When Connected, Buildings Take on New Life as Digital Resources

Historically viewed simply as a place where people congregate or where things are made or stored, the once-lowly, line-item building first traipsed onto the digital landscape for purposes of saving energy, namely through LED lighting, HVAC-system upgrades, or a combination of both as part of larger building-management systems.

Now, companies are taking the benefits of “going digital” much further to connect and manage their physical space, and/or tap into its process-improving and revenue-generating potential.

The connected building is the newest frontier in our growing reliance on technology to better understand our world, and to improve results of the business that occupies that building. When connected, a building becomes a strategic operational asset, not just a fixed asset, by providing data that companies can mine and manage to better understand their own important populations, whether they be workers, guests, patients, shoppers, passengers, etc.

It might be your best worker – the very building that houses your operations. Outfitted with technology to connect it to the digital world, it’s highly skilled and performs around the clock. This indispensable “employee” offers smart, reliable and resourceful service, and stands to get even more valuable over time.

Of course, the advantages lie in a building’s proximity to these customer populations.

Retailers, for example, increasingly look to their portfolio of local buildings to provide digital parity with their online presence and other ways to compete in the retail world. The “brick-and-click” pendulum is swinging from what has been an extreme focus on the Internet to an omni-channel middle ground. Here, the physical building becomes as much of an advantage – a true strategic asset – as the online interface, just for different purposes, such as its ability to accommodate an online-order pick-up.

Inside the connected building, the user experience becomes increasingly interactive as sensor-based communication becomes more commonplace. Some examples:

  • Retail merchandisers can download data delineating shoppers’ browsing habits and aisle-by-aisle product views, similar to shoppers’ online habits. They can also understand the impact of store floor redesigns on customer behavior. 
  • Hospital administrators can learn the average time for a nurse to visit a room after the patient pushes the button to summon one. The hospital support team can also deploy beds or caregivers based on their location or event-based information.
  • Connected airport infrastructure can help passengers navigate between gates or safely stray from their gate before their boarding call. Passengers, thus, enjoy the amenities and services of this small indoor city with less stress, and vendors enjoy the potential for increased sales.
  • Connected warehouse distribution centers can minimize the time wasted on looking for mobile equipment used for order consolidation.
  • Office buildings can become more productive by providing hot-desking capabilities for employees who travel frequently.
In short, connected buildings, like their online counterparts, are responsive to the contextual, location-aware data that they harvest, allowing business or building managers, or the building itself, to monitor and, in real time, adapt to the relevant needs of building occupants. Whether integrated into one building or across an entire property portfolio, this disruptive capability has the potential to differentiate the user experience and even redefine the business model.

About the Author 

Vinod Kashyap is the Director of IoT Product Management for AtriusTM IoT Solutions at Acuity Brands, Inc

For 15+ years, Vinod Kashyap has been engineering and developing nascent technologies in hardware, firmware and software. Vinod most recently focused on the development of the full IoT solution stack for Indoor Positioning Solutions (IPS) deployed via lighting infrastructure for the Acuity Brands technology business. His experience leading operations and product management has yielded a strategy mindset bridging the physical to the digital world, which leverages customer insights to develop integrated solutions. 

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