Smart buildings: The keystone of the future

Since the 1980s, the term Intelligent Building has been defined as a building which controls its own environment. Ever since, the term Intelligent building has developed into a much broader term called Smart building where it is defined as integration of both of the system within the building, and the method through which building is designed and implemented. According to a new IDC Energy Insights report, smart building technology spending will grow from $6.3 billion in 2014 to $17.4 billion in 2019, registering a compound annual growth rate of 22.6 %. Further discussion has been evaluated to whether smart building is beneficial or detrimental to the society.

For Smart Buildings

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First buildings ever constructed were made of stones, animal skin, branches and other natural materials. Buildings today are made of complex system and technology. Buildings are far beyond than just four walls, it is a place where people spend roughly 90 percent of their time indoors to learn important lessons, enjoy working at the comfort of their own space or spend quality time.

Therefore, the most notable advantage of smart buildings is when daily activities can be done more efficiently. These features include improved integrated security measures such as password protected entrance, efficient energy savings and ability to adapt to the user’s requirements and majority of the users will support the rise of intelligent building due to its outstanding benefits it provides. This ideology is heavily based on the principles of utilitarianism as the greatest happiness was achieved by the greatest number of people that is accounted for. In other words, if the net result is positive, the act is considered to be morally acceptable by the majority and vice versa. Therefore, popularising the rise of intelligent buildings is chosen as the action to be taken, disregarding minority that despise this action. In this modern and sophisticated world, society is evolving with the continuous improvement of technology and we are meant to make full use of the technology available to the public.

Additionally, at the most significant level, smart buildings have delivered very convenient services to the majority of people include a minimal cost in the long run and have the least environmental impact such as a reducing emission of greenhouse gases. Two prime examples are there is no need to switch off the lights manually when you are not in need of it and the temperature of a room is monitored by a smart system to maximise the comfort of the occupant. This heightens the quality of life of the occupant greatly as there is no need to worry about the state of the environment you live in as it is under control by the system. Then why is there a need to ban this innovative invention that we all sought to obtain true comfort in our daily lives? When true comfort can be achieved, the plan to popularise the usage of smart buildings shall be executed. The world may seemingly be of a better place as most people will have access to this advance technologies that will improve people’s satisfaction to the fullest.

Against Smart Buildings

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With the arising technology, the introduction of smart buildings can potentially create a scope of new risks associated with aspects of technology and ethical issues. The ethical cycle in the building operations are potentially at greatest risk as compared to technology due to system integration that brings together all management in the company whom may have different cultures and views which can inhibit conflicts and faults.

One of the most controversial aspects around modern building design is control. Integrating the systems to create a smart building does generate benefits as a code driven environment when implemented and used appropriately, buildings can perform very well. However, it has its intrinsic risks which can result in substandard performance. The interconnecting of technologies with different tolerances for technical errors poses a concern which introduces room for complications.

As utilitarianism stated above may lead to an unfair treatment to the minorities, comfort of occupants is a subjective term which cannot be measured objectively. The use of IP-based technologies in a smart building centralises all control and monitoring stations. Studies have shown that there is only a single set of conditions that cater for all occupants in a smart building concept. An example given by Masoso and Grobler that automated buildings tend to be designed to the theoretical climatic conditions, occupancy and use. These aspects are subject to changes during construction and commissioning that might differ from the intent plan. Thus, the performance of smart buildings is susceptible to decrease. As building becomes more integrated and automated, some occupants may have lack of knowledge and limited awareness about the benefits of the system. Occupants within the building are prevented from intervening to change physical settings which leads to loss of control of the building. Problem is exacerbated when the personnel is in response to incidents, may not be familiar with the operation of individual buildings resulting in a negative effect on the comfort.

From a security perspective, it is essential to protect the security and operations of the company, ensuring the continuing availability of data within the entity. However, it may be compromised when the convergence of the technical infrastructure and integration of systems creates unauthorised pathways (e.g, hacking), increases the risk of privacy and security breaches. Cyber-terrorist could infiltrate company’s data with the click of a button causing failure to company’s critical systems by taking advantage of their vulnerabilities. In year 2016, hacking has become mainstreamed and hackers are set to be even more powerful in the next following years which can be a huge concern for the occupant.

As buildings start revolving around system integration, these are the challenges based on its ethical cycle that companies need to consider to evaluate if a smart building is really smart.

Group 8: Chin Yong Chen, Azim Azman, Jiayi Wu & Song Pei Xian

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27 thoughts on “Smart buildings: The keystone of the future

  1. Compare to personal computer, the danger level of smart building is almost the same, the operating system of our PC also take charge of everything in our computer and nowadays we cannot leave them. I think the risk of using smart House is acceptable.

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  2. The idea of Smart Buildings can definitely make daily life more efficient and bring benefits both to the users and to the environment in the future. There is practical significance in the measures for cyber security in this idea as well.

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    1. Hi, thanks for your comment,

      As you state that it brings benefits to both the user and environment, is there any points about the benefits that youre referring to that we did not include in our discussion??

