Siemens says that building digitisation is here and data can be leveraged to improve efficiency and drive down costs

Over the past few years many terms have been used in the real estate industry to describe the latest technological and analytical advances. Intelligent Infrastructure and the Internet of Things are just two terms that are often heard. No matter which term is used, essentially the subject focus is the advent of automated buildings. How can different building systems be connected using applications to access vast amount of digital data and how can that data be leveraged to improve efficiency and drive down costs?
Digital information or digitalization is the key and it is spreading quickly, with no part of industry or commerce being safe. But digitalization is not a threat to business but rather a huge opportunity. In fact, it is the expectations of the industry and unprecedented benefits for the owner and the user that is driving the digital transformation of buildings.

It has been calculated that real estate represents the second largest expense for most companies, with operating costs accounting for 71% of building ownership. Couple this shocking statistic with the fact that buildings worldwide consume a staggering 42% of all electricity, and you can see why most businesses and organizations are looking closely at digitalization. Digitalization is rapidly being seen as the de facto route to reducing the cost of running a real estate portfolio, which is the third most valuable asset for many companies.
Digitalization now not only stretches across the globe but also across the broad range of building disciplines and beyond. Today, data can be gathered from safety and security systems, HVAC equipment and controls, energy efficiency programs together with lighting and power. This impressive portfolio is about to be extended into the area of smart meters, as this technology is rolled out and integrated worldwide. The large amount of data captured from these once disparate systems, coupled with data from different kinds of meters, can create huge value for customers in the opinion of Siemens Building Technologies, CTO, Helmut Macht.
Now intelligent sensors, actuators and similar devices supply a wealth of data which until now has mostly been unused. Intelligent evaluation using big data applications can now be used to combine these massive but unstructured amounts of data into transparent information which in turn can be feed into linked performance indicators in real time. Smart algorithms can easily evaluate trends and recognize patterns in user behavior or consumption, thereby enabling informed decisions, predictive strategies and continuous optimization. This, together with sophisticated self-optimization functions, gives buildings a central nervous system making them smart.
“At Siemens we estimate that by 2030 there will be 50 billion connected devices within the Internet of Things, which reflects incredible growth. Our detailed research has shown that 65% of our customer’s demand access to their data from any location worldwide at any time, 60% expect more transparency in business processes and 52% clearly see digitalization as a method to optimize their systems”.
The accepted evidence to the creation of greater customer value and transparency is principally evidenced in cost reduction generated from increased energy efficiency, increased sustainability while ensuring legal and regulatory compliance. The first step is the capture and visualization of data in a meaningful way to create information rich dashboards. These dashboards not only provide an overview of all building management systems but show all the relevant KPIs that relate to energy consumption, general costs, CO2 output etc. allowing the operators to adapt the system based on multiple real time measures. This applies not just to a single location but to an entire property portfolio.
Condition monitoring will detect, or even anticipate, deficiencies in the system and can drive corrective maintenance ensuring that engineers and replacement parts are immediately available. This functionality ensures continuous building uptime while providing a complete overview of the facility/s. Companies can benchmark their own building energy performance and Siemens engineers can also benchmark that performance against similar facilities, providing feedback identifying areas of potential improvement. Siemens can even include forecasting modules which can optimize the systems for given climatic or emergency conditions.
In the past companies were forced to adopt a reactive and preventative approach to building management. Now due to the advanced analytics that digitalization provides they are moving towards a proactive and predictive approach. The ultimate goal is for companies to eventually reach a systems balanced approach that will result in truly
autonomous buildings. With autonomous buildings, companies will be able to reach the utopian goal of reducing energy consumption, downtime, and staff levels, but also provide service on demand and rules-based performance management.
Already benefits of digitalization in terms of building performance management are being realized. For example, CO2 reduction is a key concern as the world becomes more focused on environmental issues but companies are already making real savings of around 10-15%, and energy bill savings of 30% are now not uncommon. As Helmut Macht, CTO of Siemens Building Technologies said, “The digital transformation in building technology will bring about a paradigm shift for the entire industry. It will lead to new and changing business models as software becomes a central factor with openness and transparency being key. Closed and proprietary systems will be big losers. This transformation process will lead to efficiency improvements and cost saving opportunities”.
It is commonly accepted that the transformation process will lead to opportunities that can only flourish in the new digital world. However, new business models have already begun to change the rules of the game and have the potential to shift the balance of power in the marketplace. As a result, classic competitive situations will give way to more complex constellations where, through a network of partnerships and alliances, companies are interconnected in ecosystems but at the same time act as competitors in the market. It also means that partnerships between traditional industrial enterprises and large IT players will play a much more significant role.
A lot of progress over the last few years, but the autonomous building is still a few years away. Progress is now accelerating by pairing technology and analytics with building experts and service.