Smart buildings simplify life, and they can help keep us safer. Smart buildings can even save you time and money in your business, as they can automate processes and reduce costs on things like lighting and heating. Not to mention, they make life more convenient and can increase security measures.
Older buildings that aren’t designated as smart have deficiencies and inefficiencies that you can’t afford in your business but creating a smart building doesn’t happen overnight. You need a plan to create a building that communicates among smart components and automates processes within your building.
What Are Smart Buildings?
From smart thermostats to artificial intelligence (AI), many components can comprise a smart building. To simplify the term, a smart building is any building that uses technology to integrate systems and automate processes.
For a building to be considered smart, it needs to be more than just connected. Smart buildings use AI or machine learning to analyze and apply data. This helps them be responsive to and even proactive about the needs of the people in the building.
The systems within a smart building should also be able to talk to each other. Simply installing a smart light switch, for example, doesn’t make a building smart. Installing a smart light switch that also coordinates with the HVAC system to change the temperature to conserve energy when nobody is in the room, on the other hand, is part of an integrated smart building.
Components of a Smart Building
Four main components make up a smart building: the devices and their software, gateway software, apps, and cloud software. One of the hallmarks of a smart building is the ability to access and control the smart systems in the building remotely.
The devices in your smart building are often referred to as the Internet of things (IoT). These are the physical things in your building that are connected to the internet. This can include but is not limited to smart devices for heating, cooling, lighting, ventilation, security, access, audio systems, smart displays, smoke detectors, sprinklers, and carbon monoxide detectors. IoT is even used to automate cleaning and sanitation in many smart buildings.
In addition to having the devices in your building, a smart building also needs gateway software. This allows many devices to work over the internet. Apps for each device will then enable you to control and monitor the devices and the information they provide.
Lastly, a smart building should have cloud software that allows for the many devices in the building to connect and be managed together. Any smart building needs to be built on a foundation of a strong network.
Turning a Building Smart
First and foremost, you need to have a solid network in your building before you can start adding on smart systems. This network has to be able to support all of the new devices that will be running in the building. Smart building conversion can fail from the very beginning if the network is not able to support the conversion.
Once you have a strong network in place, you also need to consider your physical building. Any building can be turned smart, but some buildings will pose more challenges than others. For example, rewiring might be more challenging in older buildings with complicated layouts and outdated materials.
After you set up a strong network and set the stage with any wiring or infrastructure, you can begin to add devices to your building.
Tips and Best Practices for Smart Building Conversion
Again, it’s important to understand that creating a smart building is about far more than adding a smart device here or there. A good smart building design starts with a plan and thorough inspection of the building. This helps iron out any hiccups before you begin.
As part of your planning and design process, take the needs of your building and its occupants into consideration. Consider the smart building aspects that will most benefit you. Be sure to involve people from all levels and all departments in the planning process. You should also look at the current devices and systems in your building and decide what needs to be upgraded to smart systems and how those systems can talk to each other.
Technology, especially for smart devices, is constantly evolving. Remember to design your conversion to allow for continued changes and upgrades. A smart building today will look much different from a smart building ten years from now. If you want your building to continue to work efficiently, it needs to be designed with change in mind.
Smart Building Conversion
Converting to a smart building can be huge for your business, but it’s important to do the conversion properly. Make sure the infrastructure is there first, and then you can begin adding devices and smart systems according to what is important to the operation of your building. After you convert to a smart building, managing your facilities will become more streamlined and easier.
Patrick Chown is the owner and president of network installation company, The Network Installers. The Network Installers specializes in network cabling installation, structured cabling, voice and data, audio/visual, commercial Wi-Fi and fiber optic installation for industrial and commercial facilities.