Smart Building Mistakes

By Bill Moten
Smart Buildings Practice Leader

Everyone has an idea of what a Smart Building is. Some building owners will claim their building is smart because they have new building management systems (BMS), smart conference rooms, or world-class cellular and WiFi connectivity throughout. These are all excellent smart technology solutions to have, and it is easy to claim their buildings would be less smart without them. Most experts agree that the epitome of a smart building is The Edge building in Amsterdam. The Edge building has all the smart technology solutions, via 30,000 IoT sensors, integrated and providing data to an analytics platform. The integration of these solutions is what enables the enhancement of the overall occupant experience and improved building operations. Having narrowly focused and isolated smart solutions does not necessarily make a building smart; it can make it more complex and challenging to manage. We define a smart building as a building that uses an integrated set of technology, systems, and infrastructure to optimize building performance and occupant experience. This definition can also serve as a goal of what all smart buildings should achieve.

The problem today is that most smart buildings are not considering the integration and interoperability of technology, systems, and infrastructure. Many owners and operators are making the mistake of using a technology-first approach. Narrowly focused, standalone technologies solve a problem like monitoring room occupancy or water leak detection without consideration of existing infrastructure or systems platforms. Solutions deployed in this manner will end up residing in silos and not be able to seamlessly share data with the analytics platform limiting the ability to correlate data and make intelligent decisions.

An example of this is when a hospital deploys an asset tracking solution throughout its facility. The solution uses WiFi to determine the real-time location of critical mobile assets via active tags and seems like the right choice since the building already has WiFi. The asset tracking solution typically works well in about 50% of the building. The other 50% is so questionable that the users do not trust it and do not use it. Finger-pointing starts between the manufacturer, installer, Information Technology (IT), operations technology (OT), users, and leadership. There is nothing wrong with the solution. The issue causing problems is the WiFi design. The existing WiFi network is designed for data connectivity applications like laptops and other mobile device applications, not for a location tracking application that relies on the triangulation data of the asset tag. The new tracking solution needs a robust perimeter-based WiFi design. In this example, the asset tracking solution is chosen in a silo without consideration of interoperability with the existing WiFi design, and the project fails.

Creating a smart building plan can seem complicated and even overwhelming, and it doesn’t have to be. Check out the Smart Buildings Implementation Model that we developed to help you through the process of taking the right steps to plan, design and deploy a smart building avoiding the mistakes of implementing technology in a silo. I encourage you to download a copy of our Smart Buildings Implementation Model from our website.