The Top Challenges for Creating Smart Buildings
By Dana Sher
Head of Product
The Internet of Things (IoT) is booming, growing at a rapid pace thanks to the rise of smart buildings. We use the IoT to make our buildings smarter, and the smarter we make them, the more efficient they become. Smart buildings help us assess the workplace quantitatively, discovering new ways to work better.
What is a smart building?
Smart buildings are connected to the cloud and allow facilities managers to set up automations and interact with them digitally. The purpose of smart buildings is to enhance the function of the physical space itself and better serve those using it.
Smart building examples might include something as simple as having automated lights or as complex as floor sensors to determine real-time room occupancy. Today’s smart building technologies span almost every element of facilities, from lighting and HVAC to air quality and occupancy. Sensors, beacons, and software ecosystems come together in the IoT to form the smart building.
The investment in a smart building eventually pays for itself by enabling higher productivity, lower workplace costs, and better planning opportunities. But these benefits don’t appear by magic. It takes time, money, and knowledge to implement the IoT and understand how, exactly, to leverage a smart building. The challenges are diverse, and many companies are still figuring them out.
1. Challenge: Cost of acquisition
Cost is always an obstacle when new technologies come into the field. For smart buildings, it’s not only the cost of the devices needed to establish the IoT, but also SaaS, installation, and training costs. Finding room in the budget for one-time and ongoing fees isn’t easy, and it becomes more difficult for larger facilities or robust integrations.
To adopt the IoT and create smart buildings, companies need to master budgeting and make a meaningful allocation to innovation.
2. Challenge: Cybersecurity concerns
Smart buildings are the epitome of Big Data. Their entire premise hinges on detecting and collecting data that’s used to improve the workplace. But where there’s data, there’s cybersecurity concerns. Every device connected to the IoT is a potential entryway for a malicious attack. Before companies branch out their IoT and begin collecting huge sums of data, cybersecurity takes precedence.
Thankfully, cloud cybersecurity is gaining momentum alongside the IoT. It’s getting easier to secure data—especially for companies that make common-sense digital practices a priority.
3. Challenge: Getting stakeholder buy-in
Not everyone in your company will see the value of a smart building. In fact, many high-level stakeholders may see it negatively—an unnecessary expense or a complicated commodity with more minuses than positives. It’s up to facility managers and other innovators to make the case for smart buildings, and often, it’s an uphill battle. Even for considerate stakeholders, it may take time to convince them the investment is worth it.
The best thing any company can do is reflect on the growing body of data, case studies, and practical examples showing how the IoT produces cost-savings and other high-priority benefits.
4. Challenge: Understanding integrations
The IoT is complex. Think of it like trying to piece together a puzzle with no picture to work from. You know certain pieces fit here and there, and you can start to see the bigger picture as you connect a few, but the larger image doesn’t come into focus until you’ve got a majority of it all worked out. It’s slow-going and there’s some guesswork involved. A company might not understand the smart building integrations it has or the ones it needs until it has dabbled for a while.
The best way to approach a smart building transition is to understand it. Understand the IoT in a practical sense. Then, understand the nature of integrations and set up simple ones. As the purpose and practicality of the IoT becomes clearer, so will the picture of your smart building.
5. Challenge: Education and responsibility
Even if a company has the financial means and forward-thinking mindset to embrace smart facilities, there’s still the question of who will manage them. Whose job is it to manage integrations and establish reporting? Decipher trends and opportunities? Optimize the IoT around specific business goals? Getting someone formally trained and familiar with smart building technologies takes time and money.
Facility managers are more important than ever before—especially those with IoT experience. Before a company can fully embrace a smart building, it needs to enlist and train a facility manager.
Smart buildings take time to plan
To realize the benefits of smart buildings, companies need to understand the obstacles in front of them. From learning how to use a smart building, to tasking someone to set up and manage integrations, to getting stakeholder buy-in—these unique challenges need attention. Taking the time to address each in turn paves the way for a smart building you understand and can use to make your business better.
Keep reading: IoT for Facility Management.