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Frequently Asked Questions about Smart Building IoT

Smart Building IoTCommercial buildings are truly getting smarter. Deploying advanced technologies not only improves building efficiencies and staff productivity but helps spur new and innovative services. The advent of IoT is helping drive costs down while increasing sustainability, safety, and comfort across commercial real estate.  

However, some organizations find the utilization of data gathered through a network of connected sensors to be complicated and have questions regarding its value, necessity and challenges.

Here are 5 questions we often get asked about smart building IoT:

What are the Most Common Use Cases for Smart Building IoT?

  • Smart lighting is often considered the heart of an intelligent building as it plays a unique role in unlocking the power of IoT and smart building applications. Because lighting is ubiquitous throughout all buildings and every luminaire is connected to a source of power, lighting is the perfect place to embed sensors that will collect data on what is happening in the building at any given time. Fixture-integrated sensors become data nodes on the lighting system network, and this data is the foundation of the analytics that power smart building solutions and workspace improvements.
  • Space optimization is perhaps the most widely known use case, after smart lighting, in smart building IoT today. Raw sensor data gathered from the lighting system network is aggregated and pre-processed then sent to the cloud for further processing using workspace analytics software. Workspace analytics software leverages data science and machine-learning algorithms to uncover insights that help optimize the use of the space while also reducing costs. Specific applications include capacity planning, restacking and conference room rationalization.
  • Digital Wayfinding helps people understand where they are in a building and how to get to their desired location. Traditionally, maps and signage have handled this. Today, large or multifaceted environments such as museums, hospitals, universities, and corporate campuses are challenging to navigate, particularly as space becomes more dynamic. Digital wayfinding is a smart building application that leverages lighting system data and a mobile indoor navigation app to guide people to meeting locations or other destinations, as well as specific individuals--even as targets change or move. Whether you have mostly intermittent visitors, daily users, or a combination of the two, digital wayfinding can help get them to where they want to go quickly and efficiently.
  • Energy management enables commercial real estate managers to decrease the amount of energy consumed while also creating greater efficiencies in processes and building operations.   The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) states that buildings are the single largest energy-consuming sector in the U.S. economy, representing approximately 75% of the nation’s electricity use and 40% of its total energy demand. And, about half of the commercial buildings in the U.S. were built prior to 1980 when most of today’s more efficient products and construction practices did not yet exist.   Smart building IoT offers data-driven solutions that enable facility managers and operators to determine areas of high energy usage and identify places where consumption can be reduced to cut costs, lower environmental impact and support green building requirements.

Is the IoT a Necessity for Commercial Real Estate?

IoT is here, and many building owners are already reaping its benefits with increased productivity, efficiencies, and more comfortable work environments for occupants.  Couple that with IoT-enabled applications such as wayfinding and space optimization, and CRE companies have competitive advantages that allow them to charge premium prices for their spaces. Furthermore, IoT applications such as conference room booking and lighting management solutions help tenants engage with their area helping fortify tenant retention. In the future, IoT functionality and smart building applications will become standard requirements for tenants. 

IoT energy saving capabilities also help support building codes and sustainability objectives. Green certification submissions such as BREEAM, LEED and the Well Building Standard are strengthened by IoT implementations and properties incorporating green initiatives are in high demand.

IoT is not just a fad; deployments are growing.  Research reveals that there are 7 billion IoT connected devices in use worldwide, and that number is expected to grow to 22 billion by 2025.  And, according to Memoori research firm, by 2022, more than $82 billion will be spent on IoT-based sensors and devices designed for industrial, retail and office buildings.

It is vital for companies to get the most from their real estate expense as it is the second largest budget for most organizations after salaries.  To remain competitive with peers, building owners will need to adopt IoT.

What is the Difference Between Smart Lighting Data and IoT Data?

Smart lighting data is IoT data.  Data on light, heat, occupancy, energy usage, space utilization and more is collected through a network of sensors. Smart lighting data is acquired, aggregated and communicated across the connected lighting system network and pushed to the cloud for further processing and analysis using workspace analytics software. Analyzed smart lighting data becomes information that is used to manage, optimize, and automate environmental and operational aspects of a building.

Who are the Stakeholders and Who Should Lead an IoT Project?

IoT can be complex, so successful projects require effective communication and collaboration between various parts of an organization. With sensors and systems spanning departments and locations, tightly aligning strategy and technology is crucial.  Leaders from operations, facility and maintenance, environmental and health services, IT, energy conservation and sustainability, and finance should participate in project planning.  Each department adds value by providing knowledge and insights about their specific area, which not only helps in building requirements but can help justify budget for the IoT implementation.

For example, building and site specifications can be offered from facility and maintenance while operations will be interested in automation and productivity improvements, environmental health and safety can offer details on how to create a safe, comfortable workplace, IT can provide crucial technical requirements, sustainability will focus on energy codes, and finance on budget and ROI.

This cross-functional team can determine primary business goals and secondary opportunities that may not have been obvious at first glance as well as gain the support of senior leadership, which is a critical factor in the success of your project.

What are the Challenges that Come with Implementing an IoT Solution?

Implementing new technology always comes with a few challenges, and IoT is no different. Top challenges that CRE companies must deal with when deploying IoT include security and integration with legacy systems.

IoT technology, with its connected sensors, wireless networks, and cloud platforms, creates a new sphere of vulnerabilities by increasing the number of ways that confidential data can be accessed and stolen.  Security procedures and plans are critical to protecting from cyberattacks and must be part of any implementation plan. Using proven ways to ensure security across your IoT network are necessary, some are as simple as practicing proper password and security guidelines.

With new construction, it is easy to implement the latest technologies at the start of the project. However, many CRE firms have existing buildings with lots of legacy systems that must be integrated with their new IoT platform.  A lighting system retrofit that incorporates the latest advancements in LED and lighting control technologies is a proven way to start moving toward IoT and the supporting infrastructure.  Since illumination is pervasive throughout all buildings, and every luminaire is connected to a source of energy, it is a perfect start to IoT. By integrating sensor technology in every luminaire, the sensor has access to power, and each sensor becomes a data node on the lighting system network. A sensor-laden lighting network serves as a channel for collecting data for applications beyond lighting, including workplace optimization, digital wayfinding, and asset tracking.

Connected Lighting Meets IoT


Topics: Connected Lighting & IoT, Smart Building App