IoT to make buildings and cities ‘smarter’ – Part 1

Peter Feuilherade is a UK-based writer and regular
contributor to the IEC publication e-tech. This article
first appeared in e-tech, published by the International
Electrotechnical Commission, Geneva

The Internet of Things (IoT) is emerging as a main driver in the development of smart buildings.

As smart commercial buildings become incorporated into the wider energy control networks of smart cities and linked to other aspects such as transport, water and air quality, the increasing intelligence and automation of buildings will play a key role in the smart cities of the future, says Peter Feuilherad.

Growing urbanisation to drive smart cities’ expansion

During the next decade the number of smart cities around the world is forecast to rise substantially, driven by the growing trend of urbanisation as migration from rural areas accelerates. China and India alone are planning hundreds of smart city pilot projects. However, not all of these will materialise, and Europe and North America will probably still account for about half of the planet’s smart cities. Estimates by industry analysts predict that the global smart city market will be worth around USD 1,200 billion in 2019.

IEC to play central role in fast-growing market

The IEC Standardisation Management Board (SMB) set up a Systems Evaluation Group (SEG 1) on Smart Cities in 2013. Its work focuses on identifying the various electrotechnical systems used in these cities, with the aim of integrating and optimising them.

Electricity and electronics are indispensable for the operation of the myriad interconnected services in smart buildings and the development of future smart building technology. Standardisation is a fundamental principle here. The IEC creates and develops International Standards with an emphasis on safety and interoperability among the broad range of systems, equipment and applications used in the construction and maintenance of smart buildings.

Smart buildings and infrastructure combined are expected to account for more than 30% of the overall smart city market, according to Research and Markets, a Dublin-based business intelligence firm.

Many of the technological advances that promote efficiency and offer solutions to the challenges posed by increasing urbanisation, such as water shortages, power deficits, pollution and inadequate waste water and sewage treatment capacity, are also driving the growth of the smart commercial buildings market.

Escalators in smart buildings will be equipped with motion and other sensors (Copyright © KONE Corporation)
Escalators in smart buildings will be equipped with motion and other sensors (Copyright © KONE Corporation)

Saving energy

Energy efficiency and sustainability are major features of a smart building. Buildings on average consume about 30% of the world’s energy, and savings of up to a quarter of costs could be achieved by using advanced building management systems and analytics to optimise performance in areas such as ventilation, temperature, lighting and air quality.

Technological innovations in improving energy consumption, water usage and indoor air quality, as well as access to better data about how efficiently commercial buildings are run, can increase operational efficiency, limit costs and cut consumption of resources for owners and operators. However, the high cost of initial investment versus perceived value is still a concern affecting adoption rates.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are intended to detect automatically and respond intelligently to variables such as weather conditions, time of day and occupancy of the building, with the help of sensors and other data gathering equipment. For example, HVAC systems in smart buildings should be able to switch off lights automatically in areas where there are no occupants, or adjust the temperature according to weather conditions and the number of occupants in a room.

Other elements of a smart building include sensors for detecting motion, noise, moisture, temperature, humidity, fire and smoke, carbon dioxide and hazardous gas; integration with city wide water recycling systems and pneumatic waste disposal systems; remote surveillance, security and access control systems; and data infrastructure.

These complex and multiple interconnected systems need to communicate and coordinate with one another for buildings to work efficiently. Connectivity is ensured through the provision of a combination of wireless, fibre and mobile networks; Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) can extend wireless and mobile network coverage with additional antenna nodes.

Many IEC Technical Committees (TCs) and Subcommittees (SCs) coordinate on the development of International Standards for smart buildings. They include IEC TC 8: Systems aspects for electrical energy supply, which focuses on the overall system aspects of electricity supply systems, and IEC TC 57: Power systems management and associated information exchange, which deals with communications between the equipment and systems in the electrical power industry, a central element of smart buildings, cities and grid projects.

The IEC is a non-profit, non-governmental international standards organisation that prepares and publishes International Standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies.

The blog author is Peter Feuilherade, a former BBC World Service journalist, and a UK-based writer and a regular contributor to the International Electrotechnical Commission publication e-tech.

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