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. 

IoT - The Internet of Things

IoT - The Internet of Things

 

In this article we discuss the prospects and application of IoT and what it means for businesses and startups.

 

“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us -- we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. We need to empower computers with their own means of gathering information, so they can see, hear and smell the world for themselves, in all its random glory. RFID and sensor technology enable computers to observe, identify and understand the world—without the limitations of human-entered data.” – Kevin Ashton (A Pioneer of IoT)

 

What is IoT?

IoT, the internet of things is the “internetworking” of physical devices, smart devices, buildings and items that are embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity that allow these devices to exchange and gather data. It can also be defined as the infrastructure of the information society.

This infrastructure allows the remote use of objects across the existing network and creates more opportunities for the integration of the physical objects into the computer and software based systems. Integration like this results in higher efficiency, accuracy and economic profits. Through the use of sensors and actuators, this technology becomes a part of a more general class of cyber-physical systems, which includes technologies like smart grids, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities. Each object in the IoT is uniquely identifiable through its’ embedded computing system.

The challenge of understanding the internet of things is that it’s continuously evolving and that it keeps expanding from its’ original focus into more and more machine-to-machine (M2M) applications that communicate without any human intervention. The use of drones, robots, automotive computers and wearables is growing rapidly and it has been projected that IoT will be an over 6 trillion US dollar industry by 2025.

Almost all economic forecasts agree that IoT is going to be huge and will substantially change the human life. IoT has the potential of making business more efficient in every field. For example, farmers are able to monitor crops with the help of sensor networks to ensure a better crop and factory owners are monitoring operations to spot maintenance issues without requiring shutdowns which can be costly.

What IoT means for your business 

IoT impacts all business sectors. Mobile and the internet of things change the types of devices that connect into your company’s systems and IP network. These devices produce new types of data that will help your business to gain efficiencies, gather intelligence from a wide range of gear, improve your operations and improve customer satisfaction. The internet of things also has the potential to improve public safety, transportation and healthcare through more efficient information flow and faster communication. While there are many ways that IoT can impact the society and businesses, these are the three major benefits of IOT: communication, control and cost savings.

Different applications of IoT

The media industry has taken major steps since the day when it entailed merely newspapers, magazines and television shows. It’s now tapping into the consumers’ lives with technologies that reach targeted groups at optimal times and locations. These technologies aim to serve, convey and gather content that is tailored for that individual. Data-mining is especially used by marketers for advertising purposes. IoT creates an opportunity to measure, collect and analyze the whole variety of behavioral statistics.

From a media perspective, big data is the key derivative of device interconnectivity, whilst being pivotal in allowing clearer accuracy in consumer targeting. IoT has transformed the media industry along others, by opening up a new era of economic growth and competitiveness.

Iot has also changed constructing of new infrastructure and the ways it’s being monitored. Many of the newer buildings and larger infrastructures have built in sensors that are hooked to simulation engines to spot flaws and inefficiencies. Monitoring and controlling of urban and rural infrastructures, such as bridges, railway tracks, energy production facilities are also a key application of the IoT. The IoT infrastructure is used for monitoring events or changes in structural conditions to prevent any safety risks, and monitoring and scheduling maintenance and repair activities.

Of course nowadays IoT is big part of architecture and interior design as well. Smart offices and even newer houses use automation hubs, smart ecosystems and hack together their own networks by using open source boards. These smart systems payoff in energy savings and are more efficient in monitoring and automating different functions (i.e. security in offices and houses, timed sprinklers and alarms).

Electric utilities have been the earliest IoT adapters, and have been using sensors to monitor equipment and electricity use to help customers cut down their energy bills. IoT intelligent systems in manufacturing, in general, enable faster production and response to product demands, and real-time optimization of production and supply chain networks. Digital control systems automate process controls, operator tools and service information systems to optimize safety and security issues as well as asset management.

IoT is rapidly bringing new innovations to health care and medical practices. Iot devices can be used to enable remote health monitoring and emergency notification systems. These practices can range from blood pressure and heart rate monitoring to the use of more advanced devices used for example to analyze specialized implants. IoT can also be implemented in the living spaces for elderly people to monitor the general health and well-being of the senior citizens. This is to ensure proper treatment is administered and to assist people in regaining lost mobility through therapy.

Currently a growing portion of IoT devices are created for consumer use. Examples of consumer applications include connected car entertainment, residences and smart homes, wearable technology, quantified self (gathered data on a person’s everyday life i.e. food consumed, steps taken), connected health, and smart retail. Consumer IoT provides new opportunities to improve user experience and interfaces.

Security and Privacy Challenges

In the digitalizing world, surveillance and privacy issues often raise a lot of concerns. Surveillance extends form video and other visual sensors to other forms of automation monitoring and corrupts the privacy of individuals. There are also legitimate fears about the security vulnerabilities of all the IoT devices and gear. The most commercial automation systems often offer a cloud component, which is useful for many external communications, updates, data storage and self-learning analytics. These cloud connections also expand the potential for corporate information harvesting or in the worst case scenario, the misuse and possessing of someone else’s personal information or attacks to security systems.

Solving security and privacy issues are certainly not the only challenges facing the Internet of Things. The complexity and inter-operability can be very confusing, to a normal consumer at least. Organizations often try to bridge these gaps between commercial and open source ecosystems, but it still leaves a question about the standards of IoT. In addition there are technical challenges in IoT. Although all of the key technologies have passed the thresholds required and the equipment isgetting smaller, cheaper and more power efficient, the challenge is in setting it up in the older infrastructures.

Startups and IoT

A number of startups are tech or software companies that realize the significance of IoT and hence, base their product or technology into the internet-webbing of physical objects, data, software and sensoring. Ever since the start of IoT there has been a steady growth in applying technology and the markets have grown steadily in home gadgets, infotainment, navigation, safety & diagnostics, fitness monitoring, cameras, smart watches, health care tools and industrial internet.

IoT does seem like a very natural direction for the startup scene to follow due to its’ strong culture of innovating and thinking outside the box. There’s no question about IoT’s endless opportunities for a creative mind but it’s also a very popular market for investments. Funding for IoT companies is very easy to find, even for startups that are in the earlier stages or have a niche customer base. Especially bigger players such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM and Cisco are constantly looking for potential IoT companies to acquire. Because of this high demand for new IoT companies a startup’s average lifetime in the IoT sector, is reducing. Even though the IoT is in the boom right now, there’s still ways to stand out. The business model side of things hasn’t changed much during the past decade or so, so coming up with an innovative way to go about your business could be the thing to set you a part form the others.