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Constructing future cities with Smart Buildings

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Introduction
Wouldn’t it be great to have your very own ‘Jarvis’ — Iron Man’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistant — to help carry out your every command? From relaying information about his suit’s energy levels to executing emergency defensive protocols while simultaneously offering insights on personal, business and world events, Tony Stark’s virtual assistant is indispensable in making him the billionaire superhero that he is.
While Intelligent Assistants like Jarvis may not be as grand in appearance in the real world, they are nevertheless just as impressive in terms of function as their cinematic blockbuster counterparts. With the advent of technology permeating every aspect of our lives comes a host of untapped potential for the realistic application of such systems, such as saving on utility bills, better disaster response systems and even saving the Earth through reducing waste.
Nowadays, Smart Buildings are replete with tech that is becoming more affordable. The shrinking of technology in size and weight has led to the mushrooming of Internet of Things (IoT) devices —where tiny sensors are inserted into everyday objects to aid in monitoring, analysis, and decision-making.
Smart little helpers
In a press release by research firm Gartner, it was estimated that 1.6 billion connected things will be used by smart cities in 2016, an increase of 39% from 2015. They also state that the business applications fueling IoT growth in commercial buildings are mainly centered on energy efficiency and user-centric service environments, with security cameras, webcams and LEDs driving growth in 2016.
“Especially in large sites, such as industrial zones, office parks, shopping malls, airports, or seaports, IoT can help reduce the cost of energy, spatial management and building maintenance by up to 30%,” said Gartner research vice president Bettina Tratz-Ryan.
Leading organizations were urged, in the IDC Energy insights report, to evaluate their current smart building status and to rollout plans to capture those benefits.
The IDC report, ‘Business Strategy: Global Smart Building Technology Spending 2015-2019 Forecast’, predicted smart
building spending to rise from $6.3 billion in 2014 to $17.4 billion in 2019. The most aggressive adoption was said to be in Asia Pacific, North America and Western Europe.
Smart buildings result in optimized building operations and increase in profit margins. A report by the Deloitte Center for Financial Services cited examples such as ‘smart thermostats’ that intuitively adjust temperature, humidity, and light, based not only on the preference of its residents but on climate conditions as well.
The Deloitte report, ‘Smart buildings: How IoT technology aims to add value for real estate companies’, stated that smart buildings are capable of monitoring security in real-time and delivering advance disaster warnings for hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes through the utilization of specialized weather sensors.
Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg intends to make his home smarter. In a post, he said a personal challenge for him in 2016 is to build a “simple AI to run my home and help me with my work. You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man”.
“I’ll start teaching it to understand my voice to control everything in our home — music, lights, temperature and so on. I’ll teach it to let my friends in by looking at their faces when they ring the doorbell. I’ll teach it to let me know if anything is going on in Max(Zuckerberg’s daughter)’s room that I need to check on when I’m not with her,” said the Internet entrepreneur.
Turning ideas into reality
In any real estate, energy efficiency is a constant pain point, as air-conditioning alone can lead to the wanton loss of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, especially in tropical locales where keeping cool is paramount.
Industries, too, are not immune as sensitive machinery that requires cool environments also consume large amounts of energy. Data centers in IT companies and high-wattage lights in studios, which require such cool conditions, cause immense spikes in utility bills during hours of operation.
A solution would be to deploy sensors and other IoT devices to keep an eye on the energy consumption, tracking a variety of factors such as indoor temperatures, the amount of sunlight entering through windows and total human body heat being produced at any given time.
As data streams in from these inputs into a central command center, administrators can make use of Big Data management software to make sense of their building’s overall cooling needs. Also, if outfitted with an Analytics feature, predictive scenarios can be run to determine future settings of the cooling equipment. For example, if less people typically enter a building on Fridays, the system can adjust its energy needs and usage accordingly, driving down the utilities cost.
Insulated rooms can cause a lack of circulating fresh air which leads to diminished air quality. In an effort to rectify such situations, the Glasgow Caledonian University worked on creating a smart building energy management system that can read air quality and remedy any lack of oxygen to combat potential afternoon drowsiness experienced by office workers.
To this end, the university’s academics plan on creating smart controllers which can react autonomously to changing conditions, increasing oxygen levels or decreasing temperature when it senses the need to. The sensors involved in this project run on batteries with a lifespan of up to 10 years.
Parking during peak hours tends to be a problem as parking spaces are often full during this period. However, automated parking management systems are able to consolidate data regarding parking space vacancy and inform commuters where to park in real-time. Central monitoring tools can not only show how much space there is on different floors, but also how many parking lots are available across multiple buildings.
Building maintenance solutions can also help in running mall or office operations more efficiently. Unmonitored, overflowing garbage bins can now be equipped with sensors to inform the maintenance team — who previously had to rely on manually inspecting the bins individually — which bins needed emptying based on how full they are.
Data from parking lot vacancies, maintenance staff movement, and emergency situations can be compiled into a Big Data Analytics platform for easier access and decision-making. This ability to gain a bird’s eye view of all aspects of a building’s operation would be powerful in the hands of any building management company that has to manage the demands of multiple tenants.
Such a platform would allow management to drilldown into data, by floors or even specific units, enabling them to make minute adjustments to electricity and water usage. Managing secure access to different floors can also be worked into the platform, giving users a one-stop platform to control almost every function in a building.
Conclusion
Making the world a smarter place, one building at a time — utilizing solutions mentioned above —are more than mere ideas with Fusionex. The examples stated could be carried out with sufficient tech and time, by incorporating Fusionex’s robust mix of real-time monitoring software and reliable IoT solutions.
Any building can be transformed by technology, from a static unfeeling structure, to a Smart Building that acts on request and reacts to stimuli – making it a better place to work and live in. By increasing the efficiency of everything we do, we can make leaps in improving the quality of life and make living in Smart Cities a reality for all.

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