What makes a building or city “smart?” One word: technology. More specifically, the Internet of Things (IoT), which is made up of internet-connected devices, such as light fixtures, fitted with sensors and meters that generate and transmit real-time data over a network, no human involvement required.
The data is sent from these devices to a database and is then analyzed by sophisticated software, which can provide meaningful, actionable alerts. Information about usage, trends, and problems are revealed, allowing managers and officials to make data-driven decisions. In a smart building, the software can also adjust connected systems in real-time.
Thanks to the IoT, operators of smart buildings can monitor and control the lighting, mechanical and electrical systems to cut costs, maximize energy consumption, and optimize the building’s performance and comfort. Connected systems such as power, HVAC, and lighting can also talk to each other and adjust operating parameters based on the data they send each other.
In a smart city, sensors added to existing infrastructure, such as light poles, collect and communicate data on everything from traffic patterns to air pollution to burned-out bulbs. This data can help city officials, police, utilities, and other entities optimize city operations and services. The city can also share this data with local businesses to help optimize their shopping districts.
A smart building — whether it’s an office building, a hospital, or a stadium — is, above all else, more efficient and more comfortable for occupants.
It’s efficient thanks to things such as passive infrared or ultrasonic occupancy sensors, which detect movement. If a room wasn’t occupied that day, it doesn’t need to be cleaned. Unoccupied rooms may not need to be lit, heated, or cooled, either.
Environmental sensors provide information on factors such as heat and humidity. In a laboratory environment or healthcare facility, managers can remotely monitor a location to ensure it stays within set parameters and receive an alert if it drifts out of range. Wall-mounted or wireless sensors can keep eyes on the temperature in a computer server room. In the restaurant industry, managers at corporate headquarters can monitor temperatures in food freezers — and take action when they discover that some of the freezers are using more energy than others or the internal temperature rises above food-safety levels.
Sensors can measure electricity usage, water usage, natural gas usage, airflow, and even whether a door or window is open or closed.
Enabling systems such as lighting, power, and HVAC to talk to each other allows automated adjustments that impact efficiency and comfort. Automated processes such as load shedding can result in huge energy savings.
Smart buildings can also talk to a smart city power grid and reduce their energy consumption when the grid is near capacity, helping prevent blackouts.
IoT technology can be used in cities to track what’s happening in real-time on roads, in parks, and even in the air to improve daily life and increase safety.
Lights and light poles are the perfect infrastructure for sensors and cameras that make this possible. After all, many streetlights are already communicating with each other over a network, so the infrastructure for the sensors is already there. And of course, lights are connected to a power source, which most sensors need.
Sensors can tell utilities when streetlights are out, eliminating the need to pay people to drive around at night and check them. Sensors can also let the police know when a traffic light is out, so an officer can be sent to manage traffic at the intersection.
More sophisticated sensors can be used to detect everything from snowfall to gunshots to noxious fumes. Cameras installed on light poles can detect traffic patterns (useful for city planning) and traffic accidents.
Way-finding beacons can be installed in lights, so visitors to an amusement park, for example, can find their way around using a custom app on their phone. Retailers can use beacons to beam customers coupons as they walk past.
Smart buildings and smart cities are the way of tomorrow. Explore the infographic below to see them in action.