Connected Buildings Explained

What are connected buildings?

Networked coffee machines that order coffee beans automatically, windows blinds that automatically roll up to wake you up at 8 am, and more:  IoT adoption of the home is happening at a fast pace. A smart home increases the comfort of living and lowers operating costs.

The term connected building or smart building, in distinction to the private home, describes smart networking and automation in buildings, such as malls, office buildings, airports, train stations. However, the fundamental goal remains the same: Elevate people’s experience inside the building while reducing energy consumption and the associated environmental footprint of a building. Compared to IoT adoption in residential buildings, the security aspect presents additional challenges. While offline, analogous end nodes cannot really be hacked, network-enabled IoT end nodes (i.e. sensors, actuators or gateways), create another potential gateway for hackers to infiltrate the building’s network.

At which point does a building become a connected building?

While there is no set-in-stone definition for a connected building, you may want to consider it a smart building if the following three criteria are met:

  1. IoT-enabled sensors gather data about the building’s environment. For example: Temperature, humidity, triggers of proximity sensors, facial recognition of CCTV, RFID sensors to record the entrance of restricted areas by authorized personnel etc.
  2. A network receives and interprets this data and decides how to act, based on the data provided.
  3. The desired measures are being executed by other end nodes, called actuators. Actuators may lock doors, increase the ventilation speed of the AC system, roll down window blinds or turn off lights.

Examples of Connected buildings

With regards, to smart homes, smart hotels or smart buildings, it is always a major advantage if the IoT component is already considered when designing a building. A building that was designed and planned to be a connected building has much more potential than a traditional building, that is slowly and surely being transformed into a smart building. In the latter instance, structural barriers of the building can create bottlenecks in the IoT ecosystem. When designing a blueprint of the building, the architect should ideally have a detailed map of all the sensors that will be installed.

The Edge Amsterdam

A prime example of a  building that was meant to be smart right from the start is The Edge Amsterdam. Even the unusual architecture and interior design shows that the smart office building, which covers a total of 40,000 square meters, focuses on employees and their needs.

The fully glazed facade and large, open corridors provide the framework for light-filled, inspiring workspaces. All paths in the intelligent office building cross in the 15-story atrium, which creates an inviting atmosphere for informal exchange with cafés, a restaurant, and various green spaces. In this exclusive ambience, modern technology networks not only rooms and work equipment but also people.

Workers navigate through their workday using the building’s own app

For employees, an in-house app on their smartphone is one of the most important tools in the smart office routine because it navigates and supports numerous processes. At the entrance to  the smart parking garage, sensors already recognizes which employee is arriving and directs him or her to a free parking space. There are no permanently assigned offices in The Edge. Instead, the app simplifies room booking, desk planning, and navigation in the building.

The ideal work environment tailored to a worker’s personal preference

Depending on where an employee is currently working, he can use his smartphone to adjust the lighting and temperature at the respective location according to his preferences. To achieve this, around 6,000 smart luminaires are integrated into an IP-based LED system in The Edge. Each individual luminaire can be controlled by computer and consumes so little power that it can be supplied via a data cable. In addition, every other luminaire is equipped with a multisensor that continuously records ambient values such as light intensity, air quality and temperature.

Smart facility management

The building is equipped with around 30000 sensors. Devices such as coffee machines and printers as well as the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system are also integrated into the IoT network. The networked components, as well as anonymously collected data from the app, provide the property management company with detailed information on energy consumption. The Edge consumes around 70 percent less electricity than comparable office buildings of its size.

The Cube Berlin

One of the first smart buildings is currently being built in the heart of Berlin. With its futuristic cubature and double glass facade, the 100-million-euro building on Washingtonplatz is reminiscent of a gigantic ice cube. As a smart building, Cube Berlin learns from the people who live and work in it. Intelligent building technology knows the requirements and wishes of every user in every location and adapts optimally to individual needs

Sensors and Beacons feed the central AI

Behind the Cube Berlin’s elegant facade, the so-called ”Brain” unites various smart technologies into a self-learning system. This requires a large amount of real-time data, that is being collected via the 3,750 sensors, 750 beacons (Bluetooth hardware transmitters) and 140 mobile phone antennas installed in the building. Just like the Edge, everything runs through a dedicated app. This navigates workers through the 19,000-square-meter building, books their workspace, meals and the in-house parcel service. The user software also helps with light and temperature control and even shows the best parking space, which reduces unnecessary combustion levels in its garage.

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