The Key Buildings Blocks of a Smart Building Architecture
An Interview with Wayne Kim (CEO) and Shaul Swartz (COO & EVP) at Andorix
With the promise to enhance building operations, reduce costs and improve tenant heath and wellness, commercial real-estate companies are increasingly eager to invest in smart building transformation. In fact, the smart building market is projected to grow to US$105.8 billion by 2024, a drastic increase from the US$60.7 billion in 2019. However, being in the early stages of adoption, most commercial buildings lack the digital foundation for this transformation. This week on the blog, we interview Andorix, an expert in smart building readiness and infrastructure solutions, to share key considerations when deploying a smart building architecture.
What are the fundamental building blocks of a smart building architecture?
Wayne: Over the last five years, Andorix has been investigating building transformation in the real estate industry. In this time, we have seen CRE owner/operators shift their focus to big data, data analytics and a data lake that can be derived from in-building information in hopes of improving operational efficiencies and reducing operating costs. However, what’s missing is the ability to access and collect this data which is a fundamental component of a smart building architecture. As a result, we identified three building blocks to build a technology-agnostic, future-proof in-building network infrastructure platform that would allow us to reliably collect data today and in the future.
The technology stack of the Andorix network infrastructure platform incorporates:
- A fiber-centric backbone network that delivers high-throughput data transfer needed to support traditional building automation systems. Here, we deploy a fiber-based Passive Optical Network (PON), as this inherently comes with a much lower TCO and a longer refresh cycle compared to current active network integrations.
- A distributed antenna system integrating current cellular, future 5G and traditional Wi-Fi networks to enable high-speed wireless communications in large, multi-story commercial buildings.
- To support IoT-driven building transformation that enables the creation of workspaces, Andorix is deploying a Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) to connect this newer breed of sensors and devices.
With these multiple technologies supporting a unified infrastructure, we enable the collection of data from various sources across buildings and campuses which can then be streamed into any analytics platforms to enhance building operations.
Why is LPWAN the right solution for the IoT layer in a smart building architecture?
Shaul: Low-power wide area networks (LPWAN), or more specifically MYTHINGS, allows us to bring IoT into the building at a much larger scale than any other LPWAN technology. The challenge with traditional building systems – be it BAS, access control, lighting, or fire alarm – is that they are all physically wired up. So, if you’re going to put in 1000 smart leak detectors that are not originally part of the building control systems, you need to wire them all into the building. This is very expensive and impractical. The other option is that you might deploy other wireless technologies, however these typically require multiple access points and/or base stations, cannot transfer the data payload due to over air message size limitations, and in some scenarios, requires permission to be deployed within tenant spaces.
MYTHINGS provides an extensive and reliable network coverage, unlike any traditional technologies. With only a single base station and antenna installation we are able to cover an entire building and add IoT functionality at scale and a very low cost. A single implementation can enable the connection of thousands of smart sensors per premise to bring about the digital enablement capability and realize our customers smart building vision.
How does an LPWAN-enabled IoT network interplay with traditional building systems in a smart building architecture?
Wayne: If we look at a smart building architecture, an IoT network of smart devices constitutes what we call a “digital enablement system.” Typically, IoT sensor data is aggregated using LPWAN and fed into a central smart building platform that comes with built-in AI and machine learning algorithms. This platform then uses the digital data as feedback to generate actionable events and regulate existing building systems. Ultimately, we have a closed-loop system to manage all building functions from a single pane of glass and enable innovative end-user applications.
Shaul: As an example, I’d like to tell a story about the future vision we aim to create with this smart building architecture. So, imagine Amanda is the CEO of company X who is coming to the office on a Saturday to finish an urgent project. As she logs a “coming in” message into the mobile app of her office building, her workspace is automatically set up according to her environment preferences in terms of lighting, temperature, or air quality. When she gets into the building, the elevator has been waiting for her and lighting enabled on the path she needs to take to her office room.
This end game vision is what we want to achieve with a converged building network that aggregates and merges IoT sensor data with legacy building systems to enable new levels of command and control.
What are the top challenges you see companies face when deploying smart buildings?
Wayne: Besides the capital investment in developing and rolling out the network infrastructure we have mentioned, the biggest challenge companies will face is the integration of legacy building automation systems into the smart building platform. These systems have been implemented with minimal interconnection in mind and thus operate as individual silos that don’t interact with each other. The integration cost of these systems in large-scale commercial buildings will likely mount up to hundreds of thousands of dollars if not done properly.
For CRE companies or property owners looking to deploy smart buildings, what advice do you have to help them get started?
Shaul: Anyone starting down the path of smart building deployment must begin with a very clear vision of what they want to achieve. Only then can they identify the building blocks that must be pieced together to get to this vision.
Wayne: And especially for CRE companies whose product is the building space, this vision should be based on how they want to position themselves in the market and differentiate their offering from the competition. This lays the foundation for the smart building strategy to determine the benefits they want to reap from the deployment and the outcome they are aiming towards. Equally important, CRE companies should have one or two key technology partners who fully understand their vision and are able to help them to attain this goal.
How do you think the smart building market will evolve in 2020 and beyond? What are the top trends to watch?
Shaul: Smart building is a significant growth market right now, and we foresee a drastic uptake in the upcoming years, as more CRE companies look to optimize the environment where their tenants are living and working. Having said that, we are currently in the first stage of adoption, and most commercial buildings lack the digital foundation for this transformation. Building owners now realize the need to focus on digital engineering to bring together the key enabling technologies that allow them to harness smart building values.
Wayne: To add to that, I believe the smart building market will also become increasingly tenant centric. Traditional workplaces will transform into responsive, constantly evolving smart spaces that are defined by the company’s characteristics and its culture. It has been projected that billions of connected devices will be deployed in the next few years to measure every aspect of the tenant’s space. And, this massive sensor data will be leveraged to deliver personalized environments that cater to the individual needs of tenants and building employees.
To catch up with this trend, CRE companies must work on a viable converged infrastructure that can interconnect all building systems and IoT data to proactively respond to tenants’ requirements and future requests.