Smart buildings for smart living

Open Sesame! Or the door to your home, using voice command

Our world is getting smarter by the minute. Voice recognition allows us to tell devices to do things, such as find a specific TV channel or remind us of all our appointments for the day. Smart agriculture uses sensors, connected machinery and smartphone apps to tell farmers when to water their fields, while intelligent road infrastructure is improving road safety and congestion and all in real time.

The Edge, Amsterdam, a very smart building
The Edge, smart and green office building, Amsterdam (Photo: Bloomberg)

Many industries, including construction, entertainment, healthcare, transport and retail, are using smart technology to add value to their products and services, in the form of connected devices and systems. These are all part of the internet of things (IoT). They gather, monitor, exchange and analyze data, in order to improve the user experience.

As cities become smarter, so are their infrastructures and buildings.  Embedded technology can operate building access and security, data and energy management, water use, light and temperature.

Against this backdrop, IEC established the Standardization Evaluation Group (SEG) 9 for smart home/office building systems in February 2017. The main aim of the Group is to:

  • Map technology trends and market evolution, assess current and future market segments
  • Develop indicative, general use cases
  • Look at current IEC Standards and others, to analyze gaps, overlaps and remediation paths if required
  • Identify best practice models, to coordinate work within IEC and with external bodies and ensure a longer term sustainable process. This will specifically address a number of identified areas of overlap between IEC technical committees.

The focus of IEC activities for smart homes and buildings

e-tech caught up with SEG 9 Convenor, Kim Craig, to find out more about the work and main trends for 2018.

What will the priorities be?

We’ve been going for just over a year and to date we have 64 registered members from 17 countries. We need to engage a wide range of experts to participate in the work, in order to get a truly representative view of the smart home/office building landscape. Initially, we’ll aim to get an accurate view of market trends and technology evolution for both current and future scenarios. Identifying gaps in standardization and also areas where standardization may not be required will be critical to our future recommendations to the IEC Standardization Management Board.

What big trends affect smart homes and buildings?

Interoperability, cyber security, data privacy

As buildings and homes become more intelligent, they contain more information and communication technology (ICT), audio, video and multimedia systems and diverse hardware.

IEC International Standards cover many aspects of these components, to ensure their quality and that they are safe and remain secure. Additionally, given that many devices and systems are manufactured by different parties, the Standards also consider the need for interoperability, so that the buildings incorporating this technology will be able to function reliably.

“The major trend is the rapid evolution of interoperability and interconnection between previously isolated components, communication protocols and sub systems, but cyber security and privacy are also top of mind”, said Craig.

The silver economy

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the percentage of the world's population aged over 60 will double from 11% to 22% between 2015 and 2050. WHO statistics show that the number of people 60 years and over is expected to increase from 900 million to two billion over the same period.

As populations continue to grow and age, buildings will need to be as efficient as possible and adapt to the needs of people who are more likely to require different levels of assistance on a daily basis.

One goal of smart cities is to ensure that people with disabilities can work, socialize and live independently for as long as possible, by providing human and technical support to manage chronic health conditions, ensure physical access to places, and guarantee the ability to move around easily within the home or city.

Increasingly, information and communication technology (ICT), audio, video and multimedia systems provide the tools and support required to improve the lives of people with disabilities, including physical, or visual and hearing impairment whatever their age.

IEC Systems Committee for Active Assisted Living (SyC AAL) keeps abreast of market trends, enables accessibility of AAL systems and user interfaces and facilitates cross-vendor interoperability of such systems, products and components. Find out more about these and the work IEC does for active assisted living e-tech 2017 Issue 2. 

“A rapidly aging population (the ‘silver economy’) is a key element in smart homes and buildings where AAL aspects are becoming more pronounced as a lifestyle driver and enabler,” noted Craig.

Energy efficiency

The construction industry is already using smart technology to tackle the issue of energy efficiency. Buildings, whether homes, offices, factories, hospitals or other public and private spaces, are responsible for more than 40 percent of global energy use and one third of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative.

“A global focus on energy efficiency and the rapid growth of renewable energy sources and energy storage has major implications for SEG 9 work”, concluded Craig.

High-tech materials and smart systems save energy, costs and improve the quality of experience whether at home, work or in other buildings, such as a hospital or museum. For example, solar panels can sustain a building’s energy requirements, while systems using sensors to monitor light, temperature and room occupation, enable automatic adjustments to optimize the use of heating, cooling and lighting systems.