Technological advancements over the years have impacted everything from coffee makers to cars. These trends are leading the globe towards smart electrical grids, phones, and devices. Smart buildings are also starting to match up to this latest paradigm. The volumes of information, produced, communicated, and stored in these modern buildings are massive, and these smart buildings are attempting to connect all the occupants and machines to an information grid.
Smart buildings are focused on controlling and connecting the various machinery and systems to help the occupants to become more efficient while also lowering the cost and environmental impacts of a building itself. These controls often include room and door access, power, illumination, sanitation, air-conditioning and quality, security, and much more, which all combine into a more productive and efficient building.
Smart Buildings – The pros and cons
Like any other advancement, smart buildings are also linked to their own set of pros and cons. The main benefits have to do with the costs of operating and owning the building. These buildings are designed to detect the cost fluctuation and patterns of every individual system that is involved in daily activities. These buildings can also learn when there are no occupants in the building and when to shut down air control, illumination, and any other unnecessary assets that will only be required to make the occupants feel comfortable in specific areas around the building.
These systems are also designed to empirically learn and keep track of equipment used and maintenance cycles in a building and to notify the management teams when there are critical needs that employees must address. This helps to create safer work environments and to keep costs down. As a system starts integrating into what is known as a “smart electrical grid”, it will track fluctuating electricity costs throughout a working day and then use this data in its decision-making to help the company reach lower electrical costs.
One of the main setbacks of smart buildings is linked to cyber security. When a business has connected all of its devices to one control network, the risks increase for an outside party or nefarious users to hack effectively into the building. When a hacker is successful the consequences could lead to simple acts such as messing with the lighting or air-conditioner to irritate employees to collecting vital and private information about the company.
Putting a Smart Building to the test
To study the “security strength” of smart buildings, a group known as IBM’s X-Force Security Research Group performed a study involving a penetration test on the automation system of a building. The results from this study revealed that not much thought went into the overall security of these systems. The team gained access to many of the necessary systems that hackers could use to impact the business negatively.
The team from IBM released helpful information and guidance after they attained the results from this penetration test. The team gained access to this system due to inadequate password management. The building that was tested stored passwords in cleartext. The same password was also used between various devices. IBM suggests that these weak passwords should be avoided. The team also recommended that not every device should have remote access. Users should also be disabling this type of access to avoid a possible breach of security.
Similar to a computer network, there is software capable of monitoring network activity and this can notify the users when there is suspicious activity. The automation system and this type of software must stay up-to-date to ensure the highest levels of security. The risks of security breaches may be inherent with a smart system, but communities of cyber-security specialists are in the process of developing methods to deal with these possibilities. With the suggested preventative measures, the setbacks of smart buildings become easier to overcome.
Significant growth predicted for smart buildings
The outlook relating to smart buildings indicates growth for this industry, while future projects are providing futuristic anticipation to individuals and companies. Zion Research has predicted this industry was expected to grow 30% between 2015 and 2020. This projection of growth is attributed to some of the advantages mentioned above, urbanization pace, and promising government regulations that are now in place to assist with reducing infrastructure and environmental impacts. One of the main constraints at this time for smart buildings are the higher costs involved when it comes to construction.
However, since consumer marketing continues to increase for smart appliances in homes more and more people are interested in incorporating these systems into other areas. Electronic stores have already started to sell thermostats and lighting that are controlled via computers and smartphones. Security systems are also accessible if an individual has forgotten to lock the doors at home or for monitoring a child. A research project conducted by the University of British Columbia predicts that soon it will be a possibility to turn a window into a television screen. These smart devices are predicted to assist with growth from individual homes to the corporate industry.