The more intelligent way of living: Smart buildings and homes

It’s impossible to avoid seeing IoT in the medias these days. Smart heating and air quality monitoring, hubs and devices that listen and understand you, items delivered to you with a push of a button; smart entertainment centers, fridges, washing machines, cleaning robots, drones - the list is endless really.  Smart buildings and homes are re-defining efficiency, convenience and the quality of life. 

The market for smart building technologies is expected to grow about 34% annually, over the next few years based on how it’s helping to boost greater automation and technologies in the built environment. By 2021, the total market size for smart building technologies is forecast to reach over 24 billion USD. 

Building companies are looking to increase the number of smart buildings constructed and consumers are converting their houses from the conventional ways of living, into smart homes by using inter-connected hubs and gadgets. This article briefly discusses some technological innovations that are changing the way we live. 

Predictive & Automated Maintenance 

IoT allows a shift from prevention and repair maintenance to a more condition -based maintenance that works in real-time and is based on past performance data from all possible equipment in question and compares it to the performance data from similar equipment elsewhere in the world. By leveraging data, builders and construction operators are able to indicate potential problems in real time and take repairing actions before any larger damage is done. This saves companies around 15% in capital assets spent, by optimizing assets and prioritizing maintenance. This also reduces downtime and related costs. 

Similarly to machine learning, smart buildings will eventually become intelligent enough to diagnose and repair damages in structures and systems without human intervention. New sensor technologies can enable buildings to output data on structural integrity after a seismic event for example. Also building materials are becoming more intelligent: self-healing concrete, coatings, sealants and adhesives; shapeshifting metals and windows that generate solar energy. Regardless of where and how soon, technology leads the development and optimization of smart buildings. In the near future, buildings are able repair themselves up to a certain point and smart homes are able to repair us, by  monitoring our health. Smart toilets for instance, are able to analyze our stool and give us information about possible health risks such as diabetes or colon cancer and even notify women about pregnancy possibilities. 

Smart buildings and homes provide us with better information about our living environment as well. They can inform occupants about efficient energy management, recycling, water usage and other installed smart systems, which encourages us towards smarter human behavior.

Connecting networks 

Wireless plays a key role in smart building development and technology, and is undeniably an incredible convenience that most of us are unwilling to bargain. On the flip-side, it's still showing limitations with interface and reliability. 

Smart buildings are integrating 4K video on-demand, access control, energy management and occupancy control, and they are incorporating these features through central dashboards and controls. It's important to avoid redundancy though, the more intersecting points there are in the systems, the more intelligently the systems can work together. 

From wiring to networks and HVAC, smart building infrastructures are most easily installed during the construction phase. However, even a larger opportunity is to bring smarter building systems to already existing buildings, which is where Wi-Fi comes back in to the picture. Companies are looking more and more into wireless technologies and putting infrastructure into cloud-services for storage and data management. Wireless technologies are also the key in making the existing built environment smarter without having to open up walls. For new buildings too, wireless can help keep first costs down. 

Biometric integration 

The industry should  expect more research and product development around the intersection of biometric data and enhanced smart building operations. Smart buildings can use sensors to detect, trigger and control our living space by adjusting lighting, thermal comfort, air conditioning, and air quality for example. Researchers are finding ways to increase productivity in office buildings and reduce stress in hospitals and other environments by mimicking circadian rhythms.  Smart homes will soon be intelligent enough to distinguish between family members and guests within its' physical space and adapt to individual needs, based on biometrics like fingerprints, body temperatures, circadian rhythms and even facial recognition. Smart homes can  already adjust lighting, room temperature, play music to your personalized preferences and have a cup of coffee ready for you when you wake up by using pre-configured profiles and apps but eventually all this will be automatic and app-free. 

Security 

As the explosion of IoT and interconnected devices continues to spread, smart home and building security becomes of much greater importance. If there's a chance your coffee machine, fridge and entire house knows your credit card number, you can be sure that someone will try to violate that information, it's also possible to flip your smart lock via a smart phone and sneak off with your valuables. This is why there's a growing number of cyber security companies that provide commercial-level systems protection (which include firewalls, monitoring, data analysis, etc.). Future home security will also integrate with systems inside and can automatically alarm about any suspicious activity. There is of course a concern over increasing governmental surveillance and the use of big data when our whole living ecosystem is recording data about our vital functions and habits.