Converged networking and intelligent buildings are not novel concepts, but the expectations placed upon them have evolved significantly.
The team at independent IT, AV and Smart Buildings Consultancy, Cordless Consultants, considers current challenges that organisations are facing and what intelligent buildings and converged networks can do to help.
From integrated building services to enterprise occupier experience – whether on-premise, remote or in-cloud, connectivity is the foundation of functionality. Buildings must be able to cope with a complex and evolving mix of service demands.
In today’s competitive real estate market, development projects are driven by what people want. A 2022 survey from WiredScore shows the growing demand for integration with base-build features that make people feel digitally connected to the building and deliver great impressions on visitor arrival. We want well-connected, secure, comfortable, accessible and sustainable built environments in flexible, amenity-based spaces.
Across wider industry, Technology is seen to be a key pillar of such objectives. A survey at the UK 2023 Annual BCO Conference asked: where can technology make the most valuable impact for office occupiers? 42% answered occupier experience, followed by 33% voting for sustainability.
Global Initiatives such as the 2030+ sustainable development targets from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and the Circular Built Environment Playbook from The World Green Building Council champion the uptake of net-zero whole-life resource depletion in the built environment.
A 2023 report from Deloitte and Lendlease entitled ‘Mastering the Next Evolution of Work’ encourages companies to ‘embrace boundaryless ecosystems’ – highlighting the importance of collaboration for innovation, investment and value creation.
This points to the connection between people, teams and communities within inclusive, compassionate workplace environments that are acting responsibly – both professionally and environmentally.
The role of intelligent buildings
The experience in an intelligent workplace can be curated using technologies to streamline adoption and engagement within well-managed, Smart Building environments.
Smart Building Strategy aligns the physical space with the digital to deliver against the business objectives outlined above.
Consider how a Smart Building works. In the background, technology integration, powered via a Unified Platform helps bring together and manage building services and facilities. In the foreground, spatial intelligence drives an automated, data-rich digital interface for the ultimate personal experience with wow factor.
To deliver ROI, a Smart Building Strategy must join up all IT, AV and Building Security considerations to budget for and design the safe, futureproof and flexible building environments of tomorrow.
Is convergence the smartest answer?
A converged network is a network infrastructure that combines multiple types of communication and data from different systems (such as user traffic, security, audio-video, building management systems and facilities management) into a single physical network with logical separation.
There are advantages and disadvantages to using a converged network. With only one network, we can eliminate unnecessary duplication, benefitting from cost savings, as well as a simplicity and consistency of use and management. However, it is important that a full cost-benefit analysis is undertaken for each organisation’s situation, since investing in a converged network can be a significant up-front cost. Proper allowances must be made for security, redundancy and back up, as well as due consideration of future scalability.
Using intelligence to address convergence complexity
With a robust technical design in place to address the finer details of convergence, a converged network serves as a strong foundation for smart building technology deployment. The network acts as a single point of integration for all digital infrastructure, including building systems and edge devices.
A converged network provides the flexibility for the adoption of new technologies as they become available. This minimises the cost of any future alterations through the availability of plug-and-play services with non-disruptive incremental software updates.
Monitoring and Control: the importance of Open Protocol and Naming Conventions
With the number of digital devices, building systems and software in buildings ever increasing, the associated quantities of data require a structured and common naming structure for operational management.
The design and selection of open protocol interfaces allow different building systems software and digital devices to communicate effectively. Open IP communication protocols are today a necessary means for data integration for middleware platforms and 3rd party software packages – enabling implementation of applications and services independently of specific manufacturers.
Secure connectivity of resources with a connected digital foundation
A digital foundation enables us to integrate digital and building services – such as BMS, EMS, security, vertical transport, and visitor management – with occupier enterprise applications. This delivers efficient, shared and scalable access to data, controls, and event alerts from integrated systems.
The alternative here is the concept of the “dirty network” where untrusted services live and must be physically segregated from corporate services, adding a multitude of complexities.
A cohesive network design uses logical segregation rather than physical and will facilitate connectivity to all areas of the building to support individual users and technologies. By conforming to standards for design, security and compliance; the network will be highly available and secure, with the required bandwidth to connect devices and provide access to applications.
Consistent focus on security and logical and physical separation of networks will maintain networking and performance standards as well as best practice to separate critical applications. Each application can be accessed, and the appropriate Quality of Service (QoS) applied to ensure performance is maintained across multiple applications and networks. A secure common network allows for trusted and untrusted networks to run within the same environment, but to be securely and logically separated.
The systems that you then connect can prioritise and route different network traffic to aggregate data effectively in a building and avoid air gaps or delays – making sure, for example, that turning on a light, or accessing a meeting room booking system does not tolerate any kind of service delay.
Over the last 3-5 years, Wi-Fi has become the primary method for connectivity, however there were historically limitations with security, coverage and congestion. Wi-Fi 6 and the addition of the 6GHz band bring modifications and improved specifications to previous standards.
Wi-Fi 6 allows for greater throughput of speed to the user via access points, providing deterministic connectivity (QoS), flexible power saving and additional connectivity for Smart Building services. The introduction of new AX wireless networking standards is also opening opportunities with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and low powered wide area networks (LoRaWAN) as well as faster delivery of data to Smart devices.
LiFi is also attracting increased attention – this is mobile wireless technology that uses light to transmit data. Making use of a building’s lighting system offers increased security, bandwidth and accessibility.
Smart Buildings: Digitise to Magnetise
Securely converged networks have the capacity to create firm foundations for Smart and Intelligent buildings, enabling smooth integration, scalability, and enhanced operational efficiency.
Whether we are building new, or retrofitting existing buildings, expectations are high. We want our spaces to earn the commute. It’s up to us to design our networks carefully, not wasting resources.
When thinking Smart, do remember the importance of your day-to-day business data. Make use of your intelligent building and the network that supports it. Capture and aggregate the analytics you need to create dynamic floorplates with a futureproof infrastructure that can anticipate and respond intuitively to ongoing service demands.
Regardless of what the future holds, with good visibility of the horizon through data-driven insights, plus the capability to converge technologies in the most efficient and economical way, we can deliver performance through new value chains and play our part in a bright, exciting, and more responsible future.
Like to chat about your Converged Network or Smart Buildings strategy?
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