What can you do with your buildings? 5 key articles have the answer

By | 5 minute read | July 27, 2017

Augmented reality in building management

What if a building could tell you how much energy it’s using? Or where there’s a leak in the heating system? Or how many people are in the space at any given time? It would be much easier to prevent wasted energy, or avoid costly maintenance by fixing problems as they emerge. Five key articles from WIRED Brand Lab show how to achieve this with the help of IoT-enabled sensors and software systems, and explore the ways cognitive technology is reshaping the way we construct, manage and experience buildings.

1. Creating a building’s digital twin

Has it ever occurred to you that a building is a bit like the human body? It has a plumbing system and (through its electrical wiring) a nervous system, all underpinned by a functional skeleton that supports the whole. The first of our five articles explores what would happen if we gave our buildings a brain, too.

A brain ties together information from every part of the body, analyses it, puts it in context, and then uses it to make smart decisions. For a building, a similar process is possible with the aid of IoT-enabled sensor data tied together with a software solution.

In order to make sense of the raw data from sensors within a building, we need a digital, visual representation of what is actually going on in our buildings’ individual and interlocking systems, such as heating, lighting, infrastructure and plumbing.

This representation is known as a ‘digital twin’ – a virtual, complex model of the physical structure, powered by huge data collected by sensors and analysed by IBM’s super computer, Watson. This information can include everything from live occupancy data to design specs and equipment inventory, allowing for every asset to be remotely and even automatically managed. With this clear view of how a building operates, we can enable more efficient use of space, equipment and other assets.

Read the full article to learn more about digital twin, and see it in action in Dubai International Airport.

2. Designing buildings that learn

Our second article is on the subject of buildings that use IoT data to learn and evolve, even when they’ve outlived the purpose they were originally created to meet.

A traditional building cannot adapt and grow to meet changing expectations. Unless it is repurposed by a team of architects and builders, it simply continues to exist in its original form.

With the IoT, however, that needn’t be the case. A smart or connected building can measure almost everything about itself and use that information to adapt to the way its occupants use the space.

Some of the buildings being created today have IoT capabilities woven into their very fabric, incorporating almost one IoT-enabled sensor per square foot. When the data from each of these sensors is analysed alongside information from the rest of the building, it creates something very like structural consciousness.

It’s a digital ‘brain’ that, over time, can use the information it collects to make smart and proactive structural decisions. For example, a building that senses the number of occupants in it at any given time can apportion utilities in real time to reflect consumption based on actual need, rather than projected estimates.

The more information the building collects and analyses, the smarter it becomes, until the building is able to respond to changing circumstances and adapt as needed.

3. This is my building’s final offer

The third article explores the way the IoT can add value that will offset a building’s operational costs, and envisages a future where buildings, not managers, will be able to negotiate the terms of their own lease from the wealth of sensor data they have accumulated.

As machine learning moves into the industrial space, managers and builders are able to tap into sensor data to analyse everything from a building’s mouse infestation to the way its physical assets are being used.

Cognitive computing can add value to a building by transforming a single structure into a collection of assets: space, equipment, security and energy, for example. Each of these assets, properly managed, can drive value. For example, if a building has an excellent security record because of its IoT-enabled security systems, that building has a greater value than one whose security is sometimes compromised by an outdated system. In the same way, a building that manages its own electricity consumption depending on actual need has an in-built money-saving capability that increases its value.

Using digital twin to create a statistical, digital rendering of the physical structure, building managers can have a transparent view into their assets, and understand how to balance the building’s settings to achieve the best financial return on their properties. Before long, cognitive buildings may even be able to manage themselves.

4. People are the point of IoT

The point of cognitive buildings is to make life easier, more comfortable and more convenient for their occupants. A building that understands how its space is being used, for example, will be able to predict what assets to deploy depending on demand. If tomorrow brings hot weather, the building will automatically turn down or switch off the heating to ensure the rooms are comfortable and energy is not being wasted.

Read the article to discover how cognitive buildings are working for their occupants.

5. One day you’ll remember when your house didn’t know you so well

In the not-so-distant future, your home may be able to do things that seem extraordinary today. Imagine if your house could recognize an expected dinner guest at the front door by comparing her face with data from your calendar – and then let her in automatically. Or if a factory prevented an accident by automatically shutting off a piece of heavy equipment that was running unsafely.

Cognitive computer systems can enable these scenarios and many more that seem amazing to us today. And what’s more, they’ll continue to learn and adapt as they collect more information along the way.

Read the full article to see what else the future holds, and how cognitive systems in your home, vehicle and even city will be able to learn from each other.

Learn more

Visit our website or speak to a representative today to learn more about how Watson IoT for Buildings can optimize your space to suit your changing needs.