How IoT, drones and automation can improve occupancy services

By | 6 minute read | August 16, 2017

Automated solutions are poised to dominate smart building technology growth on a global scale. A smart building is comprised of a number of systems and sensors that include automated infrastructure management systems, security monitoring and sensors, and in-building wireless systems. As urban planners and facilities managers work to meet the demands of an increasing population, they are exploring new ways to improve the experiences of building occupants and visitors. As smart buildings become more pervasive, we are starting to see an array of connected sensors and technologies coming together to help address the common challenges. By combining traditional and non-traditional equipment such as CCTV and drones with cognitive services like visual recognition, a host of user services and experiences are likely to improve dramatically.

What’s driving smart building growth?

The global smart building technologies market was valued at over USD 12 billion in 2016 and is expected to surpass USD 47 billion by 2021, according to the latest analysis released by researchers Technavio. The new procurement market intelligence report studies some of the main drivers and trends responsible for the growth of this market and its sub-sections. Below are some of the factors that are driving the growth of the smart building.

Energy efficiency

According to Technavio’s procurement specialist, Angad Singh, “the growing demand for efficient energy distribution and management with an increasing requirement for electric power will drive the market for smart building technologies. The adoption of smart grid solutions will help organizations to achieve reliable and energy-efficient distribution systems with reduced energy costs and impact on the environment. The organizations are deploying smart meters in the smart grid that help them to restructure their operations and help customers to manage electrical usage.”

Building protection

Another factor is the need to protect buildings against security and safety issues. The adoption of advanced technologies such as IoT and predictive maintenance enhance the safety features of a building – rendering it not only more attractive to occupants, but potentially more affordable to insure. Through the use of cognitive services and IT-related intelligence, control systems, predictive analytics, and smart sensors, facilities management teams can run diagnostics that results in better maintenance, management, and optimization of the building. Implementing IoT and facilities management solutions such as IBM TRIRIGA equips organization with the means to provide a comfortable and healthy environment for building occupants, improving productivity and experiences.

Improving the quality of urban services

Ultimately, the value of a smart building in urban planning lies in its ability to improve the quality of urban services, while helping to control costs. The long-term benefit of smart buildings and cities is to help municipalities and governments as they ty to accommodate the needs of an ever-increasing urban population – especially as they work towards sustainably resolving the typical challenges associated with the population expansion.

How to manage space requirements for 263 million passenger vehicles

One example where IoT and advanced building technology solutions are helping to improve urban services is parking. Although we often talk about buildings in terms of occupancy experience, or space and energy management – much of the attention is focused on what goes on within the interior of a the building. However, the single issue that urban planners and facilities managers face on a regular basis is parking.

There are more than 263 million registered passenger vehicles in the United States – that’s more than one car for every driving-age adult in the USA. As vehicles show up at an organization’s facilities, they need just as much space allocation as an office employee requiring a cube, an office space or a hotel space.

Cognitive services and IoT can help

In today’s world, how do we deal with these space requirements? How are organizations planning to accommodate the daily requirements, and, of course balance every day ‘vehicle space’ with peak time demand – during holidays and business hours? How can organizations make use of these data points regarding the number of vehicles to improve itinerant and regular occupancy experiences?

There are already many start up organizations tracking empty spaces in urban areas using drones. Drones, which are easy to deploy, can be equipped with the necessary sensors and cameras, connected to Watson IoT Platform and IBM Bluemix services through the cloud in order to collect the relevant data. This real time data which utilizes visual inspection capabilities can be integrated with more traditional solutions – such as IBM TRIRIGA – very quickly, providing facilities management staff with the ability to identify available spaces. By taking a look at a whole parking lot and take pictures, the team is able to identify empty spaces using cognitive capabilities to kind of visually inspect whether there is a car in a space.

Harness IoT and cognitive services to improve occupancy experiences

One way to gather real time data and patterns is through visual inspection or visual type inspection. We can use devices like drones and CCTV cameras to understand available space capacity, and the location of that space relative to the vehicle occupants’ needs. Combining IoT with cognitive services and integrating them into facilities management solutions like TRIRIGA is one way to monitor and manage, not to mention plan, for space availability and needs relative to customers.

Think of this in terms of occupancy experiences –  for example in retail lots, hospital and healthcare facilities, parking garages, hotels, and even short or long term parking in airports or other public transportation lots. The service can help facilities managers identify when they’re coming close to capacity and maybe need to deploy a valet or off-location parking.

Meet the Quadcopter Parking Assistant

One example of this innovative usage is the Quadcopter Parking Assistant by Persistent Systems. Quadcopter is an intelligent, low maintenance, cheaper, flexible parking technology. It identifies free slots as well as assists drivers in driving their vehicles to the empty slots thus saving time, fuel and ensuring 100% utilization of parking space. The solution is built on IBM Watson platform with IBM TRIRIGA Tool for Parking Lot Management.

Watch the video below to see the solution in action:

Intelligent eyes in the sky – use case examples

There are many use cases where visual inspection and drone technology might be used to alleviate the impact of population surges during peak times:

  • Sporting events draw large crowds – with many thousands of spectators expecting to arrive and leave a venue at the same time;
  • Retail – especially around holidays – is another troublesome area where escalating frustration levels could potentially be minimized through better management of overcrowded parking areas;
  • The entertainment industry – theme parks, holiday parks, or cinemas often experience parking issues during peak times, including summer, Christmas, opening nights and popular vacation times;
  • Travel and transportation hubs and terminals are natural candidates where a frequent business traveler might make use of connected cars, integrating data and visual recognition services with CCTV or drone technology.

Even corporate headquarters and large employment sites are potential opportunities for such a service. Imagine if you were able to track all of the meetings in a building – executive briefings, conferences, and large events; even internal meetings where remote workers are asked to be on site; or, external parties that are coming into a business building. A service like this could easily be extended to help make better plans to accommodate large numbers of people entering a facility. Those who require badging could be routed to an area to help avoid long lines and wait times, easing the burden on security for badging and bag inspection. A service like this can help to streamline the process – alert facility managers if they’re going to run overcapacity – in resources, materials, spaces – or any number of areas.

Make the most of your space

Read the new Aberdeen Report to learn more about combining analytics with IoT sensors and equipment to optimize facilities management operations.

Check out our buildings resources page to better understand how IoT can help with space utilization. You’ll get an in-depth view into how Watson IoT data from your buildings, lighting, employees, and even restrooms comes together with external data to provide actionable insights to help improve utilization, cut costs, and increase employee productivity.