Putting the smart into smart cities

Insights | Cassandra Wheeldon on July 12, 2016

Putting the smart into smart buildings

Smart cities have long been discussed as a vision of the future. But, while there has been a lot of hype, we’ve seen little action. This looks set to change, but this change cannot occur without putting smart buildings to the fore.

Thus far there’s been a lot of attention paid to the big questions around smart cities, but the focus is increasingly being redirected toward implementing these ideas. In the last few days of June, for example, Y Combinator announced their intention to research and publish on how we can build new and better cities.

Meanwhile, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs seeks to collaborate with cities to address “big urban problems” and will be offering its cloud software, Flow, to the winner of the Smart City Challenge - Columbus, Ohio.

These initiatives, however, are being met with equally impressive developments in smart buildings. With key components from sensors in meeting rooms to track occupancy and energy efficiency, to plate dispenser sensors that help curb food waste, we’ve seen building technology advance.

Smart buildings - buildings that connect devices, allowing appliances to “talk” to each other - are set to significantly optimize efficiencies for building owners and tenants, all the while improving service delivery and reducing costs.

At the end of June, facilities management company ISS Group took a huge step toward making this bright new future a reality by partnering with IBM to add smart capabilities to the management of some 25,000 properties it looks after around the world.

IBM’s cloud-based Watson IoT cognitive computing platform will be used to analyze data produced by the millions of sensors and devices embedded into these properties. This valuable data will allow ISS to better understand how it can gain a better understanding of how each building is used, and optimize the services it delivers accordingly.

But we’re just at the beginning. This is a development that’s only going to grow, fast.

According to Gartner, smart cities will use 1.6 billion connected devices this year, an increase of 39 per cent on 2015. This number is forecast to reach an incredible 20.8 billion by 2020.

Here at WiredScore we’ve focused in on one of the questions raised by Y Combinator: How can we make sure a city is constantly evolving and always open to change? And, as a caveat to that, how can we best prepare for this smart future?

To be truly effective and take their place in a smart city on such a scale, buildings need a connectivity resilient infrastructure.  After all, the whole idea of a connected building would be a misnomer if the connections within it continually failed. It’s crucial that landlords and developers give real thought now to the readiness of their buildings, future-proofing them by ensuring the infrastructure is in place to be truly, fully connected.

With every lightbulb, door and air conditioning unit connected to each other, the demand for bandwidth will be unimaginably vast. Sufficient capacity is paramount; maximum resilience, redundancy and reliability should be a given.

The future of buildings is connected and smart. With the right infrastructure in place, building owners and their tenants will enjoy the efficiencies and savings that the smart building can deliver.

Without it, it’s just a building.

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