Cisco promotes programmable, software-defined smart buildings

Reaching ambitious greenhouse goals for buildings and campuses set by governments and the private sector will require smart technologies to help manage water, gas and power supplies and accurately report consumption of resources.

In a highrise building of 80 stories with 20 tenants, the variety of devices will be diverse, so how is a building manager expected to enable smart tech? 

Cisco’s Robert Cicero, smart building leader for the Americas, said the answer will be based on a network that recognizes connections from power sources to a multitude of a elements such as lights and window shades but also CO2 and particulate counters.

With electricity powered by alternating current and commercial devices running on direct current, the challenges are magnified. For a decade, Cisco has been working with building managers to collapse disparate networks into one, but now the next phase is to start sharing data generated by power sources and power consuming devices, Cicero said.

“There are so many use cases around building occupancy with multiple sources of data,” Cicero said in an interview with Fierce Electronics. In one example, Cisco’s Meraki platform offers surveillance data that can be combined with people count data from Wi-Fi usage. When the two are stitched together, there can be greater insights and even forecasting.

“Technology is the fourth utility, with water, gas and power,” he said. “When we think about the built environment and moving to the fourth utility, the building itself should be programmable and software defined. We need to make it programmable and adaptable depending on the goals inside that space.”

Cisco has the ability to leverage Ethernet with its 9300 switch to provide building managers with submeters for different users and building locations. Data can be measured at one-tenth of a watt for every 90 watts to monitor energy usage “and really know where the energy is used—is it lighting or what?”

Such capabilities will be increasingly important as more DC microgrid technologies evolve, including solar, Cicero said.

“Buildings are such a large producer of emissions in the world and we believe there’s an opportunity when we look at spaces that we need to build differently with data being exposed,” he said.  “Today, the data is very siloed. There’s not one answer, but a combination of these elements are needed to achieve climate goals.”