According to the research, the industry has seen a significant uplift in the importance of occupant wellbeing. Prior to the pandemic, occupant wellbeing was viewed as ideal but not completely necessary, with government policies and potential cost savings being seen as the primary driver of smart buildings.
Since COVID, however, this has all changed with businesses now facing pressure to make their workplaces COVID-safe.
Air quality, occupant temperature, people counting, occupant control/analytics and contactless operations are all in demand, with the aim of creating a safer workplace but also instilling greater trust and security in order to encourage occupants to come back into the workplace.
Businesses were found to be increasingly adopting the ‘healthy building’ mantra to continue to operate safely and provide occupants with added benefits that they don’t get when working from home.
Secondly, hybrid working seems set to stay. This means that many buildings will need to be adapted. Businesses may have to downsize, have hot-desking areas, communal areas, meeting room spaces and aim to create more of an experience within the workplace.
Technological opportunities will develop through features such as the same app used to gain entry into a building being used for wayfinding or to find an available desk. This can also tell the user which areas are near amenities they may want to access such as a quiet zone near a kitchen, or a communal area that lends itself to group work.
The third key trend identifed by the research is sustainability. Smart energy management will allow Facility Managers to understand where energy is potentially being wasted and identify small changes that can be made to improve the sustainability of the building. Depending on how smart the system is, it could make these changes automatically, for example powering down systems and devices after 6pm if no one is present.
Using real-time data from IoT devices can provide a continuous feedback loop that improves efficiency throughout the building, revealing insights that can indicate abnormal usage trends. This links closely to the fourth trend; predictive maintenance.
Predictive maintenance is achieved by smart-enabling assets and gathering data to understand when something needs addressing ahead of the issue occurring. For example, abnormal power surges can indicate an issue; this can be reviewed quickly and addressed before something breaks.
Sensors are a big part of predictive maintenance. They inform Facility Managers when scheduled tests and maintenance are due and allow automated tests to be completed, and it also improves the audit process. Reports can be exported easily, and full visibility achieved.
Where older buildings need to be upgraded wireless smart sensors can quickly and easily deliver this. Retrofitting legacy equipment to gather information about operational performance and monitoring critical assets like air conditioning will instantly provide insights.
The final top tech trend identified by the amBX research is that partnership and collaboration have increased since COVID. Small, niche IoT companies are looking to partner with big credible IT and BMS companies such as Microsoft and Honeywell, and those heritage companies are looking to partner with smaller companies to plug gaps in their portfolio. This mutually beneficial collaboration is accelerating the smart building industry, making it more accessible.
Commenting on the research, Phil Cross, CEO of amBX said: “This qualitative research shows a number of crucial insights that will help us to shape the future as an industry. The pandemic has undoubtedly led to a number of these trends, and innovators across the sector, including amBX, need to respond accordingly to ensure these needs can be met.
“The good news is many of these changes can be implemented in a very cost-effective way, and they also put sustainability at the heart of the industry’s agenda, which can only stand to be a positive.”
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