When it comes to Commercial Real Estate (CRE), the impact of intelligent buildings can be extremely positive for all parties involved. The power of data and information collected from hundreds or more sensors within a building enable different business models to be implemented as real-time, data-based analytics, fueling a tremendous number of potential new service offerings. At a high level, it gives building managers the opportunity to streamline systems, which not only makes for happier tenants, but it can reduce costs and eliminate manual processes.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) increasingly works its way into the CRE market, it’s time to discuss the connectivity protocol that will ensure everything within the building is truly connected and sharing the necessary data, safely. There is no doubt that IoT will have a big impact on CRE and its long-term potential for growth and viability. So how do these two worlds collide? Let’s talk all things LoRa.
What is LoRaWAN® and How Does it Work?
LoRa® is a long range, low power technology that offers an efficient, flexible and economical connectivity solution for CRE workers. LoRa has helped solve real-world rural and indoor use cases where cellular and / or Wi-Fi-enabled networks are ineffective or unreliable. The LoRaWAN open specification is a low-power, wide-area networking (LPWAN) protocol based on LoRa Technology. The LoRaWAN protocol – leveraging the unlicensed radio spectrum in the Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) band – is specifically designed to wirelessly connect battery operated devices and things to the Internet to global networks. As a founding member of the LoRa Alliance™, an open, non-profit association dedicated to the standardization of LPWAN and the global promotion of the LoRaWAN open standard, Semtech provides the LoRa Technology-enabled sensors that help the standardization and global adoption of the LoRaWAN protocol.
For the CRE market, LoRaWAN enables remote and real-time monitoring and control of buildings, to quickly identify and alert threats such as spikes in usage, leakage and malfunctions.
There are hundreds of low-cost sensors actively and continuously collecting data that are passed through a gateway to a cloud-based server. Once through, the data is analyzed by third-party applications to create real-time metrics, assess the metrics and then automatically generate an alert when a risk is identified – should one occur.
The combination of the real-time identification of potential risks and the rapid output of an automated response, makes management increasingly more efficient and cost-effective. As each gateway supports millions of messages per day from low-cost wireless sensors, the system is simple to install.
In the past, CRE owners have seen technologies deployed for a small number of specific solutions aimed at reducing operational expenses through targeted energy efficiency applications. Companies have primarily done this using disparate building management systems (BMS), but the use of such systems still involves a significant amount of local, manual interaction, low automation, and dedicated infrastructure per application. Here are a few examples of how new IoT connectivity solutions and associated, cloud-based data analytics can be leveraged to provide real value for real estate owners, as well as tenants and their customers:
- Efficient heating and cooling: Using sensors, smart thermostats can now monitor indoor/outdoor air temperature, humidity and the presence of people in a room. This data can then be used to intelligently control the HVAC, heater and ventilation systems inside buildings so that they cool or heat rooms only when necessary to reduce energy costs.
- Maintenance: The use of sensors can dramatically reduce maintenance costs by using ‘predictive analytics’ and ‘on demand’ services. For example, water flow and presence can be monitored to identify water leaks early, before costly damages occur. Elevator motors and equipment can be monitored to detect early signs of potential failure.
- Space optimization: Real-time occupancy, geolocation and foot traffic data can be used to identify spatial usage patterns, allowing space efficiency optimization and reconfiguring offices and retail location layout based on real usage data to increase building density usage.
There is no comparison between LoRa and other networks. LoRa-enabled wireless sensors and long communication range deliver an easy and cost-effective deployment. Once implemented, there is additional cost-savings anticipated both in the near-term, but perhaps more importantly, in the long-term operational costs. The LoRa-enabled sensors can extend battery life by nearly 10 years, potentially even longer. This significantly reduces operating costs and greatly reduces maintenance for the replacement of batteries in remote areas and / or when the sensors are in inaccessible areas. Furthermore, connectivity in the unlicensed sub-GHz ISM band reduces the overall cost of running the network compared to other wireless technologies which operate at 2.4GHz or 5GHz. The final piece to ensure LoRa Technology is the No. 1 choice for CRE implementations, LoRaWAN is based on an open standard which not only simplifies global deployment, but it gives builders piece of mind by ensuring interoperability with existing infrastructure and applications. This also rings true for IoT providers and telecom operations supporting the buildings – everything just works, whether it’s a brand new build or a renovation of an older structure.
Impact for CRE Operators
The value of a fully integrated IoT solution for CRE operators can be summarized in the following ways:
- New sources of revenue: Direct marketing, developer industry insight on occupant needs, tenant productivity improvement, investment advisers.
- Differentiation in the market: Lower utility bills, no tenant issues (i.e. issues fixed before they become visible through predictive maintenance), increase to property values.
- Valuation: More precise and granular valuation based on real data (owner side, but also tenants with specific requirements).
- Financial benefits: Real-time data for real estate valuations allowing standardized risk profile.
LoRa has become the de facto wireless protocol for smart buildings and we’re increasingly witnessing the need for low power, long range connectivity within large scale commercial implementations. LoRaWAN allows building managers, owners, residents and service providers to view building functions remotely and ensure all the things within the building speaks to one another, always. We’re already witnessing the power of LoRaWAN in many CRE examples today.
The future proves bright for the IoT and CRE, LoRa Technology is the connectivity platform to ensure its success now and into the future.
Byron BeMiller is the vertical lead for Smart Buildings at Semtech and the head of the LoRa Alliance Smart Building Working Group. He is the former VP of Sales at TrackNet, an IoT solutions provider which was acquired by Semtech. Prior to TrackNet, Byron had spent the previous 7 years at Semtech where he held a variety of Business Development and Product Marketing positions. Previous to Semtech, Byron held Sales and Business Development management positions at Ciena and Nortel Networks. He holds a BSEE from the University of Illinois and an MS in Management from Georgia Tech.