What Is Smart Building Automation? Full Explanation

Smart Building Automation

Automation through the Internet of Things (IoT) makes human life significantly more manageable. IoT has revolutionized the modern building industry through smart building automation technology, due to which, your building can be equipped with automated systems controlled and monitored remotely. As a homeowner, you might be looking to learn more about smart building automation.

Smart building automation is the process of controlling and managing various systems within a commercial or residential property using advanced electronic devices and software connected to a smart home app. By automating these systems, you can achieve greater efficiency and energy bill savings.

Smart building automation is all about giving you control over your building. The technology ensures that the building is energy-efficient, safe, and comfortable. I’ll be explaining smart building automation in more detail below, so make sure to stay tuned. 

What Is a Smart or Intelligent Building?

A smart building, also called an intelligent building, is an automated building with several sensors and software connected to the internet, whose aim is to communicate with each other. 

The intercommunication of these IoT devices makes it possible to collect and analyze data around a building and then generate insights based on the analyzed data on how to manage various systems.

Smart building automation systems gather data from various sources, including weather forecasts, sensor readings, and occupancy schedules. This data is then analyzed to generate insights that can improve the efficiency of various systems such as HVAC, lighting, and security.

Through IoT, intelligent buildings deliver actionable information about a section of a building, a specific room, or the entire building to management, tenants, or the owner. Therefore, having such a system in your building reduces the time and cost of monitoring and operating within it.

The Implementation of Smart Building Automation

Smart building automation is a new technology based on IoT. New buildings are fitted with smart home infrastructure to enable automation in this technology. On the other hand, a retrofitting process can be done on your old building if you want it converted into an intelligent building.

Most smart home systems use Bluetooth, Insteon, or WiFi for data sharing and communication. These communication channels operate under the Zigbee or Z-wave communication protocols for efficient data sharing.

It’s worth noting that the communication protocols used in intelligent home systems need a network to interlink the different devices. The network must allow the linking of branched nodes and devices. These requirements explain why intelligent home systems use mesh networks.

Smart home automation allows remote control of all devices in the system through a smart home hub. The hub serves as a master home automation controller or the central point where all the devices in the system are connected.

Popular Types of Smart Home Hubs

There are many types of smart home hubs, but the common ones are:

  • Insteon Hub
  • Wink Hub
  • Samsung SmartThings hub
  • Philips Hue Bridge
  • Amazon Echo Plus
  • Apple TV 4K
  • Google Nest Hub
  • Wink Hub 2

Factors To Consider When Buying a Smart Home Hub

Smart home hubs have different capabilities and functionalities. Therefore, you should buy one that aligns with your expectations regarding functionality. Some key considerations in the case are:

  • Control type: You can use a voice-controlled, web-based, or app-based controlled smart home hub.
  • Connectivity: Most smart home hubs connect to your devices using WiFi, Zigbee, Z-wave, Bluetooth, and Ethernet. Some hubs offer many connectivity options, while others have a limited number.
  • Compatibility: You should buy a hub compatible with the devices you have or plan to buy in the future. For instance, if you use an Android smartphone, get a smart home hub compatible with Android devices.
  • Price: Hubs vary in price depending on their features, brand, and connectivity options. Your budget should guide you on the one to buy.
  • Ease of use: Consider how easy it is to set up and use the hub before buying it. Even if you’ll have it installed by a professional, consider whether it will be easy for you to use afterward.

Systems Used in Smart Building Automation

Smart building automation incorporates smart devices that collaborate to create a remotely-controlled network. These devices include:

IoT Devices

IoT devices are connected to the internet wirelessly or wired and can, therefore, be remotely monitored and controlled. Integrating network connection technology enables IoT devices to automatically share information between people, software, or among themselves. Thus, these devices eliminate manual human intervention to facilitate information sharing, which can be time-consuming and costly.

Smart building automation uses different IoT devices for smart environments based on the specific type of intelligent building. For instance, the technology uses inventory controls, security cameras, and biometric scanners in an intelligent commercial building.

Other common IoT devices used include:

  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Computers
  • Wearables
  • Thermostats
  • Sensors
  • Lighting controls
  • Door locks

Smart Building Communication Devices

Communication devices facilitate the sharing of information between different parts of the building. They also connect the building to the outside world. In smart buildings, they allow for automated responses to changes in conditions both inside and outside.

A Lower Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) is used in smart building automation because it allows the interconnection of low-bandwidth IoT devices over long distances. LPWAN is also more powerful and cost-efficient than mobile networks.

Smart buildings use Zigbee and Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) for communication in the following ways:

  • Zigbee: Is a data protocol that relays information between low-power electronic devices using a mesh network. It’s used in commercial buildings to wirelessly connect devices such as light switches, door locks, and security cameras.
  • MQTT: Is an encryption communication protocol that uses a publish/subscribe messaging system. It’s used in smart buildings to monitor conditions such as temperature, humidity, and lighting.

IoT Communication Protocols

Smart technologies use cellular, LPWAN, or radio frequency identification (RFID) as communication protocol devices.

The communication technology used in the smart world depends on the data and the rate at which it should be shared. For instance, Science Direct discusses that while the LPWAN network facilitates long-range communication among different IoT devices, it’s more effective in sharing small data at low rates. Therefore, it’s not ideal for sharing high-resolution videos or large data sets.

