It is a little-known fact that in busy cities such as Hong Kong, we spend as much as 90% of our time indoors. However, with COVID-19, people came to realize that indoors may not be as safe as they had imagined. So, how to minimize the risk of infection in buildings is the pressing need for all property owners to regain the trust from their occupants who would spend hours in close proximity to one another and might be exposed to a potentially contaminated environment, or even, make buildings resilient to cope with new and unprecedented crisis in the future under the new normal.
Safe back-to-work with Smart office
Smart buildings equipped with IoT sensors will play a pivotal role in helping organizations achieve these objectives, notably by enabling Real-Time Location Services (RTLS), through which contact tracing can be conducted based on algorithms that rely on both proximity and duration of encounters. While IoT solutions like the Enlighted ‘Safe’ application can even help enforce social distancing rules and implement access restrictions based on real-time traffic and occupancy, while help facility managers set up sanitization schedules depending on the actual use of space and amenities.
Meanwhile, a workplace mobile app such as Comfy can help reduce physical contacts by allowing occupants to control key parameters of the office environment, including temperature, lighting, meeting room and desk availability.
Remote building monitoring and control
Simply adapting to the new normal falls short of all technology can afford us. Modern buildings should indeed be future-proof and help us be ready for unplanned or unforeseeable situations arising from megatrends such as climate change, population growth and urbanization. Adopting a Building Management System (BMS) that is connected to the Cloud is a simple yet powerful solution that allows facility managers to gain remote control of the building anytime, anywhere. Facility managers no longer have to be physically on site or go to multiple locations to resolve the issues. Diagnostic and trouble-shooting tasks are optimized, thus social interaction minimized. Ultimately this means infrastructure can be managed more flexibly and efficiently, with less significance given to geographical constraints.
Retrofit buildings for energy efficiency
The IoT can also be leveraged to streamline and optimize power usage in buildings. In one of the use case for AI Data Center, non-intrusive IoT sensors were installed in flexible locations, throughout the building to capture real-time data that can be further analyzed to derive fruitful operational insights with machine learning. Gains can be substantial with thus retrofitted data center realizing energy savings of up to 40%.
Leverage IoT with predictive maintenance
In addition, given sufficient sensor data, predictive maintenance is enabled when coupled with IoT platforms such as Navigator and MindSphere. The system can identify abnormal patterns or situations and predict downtimes or failures that can affect lighting, power, security, fire safety or HVAC, and alert the facility manager for immediate action. This opens up a whole new ball game: one where reactive maintenance is replaced by predictive maintenance, where the likelihood of an unplanned downtime is minimized, and where buildings can organically react to new adverse circumstances so they can operate 24/7.
The current pandemic has literally changed our world, our behaviors, the way we interact with our environment, and our attitudes towards technology. With the vast majority of our time spent inside buildings, it is a high time we embraced a model where buildings are seen as organic environments that can interact with their occupants, learn from data, are able to adapt to challenging circumstances and face down any threat that comes to us. Only then will we become more resilient to future challenges and in a position to enable our society to thrive.