Navigant Research Blog

The Future Workspace: Intelligent Building Platforms and Employee Engagement

— November 11, 2015

Boatbuilder_webThe proliferation of smart phones and the pervasive use of smart phone apps in the workplace have created new opportunities for occupant engagement. Beyond comfort, smart phones also generate economic and business benefits toward building operations.

Advanced sensors, wireless gateways and communications, and building energy management systems (BEMS) have already made the smart office a reality. These technologies give building owners and operators unprecedented insight into equipment performance, space utilization, and occupant feedback. Because of this, intelligent buildings can leverage ever growing data sets to become dynamic workspaces. Buildings are now more energy efficient and productive than traditional office buildings ever have been—and they are also more comfortable.

Smart Offices

Information technology platforms in intelligent buildings can fine-tune everything from heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to lighting to conference room scheduling. Technology innovations such as the Internet of Things (IoT) that enable these advances in operational performance leverage open systems that integrate automation hardware, software, and services. The IoT is an infrastructure for aggregating, transmitting, and analyzing data streams while ensuring cyber security and delivering domain-specific insights. The IoT is a potentially disruptive market force because the framework unifies data that has been historically isolated to generate comprehensive information about related systems.

In the intelligent buildings context, the IoT provides a structure to generate and share actionable insights for system improvement, which may take the form of fine-tuned lighting or HVAC settings. IoT platforms are scalable and secure to support software analytics that identify potential improvements for energy savings, operational efficiencies, and increased occupant satisfaction. Using these IoT platforms, intelligent building decision-makers can access more unified and comprehensive information about the performance of their individual facilities or portfolios.

This platform approach has changed the paradigm for building operations and maintenance in intelligent buildings. Cost-effective sensing devices gather granular building data ranging from equipment settings and performance to temperature and humidity. Wireless networks and open protocols can then transfer this data into a cloud-based BEMS that runs the analytics to prioritize system improvements. In some cases, a BEMS can push automated adjustments to building systems.

Accessing data and providing actionable insight in real time enables advanced management strategies that include predictive maintenance, proactive capital planning, and rapid response to occupant feedback. These processes provide greater efficiency and reduction in peak demand charges, so building system performance can be optimized and yield economic benefits in the form of reduced energy bills.

Intelligent Building Innovations

The process of transforming a facility into an intelligent building is scalable and cost-effective—and a different business engagement from the traditional equipment overhaul or deep renovation. Developing an intelligent building means gaining insight into its existing systems, improving their performance, and leveraging IT-based, cost-effective solutions to supplement the existing infrastructure.

One pioneering concept in the intelligent building space is using people as sensors. An example is Comfy, designed by Building Robotics. Comfy connects existing HVAC systems in office buildings to the cloud through Intel-based intelligent gateways. The system utilizes feedback from individual occupants through a simple smart phone app that analyzes the comfort levels in an office and then refines HVAC settings to optimize the workplace environment. This new approach to occupant comfort is changing the intelligent building workplace.

For a deeper exploration of this topic, tune in on November 17 at 2:00 p.m. EST for Navigant Research’s webinar Smart Offices: How Intelligent Building Solutions Are Changing the Occupant Experience. Joining me will be Shuo Zhang, Business Development Manager at Intel, and Andrew Krioukov, CEO of Building Robotics, who will give insight into how intelligent gateways and smart phone apps are transforming the smart office.


Security Concerns Pose Risk to IoT Market Expansion

— October 26, 2015

If the Internet itself is not fully secure, then it stands to reason that the Internet of Things (IoT) cannot possibly be fully secure either. Whether it’s refrigerators, cars, thermostats, or even your food (the Guardian reported that even your steak may have come from a connected cow), the IoT is becoming a ubiquitous feature of modern life with inherent security risks. The addition of billions of devices that communicate through Internet-connected IT infrastructure while using various types of hardware is likely to create a challenging market to safeguard in the years to come.

While there are few risks to having data collected on cows, some IoT devices do raise some security concerns for human beings. Devices such as GPS-connected running shirts (that hackers can use to know when you’re not home) and face recognition smart locks (which can be tricked by being shown digital photographs) are particularly prone to hacking breaches.

The IoT in Smart Cities

Smart city technologies with IoT capability—such as smart parking systems, which use sensors to guide drivers to open parking spaces, or traffic management systems, which help government organizations synchronize traffic lights for optimal traffic flows—also exist simply to improve the quality of life for city residents (in this case reducing traffic congestion and pollution). However, there are some legitimate security concerns with these technologies that need to be addressed as well. Using traffic management systems as an example, security researchers at the University of Michigan were able to hack nearly 100 wireless networked traffic lights by using only a laptop and wireless card. If hackers can easily and quickly cause mass disarray through traffic light manipulation—by, say, changing all the lights in a particular intersection to be green—it’s not unreasonable to foresee public distrust of smart city IoT technology.

Nevertheless, not all IoT devices are easily hackable, and some are providing invaluable security features to society. In fact, cameras and the IoT are helping to make life much safer for those who have encounters with the police or are near a crime scene. The introduction of body cameras on police in Rialto, California resulted in complaints against officers dropping by nearly 90% in 2012 compared to 2011, and use of force by officers dropped by 60%. Additionally, IoT-connected sensors in Denver, Colorado can pinpoint the location of gunshots by triangulating sound, allowing officers to be more quickly deployed to a crime scene.

Security Issues Need to Be Addressed

If the IoT market is going to expand as quickly as many analysts believe, the issues surrounding security need to be addressed early on—not after significant breaches that will likely result in a huge loss of public trust in IoT technology. Conducting privacy and security risk assessments, minimizing the type of data that is collected, and testing advanced security measures before rather than after product launch are all ways that companies and governments can ensure a high level of security for IoT devices while also respecting a reasonable level of privacy for citizens.


