Image By Melonbob — Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77641212

Why The Government Needs To Mandate and Subsidize Smart Buildings Right Now

It’s Time For Government To Embrace Digital Transformation and The Internet Of Things

We’ve all heard the ads from the telecommunications giants, 5G is here in some places, and on the way in others. Among other things, the advent of 5G technology will increase the pool of available data to governments and enterprises one hundredfold — at a minimum.

That’s a lot of data and it will enable enterprises to better manage their assets, including campuses and buildings; and the government to better manage its (our) assets and processes to save taxpayer dollars. I know because a recent indoor air quality (IAQ) project helmed by my business partner for a large state of New Jersey agency saved taxpayers over 15 percent in energy costs at a large campus by designing and deploying a smart system based on sensors, software and analytics. It’s time for others, in government and in business, to follow suit. To that end, a series of regulatory mandates paired with incentives and subsidies makes a lot of sense.

But cost reduction and energy savings are only part of the story in this age of pandemics and heightened concern about IAQ in workplaces, restaurants, theaters, concert halls, congregate living facilities, and anywhere large groups of people gather.

Proper measurement and management of indoor air quality definitely improves conditions in enclosed environments, making spaces safer, more sanitary, and making workers more productive.

Building trust is important with employees, customers, clients, and stakeholders. One important way to build trust is to ensure that indoor spaces are safe and inviting, constantly monitored and adjusted to ensure maximum airflow, ventilation, sanitation, and optimum heating and air conditioning.

This is especially important in settings like schools, congregate living facilities, food processing plants, and health care facilities. And we can’t just go back to the pre-pandemic way of doing business — not in the age of digital transformation. There are compelling reasons that we need to mandate change and do it now. New technologies and digital tools will drive, and ease the transition, so there is no better time to effect significant change.

Digital transformation, driven by 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML), makes available creative new approaches to vexing problems, like smart buildings to manage IAQ and HVAC systems while optimizing our environmental processes, better-controlling losses and reducing our carbon footprint. Let me break it down.

As noted, 5G provides the massively expanded and enhanced data flow necessary to make a world where “smart things” everywhere are connected, managed, and controlled. It is the IoT, through sensors, transmitters/radios, and networks that enable broad-scale data collection from multiple, disparate sources. Cloud computing provides the necessary platform, backbone, to transmit, store and act on all that data that the IoT and 5G are now providing. Services like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, Alibaba Cloud, and IBM cloud (amongst others) shoulder the heavy lifting required for ubiquitous cloud computing. All use major amounts of energy to do so.

Once in the cloud, collected data is organized and processed applying AI and ML to add intelligence and predictive capabilities. The cloud is where data is literally mined for insight. (The author edited and wrote the foreword to the highly-rated “Analytics 2 Insight” eBook available for free on Amazon.) Once mined, the resulting insights are often presented with visualization tools like Tableau, sent directly to key, privileged stakeholders in almost real-time for display on their approved devices, including mobiles. Notifications can be configured to alert when outliers are identified, and thus timely interventions are enabled.

Building and campus managers, as well as their executive superiors, now have powerful tools for ensuring the safety of their facilities, employees, and clients while at the same time dramatically improving their ability to monitor and manage the indoor spaces for which they are responsible. This will, of course, result in cost-reductions, productivity increases, and an improved carbon footprint. That’s why these steps should be mandated and supported with government subsidies. It only makes sense, and given the toll of climate change and global warming, it is the right and logical thing to do.

Governments at all levels need to undertake the work necessary to enable digital transformation and to do so in a timely fashion. It will take considerable political will to accomplish this kind of massive undertaking, and such efforts will likely encounter resistance from agencies with legacy systems to protect. It is, however, vitally important to get this effort underway now — for our essential frontline workers, our teachers, our vital office workers — so that all of our indoor spaces are monitored, safe, efficient, and can be trusted by those who depend upon them. Countries, including the USA, need to heed the example of Germany. The German government is investing almost $500 million in improving ventilation in indoor spaces to enhance public health and reduce the transmission of airborne diseases.

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Author’s note: For a deeper dive into indoor air quality, you may want to review this report prepared by Green Econometrics. A follow-up report identifies three metrics to guide the management of IAQ.

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Charlie McHenry

Charlie McHenry

Co-founder of Trilobyte Games & Green Econometrics; founder of McHenry & Assoc.; former Oregon state telecom councilor; former RN. Thinker, writer, ally.