Our buildings are more than just a roof over our heads, a home, or a workplace. The greater parts of our lives play out within their walls. They can support us as we go about our everyday tasks so that we save time and money. We only must lend them our eyes and ears and give them the opportunity to communicate with us.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing exponentially. Studies speak of 20 billion devices being connected to the Internet by 2020 and 30 trillion “things” by 2030. Most of these “things” will be sensors. These devices record the data that is so important for processing information and are thus the sensory organs of the IoT. They are mounted, for example, on windows, doors, walls, landscaped areas and plants.
These solutions are interesting primarily for applications that require many sensors. For example, in building automation and to collect data in traffic and usable areas. The EnOcean wireless standard is perfectly suited for these kinds of applications.
Classic building automation: lighting, shading, HVAC
In classic building automation, lighting, shading and HVAC are controlled locally with suitably positioned wireless sensors, using so-called "room controllers." The individual room controllers provide local control intelligence and are connected to each other via classic room automation buses, such as KNX, LON, BacNet, TCP, etc.
A wireless connection of the sensors to wall switches, window contacts, temperature sensors and motion detectors maximizes flexibility and reduces costs compared to a wired solution. In addition to switches for controlling lights and shading, window contacts and motion detectors create the perfect synergy, since they effectively combine functions such as rain protection with intrusion security and energy savings.
Intelligent building asset management
Intelligent building asset management is an important new tool with which companies establish the requirements for the optimum management of cost-intensive use of resources in terms of space, personnel and objects. An average of 50% of the available space in a typical office building remains unoccupied over the course of a business day.
Energy harvesting wireless room sensors supply detailed information on how building areas and rooms are actually being used and permit optimum room planning and assignment of employees to available spaces. Services around human resource and inventory management can be significantly optimized with the aid of suitable sensors. These sensors supply detailed information on usage patterns during normal operation as well as events, and they also consider differences in times of day and seasonal effects. Usage patterns of the building, personnel and inventory can thus be prepared to determine the optimum use of resources and security requirements.
Use management in office spaces and hotels
Building space is an extremely expensive resource, costing up to several hundred or even thousands of dollars per square foot. However, less than 70% of many spaces are utilized, such as office working areas, hotel rooms, conference rooms, cafeterias, hallways and storage rooms. As a result, running expenses in the millions are unnecessarily incurred for heating, lighting and maintenance. Existing hotel rooms can be upgraded easily with the aid of wireless sensors - without impairing normal building operation - thereby reducing energy consumption by 30% to 40%.
Suitable sensors can be used to prepare the use pattern for the building, personnel and inventory: presence detectors in the room or at individual seats; door contacts; sensors for counting people; power meters for detecting the activity of electronic devices (such as printers, copiers, soap dispensers, coffee machines, electric kettles, ventilation units). Transmitting "wireless beacons" are used to determine the locations of mobile devices and furniture. If the capacity of company facilities is only partially utilized, for example, combining multiple sites can help reduce costs. And if the building system determines that no employees enter the building before 8:00 am, the heating times can be adjusted accordingly.
Monitoring buildings for insurance companies
Insurance companies incur costs in the billions every year due to the late detection of events such as water leaks, fire damage and unwanted building break-ins. This, in turn, is reflected in constantly rising insurance premiums. In the event of flooding, fire or intrusion, sensors supply in real time the data and information needed to alert the owner and the insurance company. Serious and cost-intensive incidents can thus be detected early on and resolved accordingly.
Sales areas and gastronomy
When it comes to sales and commercial space, the flow of customers correlates with staff requirements, sales figures and location attractiveness. Smart data analysis makes it possible to distribute sales personnel resources according to need and also provide an indication of any improvements that may be needed to areas where sales are weak.
Presence detectors supply detailed information on parameters such as movement profiles, number of people and table occupancy. A call button on the restaurant table or at special sales kiosks, which can be used to request a waiter or sales person, can help increase customer satisfaction, for example. Small animal traps, which can be immediately emptied via special sensors as needed according to legal requirements, are also relevant.
Parking space management
Another important application in buildings is the monitoring of parking space. Pressure sensors, installed in the ground, detect the direction of vehicle travel and thus also the occupancy of parking spaces.
Sanitary facility management
It is practically impossible to forecast the optimum maintenance and cleaning of sanitary facilities in office buildings according to their actual use. For example, toilets are often not cleaned when needed, and paper and soap dispensers are empty, which is frustrating for users. Simple monitoring of sanitary facilities with presence sensors makes it possible to efficiently clean the areas and plan resources, which, in turn substantially lowers costs and increases user satisfaction.
With the aid of an interoperable network, generated data can be used for smart device and building control and to optimize facility management as well as implement entirely new services in building use. It is important to detect the extensive data that a building can communicate to us, using suitable sensors, and to make good use of this information. We can thus optimize long-term workflows and processes, save money and increase the energy efficiency of our buildings.
About the author
Troy Davis is Sales Director for EnOcean Inc. He has been involved in sustainable buildings and controls for almost 20 years. This continues through his key position at EnOcean North America, the leading energy harvesting wireless company in the world, working together with manufacturers in North America to create advancements in many products, eliminating hundreds of thousands of batteries being consumed.
Troy has spoken on self-powered sensing and controls at several trade events. He is an annual participant in wireless industry roundtable events with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and other wireless protocols.