energy use and alert managers to potential failures or breakdowns prior to them happening.
Analytics and the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) is enabling detailed analysis and pattern recognition, providing valuable insights into the built environment that have not yet been captured. For example, analysis combining weather data and HVAC equipment maintenance regimes. This combined data identifies geographic locations in Australia where altered maintenance programs could be undertaken leading to reduced breakdowns and economic benefits.
If data is harnessed properly it can produce a myriad of benefits. These include greater occupant safety; performance anomalies can be identified alerting to and identifying potential equipment failures and energy use can be reduced leading to economic benefits.
The benefits of building IoT technologies are only now starting to be realised within the built environment. Technological improvements and cost reductions are leading to an accelerated update in its use. One of the biggest opportunities lies within the tens of thousands of B and C grade office buildings. Property owners of these types of buildings typically spend little to nothing on technology that could improve the performance and safety of their assets.
Prospects also lie within educational institutions. New access control systems using mobile phones allow for an enhanced ability to monitor who can and cannot enter facility buildings. Greater security, space utilisation data and reduced costs can all be harnessed by using IoT technology.
Cyber security solutions that protect data and access to technical assets which make up the built environment could also utilise IoT technology. With technical assets connected via this type of technology an inherent risk lies to protect systems from hackers.
Organisations with the requisite expertise within the built environment to capture stranded data sets are needed. Such expertise can then advise on what technologies should be used to capture data and further advise on what outcomes could be expected to manage cost and risk.
Millions of people every day inhabit the built environment, whether it is at home, at work or in leisure pursuits. Tenant experience, safety, and comfort are paramount in these environments. Informed data issues that create risk can be mitigated or removed before they become hazardous. The implementation of IoT technology in commercial buildings will mitigate risks and create more efficient and cost-effective assets.