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Practical uses of generative AI in smart buildings

April 19, 2023
Artificial intelligence is advancing at a pace few predicted. How can your projects use the technology?

If handled correctly, IT and OT systems provide a wealth of data that can be used to automate or improve upon a multitude of in-building tasks, such as ensuring the physical safety and health of occupants, real-time monitoring of systems and services, and the streamlining daily operations. But given the overwhelming amount of information that can be collected, figuring out what to do with it can be daunting.

Fortunately, generative AI is making tremendous strides. It can help make use of this data in ways that modernize processes through automation, provide valuable IT/OT insights, and improve occupant experiences. Let’s look at what generative AI can offer along with examples of where it can best be used.

What types of generative AI are available?

Generative AI stands apart from other forms of artificial intelligence because it analyzes data it collects and then uses the insights gained to “generate” logical and intelligent next steps or answers to questions. The capabilities of generative AI have been growing significantly, and the technology has several noteworthy use cases in smart buildings.

Generative AI that models text, programmatic tasks, music, imagery, and voice are of particular interest. Perhaps the most popular types as of late are interactive, text-based generative tools like ChatGPT and Bard AI. This type of AI is easy to use and can cleanly integrate AI functions into applications, websites, and other digital touchpoints that building managers and occupants regularly interact with.

That said, generative AI that models images, voice, and music also has a place within smart buildings and campuses, as do AI models that formulate decisions based on data sourced from multiple IT and OT systems. Instead of relying on management teams to make these decisions, generative AI can learn to formulate decisions on management’s behalf.

As with most innovative technologies, the best way to begin considering how to apply them to your circumstances is to step through generic examples. Here are a few use-case concepts on how generative AI can work.

Information desk chatbot assistant

Instead of staffing one or more lobbies with employees that help field occupant and tenant questions about the building and its surrounding area, chatbots sourced with relevant information can be used as either a primary or supplementary information tool. The chatbot can learn building and neighborhood insights through the collection and analysis of smart building IT and OT systems, along with training by management staff in the nuances of building rules, current and upcoming events, and other processes and procedures. Types of smart building tasks that a chatbot can accomplish include:

  • Real-time status of in-building tenant activities and information.
  • On-boarding and management of guest Wi-Fi access.
  • Parking status, availability, and validation.
  • Assistance with wayfinding, including detours and shortcuts based on real-time information.

Control of digitized in-building systems

In recent years, building systems have become digitized and networked. The problem, however, is that many of these systems remain isolated with no overarching intelligence that can ingest and analyze data from multiple systems, much less make building management decisions based on a holistic view.

Generative AI can be used to collect and analyze data from multiple building systems such as HVAC, smart lighting, surveillance, and digital signage. Building management teams can train natural language processing AI to understand various data thresholds and make decisions after analyzing multiple information sources. For example, using a combination of motion detectors, temperature sensors, connected HVAC systems, and generative AI, an in-building management intelligence platform can automatically identify which conference rooms are occupied and deliver heating and cooling only to those rooms.

Generative AI can be used to collect and analyze data from multiple building systems such as HVAC, smart lighting, surveillance, and digital signage.

Hot desk/hoteling management

Hot desking and hoteling have become a popular option for buildings whose occupants work on a hybrid schedule. Management of hot desk or hoteling spaces can be a challenge as last-minute changes or new requests are a common occurrence. A generative AI that constantly monitors space usage can increase the effective use of space while reducing manual processes for management staff.

Targeted surveillance

A team of physical security professionals are typically needed to monitor a building or campus to ensure the safety of all occupants. But with generative AI and network-connected surveillance cameras, this type of granular and targeted monitoring of occupants can now be largely automated. For example, generative AI can help identify a specific occupant using surveillance camera–driven facial recognition and provide a real-time and continuous video stream of that individual. As this person moves through a facility, camera views automatically change, ensuring the targeted individual is always in view.

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About the Author

Andrew Froehlich | Contributor

As a highly regarded network architect and trusted IT consultant with worldwide contacts, Andrew Froehlich counts over two decades of experience and possesses multiple industry certifications in the field of enterprise networking. Andrew is the founder and president of Colorado-based West Gate Networks, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and data center build-outs. He’s also the founder of an enterprise IT research and analysis firm, InfraMomentum. As the author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex, he is a regular contributor to multiple enterprise IT-related websites and trade journals with insights into rapidly changing developments in the IT industry.

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