The Hal 9000 is Here Today: Your Office Building

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Parker White
Energy and Sustainability Services

Imagine arriving at your office in the morning to find your workspace ready for you, with lighting and temperature as you prefer, and your computer turned on for use. Today’s intelligent building automation systems are bringing that scenario to life.

While today’s computer-controlled building systems have yet to reach the level of awareness of HAL 9000, the sentient computer in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, many functions in modern office buildings operate with minimal human intervention. Millions of contemporary commercial buildings are equipped with cloud-connected wireless sensing and computer-controlled, programmable equipment for HVAC, elevators, security and more.

Smart lighting, in particular, is one of the fastest-growing markets for Internet of Things solutions focused on sustainability, according to global technology research firm ON World. The firm predicts that, by 2020, 100 million Internet-connected wireless light bulbs and lamps will be installed.

Smart building management systems can monitor automated building equipment in real time, automatically adjust energy or lighting systems, generate millions of data points, reduce energy costs and alert facility managers about emerging issues. The emergence of “machine-to-machine” (M2M) capabilities embedded within these management systems and the myriad building equipment they connect to enable computer-driven machines to communicate and respond to each other without human intervention. Companies like Pacific Controls, the Dubai-based global provider of end-to-end managed application services and solutions, are opening new frontiers in how humans, machines and buildings interact by using cloud technology and intelligent software to help manage energy usage and building systems for property portfolios across the globe.

Combined with skilled facilities management staff, smart building technologies like JLL’s IntelliCommand can greatly improve energy efficiency and occupant comfort. However, that’s not the only benefit. Smart buildings tend to be better maintained and have lower operating costs than those with conventional management systems, creating marketplace advantages for their owners and investors. Furthermore, companies that occupy smart buildings can take advantage of their sophisticated networking capabilities to adopt the collaborative communications technologies and flexible workspaces that boost employee productivity and well-being.

Soon, these complex building systems will likely be integrated into enterprise networks and become a shared responsibility of corporate real estate and information technology teams managing immense data streams. As the development of smart building technology continues to advance, real estate professionals have only begun to realize the full implications for issues from security and privacy to new possibilities for how individual office workers interact with their workplace environment.

The future is here. The future is now.

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