Buildings have long been at the tail end of innovation – often the last place you’d look when you think of advanced technologies.

You may ask “why all the talk about smart buildings?”

Nine months ago, I would have told you that a key motivator to making your building “smart” was to save money.

Pure and simple.

Control over the environmental aspects of a building – lighting, HVAC, window shades, etc. – has shown time and again to save money. Reduction in energy usage alone can be over 40%.

Nine months ago, I would have mentioned the success of the Sinclair project, a restored masterpiece of Art Deco design with next generation brains and futuristic capabilities, all the while cutting energy costs by 2/3rd.

Or PineBridge Investments, using 90W UPOE+ to power and control the lighting and office space connectivity to reduce energy costs by 2/3rd and reducing construction cost by half.

Nine months ago, building owners and businesses were committing to investment in new building technology as part of a global focus on the environment and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Sometimes motivated by altruism, sometimes mandated by local or federal ordinance, building designers and owners have been looking hard at the value of smart building technologies.

But that was nine months ago, and timing is everything.

The challenges of the here and now – redesigning the office to maximize health

Today, the new center of focus is how to gradually return to the office while ensuring the health, safety, and wellbeing of employees. The same office that was designed as a highly efficient high capacity collaborative workspace must now be reimaged to prioritize indoor health and efficient operations during low occupancy. Adaptability and flexibility will be key with analytics and automation as fundamental enablers.

As I have mentioned in a previous blog on the power of the 4th Utility, Cisco has been working for years on the underlying technology that empowers the smart building concept. We have actively developed a comprehensive solution for smart buildings that starts with security, focuses on flexibility, and is managed with advanced AI and ML that enables visibility and automation.

But the reality is, Cisco cannot do it alone. While we provide the secure, resilient foundation, it takes a community of partners to make it work.

Smart building partners.

Many familiar names like Schneider Electric, IBM, Siemens, Honeywell, and Philips with other, perhaps less familiar names, like Somfy, Signify, Igor and Molex (and many, many others) have created an ecosystem that has a reached critical mass of sensors and connected controllable IoT building devices. With these healthy partnerships there are a plethora of options that fit nearly every building, big and small, new or old.

Cisco and IBM, for example, have teamed up to provide scalable workplace utilization and occupancy monitoring using Cisco DNA Spaces and IBM TRIRIGA integrated workplace management system (IWMS), including the tools needed to deploy location sensing using your existing Wi-Fi network infrastructures. This gives you faster, more accurate occupancy insights, to enable you to modify and streamline your connected spaces. See blog.

With a similar vision, Schneider Electric has developed their concept called EcoStruxure Building that helps capture and use data to create greater efficiency, productivity, and sustainability. The EcoStruxure open framework offers powerful integration and control with support for a variety of protocols and mobile experiences. They have a nice interactive tool that walks through many of the common use cases.

Adapt faster

A vast majority of employers have expressed a commitment to creating a flexible workspace for the building of the future and frankly, the employee of the future. While some workers may never return to an office as we know it, most see the value of the office as a place where people gather to collaborate and innovate. For many organizations, in-person collaboration has been considered a big part of their culture and employees were expected to be in the office. But if we have learned anything in the last nine months it is that there is a uniquely individual balance between where and how people can work most effectively. That may mean that some come into the office a couple days every month, or a couple of days a week. The point is that adaptability and flexibility will be key to business resiliency in this evolving time in human history. This is not just what we need from employees but also our workspaces. The tools are there to effectively return to a healthy, albeit, modified in-person collaborative workspace. Certainly, the desire is also there.

To learn more about Cisco Smart Building solutions , watch the on-demand Network Insiders Live Webinar with insights from Cisco, IBM and Schneider Electric.

The here and now on smart buildings

Tuesday, September 29, 2020
10:00 am Pacific Time
(San Francisco, GMT-08:00)

Watch on-demand session


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Jeff Meek

Product Marketing Manager

Enterprise Networking and Mobility