On the other hand, cellular technology is effective in sharing large data sets but isn’t as power-efficient as LPWAN. Maintaining a cellular network is also more expensive than an LPWAN network.

On the other hand, RFID uses electromagnetic fields to identify and track objects automatically. The tags contain electronically stored information that can be read wirelessly. RFID is used in commercial buildings for security and access control.

Types of Smart Buildings

Smart buildings are categorized and designed based on their uses as follows:

Smart Residential Homes

Smart residential homes are designed to make life easier and more comfortable for occupants. They use automation to control lighting, temperature, security, ventilation, home appliances, and to monitor energy uses.

The design of smart homes is based on the concept of assistive technologies (AT). These homes use technology to provide support and assistance to occupants. For instance, they automatically schedule when lights should be powered on and off.

Smart Commercial Buildings

Smart commercial buildings increase productivity, save energy, and create a comfortable working environment for employees. They use automation to control lighting, temperature, security, ventilation, parking, elevators, emergency exits, computer systems, and to monitor energy uses.

Commercial IoT devices like sensors monitor and control air quality in congested areas like supermarkets and museums. The aim is to ensure customers enjoy their stay on the premises.

Smart Industrial Buildings

Smart industrial buildings increase productivity and safety while reducing energy consumption. They use automation to control lighting, temperature, security, ventilation, and production lines and monitor energy uses.

Industrial IoT devices like smart industrial machines are used in factories to monitor manufacturing. For instance, sensors track the movement of raw materials and finished products.

Smart City Infrastructure

A smart city uses digital technologies to improve the quality of life of its citizens. The city is designed to be sustainable, efficient, and livable.

Smart city infrastructure uses automation to control traffic, lighting, waste management, water supply, and transportation.

A smart city needs an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) to manage all these operations. This is a computer-based system that monitors and controls the movement of vehicles and people.

An ITS uses sensors to collect data about traffic conditions. The data is then processed and used to control traffic lights, signage, and to provide real-time information to drivers.

Main Features of Smart Buildings

You can identify a smart building through the following features:

  • Eco-efficiency: Smart buildings minimize the environmental impact. They use sustainable energy sources and efficient building materials.
  • Connectivity: Smart buildings connect to the internet and other devices through a network. This connectivity enables occupants to control the environment and access information.
  • Intelligent systems: Smart buildings use sensors, controllers, and actuators to collect data and automate the environment.
  • Adaptability: These buildings are flexible and adaptable to changing needs as they use modular construction methods and prefabricated components.
  • Comfortability: The HVAC system in these buildings provides a comfortable environment for occupants by controlling temperature, air, and humidity.
  • High security: Smart buildings use a combination of IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and machine learning to manage high-security devices like CCTV cameras and automatic alarm systems.

Smart Home Technologies

Smart home technologies are devices and appliances that can connect to the internet. They are remotely controlled using a smartphone, tablet, or voice assistant.

Some of these technologies include:

  • Smart thermostats: These automatically regulate your home’s temperature according to your schedule and needs.
  • Smart lighting: They are lights that use sensors to detect when someone enters a room and turn on automatically.
  • Smart security: These systems use AI to detect intruders and alert the homeowner. An automatic alarm system is a good example.
  • Smart appliances: These include refrigerators, ovens, washers, and dryers that can be controlled remotely using a smart app.
  • Smart locks and door openers: Such locks can give or deny entry to strangers.

The Benefits of Automating Your Smart Building

There are many benefits that come with automating your building. The most important ones include:

  • Energy Savings: Smart buildings use less energy, thanks to lighting, temperature, and security automation.
  • Increased productivity: Automating tasks in a smart building increases productivity as it frees time for you to focus on other things.
  • High safety: Automation reduces the chances of human error and makes buildings safer. For instance, the alarms will alert you instantly in case of an intruder in your home.
  • A more comfortable life: The comfortable environment created by the automation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems leads to a better quality of life.

Disadvantages of Smart Building Automation

As with anything, there are also some disadvantages to automating your building. They include:

  • High initial cost: The installation of a smart building automation system is an expensive affair that can cost you between $2.5 and $7.5 per square foot.
  • Privacy concerns: Some people are concerned about the amount of data collected by these systems. There is a risk that this data could be used to invade your privacy.
  • Hacking: If not set up correctly, hackers can use denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks to take control of smart buildings and cause havoc.
  • Interference: Smart devices can interfere with each other if misconfigured. This can lead to a loss of data or even a complete system shutdown.

The Future of Smart Buildings

The future of smart buildings is an exciting one. More eco-friendly buildings will use sustainable energy sources, connected devices, and intelligent systems.

The trend toward prefabricated and modular construction will continue as it reduces the cost and time of construction. Buildings will also become more comfortable and efficient due to technological advances.

Conclusion

Smart building automation technology is revolutionizing the construction industry. It is changing the way buildings are designed, built, and operated. This technology makes people’s lives more comfortable, convenient, and safe. Moreover, it helps maintain a green environment by conserving energy.

Despite the high initial cost, smart building automation is a worthwhile investment that provides a wide array of benefits. If you’re planning to automate your building, make sure to consult with a reputable company that has experience in this field first.

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