IoT Momentum Is Building—Even if Trend Is Overhyped

— October 12, 2015

Momentum keeps building for the Internet of Things (IoT) market—even if the concept is overhyped. Recent moves by market stakeholders point to significant investments and noteworthy strategies. In addition, there are important implications for the utility sector, particularly the residential segment.

Google’s strategy combines hardware and software elements for connecting things in the home. The company is expected to release Brillo, a slimmed-down version of the Android operating system designed for smart home applications, by year’s end. Brillo will be coupled with Weave, a protocol developed by Nest Labs, which is to be integrated into OnHub, a router that can control IoT devices. As part of Nest’s initiative with Weave, General Eletric (GE) and Procter & Gamble will be partners in the effort.

Comcast has made the IoT a key part of its strategy over the past year. Executives with the cable giant have said they want to become the conduit, or highway, that carries all the data back and forth among IoT devices. Also, the company’s Xfinity service is being positioned as a platform for IoT functionality, with the company having announced partnerships with Nest, August (locks), and Lutron for lighting.

Also, Intel is acquiring chipmaker Altera for nearly $17 billion with the aim of enabling new classes of products “that meet customer needs in the data center and Internet of Things (IoT) market segments,” according to a release. Altera is an attractive buy for Intel because its chips are used widely for networking and wireless applications. Similarly, United Kingdom-based Dialog Semiconductor, which supplies chips to Apple, announced in September its acquisition of Atmel for $4.6 billion in a deal to strengthen both companies’ efforts to compete in the IoT space.

Furthermore, the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) says it will expand its cooperation with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) to focus on technologies and testing to promote the adoption of the IoT in the energy sector. The two organizations plan to identify ways members can take part in an array of new and established testing activities.

Among utilities, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) in Illinois has a partnership with Comcast to leverage the interconnectedness of smart thermostats in a demand response program. The program, similar to other bring-your-own-thermostat (BYOT) setups, is a basic example of linking things, thermostats in this case, with as service that can increase energy efficiency.

With this kind of momentum, it seems clear the IoT trend has legs, but there are hurdles that could inhibit market adoption. First, there are many protocols in play, such as ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. These present interoperability issues. Second, many IoT devices are more costly than current alternatives, such as high-end smart thermostats. Third, some consumers have real concerns about potential loss of privacy or security breaches when so many devices are interconnected.

Despite these hurdles, the IoT market drivers seem strong, and important companies are placing big bets on it. Navigant Research expects global revenue attributed to residential IoT devices to grow from $7.3 billion in 2015 to $67.7 billion in 2025, based on our own focused definition on the built environment of things. For those interested in learning more about the IoT market, Navigant is hosting a webinar highlighting IoT trends on October 20 at 2:00 PM EST. My colleague Ben Freas, senior research analyst, will bring his building automation perspective, and we will be joined by Matt Smith, senior director of utility solutions at Silver Spring Networks, who will discuss the utility’s role in the connected IoT home.


Smart Cities Initiative Provides Added Boost to Growing IoT Market

— September 29, 2015

Coinciding with Smart Cities Week in Washington, D.C., the Obama administration announced an investment of over $160 million for a new Smart Cities Initiative on September 14. The initiative focuses on federal research and will leverage over 25 new technology collaborations to help municipalities address key challenges such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of climate change, and improving the delivery of city services.

The initiative shows the U.S. government following other national governments in supporting smart city initiatives, including the United Kingdom, India, and South Korea. This is further evidence of how the smart city concept is being fully embraced in North America.

The Obama administration has broken down the investment allocation as follows:

  • More than $35 million in new grants and over $10 million in proposed investments assigned to build a research infrastructure for smart cities, led by the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology.
  • Nearly $70 million in new spending and over $45 million in proposed investments allotted to unlock new solutions in safety, energy, climate preparedness, transportation, health and more, by the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

IoT Segment Growing Quickly

This announcement comes at a time when interest and activity in smart cities technologies and solutions is higher than ever. There is a growing focus on the intersection of smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT). In the context of smart cities, IoT refers to a network of physical objects within a smart city that are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity to enable these objects to collect and exchange data.

Just over the past few weeks, several high-profile developments in the IoT market have taken place. General Electric announced the creation of a new business unit with the aim of becoming the leader in the IoT; IBM appointed Harriet Green—the former CEO of Thomas Cook Group in the United Kingdom—to lead its new IoT business unit (IBM is expected to invest $3 billion over the next 4 years in this unit); and Salesforce announced a new IoT Cloud platform. According to the Smart Cities Initiative, these developments in the IoT market reinforce the importance of its focus on “creating test beds for ‘Internet of Things’ applications and developing new multi-sector collaborative models.”

Array of Things

Several cities in the United States have been evolving to add more IoT concepts to smart city projects. For example, the University and the city of Chicago are engaged in a joint venture named the Array of Things (AOT) with the Argonne National Laboratory. This project will provide real-time, location-based data through sensor boxes that will be deployed in the Chicago area. The sensors will detect temperature, light, vibration, carbon monoxide, pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and surface temperatures to work with applications that use the sensor data to alert residents to areas with traffic congestion, pedestrian traffic, and icy patches on sidewalks. Data collected by the AoT project will be free and open to the public, a key feature of the program. The National Science Foundation is providing an additional $3.1 million to the AoT project, derived from the White House’s Smart Cities Initiative funding. The impact of IoT on smart cities will be explored in more depth in Navigant Research’s upcoming Smart City Street Management report.


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