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COVID-19 Is Pushing Evolution of Smart Building Technology

COVID-19 Is Pushing Evolution of Smart Building Technology

From social safety nets to building technology, COVID-19 has forced us to notice a lot of the failings of things we take for granted. Smart building technology needs to expand and improve in order to help keep tenants and residents safe and comfortable in a post-pandemic society. Here are some of the ways that smart technology and tech policies can grow to fill these newly-uncovered needs:

Supply Chains and Cybersecurity

One of the biggest challenges that facility managers faced during the initial wave of COVID-19 was maintaining supply chains. With businesses closing left and right to protect their employees and customers, the need for agile supply lines came to the forefront. Smart building technology helps simplify inventory and ordering, streamlining the supply process. Unfortunately, as much as smart buildings and the Internet of Things has helped in this area, they've shown one glaring weakness: security.

Smart building technology makes buildings more efficient, improves physical security, and helps visitors and tenants socially distance from workers. At the same time, the interconnection that this technology relies on makes it a ripe target for hackers. The benefits outweigh the risks, but the future of smart building technology must include comprehensive cybersecurity strategies.

At-home Risk Management

Teleworking comes with unique cybersecurity challenges, too. Information security is no longer confined to office spaces -- it encompasses everywhere that employees might work. The Internet of Things comes with risks at home, from hackable security systems to internet-enabled refrigerators. This underlines the need for robust cybersecurity, not only from a technology standpoint but also from a policy and training standpoint. In the future, telework is likely to reshape the way people interact with smart building technology. Employees must be prepared to exercise good information security as a matter of course, but also exercise caution when using IoT-enabled objects in their homes, hotels, or airports.

Smart Disinfection

As people begin to return to work, anxieties run high. The more people gather in large numbers, the more likely they are to unwittingly transmit the novel coronavirus to someone. Building scientists are working to develop ways to incorporate disinfection systems into existing technology. Igor, a smart building's innovator, has developed a Power-over-Ethernet method of disinfecting using UV-C light. The PoE connectivity allows this UV-C system to be used in conjunction with other sanitizing methods, including air filters and gas vaporizers. Some sanitizers pose a health risk to humans, but occupancy sensors, motion detectors, and smart locks allow them to be safely automated.

Distributed Energy Systems and Disaster Preparedness

One of the major deficiencies exposed by COVID-19 was the lack of enough hospital beds to treat all of the afflicted patients. Emergency hospitals popped up left and right but were restricted by the availability of a stable power source. Distributed energy systems might provide an answer hereby generating and storing electricity near the locations where it will be used.

In addition to emergency hospitals, rapidly-deployable distributed energy systems could be set up to restore power to essential structures in the wake of hurricanes, tornadoes, or other natural disasters. Under normal conditions, these decentralized, controllable energy systems offer users a more robust, resilient way to get electricity, often without relying on the local energy grid. Areas with aging power infrastructure stand to benefit, too -- distributed systems can help take some of the load off of the grid during peak times, reducing the likelihood of brown or blackouts.

Social Distancing and Emissions

Telework helps reduce automotive and office building emissions by letting people stay home, but this comes with an increase in residential emissions. 74% of financial officers surveyed in March of 2020 stated that they expected a full 5% of their employees to work from home on a permanent basis. As more companies discover the benefits of allowing their employees to telecommute -- including reduced operating expenses -- this pattern may continue even after COVID-19 is no longer a threat. This can create challenges for owners of multi-tenant buildings.

Property technology, including artificial intelligence, can help reduce building operating costs by as much as half. These same technologies can be used to regulate indoor environments, keeping tenants comfortable, and improving their productivity. Sensors can monitor temperature, air quality, and even humidity, then upload these measurements to the cloud. From there, automated building hardware can adjust these attributes for optimal tenant health and productivity. Keeping carbon dioxide levels below 1000ppm, for example, can offset increased CO2 emissions from teleworkers, and help with memory, mood, and overall health.

As society learns to cope with all of the changes that came with COVID-19, building technology is working to keep up. With stronger cybersecurity, comprehensive disinfection strategies, distributed power systems, and improved residential property technology, smart buildings can help keep residents, guests, and employees safe, healthy, and productive.

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