Navigant Research Blog

Bionic Eyeballs and Digital Ceilings: What the Future Holds for Intelligent Buildings

— May 19, 2016

Intelligent BuildingI am a dedicated fan of sci-fi thriller Orphan Black, but the idea of bio-tech jaw implants shook me to the core in a recent episode—talk about taking wearables to the next level. The thing is, a less diabolical (and more voluntary) implant is not so far-fetched. Enter Google. Earlier this month, the tech giant took one more leap forward in its vision for integrated intelligence—its 2014 patent has been published, setting the stage for the intra-ocular device. Step one.

The good stuff buried in the patent: “The inter-ocular device could include one or more antennas configured to enable communication with an external system and/or reception of wireless power by the intra-ocular device.” For now, it seems this is an ideation of connected health, but the possibilities are really endless. The early experiments with Google Glass could point toward a new reality of contact computing work to be had. In reality, step two—the era of reading operating stats via apps that send operational data tied to nameplates through your eyeballs—is probably a ways off. That said, there are disruptive shifts in facilities management underway today.

Inter-ocular Device

Casey Eyeball Blog

(Source: Google)

Reimagining Infrastructure

Wearables will likely remain outside the body (at least for the next year), but nonetheless, technology is transforming the facilities management industry. The Internet of Things (IoT) is sure making a buzz, but its impact in buildings is real. Navigant Research defines IoT as a scalable, secure, and open platform for aggregating and communicating data for performance improvement. What this means is there is a proliferation of devices that are transforming facilities into data-rich environments, and when these devices are networked as a part of an IoT infrastructure, better information becomes available. This is key; there is a lot of noise surrounding technology advancements and more data, but these solutions only have value if they deliver better information. The effective IoT-enabled intelligent building delivers efficiency in operations and energy, but also a host of other business benefits, including occupant engagement, satisfaction, and productivity.

Networked Building Optimization and Lifecycle Benefits

A unified approach to optimizing performance of multiple systems in a facility is fundamental to the process of developing intelligent buildings. Let’s step back to the technology available today. Cisco, for example, has introduced the Digital Ceiling Framework, a single IP network for directing improvements in both HVAC and lighting. The company recently explained the end-to-end benefits of a unified platform: “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.”

Other major industry players are making big moves to showcase their capabilities in this IoT-enabled approach. As another example, Current announced its acquisition of Daintree Networks in late April. The story is analogous; IoT solutions enable optimization across the facilities value chain through coordinated operations of HVAC and lighting.

The industry is taking note of the benefits of IoT and software. According to a recent survey by Schneider Electric, 65% of facility managers predict IoT will affect building and maintenance within the next year.  There is a huge market to penetrate, when you consider that this same survey found that only 18% of facility managers are using continuous or real-time data. Our research indicates the tides are turning and the pace of investment is accelerating as IoT devices and intelligent building software open the door to broad business benefits for companies operating in facilities large and small.


While Big Data Grabs Headlines, Small Data Is What Cities Need

— May 17, 2016

Bangkok SkylineSuppliers in the smart city industry offer a range of data solutions for city managers to better detect and respond to breakdowns and inefficiencies in the delivery of city services. The onset of big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) have been touted as potential solutions to the biggest challenges facing cities today. However, what cities really need is small data—in other words, clear, specific, and actionable insights filtered from the vast amounts of raw or big data being created. For example, massive amounts of traffic data is only useful if it can be used to affect how services are delivered. Useful small data would alert city officials to inform public transit riders of delays and suggest alternative routes for more efficient travel. Getting even more specific, smaller data can help city and operations managers understand how their service delivery may be affected (i.e., an incoming shipment of cargo or goods will arrive 3 hours later than expected).

Creating more actionable insights for city managers is an opportunity for business analytics in all sectors. Government agencies need clear messages and response plans to improve operations, reduce costs, and better serve their citizens. When combined with easily understandable data visualizations, the increased use of statistical analysis, simulation, and optimization can help in the process to deliver actionable data insights.

Data and predictive analytics are currently able to provide some of the following benefits in each key sector:

  • Energy: Smart meters and other smart grid technologies are enabling a more dynamic and detailed understanding of energy generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption. As the energy system of the city becomes more complex, real-time data across these systems is vital in order to manage the grid and create effective energy markets.
  • Water: Intelligent devices, communications networks, and advanced IT systems are helping the water industry face the challenges posed by rising costs of operations, maintenance requirements, global urbanization, climate change, and other pressures on supply and distribution. In the process, the industry is expected to become increasingly information-focused, drawing on real-time data from the pumping station to the meter. Communications networks in particular can help to improve water management by discovering leaks and providing alerts if the water is unsafe for drinking.
  • Mobility: Real-time data collected from sensors, cameras, and other devices can optimize connections between modes of transportation for faster travel times, reduce the costs of operation, and increase convenience through improved information services for users. Data analytics can also be used to detect and predict the likelihood of traffic accidents or vehicle breakdowns based on congestion and speed patterns. This data enables managers to be much more proactive, as they can use predictive analytics to identify potential congestion issues, adapt bus routes, and dynamically manage the availability of city parking.
  • Buildings: New capabilities go beyond basic management dashboards to the analysis of a wide range of building-related energy and operational data. Predictive analytics are being used to anticipate future conditions based on past performance and avoid unforeseen facility management issues.

