By, Axel Hars
What makes a building truly smart? As technology advances and the pandemic gave an unprecedented boost to the adoption of this new tech within the commercial real estate space, it seems the rush for fancy tech preempted the very definition of what a smart building actually is
Let’s give it a try and look for that definition. A smart building would be one that uses advanced technology and data-driven solutions to optimize its performance, making it more energy-efficient, comfortable, and secure.
Fine. Bring in the data. But what are we measuring? To list just a few : energy consumption (usage of electricity, gas, water, …), indoor air quality data (temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, …), occupancy data (number of people in the building and their movements, peak times), security data (access control, surveillance or alarm systems), maintenance data (condition and performance of the building’s systems and equipment).
And as smart buildings shouldn’t be considered isolated pieces but essential bricks of a larger smart city ecosystem, we could even add environmental data on external factors such as weather, traffic, and pollution levels that can affect the building and its occupants.
Truckloads of data. Hope you are on good terms with your IT fellows.
And with all the necessary IoT devices and sensors required to capture this data, the purchasing and financing of these will probably weigh significantly on your department P&L this year (and for the years to come as maintenance costs kick in).
Now, time for the hard truth. Sadly, this data binge story often ends the same. Despite the brilliant intention of gaining a better understanding of how spaces are used, most CRE leaders I met end up with a huge pile of data but without any discernible strategy to turn it into actionable insight.
The reasons for that are numerous : interoperability issues, lack of historicity, hardware obsolescence, weak adoption of the tech, temporality mismatch (3 weeks to get your data sorted and cleaned vs real time need), sensor error ratio > 30%, … The will to gather vast quantities of data but without a strategy to make it operational, which inevitably leads to an outcome where the cost exceeds the ROI.
Is there any solution to that? Probably not. At least today. But there’s a great step forward to make in shifting the conversation around the smart building from the what (data, IoT, …) to the who.
Who will be using your property?
Who will exploit the building (vendors, in-house workforces, …)
Who will be the client for your data?
Start with who.
Tomorrow’s smart buildings will be human-centric. Tomorrow’s smart cities will be too. And the tech will be designed to serve their purpose. So better identify this purpose quickly to design the tech around it. Not the other way around.
The first step? Fixing the organizational silos that prevent the actors of your building ecosystem from communicating efficiently. Vendors, tenants, operational teams, leaders, … Start with reconnecting them all and bridge the gap between those who build, use and exploit the buildings.
The first immediate benefit will be the capacity to effectively channel the information to the person it is actually useful to without any blocker. Welcome to a new era of tech-enabled transparency and efficiency.
The second benefit goes the other way around. By digitizing the entirety of the ecosystem, including the building frontline workers, you place yourself at the centre of the largest source of operational and actionable data that can be. The data that originates from the field.
That’s the core belief that drove us to create Myr.ai. Imagine a tool that would enable a seamless and frictionless collaboration between property and facility managers and their vendors. A shared digital platform that would on one end provide full transparency of the services performance level and on the other end, the data to help vendors optimize their execution. For any building. Any service. Any vendor.
Empowering the people present in the building every day rather than the building itself is the first way to make your building smarter. For a truly smart building is a human-centric one, not a data-centric one.
Start with who.
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