From Smart Buildings to Intelligent Buildings

How can we turn a smart building into a truly intelligent one? Tony Buckingham, Regional Director at AECOM’s Smart Buildings Group explained how the very latest technology can help us improve productivity, efficiency and sustainability at the Workplace Technology Theatre.

Historically, facilities managers have employed a siloed approach to smart buildings, separating out HVAC, lighting and access control into distinct systems. But the advent of IP technology has allowed FMs to combine these into a single converged platform, often hosted on a cloud-based system.

In this way, FMs have been able to make smarter buildings even smarter and bring real benefits to stakeholders – we can see how this plays out in a variety of scenarios. Tony Buckingham used two examples: a busy canteen and a meeting room.

Canteen queue busting

The dream canteen is empty, easy and efficient to use: you would enter, choose your food, pay for it and have plenty of time and space in which to eat it. But all too often, consumers are forced to spend valuable time waiting in a queue – potentially causing them undue stress in their limited lunch hours.

Can we make this the reality? By using sensors, FMs can measure the number of people queuing for food in real-time – something already commonplace in the retail sector – analyse this data and feed predictions about user behaviour back to clients.

A canteen’s potential customers can therefore learn the best time to visit and decide whether to order online or use cashless vending, thereby reducing the time they spend queuing and even improving their wellbeing. In turn, caterers can improve their own service using this real-time data. It’s a neat solution to a big problem.

Smart meeting rooms

Smart technology can also transform meeting rooms, especially when inviting external clients or employees from another office. A smart system can book a room, adjust lighting and audio levels, measure CO2 and order catering based on the number of people set to attend a meeting; this makes organising a meeting is totally seamless, and also improves the wellbeing of participants by carefully managing the room’s internal environment.

More secure venues can take advantage of intelligent access control, sending out personalised barcodes to use as a kind of ‘electronic boarding pass’ – this not only ensures the right people are attending the meeting, but also that security teams have predictive and real-time information about the attendees.

Smart systems can even streamline the post-meeting. Proximity sensors can detect whether the room has been totally vacated and send alerts to cleaning teams.

Everything depends on analytics

A truly intelligent building uses significant amounts of real-time data to make predictions about user behaviour, and adjusts the internal environment or sends out information and advice to users and FMs alike. In this way, we can improve their quality of life, increase their wellbeing and simply make using a building a more pleasant experience.

But this ultimately depends on the analytics. Understanding the data, and have knowledge of the tools used to analyse it helps users make the right decisions about how a building is used. Turning a smart building into an intelligent building, therefore, depends on the way FMs analyse their data just as much as the smart technology behind it.