By 2022, there will be an estimated 20 billion connected devices in circulation. A proportion of these will be smartphones, but perhaps a greater number will be the connected sensors and devices contributing to a global IoT. This ecosystem will be characterised by a high density of ‘things’ requiring low latency, high reliability, and always-on connectivity.

Capacity and coverage requirements will be massive, particularly in indoor environments, where the vast majority of connected end-points will be located. Furthermore, smart buildings will also have to be safe buildings, and in the future, that will mean LTE. LTE-based public safety is being rolled out across the US with the build of AT&T’s Firstnet, and in the UK with the deployment of ESN.

As such, the onus to provide coverage and capacity will shift from operators, to venue owners and real estate investors; parties which typically lack telecoms knowledge and experience. The global smart building market will be worth an estimated $31.74 billion by 2022, unlocking significant opportunities for stakeholders across a range of vertical sectors, from utilities and infrastructure management to security systems.

Underpinning the entire smart buildings business model – and the smart buildings themselves – will be reliable, robust, high-capacity in-building coverage. How will this be achieved? What will these buildings of the future look like? How can we ensure that smart buildings are a sustainable, viable and cost-effective part of our smart cities?

A vision for the future

In office buildings, networks of sensors and IoT devices will provide continuous monitoring of things like heating, lighting and air quality. Consumption of energy can be controlled, processes can automated, and problems with building maintenance identified. Young, digital-native workforces will be able to take advantage of cloud platforms and unified and collaboration technologies, all supported by mobile connectivity. Biometric readers will control building access and security, while dedicated mobile apps will assist staff and visitors with navigation and access to services.

The benefits for those working in these smart buildings are obvious, but there are also advantages for the owners; a recent report from Morgan Stanley claims that buildings optimised for occupants can command 3% more rent and gain a 10% increase in equity value, as well as potentially reducing energy usage by 30%.

Smart buildings will also unlock opportunities for companies and service providers in infrastructure like stadiums, a connected market which will hit an estimated $12.50 billion by 2023, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.1%. Enhancing the in-stadium fan experience could include apps enabling visitors to order food and drink in advance, navigate the arena, click-and-collect merchandise, as well as geo-location enabling everything from crowd control to pop-up notifications as fans walk through different areas of the stadium.

Scalable, cost-effective, and energy-efficient

In order to build and operate the smart buildings and industrial IoT (IIoT) of the future, investment in a scalable, cost-effective, energy-efficient in-building coverage solution is required. This must support multiple frequencies and multiple operators, and have the flexibility to adapt to different market requirements, whilst simultaneously supporting public safety communications. It must be simple to install and run, and require minimal upgrades, ensuring it is a practical solution for new customers in new market segments.

DAS (distributed antenna system) is the only solution capable of delivering the level of capacity and coverage needed to power smart buildings in smart cities and – crucially – to guarantee the safety of tenants and users. Digital DAS marks a progression from legacy DAS systems, delivering better technology and better parameters, and long-term cost-savings. Furthermore, investing in robust, high-capacity in-building coverage now will give venue owners a competitive edge; ultra-connected real estate will be a (very marketable) must-have in the near future and will play a key role in attracting and retaining high-return tenants.
A (neutral host) model for the future

At present, it is mostly operators who are investing in in-building coverage solutions, however, this is set to change as venue owners increasingly take on the responsibility of ensuring their tenants are connected. However you deliver in-building coverage, it will be a major investment, and often an untenable one for a single party.

The neutral host model offers a solution, whereby a single network is shared by a number of operators, and deployed, maintained and operated by a third party. The cost of hardware and backhaul are shared, making this a financially viable option. DAS supports the neutral host concept, delivering high-capacity, multi-frequency connectivity, while being easily upgradeable to support 5G further down the line.The approach is ideal for larger venues like stadiums, hotels, shopping centres and other multi-use buildings which have large numbers of visitors all wanting reliable, high quality mobile coverage.

Delivering effective in-building coverage is crucial for the growth of the smart building market – a core component of the IoT and smart cities. Venue managers benefit from lower operating costs thanks to smart metering, visitors and tenants get reliable, ubiquitous mobile coverage, and venue owners are granted a competitive edge. In-building coverage must also be cost-effective, support multiple operators and technologies, and deliver the kind of high-capacity coverage which users of venues demand – and DAS is pretty much unique in ticking all of these boxes.