Rethinking the Ceiling: Building management and IoT

One of the biggest challenges the human race faces today is one of energy, and our excessive consumption. Commercial and institutional buildings account for almost 25 per cent of total energy consumption. A little over 30 per cent of this energy is consumed by heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and 25 per cent by lighting. Inefficiency in system utilisation has shown that almost one third of all this energy is unnecessarily wasted.

There are trillions of square feet of existing commercial real estate that needs to be heated, cooled, and lit. However, buildings typically, still deploy more than 12 disparate networks to support the many digital systems such as security, media and signage, and lighting. Each network infrastructure is most often proprietary and typically serves only one or few purposes – this is the legacy of the building automation industry. Building redundant and single-purposed infrastructure, while not taking advantage of digital connected capabilities, is no longer sustainable in today’s day and age. The fourth industrial revolution is now finally putting an end to this fragmented approach and digital transformation is reinventing how our buildings are managed.

The Internet of Things is connecting buildings

Things in buildings are becoming connected and increasingly intelligent. The convergence of these disparate systems is providing opportunities that reduce construction and operating cost; enhance physical and cybersecurity of people, assets, and performance in buildings; reduce environmental footprints through the use of advanced analytics; and allow for personalised and customised experiences that appeal to workers from all generations. The construction industry is undoubtedly quickly embracing the business outcomes this innovation can generate.

One example is the Cisco Digital Ceiling which has recently been launched. The Digital Ceiling unleashes the power of the Internet of Things by linking building services over a single, converged IP network. It consequently transforms the unobtrusive infrastructure in ceilings across buildings into a secure and standards-based architecture that delivers building intelligence. The result is a building that is not only smart, but also is seamlessly and securely connected, meaning the efficiency and sustainability of it can be managed more effectively.

Using the Digital Ceiling

The potential is incredible. Imagine an office building where by checking into a room, that user’s preferred light intensity and colour, room temperature, and phone and video profiles are automatically set. Or a workplace scenario where daylight harvesting, automatic dimming controls, and presence-based lighting save energy and reduce costs.

Using the Digital Ceiling to adapt lighting to actual user needs means potential energy savings of approximately £0.74 per square foot annually in commercial spaces. It can also help building managers make better use of their space to reduce cost per square foot by as much as 50 per cent based on improved building layouts.

Ultimately, innovations in building systems are making it possible for building owners and managers, as well as architects to increase competence and transform user experiences. This applies to any building – offices, hospitals, schools, retail shops, and manufacturing plants. This, however, is just the beginning of the next major evolution in an entirely digital workspace enabling better innovation, greater energy efficiency and enhanced productivity, as the UK digital economy continues to grow.

Stuart Higgins, Head of Digital Impact, Cisco UKI