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2019: A year of preparation for the future of smart buildings

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Many of the industry trends from 2018 will continue into 2019, most of which will be at the heart of smart buildings. Data and the Internet of Things (IoT), wireless connectivity, mobile edge computing (MEC) and cabling and standards will be the main drivers, setting the scene for smart buildings, smart campuses and smart cities.

The advent of the IoT means it’s no longer just about the integration of networks and connectivity, but also the technology that complements them. IoT sensors, for example, can harness huge volumes and types of data that we currently have no access to but will need. To move from being an intelligent building to a smart one will require leveraging data available from these new systems (many of which are yet to be introduced) and that from a building’s legacy systems, combining them to optimise the health and maintenance of that building.

As the IoT continues to evolve and generate data, we’ll see a proliferation of devices, most of which with ultra-low latency requirements. The wireless and wired networks that will enable them will see a growing adoption of MEC, in which compute and storage capabilities are placed at the network edge. And, while many IoT devices such as sensors may not require much in the way of bandwidth, all of them will require connectivity.

Supporting the move from 1Gbps to 7-8Gbps of throughput per user – one of the goals of 5G – dictates that commercial building owners upgrade their existing Cat5 Ethernet infrastructure to Cat6A. 5G signals will likely use higher frequencies that don’t penetrate buildings well, so building owners will need Cat6A infrastructure for in-building wireless systems to support it.

Power is also driving changes in the building. For example, September 2018 saw the definition of the latest four-pair Power over Ethernet (PoE) standard, IEEE 802.3bt, which introduced two additional power types: Type 3 to 55W and Type 4 between 90 and 100W. This will result in devices being more about the delivery of power over structured cabling rather than bandwidth.

In addition to power technology, there will also be a convergence of building automation solutions, such as automated intelligent management (AIM), on to the wired network. While such solutions are typically connected by proprietary links, we can expect to see a move to Ethernet-based connectivity, whether wired or wireless.

Although much of these trends have been widely talked about, we see 2019 as a year of preparation before many of them hit full force. Whether it’s laying the groundwork for wireless and wired infrastructure, data analytics or cabling within a building, decisions are being made today for buildings that are going to be around for another 20 years. It’s important that this groundwork provides flexibility for the technologies and applications that lie ahead, especially in this transformation starting with buildings and moving on to smart campuses and smart cities.

Intelligent buildings will evolve to smart ones to become campuses when multiple buildings or mixed-use commercial centres integrate. For example, a smart building will act on information provided by the systems within it, while a smart campus will act on information provided by each of the buildings within its domain. By using wireless networks or fibre optics to integrate the buildings, decisions can be made for the wider community, on areas such as water and electricity usage, for example. Expanding and integrating these at each stage will generate more data, allowing wider-reaching decisions to be made.

This same process will apply to smart cities, where data and information will be used to provide smart services and security for its citizens.

By Olivier Alquier, Vice President of Enterprise for Europe, CommScope

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