In the built environment there are few facilities as complex as commercial buildings. Consider that these structures must support hundreds or even thousands of occupants and visitors each day, and which have numerous subsystems necessary to maintain safety, comfort and efficiency.

By leveraging IoT-enabled technologies, organizations can achieve newfound ways to improve their commercial spaces, making them more energy efficient and cost-effective, while improving the working environment. Such outcomes are typically achieved by collecting information from key building equipment like HVAC, security and lighting systems. 

According to a recent study by Juniper Research, the number of buildings globally deploying smart building technologies will reach 115 million in 2026 — an increase from 45 million in 2022. The consultancy firm found that by enabling buildings to monitor and automate common functions, significant efficiency gains can be made, while improving the environment for workers and residents. The report recommends that vendors focus on building analytics platforms for the most value to be driven from deployments.

The research also found that non-residential smart buildings will account for 90 percent of smart building spend globally in 2026, a similar level to 2022. Larger economies of scale in commercial premises are driving this spend, as well as the commercial focus of most smart building technologies, according to Juniper.

“Smart building platform vendors will understandably focus on non-residential use cases, as these provide a stronger return on investment, but they should not neglect the importance of residential deployments, as environmental concerns intensify,” research co-author Dawnetta Grant said in a statement.

The report, titled “Smart Buildings: Key Opportunities, Competitor Leaderboard & Market Forecasts 2022-2026,” states that the global shipments of sensors used in smart buildings will exceed 1 billion annually in 2026 from 360 million in 2022, representing a growth of 204 percent. 

So what are some of the specific trends fueling the growth in smart building technology and IoT-enabled building management systems? Concord, Calif.-based Buildings IOT, a building automation systems installation contractor, has released a list of nine trends that go a long way in explaining the growth projections. They follow here:  

Network-connected sensors and devices — By using the right network-connected sensors and devices, users can gather actionable data from a full range of building equipment. Presence detection, occupancy numbers, temperature, humidity, lighting and energy use are just a few of the variables that can be measured and, significantly, correlated.

Centralized data storage — By enabling automated data collection throughout your building’s operational systems, data will flow continuously from equipment and devices to a central database and unified reporting system. In turn, you will gain quick visibility into any integrated system and its issues so that you can clearly define a course of action for operational adjustments that need to be made to improve comfort or increase efficiencies throughout your building.

Open protocols — Open protocol support allows IoT devices and cloud-hosted systems that connect to the building management system [BMS] to be used together in a common system. With open protocols, you can create a customized management interface from a combination of IoT devices based on your needs rather than being limited to, or having to work around, the range of tools available from vendors using proprietary protocols.

Secure remote connectivity — The IoT and smart building trends enable remote connectivity so that service contractors and facility teams can monitor and sometimes troubleshoot systems without having to be directly next to an equipment. With the expansion of the IoT, there’s a heightened demand for increased coordination with service providers for secure network connectivity and user authentication strategies ensuring safe, managed connectivity to integrated building systems.

Central visual management dashboards — Visual, custom-configured dashboards bring building operation systems together in one single, web-accessible interface. Flexible and dynamic dashboards provide a powerful tool for making sense of data from the range of IoT devices.

Building automation — Hardware and software that facilitate the automation of key building functions provide some of the most important benefits of IoT technologies. Effective automation systems minimize the need for manual intervention, enhance operational performance, and are ideal for managing energy-related objectives.

Intelligent analytics — Intelligent building analytics can have profound benefits for managing operations and improving efficiency. While IoT generates large volumes of data, robust analytics are needed to make that data meaningful.

4D insights — Multi-layered analytics use data from equipment, sensors, and components for more valuable fault detection and diagnostics. Real-time and historical data are aggregated according to smart rules and used to both provide context to alarms and suggest solutions.

Artificial intelligence/machine learning — With AI/ML, software can monitor and uncover patterns within large datasets and accelerate processes that may otherwise take much longer for a human being to review and decode. This has exciting implications for building management. 

Advanced machine learning can currently be used to create models of what is happening in a building. AI/ML enables an analytics system to learn how a building operates over time. Examples suited to AI/ML pattern recognition include detecting excessive energy usage, identifying energy savings opportunities, preemptively alerting you to equipment and system failures before they occur, and recommending solutions to operational problems with minimal human intervention.

While an AI/ML approach is a powerful means of extracting insights from a large volume of data which would otherwise be difficult to obtain, relying on this information to automatically initiate actions such as changes to building systems or device behavior without a human operator involved requires careful consideration and a thoughtful approach to algorithm design.

With thoughtful implementation, these trends can transform how buildings are managed and provide great return on investment.