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Smart Building, Equipment and IoT Trends for 2021

2020 smart building predictions

Covid-19’s impact is difficult to ignore looking forward; it is set to cast a long shadow, bridging from 2020 into 2021 and beyond. Industries across the board have been affected, and have had to make some changes to how they operate. In building controls, the trend is towards remote work and management, digital processes, and information technology. Here predictions from some of our team members at J2 Innovations for smart buildings, smart equipment, and IoT.

Remote work and management

How we use and interact with buildings is changing. Many people are becoming familiar with working remotely and many more are realising that they need to expand remote working to more people within the workplace and across industries. In order to keep up with the needs of occupants and building owners, we need the capability to manage buildings remotely at a macro level and through applications at a micro or personal level. Earlier this year, we explored the importance of occupant comfort and how smart buildings should be adapting in a COVID environment.

“The COVID crisis is accelerating building portfolio operators realisation that they need to be able to remotely manage their buildings more effectively, so the need for easier and more secure connectivity technologies will increase, while the climate crisis is accelerating the transition to greener technologies, both in terms of renewable energy generation, and also a greater focus on reducing the carbon emissions from existing buildings by optimising the way they are controlled. Companies that offer optimisation services will therefore prosper. In many buildings, the need to increase air change rates to reduce the risk of COVID transmission has temporarily prioritised this over energy efficiency, but once the immediate crisis has passed the HVAC industry will respond by developing more advanced ways of maintaining good indoor air quality, while simultaneously minimising energy use. Air ionisation and mechanical heat recovery solutions are therefore likely to grow in popularity.” - Chris Irwin, VP of Sales EMEA, J2 Innovations

As we continue to focus on building management and occupant safety, it’s important to look beyond large buildings and look at ways smaller buildings can benefit from smart technology.

We see technology like FIN microBMS becoming more pervasive in the small to mid-sized buildings market. FIN microBMS supports small sites with a plug'n'play solution to efficiently manage buildings remotely.

Changing the way we work

The remote working wave that we’ve seen in 2020, has not only changed the way we work, but also how we view work. Siemens's recent announcement is a great example of how corporate culture is changing for the better by adopting a more flexible approach to work that gives more trust and power to employees.

“The basis for this forward-looking working model is further development [of] our corporate culture. These changes will also be associated with a different leadership style, one that focuses on outcomes rather than on time spent at the office. We trust our employees and empower them to shape their work themselves so that they can achieve the best possible results. With the new way of working, we're motivating our employees while improving the company's performance capabilities and sharpening Siemens' profile as a flexible and attractive employer.” - Roland Busch, CEO, Siemens

Flexible spaces

Building owners, particularly those operating in retail, will need to make their buildings more flexible and adaptable – victory and profits will go to the nimble.

“I expect an increase in demand for warehouses as many businesses will move from brick-and-mortar stores to the Internet where much of it will remain.” - Michal Lom, Sales Manager Northern & CEE, J2 Innovations

Despite the growing demand for online shopping, brick and mortar spaces are still needed to service market needs that cannot be met online. Cafés, gyms, hairdressers, online order pickup and returns, postal counters or delivery counters, clothing alterations, etc. These market demands cannot be delivered to your door and thus require safe and smart spaces. Retailers and hospitality companies need to adapt to these changes and rethink their spaces to consider omnichannel experiences. In-person shopping isn’t dead, it’s just different.

Digital processes

If it hasn’t already been transformed this year, 2021 will see ever more processes becoming digital. We all have to consider what this means for our own businesses and how quickly we can adapt, adopt and apply to keep ahead of the market and the competition. For building operations, space must adapt and so must the services a building provides for comfort, safety, health, and security. These digital processes, such as AI, data management and interpretation, cloud and edge computing, and IoT will have a growing role in smart buildings.

“What will have changed for good is the better understanding of the benefits of digitalisation across society and industries; including online payment, online work, online services. Many digital solutions already today provide massive benefits without significant upfront cost - the COVID crisis massively increased the awareness for those solutions.” - Alex Rohweder, COO, J2 Innovations

The convergence of IT and OT

The industry will continue to see a concerted push to integrate and leverage the vast amounts of valuable data derived from Operational Technologies (OT) into the Information Technology (IT) side of the enterprise.

“Most mature IT infrastructures already possess & maintain existing compute resources. This infrastructure supports traditional mission critical IT enterprise applications. Utilization of existing IT infrastructure assets and the associated enterprise applications layer enables OT data to be more seamlessly consumed. This will result in streamlined business processes, reduced cost, increased productivity and optimization of existing and future enterprise assets.” - Steve Glymph, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships, J2 Innovations

A new kind of interoperability

Over the years, we have seen great progress with interoperability between devices and advances in how applications consume data. The future holds a focus on solving a larger interoperability challenge between applications and IoT platforms.

“There are a bunch of initiatives to resolve the interconnectivity problems we have in the building automation industry. I see investment from multiple organizations in this area of interconnectivity between different protocols and frameworks. A good example of that is The Web of Things (WoT), which is an open source standard being pioneered by Siemens. It is an exciting initiative.” - Hisham Ennarah , VP of Engineering, J2 Innovations

As we continue to make adjustments in how we interact with and use buildings, IoT devices, and technology in general we will see a continuing drive towards automation, remote management, and streamlined digital processes. While the virtual world may be a strain on our needs as social creatures, this pandemic has definitely moved the needle towards innovation for all of us.


B. Scott Muench

Scott joined J2 Innovations as a partner in 2011, and is now Vice President of Customer Experience. He has a wide range of responsibilities including evangelism, business development, training, and operational excellence. Scott is well known as an industry expert in smarthomes and smart buildings. He is a past president of ASHRAE, and is currently a board member for Project Haystack. Scott attended Clarkson University for Mechanical Engineering and graduated with a BS/Business in Organizational Innovation.

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Topics from this blog: IoT Smart Buildings Smart Equipment Industry

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