A new era of digital buildings

Issue 2 2021 Security Services & Risk Management

With the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies in all aspects of our lives, it is no surprise that buildings are getting a lot ‘smarter’ too. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for digitally integrated buildings, as organisations have had to implement strategies to adjust to new ways of working to improve efficiencies, reduce costs, mitigate security risks and implement health and safety measures.


Peter Malebye.

At its most basic, a digital building integrates technology with the physical aspects of a structure to enhance the user experience and maximise the effectiveness of the space. These buildings are not restricted to company office blocks, but span all industries, including factories, retail outlets, medical facilities, academic campuses, sports venues, airports and homes. Everything within the space is connected and automated, to allow for beneficial interactions between the physical and digital systems, people and external elements.

Human-centric, sustainable and economical digital buildings are flexible, as they are able to react to our changing needs and expectations as pandemic disruption continues, and our future remains uncertain.

Increase efficiencies and decrease costs

One of the biggest challenges for real estate during the pandemic is that ongoing remote working has led to underutilised or unused spaces. In a digital building, technology can assist with creating an environment that can adapt readily to changing circumstances. This could be the staggered return to work of employees and hybrid offices, or transformation of a building into a co-working space where companies share resources, or a mixed-use facility to offer additional revenue streams.

As technology enables buildings and their systems to become more connected, there’s greater access to insights about space usage, as well as greater control of facilities and operations, to increase efficiency and decrease costs. This includes collecting and monitoring data on heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting based on chosen preferences and occupancy in the space, which can be used to customise and automate controls for better space management.

In addition, when buildings are equipped to connect workers across multiple locations, through mediums such as video conferencing, virtual meetings and wireless content-sharing platforms, this creates and increases opportunities for collaboration and creativity, which ultimately enhances productivity and efficiency.

For utilities, smart meters and sensors can track and control energy consumption, as well as detect faults earlier. With this data, solutions can be implemented to conserve energy and introduce alternative energy sources, such as solar power, reducing the energy bill and improving the green credentials of a building. Vodacom’s IoT connections through electricity smart meters and smart logistics services have enabled carbon savings of approximately 224 004 mtCO2e in the previous year for its business clients.

The technology can also be used to find similar cost-saving and eco-friendly solutions for water consumption and waste removal and provide insights to form maintenance plans to be more sustainable while cutting down on expenses in the long term.

Mitigate security risks

A connected building may open opportunities for cybersecurity risks, but it also strengthens the levels of security and access control to systems and assets, even in a decentralised workforce. Every device on the network can be monitored in real time for vulnerabilities and software can be updated remotely and regularly to avoid exploitation from attackers. Additional security measures, such as multiple-verification and cloud-based solutions, are more easily integrated in an IoT-enabled building.

The safety benefits of digital buildings extend to the security of the physical space. Biometric technology, such as facial recognition, can improve the security of access to the building. Monitoring suspicious activity through IoT sensors on CCTV allows real-time viewing on footage from any camera on any device and sends out an alert based on pre-selected criteria.

Ensure health and safety

The current pandemic has highlighted how we inhabit a building can directly impact our health. As people return to workspaces and public locations, such as restaurants and shopping malls, technology in a building can help protect users through systems such as touchless check-in, screening, contact tracing and monitoring face mask compliance, as well as ensuring social distancing measures.

Furthermore, sensors can be used to receive data on occupancy figures to make social distancing easier, whether it’s repurposing areas to reduce high traffic or alerting workers in real-time through a workplace app about what desks or meeting rooms are occupied. Sensor data can also assist in determining what shared areas need to be cleaned and sanitised and how often.

Turn old into new

Digital buildings are not just for new construction projects. A building management system (BMS) can be retrofitted into existing systems and lay the foundation for the introduction of new technologies. This saves on rip-and-replacing installations and enhances legacy assets while improving interconnectivity and interoperability. Actions can be deployed rapidly but in a modular fashion to affordably prioritise the requirements of a building.

Across its existing buildings, Vodacom has retrofitted BMS, which controls and monitors the heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment for improved energy efficiency, contributing to a saving of 5,35 GWh of electricity in the previous financial year. The company has also installed lighting sensors to reduce over 71% of energy consumed by lighting in its buildings.

From improved user experience and efficient management to conserving resources, enhancing security and ensuring health and safety, integrated technology is changing buildings for the better. But one of their greatest assets in the wake of the pandemic is their adaptability. As we navigate a new normal, digital buildings are responsive to our evolving circumstances and needs, not only to help in the present but also open possibilities to the future.




Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page



Further reading:

Communication in any situation
Issue 8 2020, Elvey Security Technologies , Global Communications , Security Services & Risk Management
Global Communications offers an industry-first with five-year warranty on select Kenwood two-way radios.

Read more...
The year resilience paid off
Issue 8 2020 , Editor's Choice, Security Services & Risk Management
Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to Michael Davies about business continuity and resilience in a year when everything was put to the test.

Read more...
The reality of farm attacks
Issue 3 2021, Technews Publishing , Security Services & Risk Management
Nowhere in the world are people being as brutally attacked and murdered like farmers in South Africa (including a number of black emerging farmers and black farm labourers that have been attacked and injured or killed).

Read more...
Insights into PoPIA compliance
Issue 3 2021, Technews Publishing , Security Services & Risk Management
Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked Carrie Peter, solution owner at Impression Signatures, for a few insights on what this piece of legislation means in the real world.

Read more...
Top 10 security misperceptions
Issue 3 2021 , Cyber Security, Security Services & Risk Management
The Sophos Rapid Response team has compiled a list of the most commonly held security misperceptions they’ve encountered in the last 12 months while neutralising and investigating cyberattacks in a wide range of organisations.

Read more...
The supply chain of the future
Issue 3 2021 , Integrated Solutions, Security Services & Risk Management, Retail (Industry)
For retailers to maximise their bottom line, the supply chain needs to be fast, efficient and responsive, which requires the use of intelligent, integrated technology.

Read more...
PoPIA: Time Is up
Issue 3 2021 , Security Services & Risk Management, IT infrastructure
The Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) comes into full effect on 1 July 2021 and there remains much confusion and ambiguity regarding its definitions, requirements and enforcement.

Read more...
Drones: One aspect of an integrated security strategy
CCTV Handbook 2021, Technews Publishing, Bidvest Protea Coin , CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring, Integrated Solutions, Security Services & Risk Management
Drones are an excellent tool in one’s safety and security arsenal in the never-ending fight against crime, but they are only a tool, one of many needed for an effective security solution.

Read more...
Anomaly detection is the first layer
Issue 3 2021 , Security Services & Risk Management
A multi-layered, proactive approach to data management and protection is essential and this begins with anomaly detection as the first line of defence.

Read more...
A global distributor adding value
CCTV Handbook 2021, XtraVision , Security Services & Risk Management
Nick Grange, managing director of XtraVision, explains how XtraVision with its wealth of experience and knowledge, together with carefully selected products, add value to the security and fire industry.

Read more...