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Top 5 Trends in Smart Building Technology

Smart building technology continues to iterate and improve, and some of the latest trends are significantly transforming the next generation of corporate and campus buildings.

There’s still some hype surrounding all things smart, but more and more smart building solutions are offering genuine value. Walk into a new building or a retrofit building in a city like Austin, Texas and it will transport you into the future. The building already knows who is walking in, visitor management will be automated, lights will automatically turn on, elevators won’t have buttons and on and on. We’ll be looking back to the building of the early 2000’s soon with a surprise how “antiquated” it seems.

We’ve identified 5 leading trends in smart building technology and best practice considerations. These smart building solutions touch nearly every aspect of building design and occupant experience. We’ll focus here on those that connect or relate to physical security systems and related concerns.

1. Smarter, Touchless Access Control

Access control systems are nothing new, and the badge swipe isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon. (In fact, physical badges are mandatory in certain industries, including healthcare.) Still, smarter (and often touchless) access control systems are a top trend for new builds and building upgrades.

Solutions that are newer to market include touchless access control, where users simply hold their phone or other device near a sensor to gain access to a space. Paired with the right on-device authentication system, these systems can be as or more secure than “dumb” ID badges.

In higher security areas, touchless access control can form only the first layer of security. Biometric identification can be implemented as the second.

One expert writing for Security Today notes that the real transition is toward identity management rather than mere credential management. This transition is already underway for many organizations and requires a shift in thinking about the convergence of physical and digital / cyber security.

2. Increasing Adoption of IoT While Considering Risks and Mapping What You Have

In smart buildings, IoT devices can meet an exceedingly wide range of needs. By connecting security devices like cameras to the network or sensors for a wide variety of needs, organizations can provide a higher level of automation capabilities . But it’s important to watch out for the risks associated with this category of device, too.

Any basic smart device (or IoT device) brings with it certain risks, from arriving preloaded with malware or spyware or becoming an eventual vulnerability due to outdated software.

One best practice when it comes to IoT devices is to strongly vet which ones are allowed to connect to the network—and whether the value of choosing the smart version outweighs the risks. Just because a device or service can connect to the internet doesn’t mean it should.

One industry professional notes that DDoS attacks (the kinds that slow down or even shut down portions of the internet) have been documented to originate from business IoT devices like networked cameras. Another idea is to use a mapping technology to more visually see where IoT devices live and how they are connected together.

While many IoT devices remain either consumer-focused or situational, more and more are starting to show up in modern smart buildings. Smart thermostats, IoT tags for equipment or resource tracking, sensors for activity or heatmap tracking, and even smart coffee machines could all be enhancements found within a smart office. But again, make sure the value of these smart devices outweighs the risk — and that you mitigate risk with appropriate IT and physical security policies.

3. AI Is Here, But Requires Expertise

It seems like everywhere you turn, you’ll see another report about AI-powered something or other: AI-powered intelligent access control software is one recent announcement, but you’ll also hear about AI-powered security cameras and AI for surveillance of large or wide-area facilities.

Again, these new systems and services show great promise, but the industry is still learning about it. The term AI is casually mentioned often to describe things that aren’t really using artificial intelligence to do what they do.

In the near term, most of us are learning about AI and we’ll need to be smart to work with our trusted manufacturers and software partners to know how to use it effectively. As an example, many system integrators will need to help their customers visualize and intelligently determine when to use an AI camera, how best to install it properly and how to leverage the analytics correctly.

This is where system design tools can help customers and partners collaborate and visualize solutions. Like any new technology, there is a learning curve and applications that can help non-engineers make the right decisions for the investment. Just applying an AI camera does not mean it will do the job intended.

4. Renewed Focus on Indoor Air Quality

Before COVID-19, indoor air quality often seemed an afterthought, at least in the minds of anyone not specifically tasked with caring about it. But the pandemic has changed this for the better, and industry professionals expect that this renewed focus on indoor air quality will outlive the current crisis.

Smarter, more efficient air filtration systems should become the norm in smart buildings. But the real smarts aren’t in the filters or devices themselves; they’re in the sensors that can detect air quality issues or filter status.

Expect a heavier adoption of the concept of healthy buildings and safe air. Devices that can proactively recognize the health of a building’s air and prompt human operators to act (like changing filters or increasing throughput) will become more common.

5. Better Smart Buildouts Thanks to Better System Design Tools

Perhaps the most important smart building trend is the use of better, smarter system design tools and software that result in better smart buildouts and more holistic system integration.

System Surveyor is a dynamic, visual system design platform that meets this need for physical security and access control systems. It’s more than mere security management system software. It’s a visual collaboration platform that allows system integrators to design better systems, dragging and dropping security devices onto a digital floor plan — in full view of prospects and customers. Moreover, it lets the people on the front lines engage with those creating the technology to ensure its use is correct and feasible.

Many integrators use System Surveyor to replace pen-and-paper drawings and as a means of collaborating with clients. Customers can view and even modify plans along with the integrator.

Corporate and campus security leaders also benefit from a physical security system digital design tool. They can use the platform to build out planned or proposed upgrades and use the budget estimation tools to produce realistic estimates for unit leaders and decision makers. They can also use the visual design tools to show proposals to non-technical buyers.

By presenting richer visuals in a more professional manner, corporate and campus security leaders gain better buy-in and quicker decisions. It will be interesting to see how AI plays out and where are the real wins for smart buildings for new construction and retrofit buildings.

Ready to see how System Surveyor can transform your efforts? Start your free trial now.