Smart Building

The “Smartest” City in Europe

Create: 09/19/2016 - 13:00

Barcelona reaps big rewards from its heavy investment in the Internet of Things—including 47,000 new jobs, increased parking revenue and decreased costs for energy and water.

While more cities across the globe are recognizing—and realizing—the multitude of benefits the Internet of Things (IoT) can deliver, some cities identified its potential much earlier than others. Considered by many to be the first true “smart city,” Barcelona, Spain, embraced the idea of using connected technology as a tool to both improve its citizens’ lives and save the city money long before the concept was widely lauded.

Spearheaded by Barcelona’s mayor from 2011 to 2015, Xavier Trias formed his Smart City Barcelona team shortly after taking office, and they quickly went to work looking for areas where the city could leverage IoT technology to improve services for its residents, increase revenue and cut operational costs.

Beginning in 2012, the city implemented reactive, connected technology across its municipal infrastructure. By 2014 its Smart City Strategy had grown to include 122 projects classified into 22 programs, and created 47,000 new jobs.

Today, Barcelona’s IoT-powered infrastructure provides myriad services, from those that better serve its elderly and in-need residents to those that ease congestion while improving parking to ones that reduce water usage and electricity consumption—and much, much more.  

Caring for Citizens in Need

Thanks to the IoT, Barcelona boasts the speediest emergency response service for its citizens who are elderly, those who live with disabilities, or are dependent on others. The city provides this service free of charge to more than 70,000 people. Each user has a push button device installed in their home (connected through a mobile phone or land line) that connects them to a dedicated call center. Help is only ever a single click away.

Available 24/7/365, the program, the city calls its Telecare service, has two goals. The first goal is providing quick and appropriate responses to requests for help and assistance—whether that’s alerting emergency responders or reaching out to a user’s family member. The second goal is preventing common problems from arising in the first place, which is done by providing preventative interventions that keep citizens safe and minimize social isolation or loneliness. This objective is further supported by another IoT-powered city project, Vincles BCN, a digital platform the city uses to help reduce the social isolation its elderly residents are at a higher risk of experiencing.

IoT-Powered Parking

Barcelona has transformed the way its citizens and visitors park by implementing an IoT-powered system that uses sensors to direct drivers to the closest available parking spot. ApparkB, the app used to locate open spaces, also allows users to pay for their parking.

Embedded in the city street, the sensors can detect if a parking space is taken. Once a vehicle occupies a space, the app enables the driver to pay for the exact length of time they use by determining the payment once the driver has left the spot.

By quickly guiding motorists to vacant parking spots the program has reduced congestion and lowered emissions. And, the city is making a very smart profit, too, increasing its parking revenues by $50 million per year.

Conserving Resources = Big Cost Saving

Another street-side project, the city’s IoT-powered lampposts, saves the city big money. By 2014, more than 1,100 city lampposts bulbs were transitioned to LED and posts were outfitted with movement sensors. If the lamppost sensor detects a pedestrian nearby, full illumination is delivered, but when the streets are empty, the lights automatically dim, conserving more electricity. These improvements have significantly decreased energy consumption and resulted in a 30 percent energy savings across Barcelona’s lighting system.

The city is also saving water—and money—with its IoT-powered park irrigation system. To increase water efficiency in Barcelona’s parks, the city deployed a system of electric water valves that work in conjunction with new sensors that can monitor rain and humidity in the park environments. Maintenance workers use the sensors to determine the level of water needed and remotely control the IoT-enabled valves to deliver only the water necessary. The program has enable the city to realize a 25 percent increase in water conservation.

The extensive benefits the city of Barcelona has experienced make a strong argument for embracing connected solutions at the local municipal level—one that has inspired many others to follow suit. IoT-enabled cities continue to make sense, providing the ultimate win/win—improving the lives of local citizens and conserving valuable natural resources while increasing revenue and reducing city expenditures.

Cooking with IoT in Commercial Kitchens

Create: 09/07/2016 - 13:00

Cloud-based technology and IoT are enabling the restaurant and hospitality industry to get more out of their commercial kitchens—a lot more. 

The evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing how organizations with food service components are run. Mobile, cloud-based technology is making it possible for restaurant and hospitality businesses to remotely monitor and control commercial kitchen appliances and systems through timers, controllers, freezer and refrigerator monitors and much more.

IoT-powered kitchen devices and applications not only integrate wirelessly across various commercial kitchen environments—encompassing myriad kinds of cooking equipment—they also connect the front and back end of the house together, enabling communication to flow freely and adjustments to be made in real time.

All these advancements are allowing for greater control over increasingly complex industrial kitchen environments. In turn, they are producing big benefits for those in the industry that choose recipes that include IoT solutions.

Improvements in Inventory Accuracy

Food makes up restaurants’ second largest cost, which means improving inventory accuracy can translate into significant cost savings. IoT-friendly inventory systems like HotSchedules Inventory do away with clipboards and manual box checking.

IoT inventory systems allow employees to keep track of inventory on a variety of mobile devices and enable point of sale (POS) integration, so inventory can be adjusted based on sales, increasing accuracy. They can also automatically adjust product counts based on the most recent order, and automatically generate a replacement order whenever a certain item falls below the desired level. All a manager needs to do is confirm and send.

Higher Food Quality and Reduction in Food Waste

Applications such as Kitchen Brains’ Quality Production Manager (QPM) monitor real-time and historical sales, which help restaurant managers reduce costs. Managers can use the information to direct their kitchen crew on what they should cook, when they should cook it, how much they should cook and when to discard products reaching their expiration dates.

IoT-friendly inventory applications can also play a part in closing the gap between projected and actual food costs, helping managers to more easily identify waste and inefficiencies and adjust accordingly.

Increased Flexibility and Innovation Opportunities

Unlike the usual one-to-one integrations between a single application and the technology it uses, an IoT platform becomes a hub for numerous integrations. For instance, while 15 kitchen or restaurant technologies might ordinarily call for 55 separate integrations, the HotSchedules IoT Platform is able to shrink that number down to 10 integrations.

Businesses can also keep tweaking and refining their setup without worry of disruption. If a single technology component is changed, whether it’s an oven or a POS system, it can still be easily connected to the IoT platform without affecting any of the other integrations—sidestepping a lot of IT hassle. And because the cloud-based IoT platforms store all data in one centralized location, any third-party app could potentially be allowed to access that data, making it much easier, and less expensive, for developers to create new applications.

IoT-powered commercial kitchen opportunities are heating up. HotSchedules and Kitchen Brains have teamed up this year, and Kitchen Brains’ CEO Mario Ceste sees the partnership taking the company’s IoT capable devices to the next level.

“The IoT Platform ensures that you can connect QPM with any POS system, analytics solution or forecasting software. It’s a cost-efficient and innovative approach to integrating smart kitchen technologies and leveraging the millions of IoT capable devices we have installed in restaurant appliances during the last twenty-years.”

By the looks of it, IoT has no problem with how hot the kitchen is, and won’t be getting out anytime soon.  

IoT Smart Building Technology Beats the Summer Heat

Create: 08/17/2016 - 13:00

As the mercury rises, city facility managers are turning up the number of IoT and smart building solutions to try and keep energy costs in public buildings from skyrocketing.

Weatherman Al Roker on the Today show noted that large portions of the United States this summer have been trapped in a punishing heat dome, creating conditions in Washington, D.C. that he dubbed in early August as “dangerous, oppressive heat.” From 100-degree subway stations to stagnant, sweltering public buildings and melting pavement, many major cities have moved from just hot to unbearable this summer.

Urban planners are increasingly feeling the heat, and in response, building designers, architects and city managers are turning to IoT and smart building technology for innovative solutions. Their intention is to integrate new technology that can not only keep occupants cool, but also help reduce skyrocketing energy costs in shared public areas such as government office buildings, courthouses, city halls, airports, police stations and libraries.

According to the Urban Climate Change Governance Survey (UCGS), which surveyed 350 cities worldwide, climate mitigation is becoming a key part of long-term planning strategies. The report notes that 75 percent of cities worldwide now tackle climate-change issues as a mainstream part of their planning. And 73 percent of cities are attempting both climate mitigation and climate adaptation—trying both to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and to better adapt buildings and government spaces to long-term temperature changes that are already in motion.

