Trends may come and go, but every so often they end up shaping the world we live in. This, of course, applies to building automation as well. In this blog post, I wanted to map out the top five trends that not only affect our industry and smart buildings in a significant way but also mirror the world and modern values around us. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
During my first days in the business of building automation, I heard people talking about “smart cities and IoT”. I automatically assumed they were discussing building automation. Come on, they had to be: that’s smart and connected to the Internet. No. I was living in my own professional bubble.
Building automation is only a part of something much bigger. Thus far, different systems in buildings have been their own separate closed blocks, with their own interfaces and zero communication with external systems. But, finally, automation is now starting to get fully integrated into the same network with other systems such as fire alarms, access control units, elevators, etc. The brains of this network exist in a cloud.
When we have these smart buildings, we can finally also have them communicate with each other. Think of it as the Internet of Buildings: people, traffic, city infrastructures and buildings will eventually all communicate with one another, and what we’ll have is an actual smart city. Now, IoT is a word that gets thrown around a lot and therefore has lost some of its meaning. But it is ultimately only a synonym for a word that is not as trendy anymore: twenty years ago, the world was excited of networks, now we are excited of IoT. The network is still the strongest of trends, but now we just have a new name for it.
Everything is wireless. Well okay, maybe not electricity, but I hope that the future will surprise me positively here. Without wireless functionalities, we would be far from where we are now. Mobile phones, cars, the Internet, radio – nearly everything in our everyday life is involved with wireless functionality to some degree. In building automation, wireless functionality provides us the flexibility and ease of installation when building new systems and modifying old ones. Connecting automation to the cloud is easy as 1,2,3, plus it’s effective. New wireless technologies have taken huge steps every year and this is reflected in the number of systems and technologies available today. Competition between different wireless technologies is tough, which keeps the R&D departments very busy: there’s a need to ensure that manufacturers do their very best to provide the most effective solutions for the industry. However, customers may end up confused by this overwhelming amount of different wireless networks – with a myriad of technologies all very different from one another – so this puts a customer in front of a big question: what to choose? But whatever the customer’s choice of technology may be, wireless is undoubtedly one of the most growing trends right now.
In building automation-related discussions, you cannot avoid terms like big data, open databases, machine-learning etc. But how do all these words transform into reality or better value-producing qualities for customers and consumers? The answer is in the applications. We need applications that can exploit this data and refine it into value-generating services: artificial intelligence, machine learning, energy optimization. All these are well-developed applications. It is easier than ever to create applications that take advantage of this data – provided that it’s open. I have many times come across a situation where building data is collected to a database, without that data ever being utilized at any level. What a waste of useful data.
I recently met some representatives from big IT companies. When our conversation turned from platforms and flexibility to openness and open source code, I felt genuinely surprised. Not because they dared to discuss this subject with me, but the fact that companies were suddenly advocating open source and open platforms in such a big way. Openness and flexibility have always been a small business advantage against the major players. A clear change in attitude is certainly noticeable, and it’s good for the entire industry. In addition to open data, an open source code provides us with many new opportunities. The basic coding work is already there so now we can simply focus on developing increasingly better applications with open minds.
You are the user. And you are king. Customers have become more demanding and for a good reason: many of us have grown accustomed to good usability on the consumer side of products, and have now woken up demanding that same level of usability in professional products, such as in the building automation industry. User experience is something where companies have only recently woken up to realise its true meaning. Many of us that have worked in the building automation field is far too familiar with those cryptic user manuals, poor user interfaces, endless text menus – the ones where you only try to change that one setting. How about this: do you remember the last time you were on a vacation at a hotel and needed to set the air-conditioning in the room? We can and should demand more usability. By that demand, we are also creating efficiency in our daily lives.
Key ingredients for the smart buildings of today and tomorrow
All of these trends are connected to each other in some way. Environmental consciousness and the hope for a better tomorrow are driving this development of smart buildings and cities. There is a lot happening now in different areas, but we have the same common direction: an efficient, low-emission world, with building automation being one of the elements of this movement. Here at Produal we do our bid to drive these elements forward.
If you’d like to hear what this means in practice, then look no further than our new platform for building automation: Produal PUMP®. Its intelligent design and effortless functionality – combined with the Produal PUMP® products – delivers the future of building automation: a future that is open, unified, modular, and adaptable.
Product Manager / Transmitters and wireless solutions