4 BIG ways IoT impacts building management

By | 3 minute read | May 10, 2016

This is the second post in a four-part series on how the Internet of things is impacting buildings.

The day-to-day operation of a building represents over 70% of the total cost of that building over its lifespan. It’s a big number, so why wouldn’t you do everything you can to lower operational cost? Especially if those same actions could help you improve the experience of your occupants at the same time.

It sounds too good to be true, but that’s exactly how the Internet of Things (IoT) is impacting building operations. IoT is truly disruptive technology, and it is impacting all aspects of the building ecosystem, including building management. Here are four ways that building operations are benefitting from IoT.

IoT energy management

In part one of this blog series, I talked about Building information modeling (BIM). BIM is typically used in the design and construction phase of a building project, so that design changes can be captured simultaneously in all sets of plans. But after the fact, BIM also provides building operations with a 3D rendering of the finished building. Sensors can be placed throughout the building to measure things like ambient temperature, light levels, CO2 levels, etc. Mapping that data on your BIM provides a real time model of energy consumption in your building.

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Now, combine BIM with an intelligent building management system (IBMS). The IBMS can then act on the insights from the model and automatically switch building systems on or off as needed. This can result in substantial energy savings, which is good for the environment and your bottom line. For example, the Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi can open and close its building louvers as needed, resulting in 50% less solar gain and a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions of 1,750 tons per year.

Space utilization and optimization

When applied to buildings, the Internet of Things can also help us understand how a space is being utilized. Various types of sensors, including RFID tags, beacons, and infrared motion detectors, can all provide information about how many people are occupying a space at any given moment. When you analyze this data, you can begin to detect patterns in usage that can inform the future ways you use those spaces.

In the immediate term, these insights can provide increased convenience to building users. For example, in a commercial office building, a conference room that is booked but unoccupied could release itself for use by another employee. In the longer term, the insights can also be used to make decisions to maximize revenue, such as how to optimize the retail displays in your store based on traffic patterns or where to relocate a stadium bathroom so that the queue does not block access to the concession stand.

Security and safety

When it comes to building security and safety, perhaps the most well adopted use case has been in access control. Many commercial office spaces today are equipped with proximity readers, so building employees can badge in without the need for human ID checks. Access control points have slowly and steadily been connected to the Internet, which is opening up new possibilities, such as using facial recognition and video analytics for increased security.

There are also other ways that IoT is being applied from a safety perspective. For example, presence detection, as discussed above, is not just relevant for space optimization. It can also help you detect the presence of an intruder in an unoccupied building and quickly alert police. In the case of a natural disaster or other emergency, it can also help you quickly locate and evacuate building occupants.

Building maintenance and IoT

The Internet of Things can also play an important role in the maintenance of critical building equipment like HVAC, elevators and escalators. When this equipment goes down, the effects can range from simple inconvenience to a loss of revenue for both building management and the occupants themselves. The good news is predictive maintenance capabilities enabled by IoT can help you prevent downtime.

Sensor data can monitor patterns in key stress indicators, such as temperature or vibration patterns. If abnormal patterns are detected, building maintenance can be triggered automatically to intervene before an actual failure happens. This can reduce your total spend on both preventive and unplanned maintenance, and also help keep your occupants happy.

These are just some of the cool ways that IoT is making buildings smarter. How are you planning on using the Internet of Things for building operations management?

Want to learn more about how IoT is transforming the way we build, manage and experience buildings? Visit our Watson IoT cognitive buildings site for videos, case studies and white papers.