Smart buildings were once deemed the future of commercial real estate, but today they are very much part of the industry’s present. CRE owners have quickly realized the value in having a building that is equipped with Internet-connected lighting, locks, thermostats, security systems and more. Connected buildings not only enhance the tenant and customer experience, which leads to retention and high occupancy, but they can also help improve a CRE owners’ bottom line as the building becomes more energy efficient.
A group of smart building experts gathered to discuss this trend in the “Smart Buildings for Smart Real Estate Execs” panel during the Connected Real Estate Summit in February. Fifth Gen Media CEO and Publisher Rich Berliner moderated the panel that included Current Head of Global Strategic Alliance and Marketing Jim Benson, IoTium Founder and CEO Ron Victor, Join Founder and CEO Karl May, and T-Mobile Senior Manager 5G Smart and Indoor Coverage Luke Lucas.
Each member in the panel shared their definition of what smart buildings are and the responses varied from a building that’s outfitted with devices that collect data in real time to create a better environment for tenants, to a building that can learn and make adjustments to create an ecosystem based on tenants’ habits and preferences, to simply buildings that offer connectivity.
“If you don’t have connectivity, you’re shortchanging yourself,” Luke Lucas of T-Mobile said.
Ron Victor stressed the importance of CRE owners taking the proper precautions to keep their networks or building’s smart devices from being hacked. He pointed to last year’s Target network hack as an example of a lapse in protection that can negatively impact a brand’s reputation, credibility and bottom line. He also likened good cyber security to car or homeowners insurance—customers don’t expect to get into a car accident or for their house to catch on fire, but they buy insurance just in case. CRE owners should have the same mentality when it comes to their connected devices and network.
“You took precautions just in case you got into a wreck,” he said. “You have to view a building exactly the same way. There are some 85,000 systems in the world that are vulnerable today—someone could go in and turn the building’s lights down or turn the elevator off. People hack into building’s systems simply because they can—90 percent of the world’s hacks are done just for fun.”
Meanwhile, Lucas described the in-building experience as it pertains to smart buildings as the “final frontier.” While carriers built their networks based on an outdoor basis, Lucas noted that 80 percent of cell phone traffic is generated indoors.
“To provide connectivity to that space, and then a future platform, for whatever ‘G’ we want to talk about, it’s not about a discussion of 5G today, but it’s an evolution of technology indoors and that’s truly where (T-Mobile) sees it,” Lucas said. “I don’t know what the other carriers think, but we believe that that’s a critical element of an inclusive customer experience.”
Smart buildings have changed the way commercial real estate is viewed, as well as what tenants expect when they sign a lease. However, these smart amenities like motion activated lights and hands-free thermostat adjusters would not be possible without reliable wireless networks.
CASE STUDIES PANEL
Diamond Communications President, In-Building Site Development & Operations Jarrett Bluth, ZenFi Networks VP of Business Development Walter Cannon, Aditum CEO Brian Higgins, Corning Director of Enterprise Services Art King, and CTS VP of Operations Shane Rubin gathered to share some of their respective companies’ successful installation case studies during the “Case Studies of Well Designed and Well Installed Networks” panel.
King shared Corning’s case study where it worked with Opencell to improve the cellular coverage in global consultancy AECOM’s new headquarters. Users no longer had to worry about their cell phone coverage dropping, regardless of where they were in the building. The coverage improved so much it became a bit of a safety hazard for some workers.
“(Corning) actually had to put a sign at the top of the staircase to tell people to use one hand because a couple of people tumbled down the stairs carrying their coffee and looking at their phone,” King said. “From a public safety perspective, putting in the cellular system was actually a problem for them.”
Some of the panelists’ successful case studies included creating a parking lot LTE hot spot so that truck drivers would not have to come inside to download their work orders (Corning), improving a CRE owner’s DAS so they could add multiple carriers (Diamond and CTS), providing space, power and connectivity to support the PATH stations in New York City (ZenFi).
“The big problem was PATH stations were trying to deploy DAS,” Cannon said. “How do you get cooling and power down inside the stations? Well, you really don’t. We were able to build out a network edge location facility and support all of the PATH stations using our space, power and connectivity. So it’s fiber, centralized RAN (C-RAN). We’re starting to market that to the property owners and to using it for regular telecom.”
“The big problem was PATH stations were trying to deploy DAS,” Cannon said. “How do you get cooling and power down inside the stations?”
Meanwhile, Higgins noted how CRE must embrace connectivity as it has quickly moved up the list of many tenants’ priorities when selecting a building.
“(Location) is only ranking one point higher than connectivity right now (in a national survey),” he said. “It’s projected as early as 2021, but as late as 2028 that connectivity to the Internet is going to be considered more important than location to where you live and where your office is. Having that fiber connectivity into the building and a good high-speed connection and low latency is quickly becoming the most important thing to a tenant. It already ranks higher than having a kitchen or having a washer and dryer inside your apartment.”