2015 Smart Building Wrap-Up

Author: Rob Murchison & Tom Shircliff, Intelligent Buildings, Inc.

Originally published as Realcomm Advisory

In 2015 the smart buildings solution space paradoxically generated more excitement, more progress, and yet more confusion.

The industry has clearly acknowledged the role of Information Technology (IT) in both existing and future development/management models, and we all know that our building controls run on IT. Hence, we have to manage both risk and opportunities inherent, most notably:

  1. Rising cost structure
  2. Skills gaps
  3. Increasing occupant demands
  4. Cyber security
  5. Organizational misalignment

Realcomm has tabulated over 130 viable, commercial smart building solution types and counting. This ratchets up the noise level and adds to the chaos in the marketplace. At some point you have to ask yourself about your motivations before stabbing at 130 solutions. The general answer is simple – you are trying leverage the technology to reach your existing goals such as mitigating risk, lowering cost structure, reducing energy and operational costs, enhancing sustainability, improving occupant experience and productivity and other fundamental real estate aims. ‘Smart’ does not create new goals, but helps you reach existing goals faster and less expensively and, with lower risk.With a commercial office marketplace of 12 billion square feet in the U.S. alone and a BOMA estimated $8.45 per square foot of operating costs, the opportunity for smart strategy and solutions is enormous.

Let’s take a look back at several of the themes of 2015:

  • Big data analytics continued their march: The adoption of analytics picked up pace and many real estate organizations are not debating if but when. Analytics are already prominent in other industry segments such as healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, retail and even pro sports , and real estate is not immune to the cost-value ratio that big data can bring.
  • IoT in real estate or BIoT (Building IoT): Even though BIoT has become a phenomenon, this is not just about the distant IoT future. Many IBCon case studies and breakout sessions have illustrated portfolios that are gathering and analyzing billions of data points generated by run of the mill controls systems, not including additional added sensors. Most estimates show that by 2020, 40 percent of all data will come from sensors. In order to make an IoT environment most beneficial, the aforementioned analytics will have to leverage more automated methods to analyze volumes of data; and find new ways to apply relevant rules without manually selecting them, and then use ML (Machine Learning) to further accelerate the benefits.
  • Back office and front of house integration: We have seen APIs, partnerships and even M&A that indicates the back office systems such as IWMS (Integrated Work Space Management), EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) and CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) are ready for energy, analytics and controls data to help drive work orders automatically, support capital planning and manage staffing levels more efficiently. We can expect this to continue in the spirit of big data, integration, interoperability and analytics. This pushes the industry more towards “data driven decision making” in both manual and automated ways.
  • Cyber Security: The 2015 IBcon conference in San Antonio showed us the rising intensity of cyber security, with standing room only sessions and hallway buzz spurred by the presence of numerous federal agency speakers. Testimony by leading developers and managers on this crucial topic was revelatory. Ironically, the cyber issue is not caused by smart buildings, but helped by them. Without smart buildings, there are millions of Internet-connected systems with little or no cyber security provisions, and nearly all are managed by disparate contractors, not the building owners or managers. With the increased attention cyber security has generated, we can anticipate this will only grow in importance, and 2016 will see many more case studies, solutions and organizational action. The first step should be a representative inventory of buildings to determine their “score” or the extent of possible exposure.
  • Organizational Alignment: This was also an issue when we were just talking about controls systems’ convergence on a common IT network, and how to buy licenses for lighting control or other point solutions. But now the advent of cloud, analytics, software driven controls, back office integration and cyber issues has introduced a new criticality for our internal decision making, budgeting and turf wars. This is part of strategy and change management and must continue to be addressed.


Let us suggest that you make a New Year’s resolution to craft a plan and framework for how to leverage ‘smart’ in your organization: with a business purpose, and then plug solution vendors into your plan (not vice versa). There are many educational opportunities available through Realcomm, IBcon, CoRE Tech, webinars, advisories and Realcomm Edge magazine. Additionally, there are numerous consulting groups that can help you establish the principles of a strategy, framework and architecture. Make 2016 the year you cut through the smart building noise!