It’s starting to become clear to many across the industry that their smart buildings didn’t deliver the value that they were promised. From bombastic sales pitches to guaranteed savings, some have been left with lacklustre results or, at worst, nothing at all. And now that AI is being thrown into the mix, many are feeling burnt by their foray into technology.

Perhaps they didn’t receive the right advice? Maybe budgets could only take them so far? COVID could have blown up their plans… the reasons why seem to be falling into 3 main buckets:

Reason 1: The Starship Enterprise landed, but no one knew how to fly it

Head office led the initiative and went big into selling the benefits to their staff or to their tenants. But when the operations staff, those responsible for acting on what the systems told them, weren’t able to follow through - the value was trapped between the systems and them. It could have been that they weren’t trained to use it, or weren’t empowered to make the changes they needed to. Or maybe someone with a commercial interest blocked a change? Either way, we’ve seen that a lack of skills across the industry, particularly for those at coal face, which has meant that opportunities lay dormant.

Reason 2: The back office didn’t transform at the same time

Most solutions solve a specific issue. It could be improving energy consumption, providing door access on a mobile phone or even proving space occupancy levels. But when you wanted to mix and match the data and tie it into the technology ecosystem, many couldn’t.

Let’s take a simple example: when a room exceeds its design capacity, increase the airflow and modify the temperature. If those parameters can’t be met in 10 minutes, raise a ticket with the facility manager for a manual intervention. To do that, there needs to be an integration between the room booking system (to know it’s coming), the occupancy system (to know when there are too many people in there), the BMS (to control the aircon) and the support ticket system (to receive a manual intervention). Few organisations have built those links or the logic for that kind of workflow.

Many are realising that they need to invest in redesigning their back office technology functions by enabling microservices architectures. Such an investment unlocks the agility to update existing systems, create new capabilities by mixing and matching systems and reduce duplications across the portfolio.

Reason 3: Although we gained the insights we needed, we didn’t have the capacity or capability to act upon it

In cases where people are trained, they have permission to act, and their businesses' processes support what their smart buildings tell them, they’re finding that they’re simply constrained by resources. That could be not enough capital to deploy on real estate upgrades (that needs to be spent elsewhere in the business) or the person-power to own the change agenda and make it happen.

What to do about it

Before getting swept up in the AI hype, now might be a good time to take a step back and reflect on the technology transformation you’ve been on in the past few years. What worked? What didn’t? Where do things get stuck in your organisation?

Learning those lessons helps you understand where to add the capability and capacity needed to get the basics right. Once your systems are integrated, the next generation of technology could take your smart building, to a whole new level.

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About the author:

Matthew Marson is an experienced leader, working at the intersection of technology, sustainability, and the built environment. He was recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering as Young Engineer of the Year for his contributions to the global Smart Buildings industry. Having worked on some of the world’s leading smart buildings and cities projects, Matthew is a keynote speaker at international industry events related to emerging technology, net zero design and lessons from projects. He was an author in the Encyclopaedia of Sustainable Technologies and a published writer in a variety of journals, earning a doctorate in Smart Buildings.