As demonstrated from the examples above, data is already helping cities become more efficient and improve in the delivery of city services. Being able to more accurately and quickly gain actionable insights from large data sets will be crucial for the future growth of smart city technology. For more information on big data, the IoT, and predictive analytics, keep an eye out for Navigant Research’s upcoming global report on Smart Cities, expected to be published in Q2 2016.


Why Even Have Meters?

— May 17, 2016

MeterFor as long as utilities have existed, they have created ways to have their customers pay for what they use.  The meter has traditionally been that tool, and many have looked to the newer iteration, the smart meter, as the nexus to enable the next evolution in the way utilities perform. Smart meters have been deployed for water utilities and gas utilities with recent fanfare. Most significantly, smart meters have been deployed by electric utilities, which are using advanced metering infrastructure as a pillar for new programs for a cleaner grid with more efficient use of power. The electric submeter is a part of that plan, enabling a finer grain look at who uses power with a tenant-by-tenant view. But is it time for us to rethink meters? Are they going to be a part of our digital future?  Certainly, we have to keep measuring use—having customers pay for the resources they use is critical, regardless of how low the cost. But with Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices, we need to rethink how resource use is reported, whether it be gas, water, or electricity.

A Clearer Picture Through IoT

IoT-enabled devices—think cable boxes, commercial HVAC units, large factory machines, and data centers–are already deployed in the marketplace. To date, most of the IoT buzz has been associated with control or information flow, like a building automation system controlling an HVAC unit or a cable company sending over the latest primetime drama. With little modification, IoT-enabled devices can share how much power, gas, or water they are using at the place and time of their use. If all new devices were shipped with this technology, it would be possible to have a clearer picture of how those resources are being used than by using the aggregation tool that is the meter.

Utilities would not want meters to go away. They are a key cornerstone of how they work, and, in some cases, are required by law. But as utilities strive to keep pace of the fourth industrial revolution, they may need to rethink how they want to provide better services for their customers. Approaches like circuit-level or plug-level energy reporting are not new, but if the entire electric, gas, or water system was reporting on how much it used in real time, it would provide a much clearer picture of the state of the system. This reporting could also shine a light into how much waste is present due to things like vampire loads or leaking pipes.

We’d need to have permissions and payment mechanisms resolved, and prototypes are already in development for microgrids. We’d need to have assurances that device reporting is reliable and secure, something that has already been proposed though the use of blockchain. The biggest obstacle is our existing infrastructure. At this point, it may not make economic sense to remove or even turn off meters and submeters, even as IoT devices are shipping. But there will be a time in the not-to-distant future where the meter will be viewed as redundant. It may be in a microgrid, or on a university campus.  There will be a tipping point where, for some new commercial, residential, or industrial facility, it will be cheaper to have no meters at all. On that day, we stop using the end of the buggy whip as the prototypical example of obsolesces, and we will instead recall the era of the meter.


Street Lights Are the New Smart Phones

— May 11, 2016

BulbsJust as cell phones have evolved into multifunctional digital information devices, the once-humble street light is becoming a hub for monitoring a variety of urban activities and sharing data with networks.

Navigant Research identified this trend in its 2015 Smart Street Management report, stating that, “Smart street lighting is becoming one of the most attractive solutions for cities looking for an immediate effect on energy consumption and operational costs while also laying a foundation for a broader range of applications.”

As street lights are being upgraded to more efficient LEDs, pole owners are seizing the opportunity to add networking capabilities, sensors, cameras, and power management intelligence to leverage the lights’ distributed electrified reach to provide a variety of services across cities. The convergence of city management technologies with street lights was on display throughout the recent Intertraffic conference in Amsterdam.

Intertraffic Conference

Examples highlighted at Intertraffic included Streetline, of San Mateo, California, which is working with Cisco on using cameras fixed to street lights as a less expensive alternative to sensors to predict parking availability. According to Kurt Buechler, Streetline’s senior vice president, the cameras cost around $100 each and are connected to a cloud service that performs analysis on the collected data. Cisco is also working on integrating cameras and Internet of Things technologies to street lights in the Netherlands via its IT networks.

Also at Intertraffic, Spain’s Circontrol announced its Trilogy offering, which combines lighting, smart parking detection, and indicators that show parking availability. Circontrol also displayed an integrated parking facility energy management system that uniquely incorporates electric vehicle (EV) charging management. Intelligent transportation systems vendor Q-Free is combining its air quality monitoring technology with street lights in Medway, England.

EV Influence

Other companies taking advantage of the ubiquitous presence of powered street lights include BMW, which adds EV charging capabilities through its Light and Charge initiative. In the city of San Jose, California, the SmartPoles pilot project is using wireless technology from Ericsson and Philips’ energy efficient lighting equipment to reduce costs while providing more flexible lighting management.

The convergence of smart parking, traffic management, EVs, and environmental monitoring—often using connected street lights to collect and share data—will bring much more holistic views to smart city managers looking to understand the full effect of transportation on urban life. Standards for data collection and communications protocols are quickly evolving to enable this broader view and will be of growing importance as cities look to understand and mitigate the effect of increased congestion and urbanization.


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