IoT and Chill

At the center of the quest to stay cool in the city are a block’s worth of smart building solutions. A report from Gartner identified smart commercial buildings to be the highest user of Internet of Things (IoT) until 2017, when it will be edged out slightly by smart homes. Both sectors will have more than 1 billion connected things by 2018.

The Gartner report also notes that environmental concerns and demands for greener buildings and passive buildings that give to the power grid rather than take are fueling the IoT demand. In fact, the Gartner study reports that IoT can reduce building maintenance costs by as much as 30 percent, which is catching the attention of many city planners.   

Facility managers are looking closely at their existing HVACs and considering IoT alternatives. They are keen to control a building’s heating and cooling over IoT with in-room sensors that identify temperature and lighting changes, movement and occupancy, and then feed that data into the software to better control the building temperatures. Doing so can significantly reduce the need for upgrading costly air conditioning equipment to combat skyrocketing temperatures.

“Globally, 2016 is poised to be another record-breaking year for temperatures. This means more air conditioning—much more. It is becoming an air-conditioned world,” Lucas Davis, an energy economist at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Guardian in a recent interview.

He noted that the growth in air conditioning has been staggering.  In China, for example, the number of households that have air conditioning has doubled in five years. Every year, 60 million more units are sold there, eight times as many as are sold in the United States. With more air conditioning comes a dramatic need for more power. Davis estimates that China alone will have to build hundreds of new power stations in the next 20 years to keep up with its cooling needs.

Staying Cool with Comfy

Here’s where IoT comes into the climate picture. One environmental solution already in use is Building Robotics’ Comfy, an application that allows occupants to make individual requests for cold (and also hot) air based on their comfort needs via a smartphone or desktop. The Intel®-enabled Building Robotics Gateway physically connects the building management system (BMS) to the cloud. Then, Comfy aggregates data from the BMS and occupant requests and leverages machine intelligence to moderate and optimize building temperatures.

Comfy IoT temperature control

Photo credit: Comfyapp.com

Comfy receives the requests from users and automatically provides 10 minutes of cool or heated air to respond to occupant discomfort. The solution learns from user requests, identifying patterns and preferences based on location in the building and time of day, and it adjusts the temperature accordingly. Typical energy savings are between 15 and 25 percent of HVAC energy, according to a case study from Intel and Johnson Controls, Inc.

Comfy is now in use at the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) headquarters on the UC Berkeley Campus, which houses research labs, offices, conference rooms and classrooms. The application is particularly effective in public areas such as CITRIS where the facility manager has to address unpredictable occupancy hours, keeping the temperature optimal for students who may show up late into the evening.

Getting in on the Ground Floor

Solution providers who want to learn more about Comfy and other smart building environmental management solutions can learn more at the Intel® resource center, Smart Buildings with IoT technologies.

Rio de Janeiro Earns a Medal in Smart City Leadership

Create: 08/15/2016 - 13:00

The host of this year’s Olympics has been power lifting data for the past few years.  Analyzing video streams, sensors, local traffic, weather traffic, and departmental data put Rio at the front of the smart city pack.

As the Olympics come to a close on August 21, athletes, families, and fans will leave Rio de Janeiro with eternally burning memories of the Olympic events and the city’s sites. What they may not know is that they are leaving behind the smartest city in Brazil, based on the 2015 Connected Smart Cities ranking.     

During the past five years, Rio has invested $40 million to transform itself into a smart city, starting with the buildout of an Integrated Command and Control Center and an Operations Center. The centers coordinate police, firefighters, paramedics, municipal guard and civil defense units, and handle all emergency calls.  They also help city employees manage the ongoing day-to-day city services used by Rio’s 6.45 million residents. 

The smart hub is in the operations center, where employees monitor data coming in from thousands of cameras, weather sensors and IoT devices scattered around Rio, as well as weather forecasts and traffic flow information. This data is broadcast onto a vast, 80-square-meter, high-definition video wall with 98 LED mounted screens and used by employees watching conditions around the clock. The video wall data is crunched with additional data feeds coming in from 30 local departments. 

Rio Smart City Center of Operations

Center of Operations for Rio de Janeiro

Alongside the machine-to-machine data gathering, citizens post what’s working and not working on social media to the Citizen’s Portal. From the social media posts, Rio can monitor public areas that need a trash pickup or public street lights that are burnt out or not functioning. All incoming data is combined, so city operators can track unusual occurrences such as accidents, power outages, and torrential storms and coordinate responses to minimize damage and public risk. With all this valuable data at hand, the city is preventing and solving problems faster than ever before.

Setting a Fast Pace for an Early Lead

Rio was among the first cities to adopt smart technologies. After fatal landslides and storms in 2010, the city government invested in technology to help it better coordinate emergency responses. Eight months later, Rio established its operations and command centers that moved it to the forefront of global smart cities.

Stats show that getting smarter has its benefits. In 2012, the city responded to heavy rainfall and experienced zero casualties related to floods or landslides. It also realized a 25 percent decrease in response time to traffic accidents. Under more scrutiny during the Olympics, the smart technology has earned a handful of critics. Some have pointed out that only the wealthy in Rio are benefiting and not those that need it most, such as residents in the favelas. More cameras are positioned in the higher-income districts, and traffic congestion doesn’t help those without cars.

Always Pursuing the Gold

Rio’s smart city goals stand in contrast to the smart city initiatives set in Columbus, OH, which won the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge and $50 million in grant funding, plus $90 million in local matching commitments. The smart city plans from Columbus focused on the city’s low-income neighborhoods and defined transportation solutions for households that did not have cars, bank accounts or credit cards.   

New thinking around smart city goals is another way to look at the differences in the two cities. As the smart city concept matures, city leaders are coming up with more creative ideas and challenging the technologies to better help a larger portion of their populations. Urban centers are putting some of their best minds on tackling homelessness, healthcare, and crime by making their cities smarter through the use of IoT.  

Shining a Light on Smart Buildings and Commercial Real Estate Opportunity

Create: 05/19/2016 - 13:00

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art joins the fast-growing smart building movement. As a solution provider, are you ready to get on the ground floor of what Gartner defines as the highest user of IoT for the next year?  

On May 14, opening day of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 5,000-plus art enthusiasts visited the newly remodeled building and its much expanded collection of artwork. As the public streamed through the 225,000-square-foot space admiring the new Fisher collection and the redesigned layout, they probably didn’t notice the latest smart technology.

In the museum’s living wall on the third-floor terrace, SnØhetta, the Norway-based architect firm responsible for the museum’s remodel, built in hidden sensors to track the health of the wall’s 19,000 plants. The sensors monitor irrigation, pH levels, and moisture, so that landscapers know exactly how to keep the plants lush and beautiful.

Smart technology is also behind the lighting from the hidden LEDs shining down on the artwork. Curators can precisely color-control and dim the levels of lighting by 1 degree increments, so the intricacies of the artist’s work is easily on display. 

Smart Buildings Are a Smart Move

The smart technology separates SFMOMA from other buildings now, but soon the vast majority of buildings will be smart. A December 2015 report from Gartner identified smart commercial buildings to be the highest user of Internet of Things (IoT) until 2017, when it will be edged out slightly by smart homes. Both sectors will have more than 1 billion connected things by 2018, far beyond the connected things in healthcare and public services, and more than double the connected devices in transport and utilities.

Gartner points to industrial zones, office parks, shopping malls and seaports as prime spots for IoT. Other candidates include stadiums, hotels, retirement centers, and airports. Within these buildings, the idea of smart bathrooms is sparking lots of creativity.

Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 2 was outfitted with Intel-based “smart loos” in 2014 to help keep bathrooms cleaner. A sensor counts people entering and leaving the bathroom, and feeds the data into an Intel-processor based gateway that connects to a cloud-based platform. After 200 people have visited the bathroom, an alert notifies the maintenance staff that the facility is ready for cleaning.

In the hospitality industry, hotels are embracing smart technology as a way to separate themselves from the competition. Starwood is rolling out a smart bathroom mirror that provides weather, news and sports information from a touch to the mirror’s surface. Other smart devices in the works are temperature and lighting controls.

