Navigant Research Blog

Data Privacy Conversation Continues as Facebook Introduces Smart Speaker

— June 5, 2018

I recently wrote a blog about Facebook’s data-related scandals. In short, my message was that despite Facebook primarily operating as an online service provider, similar tech companies like Google and Amazon are investing heavily in deploying more devices in our homes. They want our data, and this is something consumers should be ever more aware of as this collection of data can have significant, real-world consequences. Earlier this May, those points were validated by reports that emerged about Facebook’s move into the connected speaker market.

Rumors of Facebook’s Connected Speaker

Facebook has been known to be working on a smart speaker since the summer of 2017. Rumors circulated that the speaker would be equipped with a touchscreen (similar to that of the Amazon Echo Show) for increased engagement with Facebook photos and its Messenger platform. Chinese iPhone manufacturer, Pegatron, was said to be building the product for a 1Q 2018 release. However, Facebook’s “week of shame” regarding the company’s involvement with Cambridge Analytica led to speculation that now may not be the best time for Facebook to launch a hardware product in the US. Instead, the company is expected to quietly launch its speaker internationally.

Europe’s Reluctance to Accept Facebook’s Tech

Unfortunately for Facebook, Europe, which was the next step in global expansion for other connected speaker companies like Amazon and Google, is also unlikely to accept the company with open arms. Given Europe’s significant regulations to give consumers more control over their own data with the European General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR), as well as Mark Zuckerberg’s admission to the European Parliament that the misuse of Facebook users’ private information has become a serious problem at the company, Facebook may not be ready to approach this market either. So it remains to be seen how the company plans to enter the connected speaker market.

Facebook as a Hardware Manufacturer and Its Significance

The underlying message in all of this is that Facebook is no longer limiting itself to operating primarily as an online service. The company is following suit to other tech companies and deploying a physical device that has the ability to “listen in” and collect data on consumers in their homes. This market progression not only highlights the need for companies involved in the connected speaker market (and the smart home in general) to earn the trust of consumers by clearly implementing and communicating data privacy measures, but also that consumers need to be ever more conscious of the technologies they bring into their homes, and what information they are willing to give away in exchange for these goods. Unless there is clear communication, education, and awareness on the matter, the development of the smart home and the promise it shows in the future may be hindered significantly.


Facebook’s Scandal Shows Importance of Data Privacy in Smart Homes

— May 3, 2018

The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil. It’s data. In the digital era, data not only powers various online services, but also increasingly powers the real world as devices become more and more connected. Virtually any activity a person can engage in now leaves a digital footprint, and artificial intelligence technologies like machine learning have brought to light the value in these footprints. The giants in charge of this data economy—Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft—have massive power and influence. Considering recent events, this is something to be ever warier about as consumers.

Facebook’s Scandal

Facebook has been under immense scrutiny over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In short, it involves the unauthorized sale of private data to companies that used the data to manipulate the US presidential election and arguably other major global events.

Until now, the added convenience a technology like Facebook brings to our lives—such as relevant news, event planning, and the ability to connect with friends and family—has seemed like a price worth paying in exchange for our data. What this story shows about the tech titans who control our digital era is that our data is not only used to target us with more relevant stuff to buy. It’s also shaping the world we live in and making real-life impacts.

What Does This Mean for the Smart Home?

We are increasingly letting these big tech giants into our lives, not only through use of their traditional online services, but through physical devices in our homes. The increasingly popular and widely adopted devices peddled by these companies, be it smartphones, voice-activated speakers, connected cameras, or smart thermostats among copious other residential IoT devices, are creating touchpoints in the home by which these companies can collect even more data.

As consumers, we may think our data is fairly useless. The Facebook scandal shows that all the data we give away for free has immense real-world value. It’s more important than ever for consumers to be aware of the devices that they bring into their homes, how their data is being used, and the effects that can have, especially as the smart home market continues to grow.

Should Consumers Abandon Connected Tech?

This isn’t to say that consumers should stop using online services or avoid adopting smart home technologies—that is unrealistic. It means that as we continue to adopt connected devices, construct smart ecosystems in our homes, and divulge the details of our personal lives to these companies, data privacy needs to be top priority. This is increasingly becoming the case. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set to take effect at the end of May, and it will massively influence any company serving EU citizens and residents by requiring measures be taken that better protect and ensure the privacy of user data. Though this is a positive development, there is much to be done in the realm of data privacy.

For consumers, it’s important to consider the worth in convenience via technology. While the prospects of a smart home can bring a range of benefits to our lives and the bigger picture of smart grid operations, the value in what we provide digitally-driven companies should not be taken for granted. For device manufacturers and smart home tech vendors, it’s more crucial than ever to be transparent and reassuring about the investments they are making in protecting our data in order to avoid losing consumer trust and hindering technology adoption.


IoT: Building Awareness – Part 1

— December 12, 2017

Marcus Aurelius once said, “That which is not good for the beehive is not good for the bees.” Conversely, what is good for the bee is good for the hive—a metaphor not lost on Internet of Things (IoT) and smart building integration. A paradigm surrounding the building automation space is developing as businesses begin to focus more on occupant experience. Smart building technologies are widening the building investment landscape to include tenant engagement and satisfaction. Value-generating technologies, like IoT-enabled devices, make it easier to manage energy and businesses. Building owners are able to leverage existing communication platforms, capitalize on energy efficiency, and promote healthier lives with healthier buildings.

