Artificial intelligence lays the foundation of buildings of the future

By | 4 minute read | May 23, 2018

With artificial intelligence integrated into building systems and IoT devices, buildings become more than their brick-and-mortar shells. They begin to operate in new ways, creating personalized experiences for their occupants, and providing energy and cost savings for their owners. In the report ‘Building intelligence into buildings’, the Institute of Business Value (IBV) explores the potential of buildings that think for themselves. Below are some of the key learnings and action points.

Intelligent buildings leverage data

What if buildings owners could see exactly how their building is being used at any given time? What if they knew how many people are using each room? How much energy is being consumed through heating, air conditioning or lighting? The condition of the drainage system, electrical equipment and elevators?

With artificial intelligence (AI), data from Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and occupant behavior, this information becomes available to us. Digital devices, beacons and even social media statuses give insights into every aspect of a building’s condition and operation. This can span from infrastructure, climate, water and energy use, to an individual occupant’s experience. Moreover, smart buildings can use this information to automate building systems, to respond to changing external and internal factors.

Because of this, intelligent buildings have the potential to increase operational efficiency, improve occupant experience, and optimize space and asset use.

Increasing efficiency

To increase operational efficiency in a meaningful way, we should monitor and optimize all aspects of facilities management. This includes water and energy use, as well as access and security. For example:

  • Water: manage water use and flow with sensors and smart meters
  • Fire: protect buildings from fire with automated functionality checks and smart detectors
  • Energy: prevent waste and drive down costs with smart meters and demand response
  • Elevators: remotely monitor performance and automatically schedule maintenance in response to fault detection
  • HVAC: HVAC units can respond to occupancy data and automate fans, air availability and variable air volume
  • Parking: sensors can monitor available spaces and enable 24/7 parking lot utilization
  • Access and security: connected cameras, instrumented perimeter doors and floor occupancy data help keep your building secure

Real-time data from sensors and IoT devices within the building’s assets and infrastructure is the cornerstone of intelligent building management. Once we collect this information, we can cross-reference it with benchmark data and conduct analysis to identify operational improvements. For example, water flow sensors could trigger an alert when water pressure exceeded normal operating limits.

Analytics and artificial intelligence also allow building owners to significantly cut energy consumption and reduce operating costs. When sensor-data from the building itself is combined with external data sources, the potential for increased efficiency grows even more. For example, by combining heating and cooling data from the building with Weather Company forecasts, a connected HVAC system can offer more efficient heating and cooling.

Improving occupant experience

The future of cognitive buildings is all about creating positive experiences for the people that use them. Imagine, for example, a workplace that can adapt to each occupant’s differing needs by offering flexible workstations. Voice-enabled rooms could respond to voice commands and answer questions. They could even relay requests to the building concierge. A large workplace might offer work-space sensors and beacons to detect available workstations and help locate personnel. Social media tracking could evaluate and learn from occupant experiences. And parking-spot sensors could help employees or visitors easily locate available parking spaces.

There’s a use case for hotels too. Harman and Watson have been working together to innovate the tourism industry, with a voice-enabled interface that understands and answers visitor questions. Watson’s natural language interface allows it to interpret questions like ‘what time is dinner?’ or ‘when is check-out time?’.

A cognitive building offers better occupant experiences

Optimizing space and asset use

Monitor space and asset use in real time to get a clearer picture of where alterations can be made to save space. ISS A/S, a facilities management and office services provider in Denmark, installed a scalable platform to better understand how people use its 25,000 customer buildings. A network of 700 sensors across the building generates a data stream captured on the cognitive cloud platform and analyzed using cognitive algorithms.

Build intelligence into your buildings: how to get started

While building intelligence into buildings doesn’t happen overnight, you don’t have to make a significant investment to start the process. Begin by taking stock of your operations as they stand, and ask yourself:

  1. Which areas will bring the most return on investment quickly?
  2. What opportunities do I have to drive down operation costs and improve workplace experiences?
  3. In which situations can my buildings operate and manage themselves?

You could also start with individual processes. You might:

  • Optimize maintenance by using predictive analytics to expose faults and determine their cause and impact. Automate device responses to handle this process proactively.
  • Integrate sensors, devices and data to make more informed energy decisions.
  • Enhance the occupant experience by introducing workstation availability apps with sensor and beacon devices to help occupants locate available space.

Begin your journey today

Learn about the new Buildings Insights solution – launched this week!

Read the IBV report for more detailed information about how our clients are taking steps to build intelligence into their buildings. You might also be interested in our digital twin webcast, to discover how to unlock your buildings’ data. To kick-start your own cognitive buildings journey, take a look at our IoT buildings spotlight zone, and speak to a representative today.