Adopting new technologies seems to be the way of the future to improve efficiencies, reduce costs and generally make life easier. There aren’t many businesses that could expect to save millions of dollars in a single year by adopting a new technology, but Capgemini does.

However, even though they are a large global technology services provider, the cost-cutting technology it has adopted is by no means unaffordable to the average owner or even manager of either a single building or a chain of commercial premises (after all, Capgemini spent just 2 per cent of its total offices budget to achieve potential annual savings of more than 10 per cent).

The problem Capgemini found was that in its 400 buildings around the world the average occupancy level was just 65 percent. At the same time, 30 percent of meeting rooms that had been booked remained idle. The result was that Capgemini’s real estate costs did not reflect the usage of their buildings nor meet the corporation’s demanding sustainability goals while within individual premises staff were unable to plan their use of meeting rooms efficiently and hassle-free.

So how could the company hope to save so much money? In a nutshell, it decided to make its buildings – initially 25 but many more to come – smart through the use of the Internet of Things (IoT), namely Semtech’s LoRa devices and the LoRaWAN open protocol. The company was so happy with the results that it developed its own LoRa-based solution called SmartOffice, which it now offers to customers.

Before it got to that stage, Capgemini had looked around the market for smart building solutions, but was disappointed with what was available. NB-IoT showed promise, but was limited by the distances that it could traverse while 5G had issues in terms of reliability, security of data and has not yet been rolled out globally. The ideal solution would need extensive long-range coverage, deep penetration and be capable of passing sensitive data securely and in real-time throughout a highly populated building and across several different premises with no drop-out or loss of signal.

Capgemini used long-range, low-power transceivers to fill its buildings with occupancy sensors, meeting room sensors, desk sensors and comfort sensors (monitoring temperature, humidity, air quality, noise and light). LoRaWAN provides the ease of infrastructure installation, the gateways and battery powered sensors can be fitted without the need for specialists which provides significant savings straight away. By 2020 the company will have installed 85,000 of these sensors with all its data protected by end-to-end AES128 data encryption. By choosing the LoRaWAN protocol, Capgemini was able to ensure long range coverage, with one gateway capable of reaching sensors across an area of 10,000 square meters, keeping the number of gateways down and so reducing installation and running costs.

Since not everybody looking to create smart buildings has the resources of a Capgemini, Semtech has introduced a modular ‘Smart Building Reference Kit’ with the idea of helping building owners and managers to speed up the adoption of LoRaWAN-based solutions. The kit contains 20 sensors, two gateways and a global 4G hotspot and will enable users to monitor such factors as environmental conditions in a building, as well as desk and room use and the status of various windows and doors. Since the solution is portable, the kit allows users to place their sensors in the best possible locations to ensure maximum coverage.

Building operators everywhere are now able to retrofit and set up simple networks with zero technical knowledge of the IoT, LoRaWAN or any other kind of smart buildings technology. Not only that, but they can also expand their networks at their own pace, installing additional devices when they see fit in the clear understanding that the smarter their buildings get, the more efficient personnel within them become and the greater the savings. They may never hope to save millions of dollars in 12 months but a potential reduction in costs of over 10 percent has to be a goal worth striving for.