Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
February, 22nd 2010

Johnson Controls graphic

Graphic courtesy of Johnson Controls, who is working with IBM on smarter buildings

Following is a guest post from Florence Hudson, an energy and environment strategy executive from IBM:

Buildings have always been much more than roofs over our heads. Over the last century, as towers of steel reached higher into the sky and homes sprawled farther and farther into the surrounding landscape, our buildings not only housed burgeoning urban populations and growing economies – they also served as symbols of modernity and progress. Unfortunately, today’s offices, factories, stores and homes are also symbols of something else – waste and pollution.

Today, at the big IBM Pulse conference, we made some announcements that highlight the focus we’ve been putting lately on one of the biggest pieces in building a smarter planet – the building sector. Why? Consider some of the following:

The HVAC system, the lights, the water, the elevators, the power and cooling for technology, the heating and cooling for people: all contribute to making buildings a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions—and a leading energy user. Lights blaze and air conditioners hum in empty offices at night, and lawn sprinklers turn on even during a rainstorm. Commercial buildings lose as much as 50% of the water that flows into them.

A vision for smarter buildings

We can think about buildings differently – seeing homes not just as living spaces, but as living systems; seeing offices not just as static environments, but as dynamic ecosystems of people and intelligence. We touched on the concept of a building operating like a living organism in a recent blog post about five innovations we see affecting cities in the next five years.

In a smarter building, systems are not managed separately – they interoperate. Thousands of sensors can monitor everything from motion and temperature to humidity, precipitation, occupancy and light. The building doesn’t just coexist with nature – it harnesses it. Smart buildings can reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 10% to 50% or more and save 20% to 50% in water usage.

The agenda for smarter, sustainable buildings is a transformational agenda about creating and managing a new future for energy interaction and optimization that will serve as a model for both new and retrofit construction in the commercial and public sectors.

Instrumented, Interconnected, Intelligent

Putting the vision into tangible terms, I’ve put what we see as some of the major elements of Smarter Buildings into the context of the three “I’s” we often cite:


  • * Smart Meters (electricity, water, gas)
  • * Building management systems & building sensors (lighting, fire, environment, CO2)
  • * Public safety and surveillance systems
  • * IP-enabled devices – servers, PCs, actuators, control devices


  • * Environments (fiber, wireless, public spaces, offices)
  • * Sensors, sensor platforms & concentrators
  • * Meters & building management systems
  • * Systems (cost, space-use, portfolio management, facilities management)


  • * “Enterprise-view” visibility of the building/campus/enterprise/city operations
  • * Real-time analytics of sensor & meter data
  • * Behavioral modeling of physical, natural & people systems
  • * Visualization for user awareness & action

Not a future vision

It is important to note that this isn’t a futuristic vision. This is already happening today. For example, the St. Regis Hotel in Shanghai is the only 5-star hotel which is an Intelligent Building in the Shanghai region in China. We worked together with the St. Regis to integrate 12 sub-systems to create one intelligent building, with a ratio of energy costs to revenue below 5% compared to 8% for other five-star hotels in the Shanghai region – a 40% improvement.

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