3 BIG ways the IoT is impacting the way we experience buildings

By | 4 minute read | June 6, 2016

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

Over centuries, buildings have evolved from simple shelters to specialized habitats where we work, eat, shop, and find entertainment. Once constructed, these structures can last for hundreds of years, and yet, they are largely static. They can’t adapt to our needs over time without physical reconstruction. That is, until now.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming everything about buildings, including how they adapt to the people that inhabit them. Earlier in this series, I looked at how IoT affects the design and construction, operation, and financial management of buildings. Now it’s time to explore how IoT is impacting the way we as humans experience and interact with buildings.

A building that gets personal

Imagine an office building that knows you. It recognizes you when you enter, so you don’t have to check in with security. It knows your schedule, so the elevator automatically whisks you to the floor where your first meeting is scheduled. After your meeting, you are directed to a hot desk nearby, where you can work until lunch.

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This type of guided experience is being made possible through the Internet of Things. IoT sensors capture data about the people moving through a building and feed that back to the building itself. Over time, this data reveals a set of individual preferences for each occupant, and can also be combined and analyzed alongside data in other building systems. This sets the stage for an unprecedented level of personalization, allowing for different encounters based on the personal needs, agendas and preferences of occupants. It also opens up new doors not just in office buildings, but also in stadiums, hotels and retail environments, where highly curated interactions are expected as part of a superior guest experience.

A building that can interact

Let’s go back to our office building example. While you’re working at your hot desk, you realize that you need supplies. You query the building’s virtual assistant and get directions to the nearest supply closet, then unlock with your smartphone and take what you need.

Previously, I talked about how building information modeling, together with an intelligent building management system, can allow building systems to be managed through IoT. This same technology is also making it possible for occupants to directly interact with a building’s systems. So, occupants aren’t necessarily dependent on the building to personalize various touchpoints as in the first example. Whenever they need to, they can proactively interact with the building through a mobile app, web interface or even voice commands for an even more dynamic and customized experience.

A building that just works

The best user experiences are the ones that are designed so seamlessly that we don’t even notice them. In a building, this might mean that you didn’t notice the elevator because it wasn’t slow as molasses and didn’t jerk awkwardly as it reached your floor. You didn’t notice the air quality because the room wasn’t stuffy, and you paid no attention to the lighting because there was no haze of fluorescence to leave you groggy and disoriented.

Let’s face it, today’s buildings aren’t always attuned to our needs. But the Internet of Things is helping to change that. With IoT, the data produced by building systems can be used to make building systems more attuned to occupants. For example, KONE is using IoT to intervene before maintenance issues arise, as well as to optimize the way people move through buildings. That means that when you ride on a KONE elevator, you can say goodbye to long wait times and bumpy rides. KONE elevators will use IoT data to select an elevator for you that will get you to your floor faster. They will also use IoT analytics for condition-based maintenance, so they can service elevators before performance issues occur.

By the same token, Photonstar is using IoT to control light levels and hues in a way that emulates natural light as it changes throughout the day. There have been numerous studies demonstrating how lighting affects mood, so by attuning lighting more sensitively to human needs, they can actually help improve the experience of a building’s occupants. For example, lighting can be optimized to maximize worker productivity in office buildings, factories, and other commercial locations. In schools, lighting can be monitored and adjusted to increase students’ attentiveness. In healthcare facilities, patients might heal faster based on exposure to just the right lighting.

The net

In this series, we’ve talked about a lot of different ways that IoT is impacting buildings. However, the bottom line is that when embarking on a smart buildings project, it can’t just be about the technology. All of that technology must be in service of humans. When IoT is integrated so seamlessly into buildings that we don’t even notice it, that’s when we’ll know our that our buildings are truly smart. People are the key.

For more ideas on how IoT can make buildings smarter check out these other posts in the series:

Or read the white paper ‘The Economy of Things’ to learn how IoT is poised to transform industries and create new, disruptive sources of value for businesses.