Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Casey Talon, research director at Guidehouse Insights.
The smart buildings market has greatly evolved over the last two decades.
The internet of things (IoT) introduced technology that made data, automation and control accessible and cost-effective for a much greater share of building stock than the legacy building automation technologies designed for large, complex facilities. Meanwhile analytics, or the software layer of the smart building solution, have become increasingly effective in translating data into business-relevant insight, resulting in more strategic and executive-focused offerings than other facilities management products.
Technology and service providers have discovered that defining clear use cases focused on business challenges and occupant-centric benefits can drive real momentum in the smart buildings market. Executives demand data-driven solutions to improve their business decision-making, and more than ever, they recognize their facilities have a direct impact on their brand — and their bottom line.
An effective smart building solution includes the devices to create, communicate and transmit data, and the analytics to translate that data into actionable insight. The rich dataset from a smart building solution can offer insight on the diverse metrics most relevant to an ever-expanding set of stakeholders and priorities that can vary based on business.
Efficiency has been the hallmark benefit for smart building technology offerings. Insight into equipment performance can lead to operational and energy efficiencies that save money, and the same technology that results in efficiency offers valuable business intelligence with the right set of analytics and applications.
Over the last several years, there's been a notable expansion of use cases for smart building investments. With a solid foundation based on improved energy management in place, vendors now tout the benefits of several occupant-centric insights, including space utilization, wayfinding/indoor positioning and comfort-enhancing customization — all striving to enhance productivity.
"Healthy [b]uildings represent, without exaggeration, one of the greatest health – and business – opportunities ever," Harvard researchers wrote in a recent report on building modernization.
COVID-19: The catapult for healthy, smart buildings
A "healthy building" is not a new concept, but the coronavirus outbreak and the realities of new space use and management requirements are compounding the value proposition for investments. Healthy buildings are now the catapult for rapid market adoption of IoT facilities management and real estate solutions as businesses execute strategies to support employees' return to work.
Healthy building solutions consist of a mix of indoor air quality, HVAC and lighting equipment innovations alongside analytics and services. When these elements are well designed and implemented, they help optimize airflow, monitor and direct space use, and report system performance against metrics that determine compliance with social distancing and public health goals.
A recent Guidehouse survey gathered insight from more than 100 executives on the realities of the pandemic's disruption to business and challenges they face when planning a safe and successful return to work. One of the biggest takeaways from the results is that flexible work is the future of the workplace. Healthy building solutions can be critical investments to ensure return-to-work strategies are executed safely and occupant priorities are met.
The healthy building opportunity is recognized across networks of building solution providers, as seen in the following examples of vendors vying for customer dollars:
- HVAC solutions company Carrier announced a Healthy Buildings Program in the first week of June to bundle equipment, software, and services that are specifically positioned as solutions for the current challenges of reopening public spaces amid coronavirus.
- Building tech company Honeywell launched a Healthy Buildings solution at the end of May in an effort to reach supporting executives as they navigate the logistical mandates for indoor air quality, space use and flow, and health monitoring.
- Igor is offering a combination IoT and UV-C disinfection solution to support the new requirements for workplace cleanliness.
These examples underscore the realization that customers need tech innovations and solutions to their paramount business challenges rather than pitches for products based on tech advancements.
When it comes to smart buildings, it is not all about the technologies but the ways those tech offerings can be applied to meet the significant challenges of returning to work in a new environment. Building owners and executives can benefit from investments in smart building solutions that meet the immediate need for healthy, safe workspaces and the long-term vision of more sustainable, occupant-centric facilities.
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