Smart Buildings, Smart Cities

How biix contributes

biix recently added two new pages to our website, Smart Buildings and Smart Cities. We consider each topic to be vitally important as the impact of the Building Internet of Things (B-IOT) accelerates, and as the pressure increases for buildings and cities to improve their practices of efficiency and resiliency.

The ability to quickly find information has become commonplace: we are all used to web-based search engines. But this same convenience is far from present in buildings. How do you search for information in buildings? Typically, if we want to find something, we look in basement closets for old drawings or pry open a desk drawer in the building engineer’s office and hope to discover an old CD that has records and documentation files.

Similarly, when we talk about Smart Buildings and even Smart Cities we have a form of ‘desk-drawer’ thinking. In this sense, our discussions often center on the methods and technologies with which we are most familiar. For designers, it’s easy to talk about sensors and various automated systems because we are talking about things that have become well-established technologies. There’s a certain comfort in familiarity. But at least in some ways these tried and true habits can lead us into somewhat mindless discussions because our minds go into autopilot as we turn off the part of our minds that needs to be open to what’s not happening or to what’s not working well.

Edge computing

We are not, for example, all that familiar with the concept of devices living on the so-called edge of the cloud. This is a new term to most of us.

If you want to understand edge computing, think about devices you may have come across that have their own stand-alone smart technology built-in. It could be a refrigerator that senses that it’s time to order milk because the expiration date has expired, informed because the milk has an embedded chip that talks directly to the refrigerator. It could be a smart doorbell camera that automatically connects to your phone when it senses someone standing at your front door.

Edge-based devices do their own analytics. So if we think of a traditional zone or room temperature sensor in a building, every five minutes each sensor is sending updates to the Building Management System (BMS) servers. If a building has hundreds or thousands of sensors, that’s a lot of information being force-fed into servers.

Edge sensors don’t send overwhelming data upward to bog down cloud-based servers. Rather, they do their own computing and only ‘push-up’ the information that’s either valuable or necessary.

In his article, Lifetime Learning for Smart Things Everywhere, biix CTO Toby Considine reveals the impact of edge-based devices, and hints at the revolution they represent in B-IoT.

biix Scientific Advisor, Dr. Mark Bachman, informs us of another term: fog computing. Fog lies closer to the ground than clouds. So while we are familiar with the notion that a great deal of today’s software services are cloud-based, the future is already upon us. Edge-based devices are fog-based. They live closer to the ground.

biix and Edge Computing

Information in buildings and within enterprises often remains isolated and hard to find. biix dispels that tendency by providing multiple paths to the same document. As simple as it sounds, this is a revolutionary concept. But revolutions can be easy to ignore. In the world of Smart Buildings and Smart Cities such ignorance is perilous.

Information within buildings is often not discussed in the same breath as Smart Buildings or Smart Cities. That is a mistake. Because as the extent of technology moves from the long-proven automation of traditional building systems and transforms out to the ‘edge’, the problem with accessing information is going to become even more acute.

biix smartTags, for example, anticipate this issue by transitioning from traditional QR and barcode stickers to fully functioning, stand-alone edge-based devices. Information itself becomes distributed. But do building owners and city managers even know what that means? We doubt it.

What most of us are aware of is that populations are growing and resources are increasingly strained. Everywhere we turn we discover the need to be more efficient and sustainable in our practices. This includes the accessibility of information in buildings and cities.