Not all buildings are created equal: harnessing the true value of data

As digital transformation redefines what is possible in the built environment, people’s expectations are shifting. They’re demanding more services from buildings than ever before, in particular in the enterprise, as ‘the building’ is increasingly viewed as an asset that impacts employee satisfaction – or even retention – in the workplace.

The future for the industry is clear. However, for all the talk about ‘smart buildings’ – what does the term really mean?

Ultimately when we talk about ‘digitising’ buildings we are talking about making buildings work better and allowing them to be more efficient, more secure, more productive, more attractive and more adaptable.

Building management systems (BMS) have been promoted as the key to delivering on this promise. However, the BMS approach is rigid and based on proprietary technology. If we are to really meet the increased expectations of building users, we need to prioritise the network and focus on interoperability rather than on any one technology.

By acknowledging the primacy of the network, we can avoid silos of systems and surface more data. This data in turn will enable more meaningful insights into buildings, creating a ‘web of value’ that will realise efficiencies and enable new services to be delivered.

Data really is king when it comes to making buildings work better.

Building the platform

Google has coined the term ‘Digital Building Platform’ to refer to the process of aggregating and augmenting building IoT data. It is a useful concept to highlight that the power of data is not in finding efficiencies in standalone systems – it is in creating a ‘system of systems’ that collates data from across siloes.

However, this data aggregation is simply not possible without the right technology platform in place. And IP-based networks are the platform this new, innovative approach requires.

This IP-based approach means all of a building’s systems – from communications and security to AV and digital signage – can be managed on one central network. This not only greatly increases process efficiency, but it is the crucial step to gaining access to a rich pool of data.

This goes far beyond what is possible with a traditional BMS. More than simply lights switching off as a room is vacated, joined-up IP-based solutions provide the backbone of connectivity that collects data from cameras, sensors, motors, robotics and more.

This exponential increase in information is extremely powerful. It allows cross-referenced insights from multiple sources that empowers predictive maintenance, optimised use of space and resources, and hyper-personalised services.

Small changes, big impact

Let’s look at an example to illustrate the step change that is possible with this approach over a BMS.

Access control is a core security system for buildings. Currently that might exist in isolation and largely does what it says on the tin. However, by migrating that system onto the central IP network it suddenly becomes something that not just manages who can go where in the building, but also a detailed, real-time data stream on footfall in the building.

Not only do you know where people are going, you also have a detailed view on room utilisation. If access control is implemented on every space in the building, then the data can be combined with mobile network or Wi-Fi data to generate insights on ‘hotspots’ where people actually congregate. Now you can make more intelligent decisions on energy saving – because you have a clear view when certain rooms are used – and you can also look at repurposing, or possibly even reselling, certain spaces if they are currently underutilised. It also gives an insight into where end user services – like AV equipment – could be more usefully deployed.

That’s just one example. And while moving access control to a central IP network may seem like a relatively minor change, it shows that it can have significant additional benefits. Indeed, the whole experience of the building can be made more attractive to its occupants through the delivery of more personalised services, more flexible work spaces and smart automation.

But we can’t lose sight of the fact that the platform is vital – you can’t do anything ‘smart’ if you don’t have a platform to provide the data you need to maximise both comfort and security.

LMG is committed to this converged platform approach – and has developed a multi-skilled team to be able to deliver on its promise. Our solutions enable you to intelligently integrate building management and IT systems and push the digitised buildings of the future to reach their full potential, reduce operating costs, drive sustainability, and optimise environments.

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