With digitisation ramping up across almost every sector, electronics developers launch brand-new and exciting products every year — from flashy virtual home assistants to innovative electric vehicle models.
However, whilst these devices are making a massive impact on our day-to-day lives, some of the most significant technological developments are not delivered by the gadgets we can purchase in shops but by the solutions integrated within the structures around us.
As modern technologies such as the internet of things (IoT) and 5G networking advance and become increasingly intertwined with the world around us, we are witnessing the rise of a new generation of tech-based infrastructure: smart buildings.
So, what are smart buildings — and how could they improve the efficiency and sustainability of the building sector moving forward?
Digitalising the built environment
A ‘smart’ building is broadly defined as a structure with advanced, integrated building control technology systems, which help create environments that are more comfortable for inhabitants, economical for business owners and efficient for the planet.
‘Intelligent buildings’ is a term that was coined in 1981 by the United Technology Buildings Systems Corporation, following the birth of the digital revolution in the 1950s — though many believe the history of smart building goes back much further.
Cornelius Drebbel invented a self-regulating ‘circulating oven’ in the 17th century — a device that was one of the first to mechanise process control and formed the basis for the automated heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems we use today.
Pioneers have been looking for ways to improve air circulation and other crucial building control functions ever since. But the technological advancements of the 21st century are what truly revolutionised structural design, causing the popularity of smart building solutions to skyrocket — a trend that is unlikely to slow down anytime soon.
Recent forecasts suggest the number of installed IoT devices in smart commercial buildings will grow at a healthy compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.1% until 2027. This growth is attributed mainly to the pandemic, which demonstrated the value of investing in modern tech to facilitate more resilient, convenient business operations.
But COVID-19 is just one of the societal catalysts driving growth in the intelligent building market. If we look to the future, climate change is one of the main challenges we will face in the coming decades — and reducing emissions within the built environment will play a significant role in mitigating its impacts.
So, how are the latest smart building technologies helping to meet these requirements?
Integrating intelligent building technology
Industry 4.0 technologies present several opportunities for building managers and business owners to meet environmental targets — and improve the quality of homes, offices and other facilities.
Thanks to the miniaturisation of components and the advanced connectivity afforded by the IoT and 5G networking, many building control functions can now be mechanised, providing two-way communication between the controller and the front-end software of a building management system.
These capabilities save time, boost energy efficiency and reduce human error, with IoT data offering real-time performance insights for predictive maintenance. For example, radio frequency identification (RFID) systems can help detect moisture that could indicate a pipe leak, allowing building managers to resolve the problem quickly.
There are many use cases for smart building technology in building security, too. For instance, sensors can provide advanced access control through facial recognition or smartphone identification, and door monitoring systems can alert building managers to unexpected or unauthorised visitors.
Long term, installing these tech capabilities in new and existing structures to increase efficiencies and reduce pollution will be crucial — especially as experts predict that 68% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.
As a result, we expect to see many more of these innovative building solutions emerging — from space-saving electrical heaters in wall panels to intelligent windows that automatically adjust UV protection levels — to improve safety and minimise energy waste in both commercial and residential environments.
However, as buildings become smarter, developers will have new obstacles to overcome — like ensuring IoT networks are cyber secure to choosing products and suppliers that take an uncompromising approach to quality.
So, any building manager looking to upgrade their facilities must work with suppliers and manufacturers that can guarantee superior performance and reliability — without exception.
Revolutionising building controls
In the fast-paced and increasingly digital landscape, smart building developers need technology-first solutions they can trust — no matter the size or purpose of the project.
At EC Electronics, we have vast experience within this sector, having developed cable assemblies, PCB assemblies and other components for use in various building automation and control systems — from hands-free washroom sensors to entire automated building management systems.
We provide complete electronics manufacturing services, catering to the needs of both digital and analogue systems, and our teams ensure optimal performance and intrinsic safety for all the components we produce.
Plus, our quality management system is certified to EN ISO/IEC 80079-34:2018 standards in line with IECEx and ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU — meaning our customers can rest assured that their building control solutions deliver on every expectation for safety, performance and durability.