Trends come and go but from time to time they end up shaping the world in which we live. This also applies of course to the automation of buildings. The following five key trends for the future smart buildings will not only affect smart buildings significantly, but also reflect the world and modern values all around us.
1. The network
In the early days of the building automation industry, we always heard people talking about “smart cities and IoT”. We automatically assumed that they were discussing automation of buildings. That must have been the case: it’s smart and connected to the Internet.
Building automation is only a small part of a much larger ensemble. So far, different systems in buildings have been separate closed blocks with their own interface and no communication with external systems. But finally, automation begins to be fully integrated into the same network with other systems such as fire alarms, access control systems, elevators, and so on. The brains of this network exist in a Cloud.
When we have these smart buildings, we can finally have them communicate with each other as well. I was thinking of the Buildings Internet: People, traffic, municipal infrastructure and buildings will all eventually communicate with each other, and we will get a real smart city. Now, IoT is a term used everywhere and has therefore lost some of its meaning. But ultimately it’s only a synonym for a word that is not so fashionable: 20 years ago, the world was excited about networks, now we’re excited when we think at IoT. The network is still the strongest trend, but now it has a name.
2. Wireless technology
Everything is wireless now. Of course, maybe not electricity, but I hope the future will bring us surprises here too. Without wireless features, we will be very far from where we are right now. Mobile phones, cars, Internet, radio – almost everything in our life is, to a certain extent, concerned with wireless functionality.
In building automation, wireless functionality gives us flexibility and ease of installation when building new systems or modifying legacy systems. Connecting automation to the Cloud is as easy as counting to three, and it’s efficient. New wireless technologies have taken giant leaps every year, and this is reflected in the number of systems and technologies available today.
The competition between the different wireless technologies is wild, and this gives work to the research and development departments: it is necessary to ensure that the manufacturers do their utmost to provide the most effective solutions for the sector. However, customers can be confused by the huge amount of different wireless networks – with a myriad of technologies that are very different from each other – so this confronts the customer with a big question: what to choose? But regardless of the technology chosen by the customer, wireless technology is undoubtedly the most advanced trend at the moment.
In discussions related to building automation, it is impossible to avoid terms such as Big Data, free databases, machine learning, and so on. The answer lies in the applications. We need applications that can exploit this data and process it to produce value-adding services: Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, energy optimization. All these applications are well developed.
It is easier than ever to create applications that take advantage of this data – as long as the data is open. I have encountered many times situations where building data was collected in a database, without these data ever being used at any level. What a waste of valuable data!
4. The opening
In recent years, many IT companies start encouraging the use of free software and open platforms. Openness and flexibility have always been a small business advantage over major players. A change of attitude is certainly visible, and it is positive for the whole sector. In addition to free data, open source code offers us many new opportunities. The basic coding work is already done, and we can just focus on developing better applications in an open mind.
You are the user. You are king. Customers have become more demanding, and for a good reason: many have become accustomed to user-friendly consumer products, and now require the same level of user-friendliness in professional products, such as in the building automation sector. The user experience is an element whose companies have recently discovered the true meaning.
Many of us, who have worked in the building automation industry, are used to these cryptic user manuals, these poor user interfaces, these endless menus – those menus where you’re trying to change a lot. Or again: do you remember the last time you were on vacation in a hotel you wanted to change the air conditioning in your room? We can and must demand more friendliness. By this requirement, we also create more efficiency in our daily lives.
Key ingredients for smart buildings today and tomorrow
All these tendencies are related to one another in one way or another. Environmental awareness and the hope of a better tomorrow drive the development of smart cities and buildings. Many things are happening in different areas, but we are going in the same common direction, an efficient world, low emissions, the building automation has become one of the elements of this movement.