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Smart Buildings for the Smart City

By Ken Sinclair

The autonomous smart building is the secret sauce for building a smart city. Autonomous smart buildings are the strategic chess pieces that form the foundation of our truly smart cities. We need to look at the complete city chessboard and its moving pieces and explore how our buildings fit into the smart city. We need to understand the cities’ climate emergency plan, city data plans, shared cybersecurity infrastructure, etc. We need to understand our next move while adding our buildings to the list of things amassing mobility data and determining how our rapidly evolving smart building data best fit into this movement.

Municipalities across the country have joined together to create a new global non-profit organization called the Open Mobility Foundation to support the development of open-source software that provides scalable mobility solutions for cities.

The following is a reading list of online articles peppered with HTML links containing an amazing and diverse amount of information to help you understand today's smart city building chessboard and its pieces and players.

Defining Smart Buildings

Smart Buildings: “Can they be described by three characteristics and six types of components?

"A smart building is a building that, with minimal human control, optimizes defined qualities.

“There are three key characteristics here: ‘Minimal human control,’ ‘optimizes,’ and ‘qualities.’ Let’s have a quick look at each of them.

“Minimal human control: The essence here is autonomy, and there are two reasons for this:

“1. For a building to be smart, we expect it to manage itself, at least to a high degree.

“2. With a high level of complexity (due to extensive use of digital solutions) it will be practically impossible for a human operator to manage the building’s various systems manually. 

“Optimization: This is why smart buildings are interesting in the first place: They are expected to do things better than traditional buildings! In practice, optimization involves the use of advanced digital systems.

“Qualities: Two examples of building-related qualities that receive a lot of attention are the effectiveness of energy management and space utilization. There are, however, many other qualities that can be optimized, such as working efficiency, employee well-being, environmental impact, waste management, etc.

“Contrary to some of the other definitions of ‘smart building,’ the definition above has no reference to technology and does not single out specific qualities. An important reason for using this definition is that it encourages us to focus on real needs and benefits, i.e. what we want to achieve with the building. Definitions that include references to a specific technology (e.g. IoT, wireless networks, etc.), or specific qualities (e.g. energy) have a tendency to draw our attention to the technological implementation (shiny objects…) too early in the process.”

Building as a platform: the business case for smart real estate. As smart infrastructure rises up the corporate agenda, Elisa Rönkä of Siemens looks at how the physical workplace can contribute to business growth as a dynamic platform The physical workplace is traditionally seen by CRE (Corporate Real Estate) teams as a cost-absorbing necessity, but the emergence of smart infrastructure is changing how we perceive buildings. Instead of static structures, smart technologies have turned buildings into dynamic platforms which foster innovation and better user experience.”

A Simple Way to Make Buildings Smart is a Simple Way to Attract Smart Investors. “Energy consumption remains a major issue for the building space and for the world via climate change, but efficiency has never been the sexiest group of building technologies. It is through startups like Nest, Comfy, and 75F, that energy efficiency is moving into an exciting new user- and installation-friendly approach to conserving energy combined with occupant-focused services. Representing a more juicy-looking low hanging energy saving fruit that the majority of buildings can actually reach.”

Smart secrets: stitching together the ecosystems of the future. “What does ‘smart’ really mean? And how can we learn from the industry’s past mistakes? WORKTECH’s Smart Buildings 2019 conference pulled together key players to share their secrets.

“The smart movement has snowballed in the past decade, but all the hype around the subject has failed to develop a clear definition of what smart really means.”

 • In this V Cast I discuss the September Automated Buildings theme: “Building Backbones and Wireless Skin.”  

“Our internet communication connections with everything are under metamorphic change. They are morphing before our eyes to glass and thin air, ‘fiber’ and ‘wireless’ from the traditional miles of copper wire.” I also preview the 12 learning sessions scheduled for the 2020 AHR EXPO.

How Are Cities Changing? 

Building for a Climate Emergency. “It has become clear that our countries' governments do not want to deal with the unpopular reality of a climate emergency. Decarbonization, electrification, and resilience are quickly becoming a common part of our lexicon as cities across North America and around the world start to take aggressive and urgent action to curb emissions from buildings. There has been a slew of recent legislation from municipal governments targeting commercial buildings, both new and existing, with aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets. Here in Vancouver, it all started with the declaration of a ‘climate emergency’ by our city council, joining over 400 other cities around the world.”

• This article provides insight Virtual Power Plants Make it Easier to Introduce Renewables but Need Better Policy

“Greater energy consumption accelerates climate change but climate change also accelerates energy consumption … in a potentially catastrophic spiral. This excludes energy generated from renewable sources, of course, which should already be the top energy priority. Renewable energy may come from many different sources but two of the most popular, solar and wind, are intermittent, only generating power when the sun is shining or the wind blowing. This would limit the potential of these renewables but for energy storage, which has developed to make a clean energy world technologically viable.”

