Buildings with brains


Rajagopal Nair


Digital transformation is now having clear impact in the real world, including the buildings that serve as workplaces, living spaces, and areas of commerce. Despite their outwardly static appearance, buildings can have extraordinarily active lifecycles. They consume an estimated 42% of electricity worldwide, and total operating expenses are greater than 70% of the total costs of ownership. The advent of internet of things and IBM Watson, is changing the way the buildings are. The large number of sensors put in, along with cameras and other devices, provide a deluge of data, which IBM Watson can learn from and then progressively used to solve issues and arrive at intelligent decisions.

Technology at the Service of Building Owners and Users

As the Gulf pursues its economic development, many complex buildings, malls and campuses are being constructed. The region features some of the most innovative and advanced construction in the world. Gulf Business Machines (GBM) in partnership with IT industry leader IBM and other ecosystem partners, is deploying purpose-built solutions to support the ‘smart city’ ecosystems and buildings that are increasingly part of life in the region. The advantages are numerous:

  • Better user and visitor experience in buildings via IBM Watson Assistant.
  • Optimized operations and improved levels of service, by using BIM (Building Information Modelling) and Digital Twin.
  • More efficient energy management through IBM Building insights.
  • Improved lease, contract, space management and facility management through TRIRIGA.

Let’s dive into each of these topics:

Create a Better Building User Experience

Watson Assistant is based on artificial intelligence (AI) technology and helps businesses create engaging experiences with users. For buildings, that means the people who visit, work, or live in them. The cloud-based framework enables cognitive applications such as personalized digital assistants to guide users through a building, address their queries and optimize their use of it.

Improve Service Through BIM and Digital Twin

It makes more sense to repair things before they break. By modeling a building digitally, businesses can spot problems and potential breakdowns in advance. A building information modeling (BIM) application can create a 3D digital representation of a building and the operations that go with it. From construction to commissioning and throughout the rest of the building lifecycle, BIM can be used to predict and improve building efficiency, resilience, usability, and extendibility.

The counterpart to this 3D modeling is the network of sensors, actuators, and other IoT (Internet of Things) devices that are integrated into new or existing buildings. They send information to the BIM application to update the model and can receive instructions remotely to optimize building usage. The Digital twin thus created can understand the usage patterns and will help building owners to avoid lighting, heating, or cooling parts of a building that are vacant or less used, an important consideration now that users are more mobile and building use more transitory.

Improve Energy Management Across Sites

The IBM Building Insights application uses augmented intelligence (a form of AI) to keep views of every building in a corporation up-to-date and accurate. Businesses can run analytics to forecast energy use and occupancy, as well as for diagnosing problems and finding solutions. For example, users of the application can see at a glance which buildings are using the most energy or where other problems are imminent or have already happened. They can also link to other information sources such as weather channels to make energy usage decisions.

Gain by Smarter Facility Management

By using business analytics, alerts, and automation, TRIRIGA improves real estate management. This software application streamlines day to day operations management, lease and contract management and space management, as well as addressing IFRS 16 compliance for leases. Businesses can make smarter decisions based on better information. Higher returns on property transactions, better use of facilities, and lower operating expenses all make positive contributions to a business’s bottom line.

From static brick and mortar structures, to something which has cognitive abilities, buildings with the latest technologies will be able to provide an interactive experience to its users, adjust environment according to their preferences, alert the respective people before things break, and overall improve the value and reduce the cost of operations.

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