Smart lighting and building software expert, amBX, has released new research on the top tech trends within the smart buildings industry. The insights, gathered through qualitative engagement with a number of smart buildings key stakeholders, offer a well-rounded understanding of the current top technology trends that are emerging across the industry.
The first finding is that the industry has seen a significant uplift in the importance of occupant wellbeing. Prior to the pandemic, occupant wellbeing was viewed as ideal but not completely necessary, with government policies and potential cost savings being seen as the primary driver of smart buildings.
Since COVID, this has all changed. Overnight, businesses were facing pressure to make their workplaces COVID-safe. Air quality, occupant temperature, people counting, occupant control/analytics and contactless operations were all in demand, with the aim of creating a safe workplace but also instilling trust and security to encourage occupants to come into the workplace too. This has since evolved, and with society beginning to emerge from the pandemic, businesses are adopting the ‘healthy building’ mantra to continue to operate safely and provide occupants with added benefits that they don’t get when working from home.
Secondly, hybrid working seems set to stay. This means that many buildings will need to be adapted. Businesses may have to downsize, have hot-desking areas, communal areas, meeting room spaces and aim to create more of an experience within the workplace. Technological opportunities will develop through features such as the same app used to gain entry into a building being used for wayfinding or to find an available desk. This can also tell the user which areas are near amenities they may want to access such as a quiet zone near a kitchen, or a communal area that lends itself to group work.
With the increased focus of society on sustainability, it is no surprise that the third trend is a move towards smart energy management. Smart energy management allows Facility Managers to understand where energy is potentially being wasted and identify small changes that can be made to improve the sustainability of the building. Depending on how smart the system is, it could make these changes automatically, for example powering down systems and devices after 6pm if no one is present.
Using real-time data from IoT devices can provide a continuous feedback loop that improves efficiency throughout the building, revealing insights that can indicate abnormal usage trends. This links closely to the fourth trend; predictive maintenance. Predictive maintenance is achieved by smart-enabling assets and gathering data to understand when something needs addressing ahead of the issue occurring. For example, abnormal power surges can indicate an issue; this can be reviewed quickly and addressed before something breaks.
Sensors are a big part of predictive maintenance. They inform Facility Managers when scheduled tests and maintenance is due. It also allows automated tests to be completed, which saves time and money because some manual checks will no longer be required, and it also improves the audit process. Reports can be exported easily, and full visibility is achieved. Where older buildings need to be upgraded to become smart, wireless smart sensors can quickly and easily deliver this. Retrofitting legacy equipment to gather information about its operational performance and monitoring critical assets like air conditioning instantly provides insight that was not previously available.
The final top tech trend identified by the amBX research is that partnership and collaboration have increased since COVID. Small, niche IoT companies are looking to partner with big credible IT and BMS companies such as Microsoft and Honeywell, and those heritage companies are looking to partner with smaller, more nimble companies who can plug gaps in their portfolio. This mutually beneficial collaboration is accelerating the smart building industry, making it more accessible.
Commenting on the research, Phil Cross, CEO of amBX said: “This qualitative research shows a number of crucial insights that will help us to shape the future as an industry. The pandemic has undoubtedly led to a number of these trends, and innovators across the sector, including amBX, need to respond accordingly to ensure these needs can be met. The good news is many of these changes can be implemented in a very cost-effective way, and they also put sustainability at the heart of the industry’s agenda, which can only stand to be a positive.”