• Our contributing editor Toby Considine provide this quote in his discussion about Self-Optimizing IOT from the Edge -  "I’m working on a new IoT open source energy project for Transactive Resource Management (TRM). TRM uses micro-markets to balance supply and demand over time of resources, where a resource is defined as a commodity whose value is determined by the time of delivery. The best-known application of TRM is transactive energy. There is some solid Transactive Waterwork going on that uses the same model. The work is being done for NIST under the umbrella of The Energy Mashup Lab. The Lab is a non-profit dedicated to promulgating open source software for smart grids."

• “TC9 will develop open source software (OSS) for agents for a transactive energy market. The software will be used to model the use of transactive energy to manage power distribution within a neighborhood. Transactive energy is a means to balance volatile supply and consumption in real time. Experts anticipate the use of transactive energy to support wide deployment of distributed energy resources across the power grid.”

What is a smart city? “Smart city is an ICT-enabled digital environment where all the major services and establishments are digitalized and connected. They work/operate together to create a safe, secure, clean & efficient planet for the residents and guests of that city.

 “With the exponential growth in IoT devices and IoT platforms, long-range transmission protocols/mediums; more and more devices, equipment, services are getting connected and communicating each other thereby making the smart city concept a reality.

“The network infrastructure is one of the major requirement for having high-speed & huge volume of data transmission and there by accomplishing the smart city solution. The upcoming 5G cellular network and high speed fiber optics based connectivity will help the smart city solutions to get mature and more feature rich in the coming days.

“Also, the various data and application platforms which can handle this large amount of data from different sources and in different formats. These platforms are capable of standardizing these data and run analytics to derive near real-time actionable insights.”

Location intelligence – shaping the future of mobility. “This ebook explores the fundamental needs of new mobility providers as they target business improvements, looks at their considerations as they forge key technology partnerships, and shows how HERE’s auto mobility operations solution can help mobility services meet those requirements.”

Automated buildings and autonomous vehicles are on a collision course as cities get smart or digitized. In a note to me, Sudha Jamthe CEO IoTDisruptions wrote: “You always get me thinking from our chats/writing. So here I go again! This is my first draft thinking about the idea of how automated buildings and autonomous vehicles are on a collision course as cities get smart or digitized. My POV here is that AIX or Designing the AI is going to be crucial to earn the trust of people with data transparency as their identity extends from fixed spaces to mobility vehicle experiences."

In his article, Jamthe writes: “The next step to this automation is intelligence in the buildings, in the mobility infrastructure with a digital identity that can move with people. Mobility data of people's transactional mobility needs of going between home and work or preferred coffee shop drop-offs by a ride-share company or their preference when to hail a taxi vs pickup an e-mobility bike becomes the fuel that powers this intelligence.

“Now, I want you to stop and think about why should this intelligence be different in buildings, separate from the mobility vehicle when the user blurs the line between them and is focused on working or living their lives.

“Now add to that the complexity that each person has their own preference of time, location and preferred mobility and workspace channels that they want to be personalized to them. For example, someone is a morning person and works till their kid comes home at 3 pm when they go pick them up while someone else preferred to work during the whole day and enjoy the evening with family or friends.

“The mobility data that powers this lifestyle essentially extends the boundary of cities for people and is the key driver that brings the collision of buildings and vehicles as conjoint spaces serving the needs of the people.”

Play the video and imagine how to bring those building in the background to the foreground. “This will help you understand how auto mobility operations helps: Manage and efficiently operate fleet assets with location services, providing fresh, high-quality and global location-based data. Create a frictionless and compelling UX – with APIs, mapping components and SW edge capabilities that can be customized and integrated in mobility applications.”

 • Adding AI intelligence to smart. “It is a misconception that converging your building on IP makes it truly intelligent. Intelligence means being able to ‘think’ in real-time, especially into the future to anticipate what happens next. By using artificial intelligence (AI) in real-time, this is possible. Since ATC has the data sets disseminated and defined in the building with IP-convergence, we can now use AI to predict building operation, making it a truly intelligent building. The term we use is predictive building management, whereby ATC has partnered with Danateq, a truly innovative AI company, to link the ASCEND platform with Alex, their AI-platform. The data sets are exchanged dynamically, in real-time, to predict future occurrences and immediately take action to minimize or prevent in advance.”

