INTERNET OF THINGS (IoT): REALITY OR MIRAGE FOR COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE OWNERS?
By Daniel Minoli
and Benedict Occhiogrosso,
The Internet of Things — IoT, also called the Internet of Everything by some and “the Cloud of Things” by others — is now the rage of the age. A Google search on the topic yields over 20 million hits, and articles are written on the topic daily both in the technical literature and in the financial press. The IoT aims at embedding sensors and actuators in nearly all things in the physical world and wirelessly interconnecting these embedded sensors and their data collecting software with centralized data processing systems to provide monitoring, control, surveillance, ambiance intelligence, system decisioning, and remote action control. Healthcare, smart grids, ‘smart cities’, and ‘smart buildings’ are the initial targeted applications. What should a commercial real estate owner know, now, not tomorrow, about the IoT?
Hence, it’s clear that the IoT is an avalanche that will soon sweep across the entire economy. Its scope will range from the microscopic and personal level, such as interconnected medical monitoring devices that people can wear at home or on the go to improve service, to aid the management costs, and to alleviate the shortage of healthcare personnel, to a regional macroscopic level including smart electric grids and city-wide infrastructure management for traffic flows, water distribution, surveillance, precision agriculture, and environmental monitoring, for example using a network of sensors that are simultaneously collecting weather and air quality and also data on how and how many people are using a given metropolitan space. A whole range of off-the-shelf wireless technologies are applicable to the IoT, including well-known Bluetooth links, WiFi links, 4G cellular links, and Body Area Network technologies such as ZigBee, to list just a few.
But is there an IoT-based advantage for the commercial landlord? Honestly, there are more applications and opportunities for real estate owners than can be listed in a one-page article, but a short list includes energy optimization and conservation; energy harvesting and recycling; fine-tuned, building-wide HVAC management; and enhanced security capabilities. For example, beacons can be used to track the movements of people in a building, office complex, or home. Some applications include automatically turning on lights, even to a specific light intensity when a particular person enters the space, or to transparently transmit information about secure access to various parts of the building for employees, vendors, or visitors.
In the limit , IoT can potentially redistribute the intelligence within a building – placing more smarts in autonomous sensors interconnected as opposed to centralized Building automation systems. This will be augmented by graphical user interface ( dashboards) and analytics enabling management to make better decisions on how best to reduce energy consumption and operating costs, taking into account utility rates/demand ,weather present , seasonal and forecast as well as real-time building occupancy.
Observers note that as mixed-use developments have eliminated traditional classifications among residential, office, retail, and entertainment spaces, the IoT will empower consumers to integrate technology with their work-life choices. Paraphrasing the Urban Land Institute, smartphones are “learning” user’s preferences through buying and usage activities, from workouts to shopping to leisure; calculating repetitions and durations; and surfacing new opportunities by trolling databases. Thus, an employee’s use of workspace, amenities, and living space forms the backbone of future real estate design.The interactive data feed from occupants’ devices will be a boon to property managers whose current technologies limit their visibility on buildings’ behavior—that is, how well offices, shops, and other gathering spaces foster productive social and commercial interactions. In the next decade, technology will match—and possibly supplant—location as the main lever of real estate economics and, consequently, of urban form and function.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in IoT use in real estate, and not even the tip-of-the tip of the near-future all-encompassing IoT applications in the business, personal, educational, and healthcare world of consumers and businesspeople. Don’t let the IoT iceberg float by, or worse yet collide with you and your way of doing business. We at DVI Communications are focusing on energy-related applications of the IoT, including smart lighting and data center infrastructure management (DCIM)/green IT, and we’ll be glad to assist interested parties learn more about what the IoT can do for them, including reducing costs and improving productivity. Give us a call.