Everyone from investors to casual LinkedIn observers has more reasons than ever to look at buildings and wonder what’s going on inside. The property industry is known for moving slowly when it comes to adopting new technologies, but novel concepts and products are now entering this market at a dizzying pace.
However, this ever-growing array of smart-building products has made it confusing for professionals who seek to implement digital building platform (DBP) technologies in their spaces, let alone across their entire enterprise. The waters get even murkier when it comes to cloud platforms and their impact on ROI with regard to energy usage and day-to-day operations.
Breaking down technology decisions into bite-sized pieces, starting with fundamental functions, is the most straightforward way to cut through the promotional haze.
Facility managers, energy professionals and building operators are increasingly hit with daily requests to review the latest platform for managing and operating their buildings. Here are a few tips to help decision-makers clear through the marketing fluff and put DBP platforms to the test.
The why, how and what
Breaking down technology decisions into bite-sized pieces, starting with fundamental functions, is the most straightforward way to cut through the promotional haze. Ask two simple questions: Who on your team will use this technology and what problem will it solve for them? Answers to these questions will help you maintain your key objectives, making it easier to narrow down the hundreds of options to a handful.
Another way to prioritize problems and solutions when sourcing smart-building technology is to identify your use cases. If you don’t know why you need a technology platform for your smart building, you’ll find it difficult to tell which option is better. Further, once you have chosen one, you’ll be hard put to determine if it has been successful. We find use cases draw the most direct line from why to how and what.
For example, let’s examine the why, how and what questions for a real estate developer planning to construct or modernize a commercial office building:
Why will people come? — Our building will be full of amenities and technological touches that will make discerning tenants feel comfortable, safe and part of a warm community of like-minded individuals.
How will we do it? — Implement the latest tenant-facing technology offering services and capabilities that are not readily available at home. We will create indoor and outdoor environments that make people feel comfortable and happy.
What tools, products and technology will we use?
This last question is often the hardest to answer and is usually left until the last possible moment. For building systems integrators, this is where the real work begins.
Focus on desired outcomes
When various stakeholder groups begin their investigations of the technology, it is crucial to define the outcomes everyone hopes to achieve for each use case. When evaluating specific products, it helps to categorize them at high levels.
Several high-level outcomes, such as digital twin enablement, data normalization and data storage are expected across multiple categories of systems. However, only an enterprise building management system includes the most expected outcomes. Integration platform as a service, bespoke reports and dashboarding, analytics as a service and energy-optimization platforms have various enabled and optional outcomes.
The following table breaks down a list of high-level outcomes and aligns them to a category of smart-building platforms available in the market. Expanded definitions of each item are included at the end of this article.