The cornerstones of IoT in connected buildings and infrastructures

The segment of IoT platforms based on BMS (Building Management Systems) will be the one that experiences the biggest growth in the industry, according to estimates by analysts, thanks to the drop in the costs of components.

The third edition of the IoT Solutions World Congress includes a large section devoted to Smart Buildings and Infrastructures and the evolution of the technologies involved in sensors, big data, cloud computing and analytics, all geared towards the management of architectural complexes.

Internet of Things (IoT) technologies have stolen a march on the profound changes that are yet to come in the control and management of physical infrastructures and buildings, anticipating the huge impact that smart buildings are going to have on cities. Some of the transformations that we’ll be seeing will take the form of operational improvements related to energy savings and security and the establishment of new added-value services as the basic objectives that will necessarily emanate from a smart building or infrastructure.

The introduction of sensor technology and connectivity in the management of buildings is nothing new; for some years now, BMS (Building Management Systems) equipped with software and hardware have been supervising and controlling certain landmark buildings, defining what, to date, has been seen as a system of comprehensive real estate automation through IT. However, the high cost of BMS has hindered their use in small or medium sized buildings.

The construction industry is being transformed with the arrival of the IoT in today’s Building Management Systems

A report by the analyst firm ABI Research predicts that by 2020 more than eight million building management systems will have been implemented worldwide with some form of IoT hosted in the form of technology, applications or services. ’The new BMS will use sensors and activators distributed throughout the building, allowing technology to be used to optimise tasks based on changing factors such as the infrastructure’s occupancy,’ says ABI Research.

The analyst notes that the building and infrastructure management scenario is changing with the arrival of sensor, analytics and cloud technologies, helping to reduce the costs of BMS while at the same time transforming the market dynamics of application manufacturers, systems integrators and solution providers. From the point of view of another leading analyst, Gartner, the year 2020 will mark a period in which component costs will have fallen to the point that connectivity will become a standard feature. ’The cost of processors integrated in sensors will be less than one dollar. This drop in prices will open up the possibility of connecting virtually everything, from the simplest to the most complex object, offering remote control, monitoring and perception,’ notes Peter Middleton, the research director at Gartner.

The year 2020: 8 million BMS-IoT – 1,300 million sensors – chips at > $1 US

A study by the Deloitte Center on the potential of IoT technology for real estate companies indicates that the sensor integration ratio will grow at a year-on-year rate of close to 80% by 2020 to reach 1,300 million sensors. Meanwhile, a prediction by Gartner highlights the potential of IoT in the real estate sector, contending that: ‘Smart buildings intended for commercial use have, up to 2017, represented the most widespread use of IoT in the construction sector, in the wake of which the ‘smart home’ has now picked up the baton to reach 1,000 million connected ‘things’ in the home by the end of 2018.

One of the main players in accelerating this transformation towards Internet of Things solutions that facilitate smart architectural infrastructure management is Intel. This company, through its Building Management Platform, integrates application access tools and cloud-based services for smart buildings, equipped with functionalities that allow easy access to both data and connected things in buildings that house shopping centres.

The current IoT platforms for buildings and infrastructures allow a connection between the building’s equipment, which is distributed by devices and sensors that use an extensive variety of protocols, which relay the data they generate to services and applications in the Cloud, to be analysed subsequently by Business Intelligence (BI) systems, analytics and dashboards. The infrastructure of sensors and devices for collecting data filters and securitises the information through intermediate protocols and forwards it again to a cloud or the data centre located in the building itself.

A building’s IoT connections can be integrated in various locations and infrastructures of the building itself, such as air treatment systems, refrigerators, thermostats, lighting controls, meters, switches and video cameras. This type of IoT Platform as-a-Service (PaaS) reduces the time necessary to develop solutions because it usually offers a type of pre-integrated platform which can download applications and services, some of which will be related to software to protect the system from cyberattacks as an alternative security solution to the use of gateways. The whole IoT infrastructure needs to be supported by a platform managed by an open source operating system and equipped with security software.

More and more architectural constructions house some form of smart system in their structure

Whether through climate control ducts, the lighting system or the fire security system, the deployment of IoT – and its numerous possibilities to take advantage of new technologies such as mobility devices, big data and analytics – will allow more information to be obtained from the data generated by the building itself, which will lead to better decisions in all kinds of locations, whether shopping malls, industrial plants, health centres or schools.

Real estate developers have the potential to increase their competitiveness by offering their customers management and automation services that provide attributes related to wellbeing such as optimum temperature control, energy savings and predictive maintenance functions. But implementing these possibilities in existing buildings can be a complex and expensive challenge due to various factors related to outdated equipment that could spoil customer expectations.

Properly integrating an IoT infrastructure into a large building, whether this is housing, sports facilities, museums, shopping malls or office buildings, involves the installation of an open automation platform that is capable of integrating the numerous monitoring and control systems that still today cannot always manage to get connectivity and interoperability to work in unison. To address this stumbling block, some firms, with Intel at the forefront, are offering building block systems with hardware and software tools that improve visibility and platform management.

The development of open-code IoT solutions for architectural spaces

Developers of IoT systems for office buildings and shopping centres have realised that integrating environmental control platforms into the architectural infrastructure leads to improved efficiency and significant cost savings. At present, the drop in BMS prices thanks to the proliferation of sensor technology and analytics has facilitated the deployment of internet-based connectivity systems and the path leading us towards smart buildings seems an increasingly real possibility for both large and small structures.

The Open Data Platform (ODP) – an ambitious initiative from IBM and its ecosystem of big data partners, based on Apache Hadoop for the development of standardised and open IoT solutions – is aimed at revolutionising building management by connecting every device, software application and people to the data they need, thus enabling faster and more accurate decision-making on issues related to security, building operations and efficient energy management.

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