Healthcare emerging as key market for smart buildings

IHS Markit says that hospitals are outpacing other industries in their adoption of smart building technology. (Pixabay)

While the concept of smart buildings has taken hold in a number of industries, perhaps nowhere is the technology’s rise and promise as pronounced as the health care sector.

According to research from IHS Markit|Technology, global demand for connected equipment in the healthcare sector is forecast to increase at a rate almost 2 percentage points higher than the market average for the overall smart building market, with a 13.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2018 and 2023.

The firm projects healthcare to increase at a faster rate than the commercial sector in terms of smart building revenue, which is set to grow at a 12.6% CAGR over the same period.

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“By 2020, the healthcare sector is expected to represent the second-largest global market for both building management system (BMS) platforms and connected equipment, with total consolidated revenue of around $1.9 billion,” said Thomas Barquin, senior analyst for smart buildings at IHS Markit | Technology.

The growth is driven largely by high construction rates for new projects worldwide, combined with the rising demand for healthcare services due to aging populations—a particularly prominent trend in North America, Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. New construction projects represent the bulk of demand for connected equipment in this application, with a 53.4% share in 2018.

According to IHS Markit’s Barquin, the uptake of smart building technologies is more prevalent in new healthcare buildings. “Due to the large stock of existing healthcare facilities, the share of retrofit remain non-negligible as IoT devices help generating cost savings and enhancing patient experience. Existing healthcare facilities are expected to invest further to upgrade their infrastructures.”

Barquin noted that hospital owners of existing buildings face unique issues impacting retrofit projects. “Unlike most other building types, hospitals must often maintain crucial components of preexisting legacy systems such as earlier iterations of patient record systems that cannot be eradicated when new systems are installed. In addition, retrofit projects must often be processed fractionally with separate updates to individual rooms. Hospitals are always open, so building management systems must be replaced in a matter of hours, not days or weeks, as the building must continue to function normally. Many retrofit projects in hospitals start with a single room and gradually expand to other parts of the building if the initial room’s renovation is successful.”

According to the report, the smart building trend in hospitals has manifested itself in the implementation of complex systems that require more connected equipment and advanced BMS platforms compared to other industries. Hospitals have been particularly dynamic in implementing integration platform architectures and predictive analysis to enhance not only their operational resources, but also the quality and efficiency of their patient-care services.

Given the increasing reliance on the IoT, hospitals are also increasingly adopting supplementary software that relies on data from connected equipment and works beside BMS platforms, as the trend toward patient-focused care strengthens.

According to the report, asset-tracking solutions are among the most common types of smart-building technologies being introduced in hospitals. Smart hospitals can use internet-of-things (IoT) technologies and applications to find out which items need to be restocked and where assets are on the premises via radio frequency identification (RFID) or Bluetooth beaconing technology. The software is often integrated with BMS platforms, as asset-tracking technologies often use data from sensors installed in luminaires in connected-lighting systems.

Another example would be smart speakers in patient rooms to assist patients in operating appliances and forwarding patient requests to mobile devices used by medical personnel. These speakers could also help medical personnel access patient records.

Patient flow software is another solution that has been regularly utilized in advanced hospitals, according to IHS Markit. Scheduling software guarantees that activities and operations are managed efficiently and offers patients real-time information on future activities and the expected date and time of their discharge. Digitized patient records, smart-room solutions and hygiene management solutions are also applications that participate in the healthcare digitalization movement.

While the market is still in its infancy, IHS Markit believes that the healthcare sector could become a key source of demand for solutions powered by artificial intelligence.

AI-powered solutions are expected to enhance patients’ experiences or treatment outcomes in the near future, while increasing convenience and efficiency and reducing costs and errors. For instance, and Google have released an AI-powered autonomous monitoring platform for healthcare on the edge which is known as the “Self Aware Room.”

According to Barquin, one example of a smart hospital is Humber River Hospital in Toronto. Opened in 2015, Humber River Hospital is an affiliate of the University of Toronto and Queen’s University. The facility centralizes asset tracking, digitized patient records and patient flow software solutions into in a single command center that connects all these systems and offers users access and visibility into all these applications. The facility’s use of analytics with its BMS platform to achieve energy savings is also relatively uncommon in hospitals. Humber River also aggregates 17,000 dedicated smartphones and tablets designed to connect with its command center.