Top innovations in buildings for 2016

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At IBM, we’ve spent a good part of 2016 talking about how the Internet of Things is disrupting the buildings industry. We’ve shared stories throughout the year of how major companies in the industry are using IoT in novel ways – firms such as Siemens Buildings Technologies, KONE, ISS, and many others. And we’ve hosted major events, such as our Cognitive Buildings Forum with WIRED magazine, to talk in depth about the rise of the ‘cognitive building.’ But sometimes you want the Cliff Notes, so here are some of the major trends and innovations we’ve seen in 2016:

Building for people is becoming increasingly important

On average, we spend over 90% of our time indoors. Urbanization continues to be one of the mega-trends that will change nearly every industry on the planet, and since buildings are where people live and work in cities, we expect the building to be the setting for massive innovation. Compare this with cars, where people spend approximately 45 minutes a day on average.

Operations account for over 70% of the total cost of a building over its lifespan – far more than the actual construction of a building. Yet offices tend to be unoccupied 77% of the time, and workstation vacant 66% of the time. In the U.S., it’s estimated that 30% of the energy consumed by buildings is wasted.

This represents a tremendous opportunity for innovation and disruption, and we believe IoT is the technology that will change how buildings are operated and managed to solve these challenges.

Buildings are becoming digital and this will change operations

In 2016 everyone talked about the use of digital twins across many industries. But this may be most relevant in buildings, where Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a standard practice in the engineering, construction, and handover to building owners and operators, which is paving the way for companies to make full use of BIM during the operations phase, delivering huge efficiency and cost saving as Ferrovial demonstrated. In fact, in some countries buildings are required to produce BIM models for all new construction, and BIM adoption and usage is expected to grow rapidly over time.

Digital twins and the digitization of buildings presents a huge opportunity to optimize operations. Between BIM models, data from IoT sensors in buildings, data from facility management software, and information other key systems, buildings are exploding with data that largely goes unused.

To make sense of data to improve operations, companies needs a scalable and open platform for collecting data, advanced analytics to make sense of the data and turn it into actionable information, and strong systems to help operations teams act on data.

To learn more about buildings and digital twins, check out this article IBM published with WIRED magazine. To see how it easy it is go make your building digital, watch us create a connected building in under 4 hours. For a glimpse into the future of building operations, see this blog on augmented reality for building management.

Personalization is the future of buildings

Building occupants are starting to expect technologies available in other industries – especially consumer technologies – to be available in their buildings. Many office workers want to come into the office and move through it with the building knowing where they are going and helping them get to where they need, have workspaces that are customized to their needs, work flexibly in the building based on project needs, get new services in the building, and commute efficiently.

Building managers want to make sure their building is meeting the occupant needs, in the most efficient manner possible. This includes enabling flexible work spaces, personalization, managing energy costs in a sustainable way, ensuring reliability and safety, and offering new types of buildings services using technology.

The digitization of buildings provides a first of a kind opportunity for buildings to adapt to their occupants. This may yield new revenue streams, or even new business models. For example, this article IBM published with WIRED magazine imagines Watson as a building operator or CFO, and we are working with clients such as KONE to transform how they deliver building services.  Nearly every aspect of the building ecosystem – from design and construction through operations and financial management – can be disrupted by firms who embrace technology to meet the evolving needs of the building occupant.

In 2016, IBM introduced the concept of the cognitive building and we’ve seen this evolve from a concept to reality through our work with some of the largest buildings companies in the world. In 2017, we expect to see even larger-scale adoption of IoT in this industry, which will create disruptions across every aspect of the building ecosystem.  Visit our website to learn more about our IoT solutions for buildings.

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