If you’re going to spend your worklife in an office building, wouldn’t it be great if that building catered closely to your preferences, with lighting levels set according to your preferred profile and the temperature set right where you like it? And wouldn’t it be nice if these improvements actually reduced wasted energy? If this all sounds good to you, the smart building/smart office revolution will soon be making you happy, if it isn’t already.
One global company, wtec, with its flagship product, Smartengine, is right at the center of this “smart” uprising, alongside such competing players as MICROSENS and Philips. For this article, I spoke with Matthias Debecki, Managing Director (CFO) and Timothy Miscovich, Chief Commercial Officer, both from wtec.
Micah Solomon, Senior Contributor, Forbes.com: I know you’re passionate about making buildings “smart” via your technology. But is there something actually wrong with our current inventory of “dumb” buildings? Why do buildings need to be smart?
Matthias Debecki, Managing Director (CFO), wtec: Building users are increasingly becoming “consumers of spaces,” enjoying their new prerogative of being able to select from competing environments. And when they have this choice, they will choose the spaces that are connected, healthy, and supportive of the environment, that only use resources when and where required.
In addition, megatrends like the gig economy and worker mobility are requiring buildings to be more agile, in order to support multiple uses within shorter and shorter time-frames.
Solomon: How does a building become smart, and what does it actually mean?
Timothy Miscovich, Chief Commercial Officer, wtec: I define a smart building as “one that ensures that its resources are shared efficiently while providing a great experience to the building user.” Our approach to developing a smart building is to deploy a “skin” of senses throughout the building that’s analogous to how this works in the human body. This skin is paired with a wired communications “nervous system” that transports sensory signals to a communicating “brain,” based on a standard and open I.T. infrastructure.
With our technology, we create an efficient and simple neural network of fine-mesh communicating sensors reaching all areas of a building. Positioned at and efficiently powering every light in a building, this fine-mesh network of sensors allows real-time insight into occupancy for space sharing, environmental information like lighting, temperature and air quality, asset tracking and wayfinding, as well as providing a communication network that connects IoT devices within the building.
Solomon: When I hear about a “fine-mesh network of sensors reaching all areas of a building,” I picture movie special effects more than something that happens in real life.
Miscovich: You’d be surprised. This is happening right now. The smartengine technology has been installed in over 500 locations containing more than 20,000,000 square feet since its inception in late 2011. Most of those square feet are commercial office space, data centers, schools, universities, and retail locations. It’s a global phenomenon. There are smart buildings throughout the US, as well as in Mexico, El Salvador, the UK, Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Germany, Czech Republic, India, Malaysia, and Hong Kong–and I am very likely missing some.
Solomon: This stuff has to be expensive, right?
Debecki: Well yes, all good things have their price, but in this case, it’s a price that generally pays for itself quickly. In new builds and core and shell renovations, 99% of the time network-powered lighting is actually more cost-effective than a traditional installation. Sometimes this is true from day one and almost always once you consider the three-to-five-year total cost of ownership. Which makes it a real bargain for technology that can increase the value of the building, allow more flexible and efficient use of floor space, and lead to a more productive staff.
Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant, customer experience turnaround expert, keynote speaker, trainer, and author; you can email Micah directly, visit his website, or download three free chapters of his new book: Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away): The Simple Playbook for Delivering the Ultimate Customer Service Experience, recently published by HarperCollins Leadership.