5G Could Revolutionize Smart Buildings

Something preventing smart buildings’ huge success today is access to a network, which could be sorted out by having a protocol like 5G.

Sunil Rajguru
New Update
smart buildings

David Trice, General Manager of Honeywell Connected Buildings, feels that something preventing smart buildings’ huge success today is access to a network, which could be sorted out by having a protocol like 5G. Here he explains...


The problem with smart buildings

Maybe smart building is too broad a definition. If you look at the size of the market through the lens of buildings that have installed a BMS (Building Management System), it is probably no more than one-fifth of all buildings in the world in the context of commercial real estate. What remains are buildings that haven't installed a BMS nor are smart yet. I think we've still got a bit of a technological evolution to get to a point where making smart buildings is truly scalable. It's also an interesting dynamic because in some cases, builders are not going to ever own the property, they're going to hand it over to somebody else. In America, we've got the same thing happening where we've got people make buildings at the lowest cost possible and they make decisions that are not influenced by smart technology. I think that's a universal problem. In America they're very interested in predictive maintenance, not only for the Asset Lifecycle Management, but also to remove labour costs.

Setting a data standard


We're focused on very specific standard for smart buildings. Part of the problem that exists today with all of these point solutions and proprietary OEM platforms and nobody's really ever thought about a data standard. We're trying to accomplish that with Forge (an analytics software solution that provides real-time data and visual intelligence). We're going to use our Niagara platform, which is built to standardise and normalise data, as a mechanism to create that standard. It's not so much a protocol they have to subscribe to, but an approach that we’ll take to create a standard for our customer. That's the way we're approaching it, knowing that that somebody's got to solve the problem first and foremost. Standards are going to be what's key for an organisation to be successful going forward.

5G and smart buildings

One of the big things preventing rapid success in a building today is access to a network. A simple thing like that which seems to be a fairly easy thing to solve, but it's not for security reasons and otherwise. So having a protocol like 5G that you could use as an alternative is a really appealing idea. Where I start to get a little concerned is assets, controllers and things of that nature will eventually become intelligent as well and then we’ll need a common protocol for them to communicate as well. That means you've got to have 5G even for dark concrete parts of a building that it might not be built for.


There are other technologies that can solve that problem, but it would be great to have a single protocol that gives you one way to communicate across all platforms that would solve a lot of problems. When it comes to security, we've got our own private network that we run underneath the 4G protocol to ensure our data is protected and nobody could infiltrate it. And so I think when 5G comes along, we'll do the same thing. It's not going to just be this open protocol that anybody can have access to. We will have a secure stream. Ultimately as Edge devices get smarter, I think the whole idea of a BMS will be virtualized. I don't think it'll be an on-premise solution. I think it'll be run from the cloud. As each device gets smarter it'll be easier to control from the bottom.

Collaborating with competitors

Niagara is probably the number one selling open BMS platform in the market today. We actually talked to competitors like Siemens and Schneider Electric. It's necessary to do that because when we go to our customers they say: I've got one of everything. So, you can't focus on one versus the other. The scope of the problem that we're trying to solve is more than just a BMS problem. It’s an operations problem. It’s not just data from the building but individual and workflow data to my central platform in order to run the operation in the most efficient way. You know there are ways to get data out of every system—the Niagara framework has a driver for almost every one of those systems and we were to leverage that. What we do with it and how much autonomous control we can drive back into the building, perhaps is a major conversation now.