A recipe to create smarter buildings? “Did I just come up with the recipe to create Smart Buildings?  Creating smart buildings from existing buildings and letting others innovate with them in a secure, standardized and easy way. Isn't that what it's all about?

“Step one. Scan the asset, (building, ship, car, etc.) in order to create the shell of the 3D copy to hang up the objects in a contextual database to understand relations. Markup where the sensors go in the digital twin, install them in the asset.  Turn the sensors on, and you'll have neurons which can deliver information through neural pathways, straight into the digital twin database. The brain can exist both in the building and outside (edge and cloud).

“Step two is all about connecting existing equipment, with a bolt-on, autodeployable connector library, just sticking them in the ground like planting seeds, and that will populate the digital twin even more with data from existing equipment in millions of messages per second. Schema, tagging, can be added on the fly. This is part of the IoT/IoB first strategy because existing data is hard to get out from existing equipment for various reasons. Not necessarily technical.  This approach ensures smart city inclusiveness and the definition of sustainable buildings.”

What do you think?  The building whisperer.

• The Digital Twin: A First Step in Attracting & Retaining Commercial Tenants. “A digital twin is a digital representation of both the elements and the dynamics of how an IoT device operates and its interconnections in a physical space. By definition, a digital twin has to apply analytics at every step and can use these advanced analytics to dynamically recalibrate to its environment. It feeds on data and improves itself, the more data it processes, putting all IoT data to use in applications like buildings.”

Smart buildings will move beyond their walls to connect with smart cities. “For smart cities to gain traction, we need to focus the agenda for smart cities toward smaller use-case studies for improving areas like public safety and sustainability. That needs to start with connecting the information inside the built environment to a smart-city context. Recently, significant advances have been made to connect these built environments with the cities that surround them, particularly with sensors that connect buildings to existing infrastructure.

“The sharing of information between these smart buildings and smart cities needs to happen through a common infrastructure, as well as common data standards and access models, prioritizing interests of citizens and businesses to improve city life and safety. In the near future, smart building technology will be integrated with smart-city services to save lives by automatically updating first-responders on security lockdowns, building fires and medical emergencies. However, for smart cities to succeed, deployments should focus on the technology’s intent, and not on the technological capabilities, to improve outcomes.

Change never ends. While most of us are pondering on the promise of 5G, the services it is to enable and how to address societal concerns over 5G, a Finnish university has set out the drivers for 6G. Fascinating read.  University of Oulu says that 5G research is maturing so we must start to engage in mapping what 6G can become "at its boldest."

• “The City of Peachtree Corners, GA celebrated the opening of the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, a 5G-enabled autonomous mobility and smart city living lab designed to test the next generation of internet of things (IoT) technologies and solutions.  Set in a 500-acre commercial office park, the site includes a 1.5-mile autonomous vehicle (AV) test track that features curves, a 13 percent elevation change, and shade from tall trees. The park is home to approximately 1,000 people and 7,500 business employees, allowing the technologies to consistently interact with the public.”

Does this blizzard of information make your head hurt? It was intended to provide you with a quick overview summary with some insight into smart-city buildings while identifying some of the players on the board.

Let me point at the tradition auto industries' failure which spent millions on their own navigation systems, that no one can understand, or will use, that are obsolete before the new cars hit the showroom floor. All of their floundering has been now solved at no or low cost to them with "navigation complete with voice interaction and powerful IoT connections" provided to them for free by simply allowing the user to use their own phone by allowing Bluetooth beaming of their phones on car's dashboard screen and audio. Their phone is detected and shared with all car features, like dashboard screens, audio speakers/mics, and hand free controls.

I feel there is a strong lesson in all this for our smart-city buildings and smart automated buildings. We need to understand all the pieces on the chessboard and their power to make what we are doing obsolete, irrelevant. Yes, you are correct this is a new game, where much of what we are creating has already been created. We just need to understand where and why and make part of what we do and part of what our users want.

A good summary: The End of Inattention Blindness. "The textbook definition of inattentional blindness is ‘the failure to notice a fully-visible, but unexpected object because attention was engaged on another task, event, or object.’ It is also the definition of human cognition and experiential modes of relating to the everyday world. The video, ‘A movie perception test – conversation,’ illustrates how movie perception works. Whoever you ask, no one is able to perceive the most obvious switches and changes. They are obvious to all, in retrospect. Not taking in everything, not being aware of every separate movement in our proximity, is vital to our mental well-being and survival. As our perception itself is not continuous, neither is our attention.”

Ken Sinclair is the founder, owner, and publisher of an online resource called AutomatedBuildings.com. He writes a monthly column for FacilitiesNet.com about what is new in the Internet of Things (IOT) for building automation.




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posted on 10/9/2019