By Anna Solana
In a world where the environment is playing an ever more important role in our daily lives due to climate emergency, our surroundings and the way we interact with them are changing dramatically. Buildings and infrastructures are not just cement blocks anymore. They’ve turned into dynamic environments, capable of self-correction and optimization.
Advances in Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are fueling the industry change through the collection and analysis of data from multiple and diverse devices equipped with sensors. That means that building owners, operators, occupants, and even visitors, can interact in real time with the spaces they are using.
Simply put, we can intelligently monitor and manage building’s energy and water consumption by optimizing lighting, HVAC, air ventilation, elevators, room equipment and more, as well as combine this dynamic data with other connected sensors collecting more information on local weather or street traffic to adjust all the parameters accordingly. And yes, it’s as smart as it sounds, as such steps can return a 25% reduction in operating costs.
Taking care of the planet
Moreover, the minimization of environmental impact is significant, which is all the more important when considering that the world’s buildings are major consumers of energy. Residential buildings alone account for 40% of energy use, while commercial stores, offices, and public buildings utilize approximately 30% of energy resources.
In this scenario, energy efficiency has become an important aspect of building management, as there is a need to integrate energy systems and monitoring networks. This need crystallizes in what’s known as Buildings Energy Management System (BEMS) technology, which uses IoT and is to reach $9.32 billion by 2023.
But when is the best time to integrate IoT technologies into a building? Carlos Velázquez, Corporate Marketing Director at Roca Group, one of the world’s leading sanitaryware firms which will participate in the IoT Solutions World Congress (IoTSWC) to be held in Barcelona 29-31st October, has no doubt: “The sooner, the better.”
“Thanks to Building Information Modeling (BIM) [which is an intelligent 3D model-based process to better plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure], we can specify and simulate how IoT solutions will work from the very conception of buildings, before starting construction”, he says. “Still, any building, however old it may be, can integrate IoT to improve its efficiency. Sometimes, you just need to plan an upheaval, which can be simple and cheap”, he adds.
The results are encouraging. “Our systems are more and more efficient when it comes to predicting water leaks or anticipating missing consumables. That allows us to plan and optimize cleaning and maintenance tasks, as well as to better manage consumables, stocks and spare parts”, insists the Corporate Marketing Director at Roca Group.
The company has developed a platform, named Roca Protect, that manages, monitors and maintains any kind of bathroom thanks to IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Using sensors that collect and send data in real time, the system is able to detect anomalies, generate alerts and even solve some of them automatically. In addition, it can contextualize the information collected with data from third parties such as meteorology, or traffic. This allows Roca Protect to generate information of great added value to optimize resources and manage operations.
One of the most innovative projects involving Roca Protect that the company is currently developing is "pay per use" public toilets monitoring the real consumption and smooth functioning of all devices, which makes maintenance really efficient. These fully IoT connected restrooms are designed and managed by One Hundred Restrooms and available in large shopping centers such as La Vaguada in Madrid or Gallerian in Stockholm.
Roca Protect epitomizes the evolution that is taking place in the infrastructure ecosystem. Smart buildings are now giving way to smart spaces that go beyond operational efficiency and open the door for new ways to combine the digital and physical worlds with digital twin technology. All in all, they are the avenue to blend all the different components of IoT together and obtain efficiencies that go beyond energy.
That also means that the energy and utilities sector is catching up. Companies in this area are also turning to advance analytics to unlock the value of hidden data and make a winning play in the smart home market.
In the end, this is good news as a smart buildings and smart spaces with IoT services not only expand the range of management systems, they primarily increase the potential for energy savings, reduce operational costs and improve asset reliability. All these changes are certainly business challenges in the first place, but they turn into valuable opportunities.
All the more when considering that the cost of intelligent devices is decreasing and computing power and capacity are growing, thus enabling businesses to be more and more agile, flexible an efficient. That said, the security issue remains a challenge to overcome. The right cyber protections are necessary to ensure the data collected by smart buildings and smart spaces management systems is secure when transmitting in real time.
In an IoTSWC18’ session on smart spaces, Vinay Dhar, Ericsson’s Head of IoT in Europe and Latin America, said that “this is a defining moment for the IoT business, because this is what will take us to the next level”. We’ll get there at IoT Solutions World Congress 2019.