Schneider Electric is seeing growth opportunities with the increasing demand for smart building solutions. The European company has been very active with the development of new solutions to allow building owners and managers to provide a safe building environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. To know more about the company’s presence in the smart building segment, In-Building Tech interviewed James Mylett, vice president of digital buildings at Schneider Electric.
Q: How important is the smart building segment for Schneider Electric and why?
A: With an expected market growth from $75 billion in 2019 to $121.5 billion by 2024, the adoption rates of building automation technology are significantly increasing. While the growth of IoT-enabled devices has extended into the buildings industry, an increasing number of components within building infrastructure are now connected to the internet and therefore to each other—representing a convergence of IT and OT—ranging from valves, sensors, meters and controllers, to lighting, ventilation systems, and temperature monitors. This represents an evolution of the building automation system (BAS) into a smart, digital backbone of the facility, bringing together a large variety of different building systems into a single, intelligent control system–and is a foundational element of Schneider Electric’s business.
Q: Could you briefly describe the main features of the company’s smart buildings portfolio?
A: EcoStruxure, Schneider Electric’s collaborative smart building platform and open system architecture, allows developers and partners to interact, share data and develop apps, increasing efficiency up to 30% and ensuring optimal comfort for occupants. EcoStruxure for Buildings improves overall cost of ownership with easy access to analytics and reporting through a comprehensive smart building portfolio of offers that includes:
A range of smart, connected hardware devices ranging from valves, actuators and controllers, to circuit breakers, sensors and meters.
EcoStruxure Building Operation: Building management software that integrates system and application data to make building operations easier to monitor, manage and optimize
Access Expert & Security Expert: Security solution that drives efficiencies by creating secure business environments that unify access control and intrusion detection
EcoStruxure Building Advisor: Continuously monitors building performance, proactively diagnoses issues and provides actionable intelligence that helps improve occupant comfort while lowering energy and maintenance costs up to 30 percent
Connected Room Solution: Provides room-level interfaces for HVAC, lighting and blind control in addition to a single point of integration for other IoT devices in a room.
Workplace Advisor: A cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) suite of digital services that helps building managers as well as property owners and developers improve well-being for occupants and manage facility services by drawing real-time data and insights from wireless sensors and various devices.
Q: What are the main benefits of the EcoStruxure Building solution? Is it suitable for all types of buildings?
EcoStruxure Building is an interoperable IoT-enabled solution that relies on a scalable, secure global architecture to make buildings smart. By securely connecting hardware, software, and services over an Ethernet IP backbone, EcoStruxure Building can maximize building efficiency and sustainability; optimize comfort and productivity; and increase building value. What’s more, it’s an ever-evolving platform that is not only flexible and scalable, but also future-ready for integration across all types of buildings–healthcare facilities, educational campuses, commercial buildings, museums and institutions, and more.
Q: What are the main trends that you are seeing in terms of the adoption of smart building solutions in North America and Europe?
A: As smartphones are increasingly adopted as tools in the workplace for more than just communication, the building automation systems industry has encountered a greater demand for mobile access to building automation technology, allowing for monitoring and maintenance even on the go. Cloud technology has enabled cyber-secure mobile access, which can have a meaningful impact on the efficiency of building management, particularly if the data transmitted is utilized to understand deeper insights on building use and needs. Take, for example, the data collected by outside air temperature sensors, which nearly every building automation system gathers. If that data from multiple campuses and multiple cities were collated and analyzed, we could learn an incredible amount of information about regional temperature patterns.
Additionally, we will see more integrated systems designed as solutions to better optimize energy efficiency and management. These integrated systems are more efficient as well as faster to build, install and commission. Most importantly, they become autonomous, self-diagnosing, self-healing and predictive. The ability to proactively manage this energy infrastructure will be essential and is dependent on data analytic technologies such as AI and ML so the industry can turn that data into actionable intelligence for energy management. These emerging technologies can make hours spent in the workplace significantly better, healthier and more productive while doing measurable good for the planet. Buildings of the Future will do just that – they will be hyper-efficient, resilient, sustainable and people-centric.
Q: What types of solutions are building managers adopting due to the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of safety measures for occupants and workers?
A: COVID-19 is accelerating the already fast-growth IoT industry and this growth will be transformative for organizations in this decade and into the next. We have already seen the impact of tools such as remote connectivity, building analytics, machine learning and occupancy sensing, among others. However, in the grand scheme of things, we have only unlocked a fraction of these tools’ potential and as time goes on, we will innovate new ways to leverage these tools, create new tools, and continue to leverage the IoT toward measurable outcomes.
To improve air quality, we have seen indoor air quality sensors to monitor air quality in public spaces, HVAC maintenance alterations that provide more air changes per hour and more fresh, outside air, and air cleaning technologies like needlepoint bipolar ionization. To better clean high-touch surfaces, we’ve seen partnerships between industry leaders and major cleaning product brands, as well as the use of UV light for disinfecting surfaces and adoption of flat, easy-to-clean, devices in some cases with protective films for better hygiene and peace of mind. To promote and enhance social distancing, technologies implemented by commercial buildings like contactless check-ins or displays that indicate people-count can prevent mass congregations that might worry occupants, or provide information as to how crowded a space is. Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Building Operation, Engage Enterprise App, Workplace Advisor and Access Expert are all great examples of tools which can work together to optimize open spaces, measure indoor air quality, produce contact tracing reports, and provide safety and COVID-19 communications to occupants and operators.