      Thank you.

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  3. A really interesting article, depicting the future scene of a smart building, and it is not a sci-fi, it is happening. It will be really exciting to see though, how these smart buildings will interact with each other, as they will become the very fundamental unit of a smart city. Besides these, the authors also bring forward the security issues coming with the smart buildings, how to integrate these security issues with the designing of the building, how to build a sensitive yet robust smart system, will be some major topics for every one in this industry to tackle in the future.

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  4. Technology has really changed our life. The way we living today is totally different from it decates years before. With a explosion of automatics, electronic technology and intelligent system, more and more ‘smart’ items are created to release human power from monotone work, provide convenivence or make a conclusion from massive and abstract data. Obviously, Smart building is one of new concept comes to people’s eyes recent years.

    I’m totally agree with authors’ idea, smart building can a tendency in the future that architect need to consider when doing architechtural design. There is no double that a fine designed intelligent building system can benifit occupants, company in it and also the environment. However, a bunch of technologys are used, and the time is still short for people to explore integrate different kinds of advanced technology in one building.

    It is truth that security problem is a big problem for entire building control system. I remember there is video online years ago (sorry, I cannot find the link) that several young guy sliped into a building and hacked its central server of the building control system to play a light show in the building. That is really scared. So, it is hard to say that a centrol control system is good for a building if it cannot defense hacker.

    Then, for the parts of substandard performance and satisfy different people, I do not think these are problems. On the one hand, automatic system can do more precise and more flexible control than human. Adaptive control technologys allows computer adjust and optimize its result in real-time but not just output constant result as what the old computer dose. On the other hand, for private space like personal house it can be built with the module (funtional device) which the owner want but not just a standard template for each house. And for public area, individual requirement can also be satisfied if the designer fully considered.

    However, most big problems that smart building needs to solve is its extremly high cost, I think. Those intelligent device control by the system in the building have a higher price on the market than other functional device, and the system cost a lot. Additionally, the cost for data management, device maintian and building security also need to be took into account, and this number exponential increase with the size of the system increasing.

    Anyway, there is a good reason to say that those problems will solved in the futurn. So, lets see.

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  5. Every bit of science is designating and highlighting its final mission which weaves the ‘magic’ living tale for human beings. Application of the self-adapting environment as to purport to intellectually adjust the environment to its optimal condition in pertinence to human being’s perceptual comfort and health well-being, is really a meaningful and promising area to mount the research on. The generative benefits from the idea of smartness will of course lead to abstemious use of energy, thus avoid unnecessary cost in both ends of economy and resource up-keeping. Future buildings behoove to incorporate more strategies from different areas of science to make it multifarious in functionality, also potentially regulate the life of human beings to make it more harmonious. I’d like more groups concentrate their focus on such subject,simply because it is essential.

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  6. Smart Building is the production of intelligent technology, which is often seen in science fiction films. Thanks to the effort computer scientist make, it has become a reality. However this advanced technology is still underdeveloped. People should be cautious about using it, just for the insecurity factors this blog mentions .

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  7. These systems can be very complex, with potential for problems in software, hardware, networking and user error. The study noted that facility staff need to be trained and retrained to understand and operate a building automation system in order to get the best performance from the technology. It depends again upon the solution chosen as to how complex is the solution or how much existing skill, knowledge and experience may be leveraged. It is also dependent upon how widely those skills exist.

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  8. These building are smart and can interactive, yes they are true in a way. Remember that this electronics can fail and can lead to malfunctions in the system. The support may not come as easy and lead to long term issues where obsolete electronics that are expensive to replace.
    Risk assessment is highly needed here even all system are on line where cyber attact that can create highly dangerous situations to people
    And yes the electric bills can go down with smart preprogrammed interactive communication. Remember any new technologies has it’s draw back even its highly recommended in the usage. It’s the support from engineers that is very important in maintaining the system, note that we may be using the lastest obsolete technologies.

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  9. There are pros and cons for the smart building, they can help simplify your daily tasks and help to give you feeling of security, but for some people, smart building can turn into an economic burden due to high up front costs, if they are not familiar with the operation systems. Well done to the authors point of view.

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  10. Smart building is beneficial but security and privacy are also main disadvantages, since smart building are connected through the internet, they are also vulnerable to being hacked.

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  11. Let’s think about what risk we truly have? For example, privacy. In smart house, the largest leakage of privacy would be the camera in house. Nowadays, there are quite a lot ‘smart housing cameras’ in market. However, their function is as same as CCTV, which has been used for decades. The only difference is CCTV transfer image through closed circuit, but the ‘smart housing cameras’ use internet. Are they smart? Completely not. And they are dangerous. If we want to improve the safety level of smart house, we must well select these so called smart devices because they are not very necessary. These ‘cameras’ could be replaced by reliable smart locker, infrared sensors and so on.
    Nowadays, many so called ‘smart devices’ are devices which only connected to internet, with a APP on the phone as the switch. They are not smart at all. If we want to protect the safety of smart house. We must care about these fake smart devices. They are not only meaningless but also dangerous.
    In this article, the design and explanation of smart house was truly smart. It makes decision according to the owners’ schedule and sensors’ data. Let’s recall the experience of using ‘smart phones’, actually, most of time they are not smart devices, we have to make the decision, to order, to manage, which is exactly the same as feature phones in old days. The smart phones nowadays have more functions but because they are not smart, we have to spend more time on our phones. If our phones are truly smart, we should be able to greatly reduce the time we spend on them. Smart house was exactly the same.

