There’s a lot of hype about smart buildings, but what does “smart” really mean?

According to Webster, “smart” is: “having or showing a quick-witted intelligence.” Does a building that meets this definition exist today? Perhaps in controlled lab environments or computer simulations. But, in the real world, certainly not… yet.

Why? Simple.

For a building to be smart—to have “quick-witted intelligence”—it needs data; not just some data, but complete, comprehensive, top-to-bottom, inside-and-out data from the building, and those people and things who interact with it. It’s that foundational element that’s standing between today’s buildings and “smart” buildings.

Many contend that Building Management System (BMS) data yields valuable insights, but ultimately those insights are limited to what can be discovered from just one of the hundreds (or thousands) of data threads within buildings.

You can compare it to going to the doctor when something doesn’t feel right. Say you have a cough and, since your doctor can only read one thread of data at a time, he doesn’t know you also have a fever, dizziness and nausea. Analyzing only the data from your throat, your doctor prescribes powerful cough drops and believes the problem is solved.

Buildings are much like the human body; a building is made up of various systems that concentrate on different (vital) functions. These systems working together is what runs a building perfectly, at least ideally. When too much emphasis is put on one system, instead of looking at the entire entity, the building’s total health and performance gets neglected and degrades. And thus, everyone inside and connected to the building suffers.

Alone, BMS data is too limited to provide insights on all the variables affecting a building’s performance, including its most important measure – its valuation.

Once you’ve captured all the critical data, you need to do something with it. The ability to effectively analyze a building depends (first) on knowing the historical information for that building and others like it. Then to figure out how to optimize building performance, you need processing power, machine learning and AI expertise to transform disconnected data points into real-time facts sourced from interrelated systems.

Accordingly, the key question for everyone who wants to create a smart building is, “How will you collect, integrate and derive insights from all the required data sources (e.g., facilities management, work orders, IoT/sensors, financials, etc.)?” It’s not an easy undertaking.

In the end, there are two options:

(1) Build your own AI-backed platform that integrates the necessary data feeds to gain insights, which is a multimillion dollar, multi-year undertaking; or

(2) Leverage the investment other companies have made in these solutions. Whichever route you choose, becoming “smart” doesn’t happen overnight.

Being smart is a state to which you migrate, not an immediate implementation.

If migrating to smart isn’t part of your technology strategy, how will your building ever be smart?

About the Guest Author

Craig Wood is a long time sales and business development executive for emerging technology. Site 1001’s Western Region Director, Craig regularly works with leaders in commercial real estate and insurance. Craig is at the Realcomm and IBcon shows in Las Vegas this week; if you’d like to chat, please stop by Site 1001’s booth #1619 or email Craig.