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How Smart Buildings can play an integral role in COVID-19 recovery

Our IoT Business Development Manager, Mark Appleby, explains how the Smart Buildings industry is helping to get people back to their offices.

As a result of the lockdown forced upon us by COVID-19, the majority of offices, public buildings and shops have been closed. Those without building management systems in place have had to periodically physically visit sites, ensuring that lighting, CCTV and climate control is still working correctly, risking their own health with each trip. Those with a building management system in place haven’t had to. Instead, issues are flagged by the systems, and can all be solved or managed remotely, from the safety of people’s homes.

Until now, that has been the primary function of a smart building: Environmental Management and Security. However, as we look to start introducing more people back into buildings, Building Management Systems will expand and evolve to support applications that can help to safely monitor and manage the threat of coronavirus.

The Role of Convergence

 COVID-19 has caused a number of challenges for many industries, but the Smart Building market is actively searching for ways in which it can innovate and create new applications that help in any way they can.

These COVID related technologies are being driven by fast moving and smaller innovative players, but we expect to see a convergence with more traditional applications within Building Management Systems. COVID-19 has shown that the Smart Building industry can help in more ways than security and energy management, and we’re now beginning to see many of these innovative solutions being deployed.

Cellular Connectivity is the Key

COVID-19 is driving innovation at a fast pace, and businesses need to be able to adapt in line with this innovation. To leverage these technologies, deployment times should be rapid, deployments themselves need to be resilient and have the ability to scale quickly when needed.

With regard to Building Management Systems and other smart building technologies, many businesses are now choosing to use cellular connectivity over other technologies such as WiFi. The reasons for this are clear. With cellular connectivity, we typically see end-to-end ownership by the solution provider, who isn’t reliant on other, fixed line networks whose policies can make integration difficult. It can also be the case that fixed lines are not in place or will take several months to be installed. Cellular connectivity, delivered by the solution provider, removes that potential hiccough and allows systems to be implemented within days.

Our work with ENGIE is a direct example of how cellular connectivity can benefit Building Management Systems. In ENGIE’s case, we were able to deliver a range of UK-focused data SIM tariffs from 500mb to 10GB dependent upon forecast usage. For each of the networks, our private APNs with Fixed IP over a single IPSEC VPN enabled ENGIE to securely connect two-way communications into its existing infrastructure.

Levels of data throughput vary with each smart building application. There are several variables that need consideration when implementing these systems. For example, the location of a router can be challenging itself. It can often be placed in a basement or internal room, with weak signal strength, and that has the potential to cause a lot of problems. However, the issue can quickly be solved by using a specialist antenna.

It’s also important to consider: expected data usage; number of units, potentially requiring data aggregation; the hardware required, considering which 4G routers would offer the most resilience; longevity of projects; use of single or multiple networks; and of course the levels of security required. Robust security with any connectivity type is paramount. Fortunately, at Wireless Logic, we will handle all of this for you. Our expertise in IoT and cellular connectivity make us the perfect provider when it comes to implementing smart building technology.

Corrupted or hacked information has huge implications on organisations, but risks can be managed through secure, private cellular connectivity. Partnering with businesses that manage and process data securely is paramount for ensuring your company’s safety. Accreditations such as ISO27001 are a good barometer for determining their reliability.

As your managed connectivity provider, we will not only apply a fixed IP address to your IoT SIMs, but by adding in VPN services, we can create a complete private network infrastructure that enables secure, smart, two-way connectivity. Not only does an infrastructure-as-a-service approach prove cost effective, but it provides secure and safe data management with resilience – and Wireless Logic will be on hand for rapid deployment as and when we are required.

Easing Back to Normal

COVID-19 is testing many industries across the globe, but it’s starting to feel as though we’re working our way towards some kind of normality. At this time, it is incredibly important to remain vigilant about the potential risks that the ease in lockdown could have on the population.

Technology has a significant role to play in keeping people safe, and through Smart Building technologies, we can begin to securely monitor and manage social distancing and health screening within buildings.

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