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16 July 2015

Your building is smarter than you think

In German trains the availability of seats is shown on a small screen, using the reservations information. Travellers getting aboard without a booking can see whether a seat has been reserved for that route and from which station. Travellers with a booking can find their seats more quickly as the seat numbers are clearly displayed above each seat. With less frustration and more comfort, this is how you create more capacity in the train. This is a good example of how you can work with information more intelligently. 

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The reservation data had been stored in the German railway operator’s system for years to help the conductors to be able check bookings, but without anything being done with it for the passengers. This data is now used to inform and guide people. These days we use the same principle for buildings: ‘Smart Buildings’ is the new buzzword in facility and real estate management.

More than just a pile of bricks

In the past, a building consisted of a pile of bricks and that was pretty much it. Of the total investment, 80 percent went to architecture and the rest included a tiny bit of technology, such as electricity or heating. Today technology’s share can often reach up to half of the investment and this percentage will keep on growing, as more and more IT installations are now finding their way into buildings. This technology is often not even operated by people, they simply regulate themselves by using sensors.

We are trying to make our buildings smarter with different kinds of technical tricks, but are absolutely unaware of the fact that our buildings already contain a great deal of information which we could use. Your building is smarter than you think, if you only knew just how to make this information available and use it, you could feed that back not only to the buildings, but also the users themselves.

Measuring, informing and guiding

As an example, take the volumes of information the building management system already has about occupancy. When you enter a building, you often go through a door. You can count the number of people present in the building. When you get out of the lift, the lift’s contents become around 11 stones lighter per person. That’s how you can calculate how many people get out at each floor, and where they are. If you combine this information with the number of times that the door of the stairwell opens, that will give you an idea of how many people are present on a specific floor. You can use this information to inform others and send them to a different floor if it’s too busy.

How to make this information accessible is often astonishingly simple by simply looking at your existing data in a different way. It’s not rocket science, but simply being aware of and developing the right application. Particularly in these modern days when almost everything can be measured with sensors, this can yield an absolute treasure chest of data. The Germans are renowned internationally for their organisational skills and punctuality, but have shown with this train example that they are also creative enough to find that treasure. And if they can do it, we can do it too.

David Stillebroer
Director Product Management