Welcome to the $154bn Smart Building Automation revolution
The past five years have seen the increasing digitalisation of our urban environments, and this trend is showing no sign of slowing down as both the public and private sectors work to deal with the exponential increase of people who live in cities. By 2045, it’s expected that around 6bn people will live in cities. It’s no wonder then that the world’s leading technology firms have focused on operating ahead of the smart city adoption curve.
Projects range from sustainable transportation initiatives to free wifi, with major tech firms embarking on ambitious (and sometimes controversial) smart developments in major cities. But the scale of these projects can present a significant obstacle to completion, as logistics, funding and regulatory approval become more complex the larger the scale of the undertaking.
This isn’t to say that the digital transformation of the modern city is a doomed affair; the process may end up being more bottom up than top down.
A new report by Research and Markets has predicted that, by 2026, the global Smart Building Automation Systems Market will surpass $154bn per year, an 11.5% CAGR compared with 2017. Reportedly fueling this growth are several key factors, including the growing need for integrated security and safety systems and decreasing operational costs.
Megatrends like the advent of 5G adoption - and its subsequent inviggoration of the IoT industry’s capabilities - are boosting the adoption of intelligent and integrated systems of smart monitors, security systems and energy efficiency controls. Wojciech Szczepucha, a Cloud Solutions Architect at PGS Software, notes that “smart building solutions work on the same concept as their city counterparts – record data for various processes through IoT and other sensors, than use advanced computing capabilities to refine, learn and improve.”
The key areas of focus that Szczepucha highlights include energy efficiency, premises navigation and access and increased visibility into premises operations - all largely driven by IoT technology. With regard to this last point, he notes that “many assume that it only focuses on new constructions, built from the ground up with some form of smart building design architecture. While new builds can certainly take greater benefit – including smart power, energy or utilities into account from the start – that doesn’t mean existing buildings can’t benefit, too. After all, the key ingredient here are smart building sensors and IoT devices, all of which can be added anywhere.”
While major technology players like Siemens, Schneider Electric and Johnson Controls currently hold commanding presences in the space, there are a number of startups across the globe working to bring the power of the IoT to smart buildings and revolutionise the cities of the future from the ground up. Here is Gigabit magazine’s breakdown of some of the startups tackling the key areas of Smart Building Automation.
Energy efficiency - Greenbeat
Based in Oslo, Norway, the sustainability tech startup is working to use green roofing and urban agriculture solutions to increase energy efficiency and reduce its customers’ carbon footprints in urban environments. Greenbeat uses an AI-powered network of IoT sensors in order to monitor and improve plant health.
According to the company, “the roof act as a sponge. It absorbs, retains and evaporates rainwater and delays runoff. Severe weather conditions, such as the droughts and heat waves observed in spring and summer 2018, make it difficult for green roofs to survive. With IoT and real-time monitoring of critical parameters, we develop predictive and automated maintenance solutions reducing plant mortality and costs.”
Navigation and access - Doordeck
Rather than have its customers install proprietary access controls or go through costly system overhauls, UK-based smart building startup Doordeck’s selling point is the ability for its smartphone credential security system to bolt onto any existing access control system.
“Say goodbye to access cards and keyfobs. Say hello to the card you're already carrying; your smartphone. It's better for users and better for building managers. Doordeck works alongside nearly all existing locks with minimal hardware, and opens up a whole new way to control your space,” says the company site.
The startup’s SaaS access control solution starts at around $24 per month, with unlimited users and is currently being employed by tech giant Cisco and University College London.
Increased Visibility - Scanalytics Inc
Aimed at convention centre operators and retail companies in general, Scanalytics Inc was founded in 2013 and is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The company prides itself on turning “physical spaces into intelligent environment through predictive consumer behaviour analytics.”
In short, the company builds electric floor tiles which act as sensors to record and analyse foot traffic, in order to help its customers optimise workforce scheduling, space utilisation, marketing and advertising campaigns.
“Scanalytics is leading the transition of the physical world to the internet. Our company is doing that through providing categorically superior sensors that monitor how people move in physical spaces,” says Joe Scanlin, Scanalytics CEO & Co-Founder.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”