Putting the intelligence into Smart

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Last year’s London Smart Business Conference was focused on energy savings – where the discussion was focused on the process rather than the broader outcomes. This year’s event looked at a much wider interpretation of the term, aiming to redefine ‘Smart’ to include commercial and residential solutions that offer a degree of intelligence, learning from their occupants.

What makes a building ‘smart’? Automation, whereby the thermostat drops the temperature in anticipation? Or is it more than that? One suggestion put forward at the Conference is that a Smart Building is “one that doesn’t make the user feel stupid”. Instrumental in this would be standardising the controls of the Building Management System, in the same way as a car.Tablet and city
While there is current move towards a European convention committing developers to using similar systems, there was a great deal more enthusiasm for moving building controls to mobile devices, enabling users to set controls remotely. Other speakers spoke in favour of solutions that sense the presence of building users automatically, configuring the buildings resources in anticipation of the users’ needs.
Anticipating these needs depends on the building learning something about the users’ behaviour patterns of behaviour. For example, Mr A always arrives early at 6.30 am on Tuesdays and takes the elevators to the 12th floor to make a cup of coffee before making his way down to the 5th floor for the regular sales meeting with video communication to the overseas offices. Adding an RFID chip to Mr A’s identity card configures the buildings subsystems to prepare for his day in the office.
The Internet of Everything
This level of sophistication is not as farfetched as it might seem, with the rapid development of the variously title Internet of Things and the Internet of Everything. With the enabling technology close, the focus has to be moved to the people using the solutions, rather than the solutions themselves.
Stephen Patterson, Western Europe Regional Manager for Biamp Systems, believed that the traditional approach to system design has resulted in the industry “asking the wrong questions”, and “Trying to wedge our technologies into solutions.” For AV resellers and systems integrators, a change of approach could see the value proposition emanating from the services that their solutions provide, rather than the sale of the technology that creates the services.
Jeremy Towler. Senior Manager of Energy and Smart Technology at BSRIA, believes that users of these services will need relatively little input into the operation of these services. Big Data, gathered as a consequence of users’ interactions with the building, will be analysed and interpreted by intelligence built-in to the property, with feedback to the users and managers of the site through mobile devices.
In the residential space, a hierarchy has emerged where the smart home has morphed into the connected home, through the Internet of Everything, eventually becoming the ‘ubiquitous home’ with ambient intelligence learning and applying data gathered about user behaviour. Towler looked forward to the day, not so far ahead, where smart homes and smart commercial buildings will be integrated into smart cities. Mining of Big Data resources will allow a wide range of resources to be optimised, including transport, health, leisure as well as the more obvious applications of energy usage, security and communications.
Here and now
For those in the audience that think that this is all pie in the sky, Towler gave the example of the Microsoft Campus near Seattle. The campus is made up of 125 buildings housing 58,000 employees. Sensors gather 500 million data elements daily, or 4 million daily updates per building. As a result, less than half (48%) of faults on the campus are detected in less than 60 seconds and 10% energy savings have been achieved. Interestingly, payback on Microsoft’s investment will be achieved in just 18 months
But what about the rest of us mere mortals? More than 75 per cent of buildings have no intelligent controls and 85 per cent of the current building stock needs retrofitting to put it into a fit shape to adopt a smart building approach. So who is going to do all this work and who will supply the technology? The current leaders in smart building technology (Siemens, Honeywell Schneider etc.) also present one of the biggest barriers to its widespread adoption.
The number one problem is software interoperability, and while progress has been made here we are still a long way from Patterson’s call for “let’s all speaker IP.” Jason Blundell, European Business Manager for Cortech Developments and his colleagues have made a healthy living integrating systems from all the building management specialists, it will be the entry of Google, Microsoft et al that will see the industry migrate to standard technologies.
The scale of the task is daunting, whether you are talking about the commercial or the residential sector. Patterson asked the question: “how do we manage the ‘wet aspects’ of buildings, i.e. the people occupying them?” He believes that our objective should be to minimise interactions with thru building. “Centralising resource management saves CapEx. We should evolve working practices in response to building’s capabilities. Then we can deliver all of this in an affordable way.” Efficient it might be, but this approach that is sure to cause some affront to the ‘wet aspects.”
The final word on the point was left to Professor Wolfgang Henseler, who talked about the ways in which life in general is getting smarter. When devising any scheme for a smart building. Henseler’s mantra is “Think about people: not technology and products.” In addressing these fundamental issues, this year’s London Smart Building Conference was actually getting down to the key points in the discussion. It has to be about more than Smart Meters.
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This year’s London Smart Buildings Conference was held at the QEII conference centre, where the debate broadened beyond energy savings, to consider the human and integration issues.
SET as a boxout:
The Smart Building Conference at ISE 2-15
9 February 2015
Amsterdam RAI
The Smart Building Conference returns to Amsterdam on the eve of ISE 2015. A joint venture between ISE’s co-owners InfoComm International and CEDIA, The Smart Building Conference Amsterdam follows on from two recently produced and very successful Smart Building conferences staged in London and Berlin.
As in previous years the Smart Building Conference will stage a full-day’s programme including expert speakers from across the smart building industry. It will be chaired by Bob Snyder, Editor in Chief of Channel Media Europe.
Delegates can expect to discover key insights into emerging trends, energy savings, home automation solutions, as well as the best practice approaches needed to meet Smart Home and Smart Building design and efficiency objectives. By attending the Smart Building Conference, you’ll learn how to debunk the myths and explore new approaches to building integration.
The Smart Building Conference will adopt its successful twin-track formula allowing delegates the opportunity to join either a Residential or Commercial track depending on their interests. There will also be a chance to network with smart-building technology manufacturers, designers, consultants and suppliers, all under one roof on the eve of ISE 2015

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