More than half of the world’s population is currently estimated to live in cities, and this percentage is only expected to grow with time. Ensuring the buildings within urban centres are ‘smart’ – intuitive, interactive and responsive to human activity – is essential to adapting to the needs of a rapidly growing population and strain on the earth’s resources.
A smart building is one that uses a connection to the Internet of Things (IoT) to gather data on space, resource and energy consumption and to optimize efficiency of use in real time.
“IoT is built for devices to talk to each other ... and then devices make a decision on behalf of human needs through machine learning or artificial intelligence,” explained Alex Alaei during “Buildings talk – and we need to listen,” a presentation at Toronto’s Collision tech conference on May 22, 2019.
What this looks like practically is, for example, a series of sensors placed throughout the light fixtures in an office space. These sensors collect data on occupancy and energy use in each room. This data is then transmitted from the sensors to building utilities in real time, telling the HVAC system, for example, to shut down in certain areas when they are not in use. This data can also be analyzed and sent to office managers to inform their decisions around how to efficiently allocate space within the building, using certain regions for communal gatherings, others for individual offices and so on.
“Imagine you could personalize your workplace,” says Alaei, IoT Solution account executive at Siemens. “I feel much more comfortable and [productive] working in an environment that is intuitive to my needs.”
In a residential setting, this technology include IoT-connected lighting fixtures that adjust their frequency throughout the day to promote the human secretion of hormones such as melatonin, which tells the body to rest when needed.
“There are so many systems that need to talk to one another,” says Natalia Malafeeva, co-presenter at the talk and engineering manager of Smart Infrastructure at Siemens Canada. “Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have the data in buildings ‘talk’ to you and help you make decisions?”
The applications of smart technology in buildings are endless, and they hold tremendous power to change the human experience indoors. But IoT connectivity also has equal potential to lessen the impact buildings have on the environment.
For example, Malafeeva explains, Siemens recently completed construction on a geothermal field at Durham College in Oshawa, Ont., that extracts heat from the ground to regulate temperatures inside campus’ Gordon Willey Buidling. The building is equipped with sensors that collect temperature data and helps regulate the amount of heat that is needed in real time. Adopting this geoexchange heating system has reduced the campus’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 64 per cent, Malafeeva estimates.
“Buildings are dynamic, weather is dynamic. So, how do you make a decision on how much energy you need to actually put back into the ground, or how much energy you need to direct elsewhere?” Malafeeva asked the audience. “Internet of Things.That’s how”
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