“Change, you know, has a subtle quality. It comes upon you quietly. It creeps, and you continue to pleasantly operate based on old and comfortable assumptions and premises until suddenly, change explodes opportunity in front of you. And you are totally unequipped to deal with it because your ways of thinking, your concepts, your techniques, are all geared to an age that is no more!” - Author Unknown
At points in our lives, we encounter things or experiences that strongly impact – and even alter the way we act, the way we think our choices and preferences. Whether we see them coming or are taken by surprise, in hindsight we realize that these “change agents” led us to a way of thinking or doing something that might have otherwise passed us by. Without them, we’d be going about our lives as is.
When it comes to commercial buildings and industrial facilities, we are surrounded by change agents that are being driven by customer needs and requirements; business issues they are faced with and must solve and specific outcomes they are looking to deliver. In addition, the pace at which technology and innovation has impacted the industry over the past several years is fueling change agents.
At the center of these change agents is the most fundamental truth about commercial buildings that value is based solely on location, location, location. Today’s value for buildings is very different from a decade ago thanks to the pace of innovation and the changing needs of building owners and operators. Building owners are demanding new ways to differentiate and add value to their properties with smart building technology.
Analytics and AI can enable autonomous improvements to operations within a facility — including heating, cooling and lighting. For example, we can identify and automatically act upon usage patterns in a building space such as recognizing specific patterns ranging from people in the room, room temperatures to controlling lights on and off when someone enters or leaves.
When it comes to specific change agents, here are ten, I believe are happening right now.
After years of being over-shadowed, building technology is taking its turn in the spotlight. Commercial building owners are feeling the pressure to invest in intelligent building technologies that provides better insight on operations and equipment as well as access to real-time data for productivity, comfort, convenience, and sustainability. Building Operational Technology is evolving at a pace that many of us battle to keep up.
We are at a tipping point as more owners and operators are starting to recognize that smart buildings are not a fad, but a powerful tool to both gauge and meet occupant demands and increase value. They are looking for work environments that embrace technology to enable seamless, collaborative, healthy and comfortable working experiences and maximizes the operational and financial efficiency of their facilities. In addition, we are beginning to see facility management evolve from someone who uses a wrench to a professional who more resembles more of a business analyst.
I would be remiss if I did not mention IoT. IoT continues as a game changer; it is changing what we are delivering---how, when and where. However, realizing its potential starts with understanding the value and contribution it brings. IoT is as much about behavioral changes and business opportunity, not just technology. We need to operate and manage buildings based on outcomes not output. IoT is not the objective of this transformation but the platform upon which to connect, collect and analyze data so we can measure and validate these outcomes. Building owners and operators should not “buy” IoT; they should purchase solutions to specific problems where IoT components are part of a solution.
“The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” -The Economist
Customers are looking for faster, real-time analysis of the massive amount of data produced to perform smart decision-making. We are in an era where data technologies and analytics enable us to capture data from different sources including behavioral data, make it consistent and meaningful and use it across multiple applications. When it comes to data, the data produced from a device is now more valuable than the cost of the device. The use of data is now mandatory and no longer optional; if you aren’t collecting, storing, using, and learning from data, then you are not doing your job.
Recently, IDC said that by next year, 40% of the data we access would be stored, processed, analyzed, and acted upon, close to, or at the edge. As I see it, this is due in part to the greater acceptance of the Internet of Things along with the availability of increased computer processing power that is now available at a lower cost. This in turn, is enabling us to expand our reach to a range of devices that gather, analyze and react to data in a variety of applications. This combination has allowed us to move from “connected devices” to “connected devices that redistribute and process data and analytics independently at the edge”. As a result, the edge is here, and it’s is here now. Connectivity, Control, Data Access, Analytics are now being done at the edge. With more devices at the edge, comes more data that has the potential to provide enhanced insights into how we manage and operate facilities.
