Many of the industry buzzwords that were talked about this past year will be the driver for changes in smart building throughout 2019. Data and the Internet of Things (IoT); wireless connectivity and mobile edge computing (MEC); and cabling and standards will be the biggest drivers. These will lead to convergence and the need for preparation as smart buildings become the foundation for smart campuses and smart cities.
This year is set to be one of preparation and convergence as building owners and managers lay the groundwork for future developments to address these trends.
Data is key to transformation
Last year, we discussed the importance of integration in transforming an intelligent building into a smart building. The advent of the IoT, however, means it’s no longer just about the integration of networks and connectivity, but also the technology that compliments them. IoT sensors, for example, can ascertain huge volumes and varieties of data that we don’t currently have access to, but that we will soon need to.
After all, to move from being an intelligent building to a smart building will require leveraging all the data available from these new systems, many of which are yet to be deployed, and all the data from a building’s legacy systems, then using it to make decisions that will optimize that building’s health and maintenance.
We can make some assumptions as to how this will play out, but it’s impossible to know for sure exactly what lies ahead. The best advice we could give business owners is to put in place the systems and infrastructure that will elicit the data, and that are flexible enough to allow them to make use of it as further systems come online in the future. Rather than attempting to second guess which analytics solution will be adopted by the market, the best strategy will be to enable a building to generate as much data as possible, thereby setting up the flexibility today for the analytics platform of tomorrow.
As the IoT continues to evolve and generate data, we’ll see manufacturers and vendors delivering a proliferation of diverse types of devices for everything from basic connectivity to data gathering, and a convergence of technologies. The ultra-low latency requirements of some of these devices, and the wireless and wired networks that will enable them, will see the growing adoption of MEC, in which compute and storage capability is moved closer to the network edge. And, while many IoT devices such as sensors may not require much in the way of bandwidth, all of them will require connectivity to the network. We’ll therefore see the continued growth of wireless connectivity within buildings, both from WiFi networks and from cellular networks, especially now that 5G is imminent. Supporting the move from 1 Gbps to 7-8 Gbps of throughput per user, which is one of the use cases of 5G, dictates that commercial building owners upgrade their existing Cat5 Ethernet infrastructure to Cat6A. 5G signals will likely use higher frequencies that don’t penetrate buildings well, so building owners will need Cat6A infrastructure for in-building wireless systems to support 5G.
Advances in cabling technology and standards
As you can see, wireless trends can dictate the needs of cabling for buildings. Power is another item that is dictating changes in the building. For example, September 2018 saw the definition of the latest four-pair Power over Ethernet (PoE) standard, IEEE 802.3bt, which introduced two additional power types – Type 3, of up to 55W, and Type 4, of between 90 and 100 Watts. As a result, we can expect to see a proliferation in the number of devices more concerned with the delivery of power over structured cabling rather than bandwidth.
Global standards such as these will become ever more important in an increasingly global market; after all, different regions have different requirements. With a standards-based approach to technology and its implementation, however, and with bodies such as IEEE maintaining a global presence and cultural awareness, it will be possible for business to compete on a relatively level playing field while remaining sufficiently flexible to accommodate regional differences.
Bring on convergence
Many operators have already started down the road to convergence of wireless and wireline and this will continue through 2019 and beyond. As wireless networks become more prevalent, for example, they will need to come together with their wired counterparts, components of which tend to be involved in backhaul. Developments in PoE technology, as mentioned above, will see a convergence between the delivery of power and bandwidth, and there will also be a convergence of building automation solutions, such as automated intelligent management (AIM), on to the wired network. While such solutions are typically connected by proprietary links, we can expect to see a move to Ethernet based connectivity, whether wired or wireless.
It all starts with preparation
Although much of these trends were talked about last year, we see 2019 as a year of preparation before many of these hit full force. Whether it’s laying the groundwork for wireless and wired infrastructure, for data analytics, or for cabling within a building, decisions are being made today for buildings that are going to be around for another 20 years. Ongoing developments such as the IoT, 5G, MEC, and new standards in PoE mean that technology is changing fast, and it isn’t always possible to predict what the future will hold. It’s important, therefore, that this groundwork will provide the greatest flexibility for the technologies and applications that lie ahead.
Smart building, smart campus, smart city
We see the preparation for this transformation starting in buildings and growing to smart campuses and even into smart cities. There is a level of integration that exists between smart buildings, smart campuses and smart cities. The evolution from intelligent buildings to smart building is spreading to smart campuses as multiple buildings or a mixed-use commercial center and represents the ultimate example of integration in action. For example, a smart building will act on the information provided by the systems within it, while a smart campus will act on the information provided by each of the buildings within it. By using wireless networks or fiber optics to integrate the buildings that comprise it, decisions can be made for the wider community, on areas such as water and electricity usage. Building these networks out, and integrating them at each stage, will generate more data, allowing ever more wide-reaching decisions to be made. This same process for building and campuses then figures into smart cities where all the data and information gathered is used to provide smart services and security for citizens in a smart city.
For building owners and managers, this will be an exciting year as they prepare for the impact of data and IoT, as well as wireless and wireline trends. This will push for convergence of infrastructure and technology that will be adopted by smart buildings, smart campuses and smart cities.