The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) in the physical environment means that buildings are becoming smarter, infused with intelligence across every square foot. This phenomenon is expected to accelerate, with IDC Energy Insights estimating that spending on smart buildings will increase from $7 billion in 2015 to $17.4 billion in 2019. The arrival of the smart building has numerous business, technical and organizational implications, which are essential to consider when purchasing these systems.
In most organizations, evaluating and installing smart building systems is typically driven by facilities, with little involvement from IT. Facilities teams typically focus on the operational and economic considerations around a given piece of equipment or technology, but the era of smart technologies warrants a new, collaborative model across functional teams to help the enterprise realize value that reaches far beyond energy efficiency savings. In fact, a singular focus on the economic factors driving adoption of smart technologies – energy efficiency and payback metrics – without cross-functional considerations of the longer term and strategic benefits can lead to poor product decisions and dead-end technologies that don’t scale or grow with the organization over time.
While bottom-line savings form the business case for acquiring next-generation systems – lighting, HVAC, and thermostats, among others – energy and real-dollar efficiencies are only the first wave of value. Generating terabytes of data, sensor-laden objects provide a critical layer of data about the building and business operations, which is – in essence – a new asset for the enterprise to manage. This is the value of the IoT. It is not about the ‘things;’ it is about how enhancing and re-imagining the objects across the built environment can create new value.
Lighting is a perfect example. As the most ubiquitous technology in any building, it presents one of the largest opportunities for control and building intelligence. With the industry-wide movement to LEDs – a chip-based technology – “smart” lighting technologies are making rapid inroads into all market segments, from consumer to commercial to industrial. For the industrial sector, smart lighting is saving up to 90% in lighting-related energy costs. In addition, these smart lighting systems are providing data that offers insight and visibility into operations to inform real-time decision-making.
So how can organizations unlock the full potential of the smart building to deliver long-term benefits? Collaboration between IT and Facilities teams to evaluate smart building technologies, so that buildings do not ‘get smart’ without involvement from IT – the group charged with IT strategy and enterprise architecture. A few of the key questions these teams should address:
- What type of data will the smart system create and who will track it? Is it occupancy information showing worker or customer movement around a facility or retail store? Is it energy data that can be correlated to other business metrics? What standards will be supported and what KPIs will be measured?
- What is the roadmap for data management and utilization? Is IoT data being tracked in the ERP? Are the systems being procured designed with that in mind? Once it is in the ERP, it can be tapped by others.
- How can that be leveraged across teams who will find that information strategic? If the facility manager has data about building use but doesn’t share across the enterprise, there are missed opportunities to correlate that data with other information. For example, data about customer movement through a store may be gathered from a lighting system, but the merchandising team in that same business will find that information invaluable.
IT and facilities teams working collaboratively can extract maximum value from these new, smart, networked systems, ensuring that they support the organization’s strategic goals, and integrate with the systems of record. The organizations that are aligned to take full advantage of these opportunities will be ahead of the pack for years to come.
Tom Pincince is CEO of Digital Lumens.
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