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'Internet of Energy Things' to Provide Increasing Amounts of Real-Time Data

Smart buildings are highly beneficial, and will become more so once all things that consume energy report their usage dynamically -- and can be remotely controlled.

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- At the 2015 Fourth International SMART Conference held June 21-26, Roberto de Bonis, senior researcher at Telecom Italia, discussed smart technology and its application in so-called "smart buildings." But what are the benefits of smart buildings?

Smart buildings are being developed to react to information derived from sensor networks across a city -- to adjust ventilation and window settings based on the cross-reference of a locale's pollution levels and prevailing weather conditions. Smart lighting solutions will mimic the spectral characteristics of natural daylight in the home, office or ward, helping to maintain the natural circadian rhythm and general well-being of those who are indoors.  

In essence, the advent of smart technologies applied to smart buildings are having a further transformative impact on operational costs, said Chris Bilton, director of research and technology at BT, one of the world’s leading communications services companies.

“In short, we will have the ‘Internet of Energy Things,’" he said, speaking of the ability to improve energy efficiency by having all things that consume energy report their usage dynamically -- and be remotely controlled. This, he added, "will provide an increasing level of real-time data that will allow us to apply micro-control to the use of energy both within our buildings and in our networks and data centers."

And the potential for smart technology and buildings to change lives is tremendous, Bilton said.

“Smart technology, embedded within the building, will support the needs of older and vulnerable people, enabling them to live within their own communities for longer, therefore supporting social cohesion,” he said. “As smart technology becomes embedded in everyday items such as light bulbs, switches, utility meters and other appliances, telecare systems to support vulnerable people will be a simple software configuration of that pre-existing hardware.” 

When it comes to reducing a building's carbon foorprint, Bilton noted that traditional building management systems are used cost-effectively in his particular office estate, "but it is our network of 6,000 telephone exchanges and data centers where BT’s operational carbon footprint is at its highest," he said. "On the equipment side, we are particularly excited by the new range of network equipment we are installing that has power adaptivity built into the chip-sets.”

This network equipment, he added, allows the building management system to drop into low power mode when traffic levels fall as part of the daily peaks and troughs. 

Smart systems that recognize the changing occupancy profile of a building have enabled huge savings. Indeed, Bilton feels that some of the most important benefits from smart buildings have been in terms of energy conservation.

“The use of smart systems that recognize the changing occupancy profile of a building over the day and through the seasons have enabled huge savings,” he said, noting that in the past, buildings were typically heated and cooled throughout, independent of occupancy levels. But smart systems that manage lighting, temperature and air quality levels and that can enable or disable controlled zones have revolutionized building management systems.

But the benefits of smart technology are not restricted to energy conservation. Upon entering a smart building, operators will not be surprised by such things as burst water pipes, as intelligent sensors would have detected pressure variation along pipes and communicated this information to avert a leak in the building. Structural health monitoring can even be undertaken, by analysis of vibrations and material conditions in the building. However, for this type of monitoring to occur, unique IP addresses must be created for each device that is connected.

Smart technology will not only take care of an indoor environment,, but external aspects of life will also be enhanced, such as receiving an open parking space alert or notification if unauthorized individuals have entered restricted areas of the workplace. Although some of these are already used in security systems, future sensors will be more powerful and smaller. Software will be quicker at analyzing a situation and sending an alert.