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  12. Smart home: a double-edged sword
    From the text we can see that with the development of science and technology, smart home plays an increasingly important role in our daily life. People can use the smart home system to control out household appliances more conveniently.
    But the text also mentioned that these home systems are difficult to meet the needs of each individual, and even some system vulnerabilities will be used by hackers,doing harm to our family.
    In my opinion, smart home is very promising. First of all, with the rapid development of network systems, home appliance control increasingly tend to be more integrated.The existing Bluetooth and wifi system has been more mature, New agreement like zigbee has been used because of its advantages in short-distance transmission.
    Secondly,the hardware techonology is more mature.Some processors have been very cheap.So its not difficult to turn the old home appliance into new home appliance.
    Thirdly, as for the existing problems, including network system security issues, we should use a better encryption protocol to encrypt the control network, so hackers will have nothing to do with our control system.
    So in conclusion, smart home is the future development trend of human life, we should first ensure the safety of our IOT, then make good use of it.

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  13. Whilst the concept of smart homes & offices are already being practiced, its still far from being practicable IMO. Mainly because of the price hike that most entrepreneurs will take advantage of, not to mention the rapidly growing cost of materials. Secondly, Hackers… these group of people no matter how far/complex the encryption would be, there’s would always be a backdoor/pathway to decrypt or enter the system. This is evident in the cyber attacks that were successful over the years. They grow as fast as technology does. Don’t get me wrong, I’m indeed in support of the smart systems to be incorporated in our home, but we shouldn’t dismiss these thoughts or brush it aside.

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  14. This is a very interesting and helpful article, the authors not only highlighted the advantages but also the disadvantages. After reading, people are alert on the potential risks of having smart buildings rather than only listening to the good side before setting up the equipments.

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  15. Smart building eventually is the future direction with artificial intelligence put into the system taking over tasks that use to be performed by humans manually.

    System to be designed with fail safe or fallback in mind in order for human intervention if there is a need to ensure business continuity plan always in place.

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  16. People who will be operating the smart buildings need to have special training in order for them to operate the buildings correctly or if anything would go wrong, they would know how to rectify it. Smart buildings seem to be a good idea as it provides high security for the occupants living in those buildings. However, this may pose a disadvantage as well. The building may be hacked and personal details may be extracted from the system.

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  17. This article gives us an objective and professional review on smart building. As it points out, smart buliding is a promising direction of future. By optimising energy distribution, it can make every activity inside more effectively. However, at this stage, there are still many chanlleges regarding with stability, ethic, and security.

    Personally, I believe Smart Building will witness a quick development with this new tide of AI technology, and we will see more individualized smart buildings in the decade to come.

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  18. The idea is wonderful. Smart building construction has its benefits and drawbacks, the writer mentioned both sides. I would never know there will be drawbacks for smart building before!

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  19. Despite of pro and con about the implementation of smart building, in 30 years technology will enhance modern, smart and easy lifestyle. We live in the century where people work efficiently to produce more quality work with the help from modern system. For example, smart building of commercial or office will help energy efficiency while building could accommodate thousands of people each day. Sustainable energy is turning to essential requirement in daily life, rather than just a optional concept.

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  20. Constructive design. But for intelligent buildings users should be well trained in order to avoid improper operations . It is concerned whether people are willing to take a long training course before utilize the buildings.

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  21. Smart buildings are one of the best solutions for energy saving methods and necessary for protecting the environment for next generations. I liked the pros and cons that you explained well in wider context. However, I am not a big supporter of smart houses, just because people spend more time at work instead of their houses. So, it may be better to built new business and commercial buildings or convert the previous ones with fully equiped smart ones. Therefore, it can be better to think small and cheap solutions for houses to have an efficient energy and money saving methods like solar panels.

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  22. Interesting facts about smart buildings. I am still rooting against the use of smart buildings considering that i do live happily even without the use of hi-tech smart devices! Handling viruses or hackers in our system may be very scary if you ask me…

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  23. It’s worrying, the rate at which companies are quick to throw the word “smart” on every device that’s in large scale use. While it will undoubtedly have its benefits, the implementation of “smart houses” bears the same problem with all modern “smart” technology, which is surveillance or privacy. Companies sell user data to whoever is willing to pay, and in some documented cases, offers up the user information to governments! As with all things, there is need for moderation and strict monitoring of these businesses to protect the consumer.

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  24. Although smart building has its own benefits but from the security perspective, if the system was hacked, the chances of the smart building being compromised would be greater compared to normal building.

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