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Thanks to the IoT, Data May Be a Building Managers Most Valuable Resource

Technology is changing how we interact with our built environment. New ways of understanding and controlling buildings has been made possible with the help of various sensors such as NFC and RFID tags, as well as beacons. Combined with the Internet of Things (IoT), these sensors are empowering buildings and their managers to become smarter, improve building system performance and anticipate needs.

Simply put, IoT is the concept that physical objects, devices, vehicles, buildings or any other items are connected to the Internet. Embedded sensors can collect data and then exchange and transfer that data over a cloud-based network, allowing remote access, analysis and control.

The expansion of the IoT is incredible. According to Gartner, installed IoT sensors in commercial buildings will grow from 377.3 million in 2015 to over a billion in 2018. What’s more, smart commercial buildings were the biggest users of IoT technology through 2017. Whereas that the IoT market will grow from an installed base of 15.4 billion devices in 2015 to 30.7 billion devices in 2020 and over 75 billion in 2025.

IoT installed base, global market (in billions)

Source: IHS, IoT Platforms: Enabling the Internet of Things, 2016

Lets take a look at six ways that the IoT and sensors are changing the way we operate buildings.

1. Increased profitability

The IoT technology will have an impact on the building management systems (BMS) providing higher benefits. Smart buildings equipped with the sensors can reduce waste and optimize energy usage, thereby saving costs for owners. IoT solutions adjust heating and cooling system, offer security devices for guests management as well as monitor and provide management of parking spaces by directing employees to a specific space which is available at that time.

2. Space and workplace management

The IoT allows property managers and owners to understand the way of using the building by tenants thanks to people flow tracking technology. Property managers using such building performance data are able to address and predict tenants’ needs more precisely and effectively.

3. Receive information in real time

The IoT technology can be used for both planned and preventive maintenance which allows receiving real-time information as soon as the problem appears in the building. Any bigger or smaller failures such as a small leak can be discovered and rectified promptly thanks to special sensors detecting moisture.

4. Keep assets under control

The IoT enables to monitor, manage and maintain your assets. Hands-on interventions are less required, consequently, a decision-making process is faster. After waving the smartphone over a NFC compatible device you can get access to important data for example to the history of inspections or to some related documents of the NFC-enabled device. Thanks to that technology, managing all of your asset data is possible in a quick and easy way.

5. New opportunities for facility managers

A growing grid of sensors connected with each other and placed throughout a facility turn into valuable and useful information for the facility managers. Consequently, the facility managers can be everywhere and at any time. For example, the IoT technology provides communication with subcontractors and helps to understand how tenants use a facility. Using a web-based platform the facility managers can manage a number of properties in one place.

6. Assure security and productivity

Beacons are extremely useful for the facility management. These tiny – powered by small batteries – Bluetooth radio transmitters of data, via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are used for both indoor and outside location. Sending a signal, inform smart devices about beacon’s ID number. A Bluetooth-equipped device like a smartphone can recognize a beacon. Once it is in its range, the beacon provides valuable information about the property. Beacons can track in real time both your assets and employees, contractors as well as visitors in the building. For example, beacons can help the facility managers to check whether the guard made a full circuit in the building. Thanks to beacons a facility manager knows when maintenance employees and cleaners work and what is their exact location. Thus, safety and productivity of your premises are improved.

Other considerations

Sensors can be either passive, active, or battery assisted passive (BAP) – having a small battery on board. The most common are passive tags which are the ones without a battery. The passive tags wait for a signal from the device, e.g. from a smartphone, releasing information to the cloud system. Whereas, an active tag has an on-board battery and transmits its ID signal at a given time.

The falling cost of these sensors is making the technology more accessible for all types and sizes of buildings. Passive RFID tags are less expensive than active RFID (commonly named as beacons). NFC tag is a cost of few cents to few dollars, whereas the cost of RFID starts from several dozen cents to few dollars. Beacons run from few to several dozen dollars for the most sophisticated ones.

The average cost of IoT sensors is falling

Source: https://www.theatlas.com/charts/BJsmCFAl

Of course with all of this data streaming out of the building, precautions must be taken to not allow that data to fall into the wrong hands. Security should be a big concern when you’re deploying any of these sensors and connecting them to the IoT. Many buildings are still operating on old software and often communicate using nonstandard protocols. One solution is to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) which allow proprietary data to be transferred via encrypted connections across the public internet between remote locations.

Building owners stand to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the IoT. Connected sensors can help them optimize all aspects of their property including HVAC, elevators, electricity, surveillance systems, and even parking spaces. These solutions can be cost-effectively deployed by non-specialized personnel in existing buildings. Combined with the democratized power of the Cloud and innovative PropTech software, data is now one of real estate’s most valuable resources.

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