16.03.17

2017 Smart Building conference report

The Smart Building Conference was held on February 6, 2017 at the RAI Amsterdam. InAVate and Hidden Wires attended the event and report on the residential and commercial tracks.

The Smart Building Conference was held a day before ISE 2017 at the RAI Amsterdam. The fact that this was the fifth iteration of the event should be proof enough that smart buildings are not a new idea. Speakers from a range of companies - which included Google, IBM, Bosch Software Innovations, Amazon and Apple - congregated to speak about the developments made in the field and how connected devices and systems will impact the future.

James McHale, managing director at Memoori Research, an independent research organisation, stated that low powered and low cost sensors had fuelled the growth and expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT). According to McHale we can expect a median of 30 billion connected devices in the world by 2020 based on data from multiple sources.

The Smart Building Conference sought to delve deeper into the challenges and road ahead for smart buildings and offered residential and commercial tracks to attendees.

McHale stated that the commercial real estate market for smart buildings will account for 34% of the overall pie by the year 2020, a significant portion not to be scoffed at. 

Mark S. Valenti, president and CEO of the Sextant Group, design consultants in America, said that in the commercial realm “energy” was the “low hanging fruit”. Monitoring and control of energy consumption is possible today and smart buildings of the future are expected to improve in this regard.

However, participants of the Smart Building Conference were keen to look beyond just energy management. Aglaia Kong, CTO corporate marketing at Google, said that with office space being at a premium worldwide (and also being a key factor in attracting and retaining talent) smart buildings had a crucial role to play in the future of commercial spaces.

Additional information beyond energy consumption, such as occupancy, temperature and space usage will be essential in maximising tenant comfort and effective space utilisation. Kong stated that the Google facilities management team uses exactly such data to design and create work spaces and environments.

All present were also well aware of the challenges that lay ahead for the industry as a whole. Valenti perhaps asked the audience the most portentous question of the day, enquiring which integrator, if any, was willing to fully undertake the delivery of a smart building, a term which has yet to be fully defined.

He said that the current process for designing, constructing and commissioning buildings, which is codified in laws and regulations, did not provide an adequate model for portioning risk among the parties involved. However, he was confident that the steps being taken to resolve the matter would bear fruit in the next five years.

Another hotly discussed topic in relation to IoT and smart buildings was security. The Mirai distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on Twitter, which used unsecured IoT devices such as IP cameras as part of its botnet, was presented as an example of the dangers of living in a world full of connected devices. 

Security best practises are required and defined manufacturer usage descriptions (MUDs) for IoT devices were identified as the first steps toward a more secure network. Software defined networking, an approach that allows network administrators to programmatically initialise, control, change and manage network behaviour dynamically via open interfaces, was also mooted as solution.

The commercial track ended on an uplifting note with a presentation from Claire Penny, worldwide solution leader for Watson IoT at IBM, looking into the future. With the kinks and details of making smart buildings function beginning to be ironed out, the next step presented by her was “cognitive building” which would be capable of predictive control. It is expected that this will be driven by advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence.