Insights Tech The Future

Low-Power IoT Networking Solves Smart Building Challenges

Written by Byron BeMiller

The Future of Workplace Productivity

Autonomous robots and drones first got their start for large corporations and government agencies in areas such as manufacturing and the military. However, commercial mobile robotics have exploded in recent years, as costs have lowered and made them more accessible to a range of markets and services (Figure 1). Recent research suggests that the market for aerial drones alone is expected to soar to more than $18 billion by 2022.

Societal changes have forced companies to rethink how they operate, attract and retain employees and interact with their communities. For example, stakeholders now expect their corporation to be good stewards of the environment by having active programs to reduce waste and its carbon footprint. Obviously, this can positively impact operating costs by reducing energy consumption, leased space and supplies used.

 In fact, research shows that reducing the cost associated with leasing has up to ten times the financial impact as compared to simply reducing energy usage. Notably, JLL’s 3-30-300 rule [1] has shown that a happy and healthy work environment leads to productivity gains, and these productivity gains can be up to 100 times greater when compared to energy savings.

 Younger employees have come of age in a world where they have been able to freely move and choose to work from home, a coffee shop or at an office. In response, offices are transforming from old fashioned and static places to flexible hubs that can bring employees together at any given time by offering amenities unavailable elsewhere.

 As a result, facility managers are seeking to increase employee productivity by implementing systems that allow for room and desk booking, and monitor indoor air quality and lighting. They strive to decrease operating costs by reducing tenant heating and cooling usage, reducing the number of square feet (or meters) leased, responding quickly to water leaks, establishing predictive cleaning routines and monitoring the status of pest traps.

 In addition to these long-term trends, the recent COVID-19 crisis has strong implications for the way a workplace is designed and managed. Where people counting or desk occupancy used to be “nice-to-have” data to optimize space in an office, they have become crucial tools to facilitate social distancing for safety on the work floor.

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WELLNESS: TOP PRIORITY

 While employers want to be able to assure their employees the office is a safe place, real estate managers and landlords care about social and liability issues that are currently unprecedented. With the right equipment and solutions, any type of building can be turned into a living, breathing, data-producing asset and sustainable workplace.

 Luckily, the LoRaWAN networking protocol serves these needs. LoRaWAN is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) protocol designed from the ground up to connect things to the Internet. Recent research from Internet of Things (IoT) analyst firm Berg Insight [2] has found that the installed base of sensors, actuators, modules, gateways and other connected devices deployed as part of IoT-based building automation in smart and connected commercial buildings will grow to reach 483 million units in 2022. In general, LPWAN devices are expected to enjoy a continuous 51% growth rate from now through at least 2025, according to market research firm IoT Analytics (Figure 1) [3].

FIGURE 1
Global LPWAN market forecast 2017-2025. Source: IoT Analytics

 LoRaWAN operates in unlicensed bandwidth allowing it to be deployed in both public and private networks in much the same manner as Wi-Fi. However, LoRaWAN differs from and complements Wi-Fi in several ways. Key features of LoRaWAN include: bidirectional communication and a high immunity to interference allowing it to easily cover several floors of a building with a simple gateway, lower power to enable sensor battery life up to ten years, security enabled via end-to-end encryption, mutual authentication and integrity protection. Meanwhile, its standardization enables network-to device-interoperability.

 These technical attributes translate into real deployment advantages over legacy technologies. LoRaWAN is a particularly good fit for deployment within Smart Buildings because indoor coverage is excellent—it easily penetrates walls, metal and concrete, and provisioning is accomplished with a simple scan of a QR code. This means that networks deploy without specialist skills, permits or even integration with IT departments. For many projects, years of battery operation are imperative to prove a positive return. By eliminating the need for frequent battery replacement, LoRaWAN reduces the need for human intervention and allows continuous data collection over very long periods. Figure 2 shows typical Smart Building applications using LoRaWAN.

FIGURE 2
Smart Buildings using LoRaWAN technology can cut costs by reducing
tenant heating and cooling usage, respond quickly to water leaks, establish
predictive cleaning routines and monitor the status of pest traps.

 LORa ALLIANCE MEMBERS SOLUTIONS

 The LoRaWAN protocol’s open character provides for easy access to a global ecosystem of players in the IoT. The LoRa Alliance [4], a global not for profit association promoting LoRaWAN networking and connected solutions, is the largest LoRaWAN ecosystem whose members offer LoRaWANenabled solutions across various vertical markets. Here are four examples of such solutions:

 Microshare: Microshare [5], a Philadelphia based IoT solutions provider, offers solutions such as predictive cleaning, desk and room occupancy monitoring, indoor air quality monitoring, and environment monitoring, all contributing to delivering realtime data for a comprehensive look into the office’s conditions.

 Capgemini: Capgemini [6] has rolled out solutions based on the LoRaWAN protocol in their 400 offices around the world, with 70,000 sensors installed and 45,000 more planned by 2020. Via an app, a person will know which areas of the office are or are not populated, allowing them to avoid unexpected and unpleasant encounters. This is particularly useful for spaces such as stairways, elevators and the kitchen corners. To help guarantee appropriate social distancing, half of desks need to be empty at all times. This is easily done by pre-booking a day and time at the office.

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 Everynet: Everynet [7], a carrier-grade network provider for low cost IoT, has deployed a hospital support system in eight hospitals in Spain to support medical staff. 800 beds have been equipped with nurse call buttons. On large screens, staff can track which patient is in need and when. In addition, condition monitoring for medicine and future vaccines helps ensure that vital pharmaceutical supplies are kept in ideal conditions for maximum impact during use.

 myDevices: Lastly, application platform provider myDevices [8] has developed preventative maintenance solutions for clogged sewage systems in buildings and homes. Due to extensive use of flushable wipes, sewage systems have become stressed. As a result, pumps start to choke, meaning that sewage could eventually reach the street. A wireless LoRaWAN-connected sensor is placed on the pump and detects signs of failure. Problems can thus be solved before actually taking place.

 When combined with powerful new analytics tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing, the data collected by this new breed of LPWAN-based IoT devices provides building managers with tools that they could only dream about just a few years ago.

References:
[1] JLL’s 3-30-300 rule   https://www.us.jll.com/en/trends-and-insights/workplace/a-surprising-way-to-cut-real-estate-costs
[2] Berg Insight http://www.berginsight.com
[3] IoT Analytics  www.iot-analytics.com
[4] https://lora-alliance.org
[5] https://www.microshare.io
[6] https://www.capgemini.com
[7] https://www.everynet.com
[8] https://mydevices.com

LoRa Alliance | www.lora-alliance.org

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • SEPTEMBER 2020 #362 – Get a PDF of the issue


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Byron BeMiller serves as Smart Buildings Work Group Chair for the LoRa Alliance. He also Director, Marketing, Smart Buildings and Smart Home Verticals at Semtech. Byron is a 25-year veteran of the telecommunications industry. Prior to Semtech he was VP, Worldwide Sales for TrackNet which was acquired by Semtech in mid-2018. Previous stops include Alcatel- Lucent, Nortel, Ciena and previous employment at Semtech. During his first stint at Semtech, Mr. BeMiller was responsible for Business Development for the LoRa product line in Latin America. He has served on the Marketing Committee of the LoRa Alliance since its inception.