Leaner & Flatter Architectures
The breath of connectivity, the advent of new software and applications, real-time data requirements, the power of hardware, open systems; open API’s are all contributing to the flattening of the traditional building architecture and driving distributed architectures that are leaner and flatter.
OT & IT - Closing the Gap
The idea of convergence between information technology (IT) and operational technology systems (OT) has been the cornerstone of intelligent buildings (and other operational areas of the enterprise) since the market’s inception. However, the reality is that most teams responsible for information technology and facilities operations work in isolation.
There was once a time when IT and OT had no reason to talk. IT used to be about printers and workstations, and OT handled buildings systems such as HVAC and lighting. However, this is evolving and the separation of powers is radically changing. Smarter building equipment, the increased adoption of building networks, IoT and the increased visibility of issues such as cybersecurity are bringing these two worlds together. At the core of this evolution is how IT and OT contribute to the enterprise and how they collaborate to drive better outcomes.
One of the biggest change agents we have experienced over the last few years has been the move away from traditional 9 to 5 working environments towards a more flexible, personal way of working. With this, companies have started to place employee welfare and productivity higher on their agendas.
We are understanding new ways of looking at occupant comfort, productivity and space utilization. We are creating spaces that promote employee wellbeing and productivity and ones that are responsive and engaging to the people who work in them.
One of the key enablers of this change agent is of course technology and the notion that smart buildings help the people who operate and use them to work smart. Further we are learning that health and wellness sells, according to a recent World Green Building Council report that highlights; indoor air quality, thermal comfort, lighting, acoustics, interior layout and “active” building design, as decisive factors in the enterprise’s workplace choice.
Predictive maintenance is no longer about maintaining a single piece of equipment to ensure reliability, but rather about the macro view of devices, system optimization, and continuous awareness. Utilizing insights generated from data and analytics, we have shifted from a reactive approach to a predictive one, where issues are identified before they turn into major problems. From plant-sized chiller systems to elevators to lighting, we are shifting from prevention and repair to conditions-based maintenance in real-time centered on historical performance data. Companies can experience savings of their capital asset spend by focusing on optimizing existing building assets and prioritizing maintenance.
Value Proposition Evolution
As operational challenges have evolved, so to have value propositions. Today’s value propositions are very different from that of even just a decade ago. Then, value propositions were based on limited choices, primarily around HVAC, single buildings, middleware, wired connectivity, some integration and lower operating costs.
Value propositions then shifted to ones which were grounded on convergence, remote access, open, visualization, more connected systems (HVAC, lighting, elevators, digital signage, irrigation etc.), and the need for energy efficiency and sustainability. In addition, we began to apply technology and value propositions to both new construction as well as retrofits.
So how what about now? IoT is making its presence felt within our buildings and workplaces. Not only is it transforming how we manage and operate our facilities, it also is changing the way we work and interact with our facilities. Today’s value proposition is all about financial optimization, business intelligence, operational performance, cost savings, cyber protection, increased interface with more building stakeholders, improved occupant experiences and increased asset values.
The relationship we have with buildings has changed forever. We are creating connected environments that bring people and information together in ways that are meaningful and deliver end results. IoT is presenting new opportunities for creating, operating and servicing our facilities and is leading the way for new business value delivery. We are seeing increases in applications, the flattening of the architecture, more inter-connected equipment and devices connected directly to IP networks and more robust analytics. We are undergoing a move toward connected intelligence that is allowing us to redistribute and process data independently at both the device level and within the Cloud. Today’s value propositions for smart buildings are very different from that of a decade ago thanks to the pace of technology innovation and the changing needs of building owners and operators.
Maybe some of these examples ring true to you, and maybe they don’t, but the point is that we are being driven by a set of change agents pushed by customer requirements, business issues, expected outcomes and changing technology. There’s nothing wrong with riding the wave of something novel; many great businesses have been built on the back of existing technologies. However, the better we get at spotting and understanding change agents, the better we’ll be to figure out what take us to the next level. But to do so, we need to embrace change agents and not run from them.