by Tom Shircliff and Rob MurchisonOriginally published at AutomatedBuildings.com

We are grateful that Ken has kicked off the discussion of “Roadmap of the Possible” and is inviting industry stakeholders to contribute to the dialogue. We all owe it to the building owner, management and occupant community to keep an eye on the near future to encourage the most prudent and forward looking decision making. So, many decisions in real estate have long term impact, so we want them to best position for ultimate flexibility and scalability.

Connected buildings are becoming and will continue to become a reflection on today’s information technology (IT) and today’s societal trends which include mobility, social media, big data and personalization. Today’s IT has been inserted into our buildings through networked controls systems, sophisticated sensors and big data analytics. The aforementioned societal trends are just beginning to show up in a handful of buildings. We have seen more integration of personal preferences on temperature and lighting and even voting by occupants on settings, as well as more sensors of all types, various apps for better experience and increasing emphasis on smartphone/mobility. Social media is still on the periphery but the pieces are starting to fall in place technologically and at the least a building or workplace experience can be quickly shared on various apps.

Notwithstanding these trends, the connected buildings mentality has still not permeated a critical mass of the traditional real estate design, construction, management and contractor community and is largely driven by consultants and specialist. The short story is that this traditional community has not been deep in IT and nearly all of these trends and opportunities are driven by IT. Decades of inertia are hard to change but they are starting to talk to the talk even though the narrative is ahead of the reality for most of these vendors.

As a result the marketplace for smart building technology has flipped from a bottoms up to a top down process. Historically, an architect or consulting engineer would hear from solutions provides what the latest offerings are, incorporate it into their design and push it up to owners as recommendations. However, with issues such as energy, operating costs, sustainability and occupant experience all having more influence on strategic goals there has been intensified interest and proactivity from the “C” suite. It is much more commonplace than in previous years that the customer is driving a new set of requirements down to the A&E service providers and the customer is also being proactive with enterprise-wide software solutions including various analytics such as Fault Detection and Diagnostics.

This top down environment has also fostered greater internal organizational alignment within real estate organizations between IT, facilities, operations and even HR and other groups. It truly is beginning to change the way they do business.

This shift to a top down marketplace is helping drive the industry roadmap; but there are other key topics to note. They may not all be new concepts but there are several emerging areas of importance that will be part of the roadmap including: Interoperability, big data, cyber security, utility integration, occupant engagement.

The roadmap is ultimately a path of fundamental changes in the way the real estate industry works. The issues reference herein impact job types and titles, infrastructure, cost structures, contractual arrangements, risk shifting and role changes, which all cut to the core of real estate organizations. Thus, it’s a good thing that we have seen “top down” activity from building owners since its the owners and managers that will speed up or slow down progress on the roadmap.