October 2009


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The Real Value of Building Information, Integration and Transformation

It’s not building "automation" but building "transformation" that we are after.

Rick Huijbregts


Rick Huijbregts,
Vice President, Vertical Industries Cisco Canada

In recent issues of AutomatedBuildings and like-minded publications that promote and support the convergence of building, technology and people systems to optimize built environments, there has been a lot of attention paid to valuable point solutions and applications that will impact how we manage and operate buildings and their environmental footprint. It certainly feels that we are all in agreement on the benefits of smarter and connected real estate.

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With Cisco’s Building Mediator and other technological innovations in the marketplace, it seems we may already be able to deliver on the promise of smarter and connected real estate. Energy monitoring and management, optimized operations, automated fault detection and even Automated Demand Response have all become a reality.

The secret (not so secret anymore) relies on the same principles of innovation that we have seen over time in IT and nearly every other industry. Open, interoperable and extendable platforms allow connectivity and communication between building systems, security systems and IT systems (Cisco refers to this as the "South Side") with value added applications that help us improve building performance, drive down energy consumption, and reduce the cost of building operations ("North Side"). As we have seen in all other industries that have been transformed by the power of technology, after providing the open connectivity and communication the unimaginable becomes imaginable, and the sky has become the limit. We simply haven't seen anything yet.

Will buildings be operated by professional operators in overseas countries? Do we even need fancy central operating centers, or will my iPhone do? Is the Internet (Google maybe?) going to predict how my building should perform and automatically adjust its parameters on the fly? Will the tenant or building user know exactly how much energy is consumed and what an individual contributes to the organization’s carbon footprint? Will we finally see the necessary reduction of energy consumption in buildings reach 30, 40, 50 percent or more? Can we imagine that building users can personalize their space by using a phone or personal laptop? And so forth. And the answer to all these questions is YES.

So, now we have taken building "automation" to a whole new level. We should be proud that we as an industry are finally crossing the chasm (Geoffrey Moore http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Moore ) -- but we should not be satisfied quite yet. It’s not building "automation" but building "transformation" that we are after.

How is the technology going to impact how we perceive and use our real estate? It’s about the ability to create and deliver new services and business models to those that own, operate and occupy our buildings -- beyond the unimaginable. We now have the ability to design and use our buildings as if it were an iPhone. Highly esthetic, combining form and function to its highest standards, while providing a platform over which new and exciting services can be delivered. Smart and connected real estate provides ways to program and configure spaces differently in order to meet the ever changing requirements and demands of its users.

Examples of what this may mean to real estate are all around us. With social networking becoming the fastest growing (and largest) source of internet traffic today, and the increasing popularity of video posts, it won't be much of a surprise that the way we work, live, learn and play has permanently been altered. Our next generation tenants and employees will not accept working in man-high cubicles. Collaboration and communication has been re-defined, and video and mobility are some of the key instigators. Why do I need a workspace if I can appear virtually at any location ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcfNC_x0VvE ) ? Why do we need a spacious lobby area (on every floor of a commercial office tower) outfitted with expensive finishes, if we can bring hosted attendant services over high-definition video to provide a life-like experience? If mobility is everywhere, will the boundaries of our physical office environments blur? Can I work from home, on a trip or from the coffee shop? How is this going to impact how we provide for office space?

Have you paid attention lately to how your children use communication devices to maintain their friendships, do their homework and find entertainment? (SMS, phone, email, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube). This is what HR departments and business leaders should be paying attention to. This is the audience they will try to attract in the immediate years to come. The definition of ‘workplace’ is changing and new workers are expecting change. These changes will have an impact on our buildings and communities. Flexibility, connectivity, communications and interoperability will be key to these trends. The IP network will be the architectural platform that enables it all.

contemporary All that said -- and so much more to come -- it is undeniably true that we need to walk before we can run (although we are seeing sporadic sprints already that hold great promise for the near future). We need to focus on the low hanging fruit and address the basic decisions that need to be made every day for new construction, retrofit and upgrade projects. Through our work with partners* in the field we have found it useful to group system decisions into categories such as essential systems, ROI-based systems and brand or experience systems. This helps manage budgets, separate CAPEX and OPEX issues and define benefits.

(1) Essential: Look at the essential system’s controls and ensure they are the latest version offered by the manufacturer and insist on open protocols. This provides the most flexibility for future enhancements, expansion and interoperability. Additionally, utilize an IT backbone infrastructure to connect the system’s controllers to their management servers. This will provide greater reliability inside the building and more importantly increased security for systems that offer remote access, not to mention elimination of unnecessary overlap of conduit, cabling, switching and other components. Modern, open systems built around a backbone infrastructure cost no more than the traditional silo approach.

(2) ROI: Evaluate the growing number of systems that might not be considered essential but can offer a compelling return on investment such as intelligent lighting, daylight harvesting, demand response, fault detection, integrated parking and others. This category makes use of the latest technologies and offers significant financial and operational efficiencies.

(3) Experience: Experience or brand support systems can be very important but are more discretionary in nature and might include digital signage for messaging, way finding and multi-media, ambient music, selected wireless services, accent lighting etc.

Now the foundational technologies and infrastructure are in place for lower CAPEX and OPEX (helping save money in operations and energy), it’s time to explore the un-explored. Let the transformation begin. Please keep reading our contributions to AutomatedBuildings.com as we explore the transformation of real estate over IP-based building networks.



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