Navigant Research Blog

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.

 

From Connected Street Lights to Smart Cities

— April 5, 2018

Chicago’s program to replace 270,000 city lights over the next 4 years with LEDs and intelligent controls is a good example of the growing scale and ambition of street lighting projects. This initiative could eventually save Chicago $10 million a year in energy costs. The latest edition of Navigant Research’s Smart City Tracker includes smart city projects in 221 cities, a quarter of which are deploying smart street lighting ranging from initial pilots to citywide and regional deployments that span tens and even hundreds of thousands of lights. This is far from an exhaustive list of street lighting projects, but it is a further sign of the growing momentum behind the deployment of connected lighting solutions in cities. Navigant Research expects 73 million connected street lights to be deployed globally by 2026.

First Step Toward the Future

Smart street lighting is being recognized by many city leaders as a first step toward the development of a smart city. In addition to increasing the energy efficiency of the city and reducing energy costs, carbon emissions, and maintenance costs, intelligent lighting can also provide a backbone for a range of other city applications, including public safety, traffic management, smart parking, environmental monitoring, and extended Wi-Fi and cellular communications.

However, while an increasing number of cities are recognizing the value of upgraded lighting networks, there are still financial and organizational barriers to be addressed, including:

  • Finance: Although the energy savings from street lighting upgrades is well proven, it can still be a challenge for many cities to approve financial packages for the necessary upfront investment. The pragmatic benefits and long-term cost savings of deploying intelligent controls at the same time as upgrading to LEDs are not always easily fitted into existing approaches to procurement and financing.
  • Customer understanding: A lack of understanding of newer lighting technologies may also be a barrier to the adoption of LEDs and networked solutions. While the LED lighting market is getting over this hurdle, controls lag further behind since customers are less familiar with these technologies. The issue is not about quality, but rather a lack of knowledge about the business case for the additional benefits intelligent lighting brings, particularly for secondary applications.
  • Utility-owned street lights: Where street lighting is provided by a utility, building the business case for energy efficiency may depend on the incentives set by regulators. This means that some utilities have been reluctant to invest in lighting network upgrades. However, attitudes are changing due to the pressure to reduce carbon emissions and to recognize street lights as an asset and potential revenue source. Indeed, many utilities now see street lighting as a pathway to a range of new service offerings while they look to opportunities in the Energy Cloud.

Join Us and Learn More

In the forthcoming Navigant Research webinar, From Connected Street Lights to Smart Cities, I will discuss current trends in smart street lighting with Troy Harms and Terry Utterback from Acuity Brands and Dan Evans from Itron. We will be discussing how intelligent street lighting can provides a platform for urban innovation, and how leading cities are addressing some of the remaining barriers.

Please join us on April 10, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. EST. Click here to register.

 

Going Zero Waste

— January 4, 2018

Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, which took place in Boston during November 2017, had something for everyone in the realm of green buildings—education sessions with topics ranging from human health and net zero energy to innovation and technology. It also had an expo hall with roughly 700 vendors and impressive speakers such as former President Bill Clinton, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and the US Green Building Council (USGBC) President and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam. Greenbuild is the world’s largest conference and expo devoted to green building. It is owned by Informa Exhibitions and is presented by USGBC.

Zero Waste Events and Goals

Throughout the event, one thing that struck me was the commitment of the conference organizers to waste diversion. There were dozens of three-container bins split for recycling, composting, and trash. Each segment was marked with images to minimize confusion. In addition to the signage, a volunteer was stationed at each receptacle to ensure attendees put waste in the correct compartment. This strategy to reduce waste at Greenbuild was implemented in 2016 when the conference was held in Los Angeles, California, and it resulted in the highest diversion rate ever for Greenbuild. The collaboration of Informa Exhibitions, USGBC, the Los Angeles Convention Center, local haulers, and other partners led to a 90% waste diversion rate and an 18% increase over the convention center’s baseline conversion rate. Data on waste diversion from the 2017 Greenbuild conference is not yet available.

On September 16, 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA)—in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12announced the first US-based goal to reduce food loss and waste by half by the year 2030. Since the 1990s, cities have slowly started to set zero waste goals, with San Francisco, California and Oakland, California being two of many cities to set zero waste targets with the goal of having zero waste by 2020. Zero waste events can help cities reach waste reduction and zero waste goals, and this type of event might be required by some cities. Additionally, a zero waste event can attract sponsors that share the priority of reducing waste. Many companies, including Subaru, Sierra Nevada, Toyota, and Microsoft, among a growing list of others, have set zero waste goals.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The efforts of Greenbuild are impressive for a conference of its size. If every large conference prioritized waste reduction as much as this event, the amount of waste diverted from landfills would be significant. Beyond diverting waste from landfills, creating less waste initially—or reusing items—creates less waste that needs diverting. I watched as the booths were taken down and I was struck by the pure amount of materials it took to fill an expo hall of that size: banners, giveaways, tables, extension cords, yards of carpet, and more. While some things can be reused at future events and this is a component of a zero waste event, not all materials are reused.

According to the EPA, Americans produce an average of 4.4 pounds of waste per person per day. Reducing the overall materials needed at conferences or in daily lives can help the total waste that will end up in a landfill. All items, even those recycled and composted, require materials to make them and energy to break them down. Following the first of the R guidelines, reduce, can have an overall effect on the materials to be reused and recycled by lessening the materials to be reused and recycled. Reducing society’s overall consumption and working toward zero waste in events and in the average consumer’s daily life will not happen overnight, but are ultimately achievable with time and practice.

 

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.

 

Blog Articles

Most Recent

By Date

Tags

Clean Transportation, Digital Utility Strategies, Electric Vehicles, Energy Technologies, Finance & Investing, Policy & Regulation, Renewable Energy, Smart Energy Program, Transportation Efficiencies, Utility Transformations

By Author


{"userID":"","pageName":"Smart Buildings","path":"\/tag\/smart-buildings","date":"5\/23\/2018"}