The Smart Building Conference (SBC) moved to the Hotel Okura for ISE 2020 and kicked off the first day of this year’s conference programme. The theme of 5G, IoT and the Intelligent Edge reflects the role new technology plays in how offices and other premises are built and operated.

Erik Ubels, CTO of EDGE Technologies, called for greater systems integration in his keynote on the new EDGE Olympic development in Amsterdam. Based on an open ecosystem, EDGE Olympic uses technology to meet the needs of users. This is enabled through EDGE’s cloud and the internet of things (IoT), using sensors and the MQTT protocol rather than APIs. “Why are so many APIs still being used if everything is meant to be integrated?” Ubels asked.

Presenting recent survey information on the smart buildings market, Daphne Tomlinson, senior research associate at Memoori Research, observed that IoT platforms were changing the market and integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) would “take the lead”.

Proposing that Autonomous Buildings Will Reshape the World, Troy Harvey, CEO of platforms integration specialist PassiveLogic, observed that the term ‘smart building’ was just another way of saying ‘connected’. He added that because every building has a different topology each required a different approach to autonomy: “Fully autonomous buildings are self-federating, which could lead to building digital towns.”

In her presentation the Greatest Opportunities in PropTech, Angelica Krystle Donati, CEO of the Donati Immobiliare development group, looked at technologies the industry should be excited about this year and beyond. “Sensors will enable more user engagement,” she said, “and AI [artificial intelligence] and machine learning will prepare and enable big data.” Donati also highlighted the potential of VR/AR and robotics.

The potential of sensors was highlighted by Elizabeth Nelson, Research Director at consultancy LAB, who is currently setting up a Smart Building Certification programme, due to launch in 2021. “We’re working on definitions of smart buildings and how we can improve the health of a building through sensors,” she said.

AI in smart buildings was examined by Robert Rosier, CEO of building operations company TPEX International. “AI can be used to collect data, which an operator can respond to and interpret,” he said. “But it’s not just about technology, it can be used for design, predictive maintenance and object analysis as part of security procedures.”

Proving that we can learn from our mistakes, Matthew Marson, Head of Smart Places at engineering firm WSP, outlined a few of his less successful projects and lessons learned, including “work out why a technology has not been applied in that context before”, “test on a demographic before going public”, “don’t think everyone is interested in your data” and “have a back-up plan”.

Josef Šachta, CEO of property technology company Sharry Europe, later commented that integration with the right platform “is the toughest part” in creating a smart building. He draw attention to the user experience – something which Ken Dooley, in his presentation Lessons from a Smart Campus, said should be the starting point. Dooley, Technology Director of construction and real estate group Granlund, explained that for many staff, using technology to book a meeting room was far more useful than turning the lights on and off through voice command.

This point was picked up by Kevin Brownell, Head of Intelligent Building at PTS Consulting, in the closing panel, Smart Building – Stepping Stones to Smart City. “It’s about user experience and what you get out of the technology, not the tech itself,” he commented. Talking about AI, Claire Penny, Commercial Director of IoT developer Wia, said its value would be “amazing” by allowing a lot of automation and removing mundane tasks from everyday operations.

Smart Building Conference took place on 10 February 2020 at the Hotel Okura Amsterdam. Please find the image gallery here. See you next year at Integrated Systems Europe 2021!