Retirement centers are also exploring IoT. Imagine a floor that knows when a resident falls and automatically alerts the staff. In memory-care units, sensors are already tracking resident movements to keep them safely inside and track them if they roam off the grounds.    

Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, is using beacons to provide venue information to guests. The beacons work with a mobile app to find the closest bathroom or the shortest concession lines. They also help facility managers understand fan behaviors, movement and spending in the stadium.  Cameras and sensors are also actively collecting data in the stadium and when a threshold is breached, public safety organizations in the surrounding area receive an alert and can work together during an emergency. 

Hello IoT, Goodbye HVAC?

Security cameras, webcams, and indoor LEDs will drive IoT growth, representing 24% of the IoT market in 2016, according to the Gartner report. Environmental concerns and demands for greener buildings and passive buildings that give to the power grid rather than take are fueling the IoT demand. In fact, the Gartner study reports that IoT can reduce building maintenance costs by as much as 30 percent, which is catching the attention of many facility managers.  

Among facility managers, 78% expect that IoT will impact their organization in the next three years. More than half of those, 43%, are already impacted by IoT. They are looking closely at their existing HVACs and considering IoT alternatives. They are keen to control a building’s heating and cooling over IoT with in-room sensors that identify temperature and lighting changes, movement, and occupancy and feed that into the software to better control the building temperatures and lighting.

The opportunity for solution providers is quite large, as it encompasses hardware, software and services. Based on CompTIA research, deployment/integration, infrastructure, selling/reselling, consulting, complete solutions and managed services hold the biggest revenue opportunities for the channel. Previously, proprietary systems had a stronghold in this space, but that’s changing as more facility managers see the possibilities of IP and IoT. As IP expertise is often limited internally, solution providers with IoT and IP knowledge have a good chance to quickly nail down new sales and long-term smart building projects in commercial real estate.  

TCS, Infosys Perform On Cloud Solutions

Create: 04/21/2016 - 13:00

An increased focus on cloud services and data analysis is strengthening bottom line performance at large strategic service providers such as Tata Consultancy Services. TCS reported earlier this week a boost in net income for the first three months of this year.

TCS has been looking to move away from the off-shore outsourcing model, which generally takes advantage of inexpensive labor from India, Eastern Europe and other far-flung locations to write code and handle IT customer service. By embracing the cloud, TCS has seen substantial growth.

The solution provider reported a profit for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended March 31, of 63.41 billion rupees ($951 million USD), according to international financial reporting standards. Last year's comparable quarter results came in at 57.73 billion rupees. Sales grew 17.5% to 284.49 billion rupees (approximately $4.27 billion USD), as sales to banks, financial services, insurance, retail and manufacturing companies increased, TCS said. 

"Last year around this time, I had spoken of our seven cloud platforms and how they had crossed the $100 million mark in terms of annual revenue run rate. This year, those platforms have delivered $172 million, a growth rate of 37% year-on-year," said N Chandrasekaran, TCS chief executive officer and managing director said on an earnings conference call. 

TCS competitor Infosys also reported earnings in April. Infosys also saw revenue and profit growth, and acknowledged the increasing importance of cloud computing. Revenue was $2.5 billion for the quarter ended March 31, 2016 and are expected to increase 11.8% to 13.8% in USD terms based on the exchange rates as of March 31.

On an earnings call, Dr. Vishal Sikka, CEO, said: 

"The world of our future looks entirely different - it is a world that is being fundamentally reshaped by digital technologies, and it is our endeavor to create great value for every business through solutions built on our AI technology and open, cloud platforms, to have Infoscions amplified by intelligent technology, to bring purposeful innovation to life, and in that sense, we are still very much at the beginning of this journey."

Strategic service providers should consider this increased focus on the cloud as an invitation to explore the ways the cloud can help their customers do business better. The efficiencies can be instrumental in cost-cutting/savings, and retooling service offerings. Whether an SSP provides the cloud services directly or through a partner, it is a critical part of a portfolio designed to offer internet of things technology to customers in any industry segment.

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