Built Environment: Page 6 of 10


Once you’ve deployed smart sensors and systems in a building, the next step is to allow them to communicate the information they gather.

Connect devices with citywide, multi-service communications. In a few cases, a building’s sensors and systems may communicate directly with the citywide communications system. For instance, a smart meter or a smart thermostat may tie in directly so it can talk to the electric power utility. In a similar fashion, some utilities talk directly to building load control switches to turn equipment off if the grid is under stress. (The owners get compensation from the utility.)

In most cases, though, the building’s sensors will communicate internally to a building management system. That software then monitors and summarizes that internal data and shares it externally as permitted by building owners.

When it comes to new buildings – and sometimes even for old ones -- many forward thinking building owners are choosing a single, “merged” IP network – one that can carry all traffic, whether data, voice or video.


Interoperability targets ensure that your built environment plays nicely with others. Of the three universal interoperability targets, two require additional discussion.

Adhere to open standards. Building technology must adhere to the same communications standards as all other smart city gear – even when the building industry is a barrier to this smart city goal. And it must also contend with standards unique to the built environment.

When it comes to communicating between the building and the rest of the city, you can rely on the standards set forth in the Telecommunications chapter, notably IPv6. But when it comes to the equipment and the communications within the building, you will have to navigate a maze of options.

The buildings sector has been slow to adopt open standards. In areas such as internal communications within a building, the sector has several competing “standards,” including BACnet and LonWorks.

In short, you will need a) the help of an expert to make the right choices and b) a firm determination to stay open no matter what inducements are offered to use a proprietary system instead.

We mentioned earlier how a group of cities is collaborating on Open Data applications. Cities could also benefit from participating in ICT standards organizations such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and buildingSMART International. The cost is minimal and ROI can be substantial. Standards for Building Information Models (BIM), indoor location, indoor/outdoor information integration, etc. are being developed with virtually no city input. If cities don’t express their interoperability requirements, there’s no guarantee they will get what they need. Cities need to be smart about standards development so they know which standards to ask for in procurement documents.

Prioritize the use of legacy investments. It bears repeating – cities and building owners should make every effort to tap into existing devices and equipment before retrofitting buildings with new gear. Older devices can often be integrated with building management systems, thereby avoiding unnecessary replacement. Using existing equipment when possible is a wise way to get maximum value from your investments. For an example, see the 88 Acres case study linked at the end of this chapter; it explains how Microsoft leveraged legacy investments when it rolled out smart buildings on its campus in Redmond, Washington.

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