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Smart buildings: getting in on the ground floor

Systems integrators and infrastructure vendors are learning that the best time to propose a smart building solution to property owners is often before the first lease is even signed. They say building owners who wire their buildings for connectivity and bandwidth will save money in the long run because their infrastructure will support the services that tenants will ultimately want.

“When you’ve got the walls open … if we can run single fiber, and common power and get it down to the lowest common denominator, and certainly cellular technology that natively supports Cat 1, Cat M, narrowband IoT, being able to add some other IoT protocols on the edge or edge gateways, that’s a great investment … without having to get wrapped into the discussion about what you’re going to connect at the edge,” said Kurt Jacobs, director of markets and solutions at JMA Wireless.

Jacobs was part of a smart buildings panel at the recent Enterprise IoT Summit in Austin. He was joined by moderator Ronny Haraldsvik of KodaCloud and by Kern Davis, VP of consulting services at Communication Technology Services, a systems integrator.

“A lot of times when we have been called to a building they have an idea of what layer they want to build right now,” said Davis. If the call comes while the building is still a work in progress, Davis works to educate his customers about integrated platforms that can support future technologies as well today’s priorities. One major theme is the expected bandwidth requirements of 5G, and another is the operational efficiencies businesses can realize in a smart building.

“As they’re looking for revenue enhancements through operating in a smarter environment, the analytics through the sensors, the deployment of different IoT sensors, is certainly going to give them an advantage in that sense,” said Davis.

Even existing buildings can benefit from a holistic, future-focused approach to communications infrastructure, Jacobs said. Usually they will want to see an expected return on investment.

“There’s usually low-hanging fruit on something they can fix, whether it’s energy, lighting, something where they can get operational efficiency right away by connecting their devices,” Jacobs said. But JMA tries to help customers see their current needs as part of a bigger picture.

“The second part is ‘how do you want this infrastructure to start connecting all your systems together?'” Jacobs said. “The decisions you make in that second phase are going to influence how you approach the first phase. … The third issue, which is the most important part in our mind and I think really closes the loop, is ‘how do the users get engaged and interact? What is the human benefit?’ … usually when you start having that discussion that brings you back to the mobile phone.”

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