The connected future of smart cities starts with smart buildings


Expected to spend nearly $124 billion this year on smart city initiatives, an increase of 18.9 % from 2019, according to a recent IDC report.

Smart City initiatives are emerging here in the U.S. and around the globe. Forward leaning cities from Seattle to Singapore to London are expected to spend nearly $124 billion this year on smart city initiatives, an increase of 18.9 percent from 2019, according to a recent IDC report.

In order to have smart cities, it’s important to understand the most fundamental part of them – smart buildings. They are the foundational “building blocks” that will enable a true transformation of our cities through which we’ll have safe, sustainable, connected environments for the majority of the world’s population. But as buildings get smarter across the world, there is a missing element needed to drive wider and measurable progress – a universal, holistic approach to assessing a building’s intelligence, or “smartness.”

While there are a few existing building programs that track specific concerns such as energy usage, up to this point there has been no complete assessment for smart buildings. We must look at the building from multiple aspects, connecting technology with the safety and health of the people in the building while driving operating costs down – all of which, when combined, will drive up the value of the building for both the owner and the city in which it stands.

As cities look to invest in and establish policies for sustainability and to attract citizens and workers, smart buildings will play an integral role in their advancements.

TIA, through its members and partners, is addressing this need by working to establish a common set of criteria, which, in order to succeed, requires the buy in of stakeholders across the smart building ecosystem. To accomplish this, we are bringing together real estate, architecture, engineering, construction, security and information communications technology (ICT) professionals, among others, to help define the framework needed for the assessment criteria.

The first challenge was to define how smart buildings should be assessed and identify gaps in current programs. Our working group found that a smart building ultimately has six key categories which need to be accounted for in an assessment: connectivity, health and wellbeing, life and property safety, power and energy, cybersecurity, and sustainability.

Having a common smart building assessment framework in place will effectively provide a roadmap that allows current building owners and investors to identify which smart building advancements will yield desired outcomes, such as increased property value, higher occupancy rates, or a more productive and attractive work environment. As well as meet federal, state and local safety code requirements.

As buildings evolve and are made smarter (either at design stages or via post-construction retrofit), cities will be in position to leverage them for their own initiatives. And as smart city initiatives take root, applications such as smart traffic and parking, self-driving vehicles, drone delivery, and enhanced emergency response, will all require low latency 5G networks and infrastructure. As part of that network infrastructure, data centers that are used for computing and processing the massive amount of information generated are being pushed out to the “edge,” closer to the end users, in order to meet the latency requirements. Smart buildings, within cities, will be a natural starting place to host these new edge data centers.

Advancing smart buildings through common standards, best practices, and assessment criteria will be among the first steppingstones to advancing truly smart cities. A holistic framework for assessments will arm the smart building community with the criteria needed to define investment strategies and operational priorities. In turn, as buildings become smarter, city and state governments can work with them to better manage shared resources, reduce pollution, and predict infrastructure maintenance requirements. Even now, in the midst of a pandemic, smart building applications are being evaluated to plan how employees and other building occupants can safely return to work. Solving these issues will help ensure local and state governments are planning well and supporting their constituents.

It’s important to remember buildings and cities won’t become “smart” overnight. It will take time and a calculated effort by a wide range of stakeholders to advance. Fostering smart building advancements now will ensure a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for us and the generations that will follow.

David Stehlin is the CEO of the Telecommunication Industry Association

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