Cars, houses, streetlights and HVAC systems are all learning how to talk. The Internet of Things — the growing network of physical objects that can digitally “speak” to one another — is set to revolutionize how cities function, from relieving gridlock to picking up the trash on time. But experts say for IoT-enabled smart cities to reach their full potential, buildings need to be smart, too.
An integrated network of smart buildings could offer significant energy savings to smart cities and keep the average office tenant happier and safer. But today’s urban planners face a significant roadblock: the connectivity gap between the internal workings of buildings and the outside world.
“You can add all of the sensors that you want to the infrastructure of a building, but without a system for in-building connectivity, there’s no way that information can be relayed and shared throughout a smart city,” said Luke Lucas, senior manager for engineering business development at T-Mobile. “Without wireless systems, without connectivity, all that data has nowhere to go.”
Self-contained smart buildings can certainly reduce waste and cut owners’ costs, Lucas said. Heating systems shut off as soon as an office is empty by keeping track of where tenants are in a building. Windows can darken themselves on sunny days to keep tenants cool. On a large scale, these savings could make a difference for an entire city’s energy consumption, as commercial buildings draw almost two-thirds of the power used in the U.S.