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Smart buildings can create amazing workspaces, says Google

Smart building technology usedto be about making buildings more energy efficient, but now, it’s being used to create amazing work environments that can attract talent and boost productivity.

That’s according to Aglaia Kong, Google’s chief technology officer, corporate networking.

In her keynote address at Smart Building Conference 2017, ‘Building Powered by IoT – Beyond Just Energy Management,’ Kong described the challenges faced by enterprises wanting to develop smart buildings. “Different systems – lighting, energy, security, BMS [building management systems] and AV – exist in silos, which makes smart buildings difficult to maintain,” she noted.

Google’s solution is to take a “horizontal approach,” added Kong, which involves creating a converged network that combines IT and OT devices (operational technology devices – these are used for monitoring or control). The data from all the devices is pooled into a “data lake”, analysed and used to create better work environments.

“For example, you can use WiFi location-based services to track how people are moving around a building, and use the data to design more efficient workspaces,” said Kong.

“Retailers could use the same technology with shoppers.” Other potential solutions include personalised workspaces, and motion-controlled systems that, for example, automatically switch on the air conditioning when a person enters a room.

Google has found that factors such as the density of employees in a workspace and the amount of daylight around a building can affect productivity, and the company has used this data to develop some of its new buildings around the world.

Kong told the ISE Daily that privacy is an important issue when it comes to implementing smart building technology: “If you’re just using non-personal data from a device, then employees don’t need to be consulted, but if the data is personalised, then people need know. Google doesn’t use the latter system.”