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Smart Buildings Are Poised to Change the Way We Live


Operating a smart building today is all about managing the space efficiently to improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs. AI technology affords landlords better control over their energy consumption, while at the time presenting tenants with more options.

The trends affecting smart buildings was the topic of a keynote presentation at the Idea Showcase at the ITEXPO in Fort Lauderdale, FL, on Feb, 13 by Darlene Pope, global head of smart buildings and digital workplace experience at WeWork. Pope titled her discussion, “What’s Now and What’s Next for Smart Buildings.”

“My definition of a smart building is that everything is connected,” Pope says. “Not just your cellphone and laptop.” That means IoT, AI and database management, all integrated into one management console for ease of access.

Pope laid out for the audience the emerging trends in smart-building management. She says the hot topics include:

  • Energy management. These are business drivers: people, space and energy. Employing AI to manage temperatures and lighting was one of the early successes of smart-building development.
  • Space management. A large part of managing your energy is managing your space. Most of their AI-based decisions are made due to space-management considerations. “Occupancy and space management is our number one data point,” she says.
  • Occupant satisfaction. Providing a positive customer experience “is 100 times more valuable, from a financial standpoint, than energy costs,” Pope says.

One possible weak point can be the collection of occupancy data. Badges are problematic, because they swipe you in but not out. AI-operated sensors are the new wave. Pope described eight technology advances that are impacting the smart building today:

  1. Smart mobile apps. “The smartphone is the number one sensor in our buildings,” she says. Location-based sensors are increasingly popular.
  2. Location-based occupancy data. Real-time information that informs you about occupancy levels. Let’s you close spaces to save money on energy.
  3. Personal controls. Instituting personal controls on heating and air conditioning reduced calls by 98% in one smart building, Pope says.
  4. Indoor positioning and wayfinding. Google maps ends at your entryway. Indoor positioning transfers your little blue dot into your home spaces.
  5. Predictive operations. Here’s where AI helps. “Once the building starts learning, you can perform predictive operations,” Pope says.
  6. Centralized command. One pane of glass, they call it, where your reports and statistics are displayed on one screen.
  7. Internet of Things. To Pope’s mind, IoT is “when things communicate with things.” Taking the human out of the loop increases operational efficiency.

Still, the bottom line remains satisfying the customer. “The true focus now is on how do we make more people satisfied,” Pope says.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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