As we take a deep breath and continue to put the unprecedented challenges of 2020 behind us, it is essential to look ahead to 2021 and beyond.

What is in store for us?

This article takes a look at the trends and forecasts regarding smart buildings and the related industry. As we look ahead, it is crucial to acknowledge that COVID-19 will cast a long shadow. The smart building industry, indeed most industries, have been affected, and many operational changes have been made. However, smart building industry leaders have good news for the future.

Smart Building Market Stat

Sanjeet Pandit, Senior Director, Business Development and Global Head of Smart Cities at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., states:

Smart cities will continue to evolve, and implementation will accelerate in 2021. Due to necessary safety measures such as social distancing and health screenings caused by the pandemic, as well as the proliferation of 5G, we’re reaching an inflection point that will drive IoT commercialization and smart cities forward.1

And, according to GlobeNewswire, the global smart building market was valued at $49.28 billion in 2019 and is forecasted to grow to $127.09 billion by 2027, with a noteworthy CAGR of 12.2% over the forecast period of 2020-2027.2

Let’s look at some of the major changes that will be continuing to trend in 2021 and beyond.

Remote Work

COVID-19 has changed how people interact with each other and the buildings they live or work in. Many business owners have realized the need for remote working. This trend will continue at least for the short term. However, many industry leaders feel that this trend will continue to grow for years to come. Because of this, the need to manage buildings remotely is on the surprise.

There is a more pronounced emphasis on occupant comfort, health, and safety in the workplace that encompasses all buildings, whether large, smart buildings or mid-size to small installations that need to “smarten up” their work environments.

Siemens recently announced a new work standard that allows employees to be in the office only two or three days a week. While discussing this new work standard, Roland Busch, CEO of Siemens, announced:

The basis for this forward-looking working model is further development (of) our corporate culture. These changes will also be associated with a different leadership style, one that focuses on outcomes rather than on time spent at the office. We trust our employees and empower them to shape their work themselves so that they can achieve the best possible results. With the new way of working, we’re motivating our employees while improving the company’s performance capabilities and sharpening Siemens’ profile as a flexible and attractive employer.3

Remote Building Management

The COVID-19 shutdown has emphasized the need for remote management technologies. A cloud-connected building management system (BMS) enables off-site engineers to receive alerts such as water leaks from sensors or security risks through video analytics. With a BMS, remote personnel can monitor, optimize, and even fix buildings remotely.Building Management System

Beyond COVID-19 concerns, BMSs offer access to energy statistics in real-time. They can also alert when energy usage reaches beyond set parameters, detect potential ways to save energy, forecast energy usage, and make budgetary adjustments.

Another associated technology is visitor technology systems. Per Verdantix, an independent research and consulting firm based in New York and London:

These systems offered by vendors such as Noggin, Sine, SmartSpace, TEEM, and Veristream have sat behind the reception desk for many years already, with many taking them for granted. Now they will play a key role in ensuring the safety of the building’s occupants and residents.

Sine offers a Covid-19 form for all visitors to sign before entering a building or facility; the questionnaire is adjustable based on a facility’s individual needs. Sine also allows users to create different visitor type tags, which can be used to exclude the most infected. Workflows can include Covid-19 pre-screening and be built into office invitations. Noggin launched a new epidemic response module in February 2020 to help firms to respond to the virus. The module includes dashboards from business continuity, crisis management, travel risk management, and worker safety. This goes beyond only managing who enters a site, but also includes checklists and best-practice plans, maps and facts, and case management when there are infected individuals, allowing a firm to manage its employee’s” wellbeing.4

Flexible and Smart WorkSpaces

Not all work can be done online. Service industries like retail, hospitality, hairdressing, cafes, gyms, etc., cannot be delivered. Brick and mortar spaces will continue to be necessary. However, building owners must make their buildings more flexible. These spaces require safe and smart applications to achieve the needs of the future. Business owners are in the process of re-thinking their spaces and developing omnichannel experiences for their customers.

Dumb to Smart

In the past, converting an old building into a smart one triggered daunting and expensive hardware overall. These days, a quick, smart building conversion can be made without severe operational interference. There is no requirement to buy a bunch of new hardware because less expensive software can do the job. Current software integrates into existing gadgets and machines, programming or even reconfiguring them. Digital processes such as AI, data management, cloud, and edge computing, and the IoT will have an ever-increasing role in smart buildings in 2021 and far beyond.

Safe Return to Work

As we conquer COVID-19, there will be a migration back to the workplace with a renewed emphasis on health and wellness. It is more important than ever before to reassure employee safety.

The workplace of 2021 and beyond must continuously commit to tracking and monitoring the environment (e.g., temperature, humidity, lighting, and sound), usage-based sanitation, and traffic control to ensure safe social distancing for both employees and visitors.

Final Thoughts

Smart building solutions are poised to transfigure today’s environments—from the office or retail facility to a residence or school campus. Property owners must stay on top of these significant market trends to ride the 2021 smart building wave.

To read further on this general topic, click here.
1: FierceElectronics: From Sensors to Smart Cities, the Biggest Tech Trends in 2021 and Beyond
2: Globenewswire: Smart Building Market Size to Hit $12709 Bn by 2027
3: Frank Diana: The Future of Work: Outcomes, Trust, and Empowerment
4: Verdantix: Visitor Management Systems Play Vital Role in Stemming Covid-19 Spread