Deploying IoT to make a building “smart” can pose logistical challenges for facilities managers and architects.
New buildings will need to be built with IoT in mind, such as installing sensors and hardware for connectivity. Older buildings with concrete walls and no crawl space might have difficulties deploying smart solutions to all corners of the facility. Fortunately, any potential problems are far outweighed by the opportunities for building owners and tenants from a comfort, revenue, and cost savings point of view.
For example, in an office building equipped with IoT, mobile apps and dashboards will let workers and tenants know which conference rooms are available for spontaneous meetings. The dashboard will let the building manager know which rooms are empty. Automatic apps will turn off the lights and turn down the air conditioning to save electricity, when they sense a room is empty. Sensors that measure ambient light will adjust the lighting and close the blinds when the sun causes glare and makes a room too hot. Employees will be able to tap their mobile phones to adjust lighting and set the room temperature. Not only does this save money on utilities and create a more eco-friendly office, but it means happier employees, as well.
The building owner will definitely see a decrease operating and maintenance costs. They can monitor the natural gas system that powers the air conditioner and heater. Sensors that measure vibration and humidity will let them know when to send out a technician to do preventive maintenance or to fix a machine that is broken.
The facilities manager will know also which trash bins are full and can send out cleaning crews accordingly. If they are responsible for keeping paper in the printers and keeping the coffee pot and drink machine stocked, IoT will also help them do that.
Wiring for Communications
The IoT network is going to need wireless and wired communications and an IoT communication and applications cloud, plus electricity. All of this connectivity is made simpler by wireless devices that run on batteries and do not need a direct network connection. Controllers that control light switches and thermostats will need an IP address and AC power. Other devices use a mesh network topology. That means they hand off their signal to the adjacent device. So a router is only needed at the end of the network. The architect designing a new building will have to make provisions to allow the installation of line-of-sight wireless sensors and not put obstacles where they might block the view.
An IoT device is a computer fitted with a radio transmitter or network card, sensors, and an interface to some kind of controller.
These sensors measure ambient and infrared light, humidity, pollution (emissions), vibration, temperature, sound, force (torque), flow, leak, and touch. Sensors gather data and transmit that to the application via the IoT network. Controllers send out commands to turn and turn off devices. Transmitters handle communications.
Most IoT devices are small computing cards running the Linux operating system. Some are the size of a credit card. Others are as small as a pack of gum. Most will need electric power and a place to be mounted. Others are throw away battery-powered devices that can be attached to a wall or window with tape.
The other part of the IoT system the building will need is the computing layer. That is the IoT and application cloud. The building will need to sign up with a cloud service provider or build out their own systems.
The IoT cloud handles communications between the devices and the applications. They send out instructions to update software, provision devices, and keep those devices working. They also function as the transport mechanism to send data and programming instructions to the application cloud. The application cloud are web services, APIs, and engineering and business applications.
Then there is the big data and analytics layer. These run algorithms over data to look at everything from foot traffic to power consumption to fine tune operations and help with planning.
Finally, when the building manager buys equipment he or she will have to consider whether what they buy supports IoT or not.
So IoT will both benefit the building owner and tenant and bring some logistical challenges.