Kevin Ridder, product manager for connected hardware platforms, Distech Controls says that using smart technologies in residential and commercial spaces is a trend is here to stay

The use of smart technologies in residential and commercial spaces to advance the usefulness and experience for occupants and key stakeholders is here to stay. This ranges from the residential solutions found in smart homes (smart thermostats, smart lights, smart-outlets and voice-command technology) to the scalable and ready-to-deploy solutions that can be provided in commercial office building environments (Building Management Systems (BMS), light controls and temperature regulations). These solutions are becoming an expectation.

Although both residential and commercial spaces can have similar end goals for technology, typically residential technology is not robust enough to network on a larger scale in a commercial environment. However, commercial facilities recognise the power such systems provide and are invested in connected or smart building solutions.

According to a recent IDC Connected Buildings – Growing Adoption and Business Value Survey (sponsored by Acuity Brands), there has been a 38% increase in the number of connected building solutions deployments that are now fully operational in the last two years (growing from 39.5% in 2018 to 55% in 2020). The survey found solutions that put occupant experience as the most important feature are deemed as an essential investment in 2020. The ability to control comfort settings from personal mobile devices, instead of accessing public use devices touched by multiple end-users, is one of the most sought-after features for this year.

This is where Distech Controls solutions help businesses and building owners who are looking to deploy the right connected building solutions for their spaces. Connected building solutions that will meet the needs of the building while providing building occupants with greater access to information and comfort setting management. One of the most recent innovations from Distech Controls, the ECLYPSE Connected Thermostat, is designed to help bridge the technology gap in light-commercial, hospitality, hospital and educational spaces.

The ECYLYPSE Connected Thermostat was designed to help building owners elevate the value of their portfolio with technology that further reduces energy consumption, provides access to comfort setting management, and works with a fully customisable mobile app. The app gives occupants, facilities managers and other important stakeholders access to the building in ways never accomplished before.

Smartphones have increasingly become more important at helping us become more efficient, secure and more comfortable. In recent months, we have seen the reliance on smart devices increase, as a means for touch-free payments and accessing real-time health and safety information during the global pandemic. Digital devices can be paired via a Bluetooth interface with building infrastructures and tenant/occupant services through mobile apps.

When the smartphone or device is paired with the my PERSONIFY app, occupants have access to manage their comfort settings like lighting and ambient temperature to their preferred level in a space from their mobile device.

In hospitals and hospitality settings, my PERSONIFY SDK is available for integration into the guest services/patient app. Services like ordering lunches or other room needs/services can be incorporated through the app for contactless assistance. Services can also be scaled up or dialed down based on the needs of occupants in spaces, as RESTful API and cloud connectivity lead the way for a personalized user experience and are helpful for building and staffing planning purposes.

The ECYLPSE Connected Thermostat can be used to monitor airflow in educational spaces including classrooms, to monitor lighting and occupancy numbers in internal spaces. In high-rise/residential buildings the ECY-Stat provides contact-free updates on unit/multi-tenant properties that have maintenance concerns, along with real-time building updates and information.

Now that most people have been spending even more of their time at home or inside of a building due to COVID-19, occupant well-being is an increasingly important consideration for property managers, HR professionals and facility managers are keen to optimise building performance, creating appropriate space for social distancing, monitoring airflow and quality of air and boosting employee/occupant morale.

The technology solutions of today like our ECLYPSE line of controllers and thermostats drastically change past practices of building management so that room temperatures can be regulated on-site and remotely and solve energy management challenges. For instance, in the past, janitors had to enter every room to verify temperatures and come in early to set temperature settings for the comfort of the people that would occupy those spaces.

The thermostat as a building controls device has continued to evolve into more powerful and sophisticated systems that offer building automation, improve energy efficiency, reduce operations costs and make buildings more comfortable for visitors, occupants, patients and workers. Additional advancements in the past 10-15 years free up time for maintenance staff, allow for remote monitoring of systems, and troubleshooting issues before they become major, costly concerns.

Connected building solutions from Distech Controls are available for retrofit and new construction projects for buildings to be updated with modern HVAC controls. Distech Controls products feature WI-FI and wired IP configurations so that installation is made simple and flexible depending upon the needs of the built space. The ECLYPSE features an open system, with an integrated webserver to be securely compatible with other building systems. It does not require access to IT systems that are prominent for work and proprietary business usage and does not require tricky propriety gateways for seamless integration.

The ECLYPSE controllers are also flexible and can be ordered with specific, sequenced programming ahead of time to make on-site install and programming easier and less time-consuming. A completely configurable and programmable option also exists, so that function can be done when needed or as determined for specific applications by the consulting specifying engineer. The goal is to offer as much or as little control of sequencing as desired. Using an included programming product, the CSE can configure these products without restriction and for full control or choose from preset programs with pre-configured code already activated on the devices before shipping.

When tackling a connected building project, even if you are unsure of where it will go in the future or how far down the path of incorporating connected devices and technologies the building stakeholders may have an interest in investing in, we recommend looking holistically at the building to determine its needs for today and further down the line. With a foundation in BMS that is tied into the HVAC system, connected lighting and some basic networked controls, the building goes from being “technology-challenged” to capable and adaptable with the introduction of technology.

Getting Started

The goals and objectives for creating more intelligent building spaces may vary as there are different preferences for comfort within a building and for some building operators. However, optimising the workplace and providing occupants in building spaces with greater control is likely easier than expected. A bonus is that users do not have to be an expert to implement these tools as there are many vendors within our network that can help achieve your goals. Users can choose the level of connectivity based on the needs of their customers, with the ability to expand well into the future