Building clever: smart buildings and AI driving enhanced experiences

Buildings are becoming more than just smart. They are interconnected, communicate with people inside them, create positive emotional reactions and deliver memorable experiences. Digital technologies are enabling all this and making buildings safer and more environmentally friendly places to live and work. What sort of digitally-enabled smart building experiences can you look forward to?

Artificial intelligence (AI) will be one of the key tools in making smart buildings a reality. In fact, it is fair to say that without AI, smart buildings can’t really be described as smart. This is because AI enables so many services and solutions that building owners and managers count on to deliver safe, comfortable, intelligence-powered experiences for occupants.

Buildings now generate masses of data thanks to ubiquitous wireless and wired networks throughout buildings that connect multiple systems and sensors. All that data can be gathered up, analyzed and used to improve the building's efficiency, experience and sustainability.

What new building services can AI enable?

In the past, perhaps the most advanced technology-powered solutions you would find in buildings included CCTV surveillance cameras, smoke detection sensors and light sensors, all of which were designed to deliver increased safety and efficiency. Today, however, there are many more: other smart sensors like temperature, humidity and CO2 work in conjunction with centralized management platforms to make buildings more comfortable and energy efficient.

All kinds of use cases are now possible thanks to a combination of IoT sensors deployed throughout smart buildings and AI. Office and residential buildings consume huge amounts of water on a daily basis, and a lot of it gets used unnecessarily. That’s not something that can be monitored manually, but AI can help improve the issue.

Using sensors embedded in water pipes throughout a building, the level of water usage in specific areas of a building can be tracked and analyzed by AI tools to reduce waste. It can also help with maintenance, as the AI tool will notify building managers of any suspected leaks so repairs can be carried out.

AI can drive next-level maintenance in general in smart buildings. By using sensors and cameras around the building to capture every little detail, any areas requiring attention or repair can be targeted at the earliest opportunity. AI tools can analyze data gathered from all over the building, study fault patterns, and generate insights on any glitches or faults in building systems. This type of predictive maintenance and pre-emptive fault finding can significantly impact the building occupants’ quality of experience and the building manager’s OPEX.

Inside the building, outside the building

Queries on parking generate the most calls from visitors before they visit a building. People spend, or perhaps waste, a lot of time trying to find a vacant parking space, and it’s another area where AI can make a building experience better. Smart buildings can use pressure sensors buried underground in concrete and cameras all around the building to gather information on parking spaces. AI parking tools are then fed this data and analyze current parking space utilization and give up-to-the-minute information on available parking spaces to visitors, direct to their smartphones. The phone’s app then directs visitors to the right spot for parking their cars.

Elevators are another area of buildings where AI can make the service smarter and more enjoyable for occupants and visitors. To keep elevators in service and operating optimally, sensors deployed on elevators can monitor as many as 200 key parameters, such as lighting, noise, speed, doors opening and temperature. AI-enabled elevators can now even predict what floor someone is likely to want to go to based on time of day and previous behavior. In this instance, AI can optimize elevator configuration and maximize people flow throughout the building.

Availability of meeting rooms is another concern for many office workers, but AI in smart buildings can help smooth that process, too. Sensors located in meeting rooms around the building collect data on occupancy and automatically assign meeting rooms based on people’s requirements and room availability. The system can even integrate with the building’s lighting systems to automatically turn off lights when rooms are empty.

The smart building journey

Buildings are on a journey: they have shifted from basic building management systems to smart management systems but still have a way to go. Their journey is not unlike that of the autonomous vehicle, its end goal being to develop a place that is capable of sensing and reacting to its own environment with little to no input needed from the human inside it and delivering an enhanced, more enjoyable experience.

AI is a vital tool in enabling this advance. It can deliver benefits across a building’s spectrum of services: building managers, operations executives or health and safety officers can all plug into an AI platform and make better-informed decisions based on real-time building and system data. From HVAC to access control, lighting to occupant experience, it presents the possibility to improve every moment people spend in a building.

But past that, it isn’t only those responsible for building operations who can benefit from AI-enabled systems throughout the building. By way of smartphone apps, smart buildings can now communicate directly with occupants and visitors, be they residents, office workers, building maintenance staff or simply visitors, giving them real-time information about the building and making it a more enjoyable place to live or work, all at their fingertips.

Learn how we helped construction company McConnell Dowell implement IoT on its worksites for efficiency and safety in this GlobalData case study.

Steve Harris

I’ve been writing about technology for around 15 years and today focus mainly on all things telecoms - next generation networks, mobile, cloud computing and plenty more. For Futurity Media I am based in the Asia-Pacific region and keep a close eye on all things tech happening in that exciting part of the world.