Better Building, Better Business

Building automation systems with IoT-enabled sensors can not only increase energy efficiency, but also improve worker efficiency, leading to more productive businesses. Research finds that comfortable work environments enhance business productivity by improving the health and satisfaction of its workers. Advanced sensors, like those in Amsterdam’s building superstar The Edge, have given building managers better information on how building space is being utilized by monitoring occupant behavior. This is important because the more we know about occupant behavior, the more we are capable of creating environments that will optimize worker performance. Studies on the effect of building systems in schools also found that indoor air quality and thermal comfort have a direct effect on concentration. Classrooms that are thermally comfortable with lower levels of pollutants increase student learning, resulting in higher levels of student performance.

Show Me the Money

The advantage of investing in smart building technology is twofold, as these systems are not only more sustainable and energy efficient, but potentially more lucrative as well. Businesses operating within these smart systems are better positioned to make financial gains, as employees are more productive. Reports like JLL’s 3-30-300 rule suggest that prioritizing tenant satisfaction and well-being creates larger payoffs for building owners and investors—more so than savings on monthly utility bills would alone. The study finds that “a 2% energy efficiency improvement would result in savings of $.06 per square foot, but a 2% improvement in productivity would result in $6 per square foot through increased employee performance.”

Work Smarter, Not Harder

The argument stands that smarter buildings make better workers. Smart buildings are attractive from a business perspective, as these technologies enable employees to be more productive and less distracted by time-consuming administrative tasks, such as booking conference rooms or scheduling in-house meetings. The more comfortable the worker, the better work they will produce. This, in effect, raises the value of the business and contributes to the overall value of the building. In terms of ROI on smart buildings, focusing on occupancy satisfaction takes a bottom-up approach that supports greater integration and interoperability, improving bottom lines across the board.

Connectivity Is Key

The paradigm surrounding building management systems is shifting as more attention is being paid to occupancy experience. We know that effective operations and maintenance through IoT-enabled devices improve building performance. Why not apply that same logic to worker performance? The significant effect data analytics continue to have on the uptime of building systems could equally improve the livelihoods of the people operating within those structures. Facilitating better working environments optimizes worker efficiency, adding value to businesses and buildings. What is good for the worker bee is good for the hive (and hive investors), as smart technologies continue to add value to both residents and buildings alike.


Building the Future through Digitization

— April 25, 2016

modern square and skyscrapersBy and large, commercial buildings are inefficient. Owners and operators manage hefty energy bills, suboptimal maintenance processes, and varying levels of dissatisfaction from occupants. Intelligent building solutions are an alternative to the status quo for building operations, and recent trends suggest we are facing a tipping point for technology adoption. Simplicity in execution and non-energy benefits will help customers take the plunge to begin transforming their facilities into intelligent buildings, and it’s all centered around the idea of digitization.

Navigant Research is bullish on the outlook for intelligent buildings. The rapid adoption of building energy management systems (BEMSs) has been a central indicator of the demand for data-driven solutions to the challenges of operating commercial buildings. In fact, Navigant Research estimates the revenue for these software analytics solutions will reach nearly $11 billion dollars by 2024, a 18% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2015. This optimistic outlook on a cornerstone of the intelligent buildings market reflects the overarching assertion that digitization is transforming the buildings industry.

What Is a Digitized Building?

If software is a cornerstone of the intelligent building, it’s built on data. BEMSs have been helping building owners and managers improve operations for about a decade. As with any emerging technology area, the market continues to evolve. These software offerings are becoming more powerful as facilities become truly data-rich environments; this evolution is itself an effect of digitization.

The old adage of “garbage in, garbage out” may be a bit extreme, but in reality, digitization is an anecdote that helps intelligent building solutions deliver business improvements. An infrastructure of devices for sensing, controlling, and communicating equipment and facility use data is redefining the capabilities of intelligent building software. You’ve inevitably heard the buzz surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT); but in the intelligent buildings market, the IoT is not just buzz—it’s the construct for actionable information. An IoT intelligent building platform is defined by digital devices that enable software analytics to compute actionable information.

Why Will Digitization Make a Difference?

What this means is that these advanced sensors, controllers, and communications gateways acquire, analyze, and transmit data that in turn helps decision makers set priorities and rely with confidence on automated system improvement. Major technology providers are redefining their value through the lenses of digitization and IoT.

On April 1, Schneider Electric CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire kicked off the Innovation Summit in Paris, where digitization was front and center. The technology giant is positioning to supply technologies that catalyze industry transition for a world that is “more electric, more digitized, more decarbonized, and more decentralized.” Schneider argues this pathway to the future is critical to meet the demands of a growing population against the pressures of climate change and resource limitations. The company also released a new IoT 2020 Business Report, arguing this new technology landscape represents “a new era of meaningful opportunities.”

Actionable insights, meaningful opportunities—these ideas are the crux of value in digitization. Customers can be bombarded by new technology and new data, but what delivers is better data, better processes, better automation, and better services.

Beyond Energy

Take a look at the capabilities of the world of cloud-based intelligent building software. As one example, Switch Automation and Intel are offering an IoT-enabled software solution that drives operational efficiency and continuous improvement in commercial building operations. IoT-enabled intelligent building solutions help customers aggregate data from inside a single building and across a portfolio to benchmark and monitor operations for energy efficiency, operational efficiency, and improved occupant satisfaction.

Register today for the upcoming The Road to the Intelligent Building webinar and join the conversation on how digitization and the IoT is redefining the facilities industry with Navigant Research, Intel, and Switch Automation on May 6 at 2:00 pm EDT.


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