‘Smart’ buildings thanks to digitalization and know-how
Alberto's working day starts with a message on his mobile phone: "you have a parking space and a work room reserved in a Smart Building in Barcelona", although it could have been any other city in the world.
On arrival at the car park the number plate reader assigns him a place. A series of interactive screens lead him to the elevator and then to the lobby. The facial recognition system guides him through the building to the room where he has arranged the meeting. The air conditioning switched itself on 15 minutes earlier and set the temperature in the room at 26oC. Just after entering the room, a controlled lighting system is activated to adjust the intense light that comes through the transparant photovoltaic windows. When the coffee break time comes, an alert system tells Alberto that the cafeteria is full and sends him somewhere else. The meeting ends and he leaves the building. Alberto has just had a complete experience in a Smart Building.
Technology has taken an enormous step forwards in the digitalization of the tertiary and residential sector, helping to make these spaces smart, particularly in the field of facility management (the management of buildings and their services). Nowadays tools are available that allow us to monitor, from a single control panel, the occupation of communal areas, security, lighting, air conditioning, the management of technological resources, connectivity, maintenance work… all the elements that make places occupied by dozens of companies and hundreds or thousands of workers function according to parameters of efficiency and sustainability. These Smart Buildings are made up of one of more blocks of different heights whose surface area can reach 100,000 m2, and they have consolidated themselves as large business spaces designed to increase productivity based on criteria of sustainability and minimization of costs.
However, the future lies beyond a mere deployment of technology. As in other areas such as telecoms or utilities, “we are faced with a change of paradigm in which the most important factor not the facility itself, but the user”, explains Sebastià Lorenzo of Dominion's Digital Transformation Unit.
“The building manager wants to place the user at the centre of operations, and all the technology installed should be adapted to the user's needs, modifying things automatically to provide the highest possible comfort without losing sight of parameters such as energy consumption and the organization of maintenance and efficiency”.
To achieve this objective, Dominion's Digital Transformation Unit provides an end-to-end solution based on three elements: Connectivity, Platform and Smart Data. In the Connectivity line, sensorization, IoT and data acquisition and communication systems in physical spaces are applied, i.e. everything that enables the management of -and information on status- of the different rooms in the buildings, to ensure their optimal use.
The second line has to do with the different software platforms that coexist inside a building: lighting, air conditioning, security, access control, the reservation of spaces... each of the systems has its own software and digital platform, and managers have to consult each one individually to manage the spaces. Through the Platform line, Dominion integrates the different IT systems that coexist in a building into its own SGS management system, both hardware and software, to control all the operational and business processes that take place there in a centralized manner.
Finally, the Smart Data line carries out advanced/smart analysis of data to improve the efficiency of the different processes. Thanks to intelligence applied to data it is possible to know how the facility is being used, to establish trends and make previsions that will help to increase efficiency. For example, the level of occupation or expected air conditioning costs depending on the events held in previous years...
Optimization of processes
However, what is the real application of these improvements? As an example, let us take the air conditioning of the room where Alberto had his meeting. Through a network of IoT sensors and technology it is possible to determine the optimal temperature parameters for a particular part of the building, taking into account indicators such as the level of occupation, the weather conditions outside, the production capacity of cold/heat and the cooling of equipment, times of maximum occupation of the building or historical data such as the energy consumption log or the weather in the area where the building is located. This means the ideal comfort temperature can be defined so it can be automatically set without someone having to manipulate the equipment to modify the operating parameters.
These same processes are applied to the lighting conditions, depending on the level of light entering through the windows; to the occupation of meeting rooms in a particular sector to reduce air conditioning costs; to the use of identification elements to prevent access to certain zones by unauthorized persons, and to the reservation of a place in the cafeteria, among other things.
A large part of this solution has its roots in technology, although as Sebastià Lorenzo says, “the technology is only a means to an end. The real added value lies in knowledge of the processes, and Dominion is a company with a technological core that has in-depth knowledge of its clients' processes to be able to increase their efficiency”.
“So far, we have talked about placing the client at the heart of the business, but we are already looking to optimize the User Experience. It is a case of both the building manager and the user feeling that the service is completely different from what could be provided by other companies, and seeing that we not only integrate and connect processes but we work hand-in-hand with the client to really improve these processes. In other words, we not only integrate equipment, we recommend to the client how to make its processes more efficient”.
This has two consequences: on one hand, the service manager achieves simpler and more efficient processes. On the other, end users like Alberto get an unbeatable User Experience.