IoT and Retrofitting - What Does it Mean for Buildings?

Deploying IoT into smart buildings will both pose logistical challenges for facilities managers and architects as well as provide opportunities for building owners and tenants from a comfort, revenue, and cost savings point of view. 


New buildings will need to be built with IoT in mind, such as providing enough power outlets and cabling to connect these devices. Older buildings with concrete walls and no crawl space might have difficulties deploying smart solutions to all corners of the facility.  


Here we look at the some of the logistical issues of all of that. But first let's look at some of the benefits to business owners and tenants to be gained by making buildings smart.

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Smart Buildings

IoT with its network of sensors and controllers will benefit tenants and landlords alike


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.  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. This will make the workplace a more relaxed place while saving money.

 Retrofitting buildings


The building owner will also save on 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 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. And it will let them track physical assets.

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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 is made simpler by wireless devices that run on battery and do not need a direct network connection.  Some devices will need coaxial cable and AC power. 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. They will need to put power outlets where needed and make room to run network cables. So, IoT will become an integral part of building design.


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. That is where the building is going to need a network administrator. 


IoT Computing

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 sends 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.


IoT Cloud

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.


relayr and Intel are hosting a webinar  on Smart Buildings on March 22nd.  Sign up here!