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Choosing the Best Smart Building Solutions Provider

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Laura Miller

Smart buildings are changing commercial real estate. From streamlining maintenance to reducing operating costs to increasing lease rates, smart technologies can transform the way buildings are managed and enhance their economic value. Meanwhile, their ability to improve energy efficiency makes them a vital asset in the fight against climate change. 

These benefits are spurring widespread integration of Internet of Things (IoT) and related smart technologies in new buildings. According to a report from June 2021, over 78 percent of new construction will include such innovations over the next five years. Additionally, an estimated 83 percent of existing buildings in developed countries will need retrofitting to realize such benefits. In a rapidly evolving industry, finding the best smart buildings solutions providers becomes progressively more important. 

What to Look for in a Smart Building System & Provider

The best smart solutions for buildings are built on IoT capabilities and harnessing the potential of data. Identifying patterns within raw building data requires enhanced analytics and other tools to handle and make sense of the huge amount of collected data. Today, the most advanced analytics software features sophisticated fault detection and diagnostics, mobile-first interfaces, and machine learning (ML) algorithms that allow for continuously improved automation. Smart building solutions providers must have knowledge and experience in all of these areas to optimize project success. 

Key qualities to look for:

  • Expertise: When considering any smart buildings solution, the providers’ capabilities are critical. Look at their history of working with IoT and associated technology, the service platforms they offer, and analytics applications utilized.

  • Integration: Partner with a company that seeks to work with existing infrastructure and devices as much as possible, rather than replacing them. Your solutions providers should also understand when integration isn’t the best option. 

  • Scalability: Starting small and growing a system is often better and less risky than engaging in expensive proprietary solutions that require long-term commitments or offer more than what a building requires at the time of installation. 

  • Compatibility: As a rule, open-source platforms allow new capabilities to be more easily added as needed. Choosing a provider who can work within an open framework gives you greater flexibility.

Smart Buildings Solutions: Providers' Questions & Answers

Choosing amongst smart building solutions providers often seems like a daunting task, particularly if the technology involved is new to you. Knowing what to ask and what answer to look for will help you create a successful partnership:

Does the building need to depend on an on-premises system to store data? 

If the answer is yes, dig further. 

While on-premises data storage is important for certain applications, it should not be the primary place to store data, as onsite systems will have limits on data storage. The most advanced systems are cloud-based, and data storage largely should be as well. 

Can the system affordably capture real-time data about equipment performance? 

Familiarize yourself with the cost and quality of the hardware providers will install, as there’s often a hefty markup. Additionally, some “smart” metering devices will only capture data at intervals of 15 minutes, which is far too long to gather useful data and limit advanced fault detection capabilities. Your contractor should be able to confidently answer this question.  

Do they integrate environmental sensors? 

Environmental sensors for parameters like indoor air quality, leak detection, and temperature are definite pluses for any building platform and should be targeted to specific pain points. Ask about specific examples.

Can the system store non-sensor information? 

This includes documentation like maintenance schedules, equipment age and location within the structure, and specification sheets. Having such information on hand in a digital format is  extremely useful. A good provider does this in a user-friendly manner. 

How many endpoints are there per building? 

The answer does not need to be specific and is dependent on the asset type and size. If it’s in the 10s, then data is being pulled only from the meters, and possibly submeters. If it’s in the thousands, the provider likely depends on the centralized system connected to thousands of sensors that won’t create a unique dataset. The best answer is normally in the hundreds, which means they’re capturing data from every critical piece of equipment along with a range of environmental sensors. 

At how many and what type of buildings has the provider deployed? 

It’s important to understand how experienced a provider is and what type of properties they’ve worked in, as each building type has its own unique challenges. The best smart building solutions providers will understand the needs of your building because they’ve seen them before.

What benefits besides energy savings are offered?

Many providers concentrate on reducing operating expenses. However, increasing comfort and convenience will result in better tenant retention and higher lease rates, which are often equally, or even more, important.

How much does it cost? 

Price matters, and the pricing of smart building systems can vary significantly. The most common pricing model involves a one-time installation charge with an ongoing subscription fee. Prices should typically fall around 10 cents per square foot to implement it and 2-5 cents per square foot for subscriptions. 

How does the system develop insights and advise on solutions? 

While many companies claim to use AI, not every provider offers a system that provides meaningful findings of building system data to help building owners effectively and efficiently make ongoing improvements. Platforms with advanced ML algorithms will continuously learn about your building and adapt, making it more efficient, accurate, and precise over time. Additionally, a system that spits out generic alerts can waste time and energy chasing ghosts. Look for a system that provides prioritized notifications and pragmatic solutions.

There are many more questions a smart building solutions provider can answer, but these are good starting points. 

Buildings IOT As a Smart Building Solution Provider

Buildings IOT collaborates with owners and other stakeholders to create custom solutions designed to achieve your goals. From master systems integration to software development to digital consultancy, our expert teams help you step confidently into the future of commercial building management.

Buildings IOT is on the cutting edge of smart buildings solutions providers. Contact our expert team to learn more.

 

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