Connectivity solution raises IQ of smart buildings
By Andrew Maier
Smart building technologies allow facilities managers to adjust energy use based on occupancy, weather and other factors. In fact, such technologies have become so popular that global spending on smart building applications is expected to reach $17.4 billion by 2019, according to IDC Research.
Of course, the hope among building operators is that the investment in smart technologies will pay off through gains in energy and overall operational efficiencies. But smart building owners can struggle to maximize without one key component: building-wide Internet connectivity.
The cost of no Internet connection
Many building owners invest in smart technologies with the idea that they’ll be able to control building systems remotely. While that is a benefit, not all managers work remotely. Some are onsite at a specific building, at least some of the time to perform maintenance and troubleshooting.
Ironically, building managers often have better control of smart technologies off-site than they do when they’re under the same roof as the systems they’re trying to control because they need an Internet connection to use their smart apps, and the connection isn’t always available in every part of a building.
For example, let’s say the building manager responds to a complaint about the temperature on the 25th floor of an office building. He goes up to investigate.
But when he tries to use his app to adjust the HVAC system in the basement, he can’t get an Internet connection. Asking the 25th floor tenant for access to their Wi-Fi network isn’t advisable or realistic, because it infringes on the tenant’s security, privacy and bandwidth.
Besides, investigating the issue in multiple tenant spaces would require the hassle of connecting to multiple tenant networks. Instead, he directs another worker to make adjustments directly on the equipment in the basement, and the two use walkie-talkies to communicate until they resolve the situation. They get the job done, but it takes twice the manpower it would have taken if the building manager were able to use the app on his own, as intended.
This is just one example of the cost of not having a building-wide Internet connection.
Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity options
Smart technologies can connect to the Internet through either a building-wide Wi-Fi or cellular connection. A Wi-Fi connection is sufficient for buildings where the only need is to enable smart system control. But a cellular connection offers greater value, because it also benefits tenants.
Even if a building has Wi-Fi coverage, individual tenants also have their own Wi-Fi networks for the sake of security and efficiency. But individual tenants can’t have their own cellular networks. If a building doesn’t provide cellular connectivity, tenants have to connect to macro networks outside the building. Sometimes the signals are strong enough to support that need. But more and more often, tenants have trouble accessing exterior networks, because so many people are trying to do so — especially in high-rises, where data usage and population density are especially high and growing every day. An in-building cellular connection provides tenants with the reliable signal they need, while also allowing building managers to access system controls from anywhere in the building.
It’s the higher-value solution for Internet connectivity. More and more buildings are deciding that when it’s time to upgrade to an in-building Internet connection, a cellular connection is the better option.
Distributed antenna system (DAS) solutions for indoor connectivity
DASs are the premier connectivity solution. Indoor systems provide wireless cellular service for a building, allowing everyone inside to fully use their mobile devices, including apps for controlling smart technologies.
A distributed antenna system is made up of a base station and a system of antennas. The base station collects a signal from a carrier network and creates a dedicated cellular network for the building, which is then carried throughout the space with discreet antennas and cabling.
Not only do such setups benefit building managers and tenants, but they also deliver a major advantage to building owners by increasing property values. A distributed antenna system is a huge selling point for all buildings — especially smart buildings.
Going smart is a smart decision — as long as you have an in-building Internet connection. And you can get the most value out of that connection through a distributed antenna solution.
Andrew Maier is vice president of emerging technologies at WIN, a leader in distributed antenna system (DAS) solution development for high-rises. He focuses on applications and technologies that use Internet access to improve building-wide communication and efficiency.