Which tech will form the networked buildings of tomorrow?

7th October 2019
Anna Flockett

As the pace of innovation continues, future smart buildings will be able to leverage a range of technologies, from established standard technologies to new and futuristic developments. So far, no single technology has established itself as the standard for intelligent buildings. For example, even relatively small implementations with only dozens of sensors often use several different communication protocols. And as the size of the building increases and the complexity of the network increases, the number of communication systems generally also increases.

The infrastructure in smart buildings is fast-paced, with various open and proprietary technologies constantly evolving. But there are also efforts to agree on a small (re) number of standards. Let's look at some of the prevailing and emerging technologies in smart buildings.

New technologies, architectures, and AI
To reduce maintenance and overall costs and optimise bandwidth utilisation, we are seeing increasing adoption of network architectures based on capillary and mesh networks.

The new indoor sensing and positioning technology opens up completely new application scenarios. These include, for example, the determination of accurate occupancy figures and asset tracking. Artificial intelligence also plays a role. It enables more data to be analysed on devices themselves (on the "edge") or on the gateway between the device and the Internet (in the "fog"), and limits the bandwidth requirements between building and cloud.

Combining wired and wireless networking
The backbone of indoor networks will most likely remain Ethernet-based, but wireless protocols are becoming increasingly important. Most buildings already have short-range wireless networks that allow Internet connectivity and connect wireless sensors.

Bluetooth, which is already in virtually every phone, tablet and computer today, is the obvious choice when it comes to controlling smart home kits. In early 2019, improvements were made to the location services of Bluetooth . It now provides improved real-time tracking of goods, goods, and even people, as well as beacon-based navigation. This is made possible by a new bearing function that allows devices to determine the direction of a signal.

On the other hand, configuration-free mobile technologies are popular for applications such as smart meters and alarm panels, the latter using the bandwidth of LTE Cat 1 to stream video and audio. And with the development of 4G Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies, including NB-IoT and LTE-M, the mobile network is becoming an increasingly attractive option for low-bandwidth smart metering requirements. It is expected that IoT connectivity options will continue to develop as part of massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) below 5G.

Choosing the right technology
Whatever technology develops, it will continue to be important to choose it carefully according to your needs. In the communications area, a mobile-based kit is easy to install, but each device requires some sort of mobile data contract. That drives up the cost, especially if you use numerous kits. On the other hand, high-density implementations such as smart lighting or heat cost allocators are well suited for short-range technologies such as Bluetooth Mesh. These mesh networks can then be connected to the broader network of a building or the Internet.

Looking at another area of ​​intelligent building technology, a sensor may not be enough to provide the accuracy or depth of insights needed. For example, if you want to see where people are in your building to optimise heating and cooling systems, you may need to combine inputs from different sensors. In the above case, researchers have achieved great results by measuring CO 2 levels and feeding them into a neural network along with other environmental factors.

Biometric data
Finally, we'll explain a futuristic smart building technology that we'll probably see more in smart buildings: biometrics. Fingerprint scanners are already commonplace, and iris recognition is becoming increasingly popular for checking who is allowed in restricted areas. And with facial recognition already integrated into high-end smartphones today, it may only be a matter of time before this technology is used in an intelligent building near you.

Guest blog written by Stefan Berggren, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Product Strategy Short Range Radio.

Courtesy of u-blox.

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