Smart Buildings: The challenges and opportunities facing the industry

by BDigital_Admin
Phil Cross, CEO, amBX

With the smart-building industry growing larger and more sophisticated, Phil Cross, CEO of amBX, details the forces that are both helping and hindering its continued development

Various barriers and opportunities within the Smart Building industry exist, but it’s clear that the COVID pandemic has boosted adoption and renewed focus on occupant wellbeing, contactless technology, occupant analytics, and remote management tools and solutions as the demand for Smart Buildings increases.

Even though the Smart Building industry lags behind many other industries, amBX has observed some core areas that are accelerating the market today, as well as hindering it.

Let’s start with the challenges we are facing.

Cybersecurity

Typically, the top barriers to smart buildings adoption are cybersecurity, privacy, integrity, and availability of data. Whilst some solutions are beginning to address this issue, the concern remains high on the agenda of most customers.

As more components connect to the internet, naturally the risk increases, and as a result it will always present a challenge.

Personal data

Building occupants willingness to provide or share personal information and sign up to IoT services is increasingly dependent on the trust they have in the entity responsible for storing and analysing the data – and their intentions in which to use it.

Legacy construction and retrofit process

It is hard for new entrants to break through the complex supply chain and get their solutions specified due to the rigid procurement process. Within the new-build process, smart systems aren’t considered until the later stages, stifling innovation and causing interoperability issues.

Smart building consultants and system integrators aren’t standard on every project. There is a real need for people who possess knowledge of networking, systems integration, data management, and data security.

“Where there are challenges, there are opportunities for the smart buildings industry to excel”

Without the contribution of appropriately skilled building automation and IoT specialists to the process, sub-optimal low-cost options with limited interoperability are often chosen.

Interoperability

Building systems on new-build projects are often commissioned with little regard for overall systems interoperability or compliance, and there is little incentive for vendors providing each system to collaborate on systems integration if a dedicated smart systems consultant or systems integrator is part of the team.

However, open standards are now a lot more common, and there is a steady progression from proprietary to open across the industry. 

It is not all bad news: where there are challenges, there are opportunities for the smart buildings industry to excel.

Partnership and collaboration

A collaborative approach can yield far greater results. It ensures that everyone understands the value of smart technology and how smart systems can be leveraged to deliver improved outcomes in terms of efficiency, sustainability, connectivity, and occupant comfort.

Open standards provide more choice and flexibility throughout the supply chain, allowing the very best solutions to be created and executed.

This futureproofs buildings, as they are not locked into one supplier. This is crucial.

Health and wellbeing

The pandemic has increased demand for occupancy analytics, air quality monitoring and control, remote management tools, and contactless solutions. There is a focus on encouraging employees back to workplaces, and for customers to venture into shopping and leisure centres once again, offering them a unique experience. There is pressure to make occupants feel safe and instil trust and safety for the wider public, too.

Employees are often the most expensive asset within an organisation; prioritising their needs also increases productivity rates, happiness, and retention.

By making employees feel safe and looked after, businesses will save money on recruitment costs and sick days, and their overall productivity will increase.

Sustainability

The number-one influencers of smart buildings remain cost and energy saving. This is encouraging more businesses to adopt smart technologies that provide improved insight and reveal changes that can be made to not only save costs but also to save energy.

Buildings and their construction together account for 36% of global energy use and 39% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions annually, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

80% of buildings in 2050 have already been built; therefore, it is essential we upgrade and futureproof them, making them more sustainable.

As well as being driven by government initiatives to reach net-zero by 2050, smart building technologies are consistently specified, high-level data integration is made much simpler, data quality is higher, and long-term systems maintenance costs are lower.

To allow the quick adoption of smart building systems, specialists need to work collaboratively across the supply chain, engaging with forward thinking clients, lead contractors, systems integrators, smart building consultants, and architects.

This will ensure everyone understands the value of smart technology and how smart systems can be leveraged to deliver improved outcomes in terms of efficiency, sustainability, flexibility, connectivity, and occupant comfort.

Image: Phil Cross, CEO, amBX


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