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What is a Smart Space?

19 Nov 2019

‘Smart’ is an adjective being thrown around left right and centre in tech talk. First, there was the ‘smart’ tv from as early as the 1980s, then the ‘smart’ phone later in the ’90s and ever since, increasingly more everyday objects are becoming ‘smart’. So what really makes a physical object “smart”?

The basics of becoming technologically “smart”

Apple Inc, famously became the global leader in smartphones because their mobile phones were able to run various productivity software applications, known today simply as ‘apps‘ including a mobile Internet browser i.e. Safari. Fast forward, over two decades and we have the tech to make nearly anything Internet-connected: an Internet of Things (IoT) device. And of course, there’s Bluetooth and NFC tech, as well, to enable smartphones to communicate with other devices.

The ability to download apps from the Internet for functionality and to control/communicate with other remote devices are key characteristics of ‘smart’ things. This concept of cloud-based orchestration is realised in the development of IoT platforms and IoT apps.

Streamlining processes

With Big Data comes digitisation. IoT enables digitisation and streamlining of various work processes that could never be done before. Complete work processes involve people, various tools, and quickly transforming inputs into services. When software at the scale of an entire IoT operating system can streamline various processes – ie. that building managers and front-of-house staff may typically do – then we can say it’s a smart space! Running productive processes automatically is a more efficient way to save time, energy and resources.

Types of ‘smart’ spaces

Smart homes

The large marketplace for smart home tech and appliances shouldn’t surprise you. Sometimes called ‘connected homes’, these spaces we hope you spend the majority of your life in, seeking comfort and convenience. IoT is used in the homeplace to enable your smartphone to become a remote thermostat (read more about smart thermostats here), controlling air-con/heating. It’s also possible to have IoT lights, door locks, security cameras and other appliances like a smart coffee machine!

Smart offices

Probably the 2nd most commonplace to spend the majority of your time and even more important that it facilitates high productivity. A smart office should save you time from tasks and processes lacking creativity – that could be anything from booking meeting rooms to visitor management to maintenance requests to reading the gas or electricity metre – so that you can better focus on higher priorities. Even fights over the thermostat settings between coworkers can be mediated with an AI algorithm integrated IoT platform – that can decide the thermostat settings based on democratic-like polls that coworkers input. If it’s a self-learning AI, then preferences can be predicted based on a variety of factors including historical data patterns and data flow from IoT sensors. More on smart workplaces enablement here and the implications.

 

…Smart Buildings

As aforementioned, a smart building app with AI could learn to automate all kinds of processes in real-time as it’s fed data. An IoT platform could also be made compatible with robots or humanoids. Smart Spaces has done this so that a humanoid could greet visitors at the building entrance, send a notification to the visitor’s host, send a generated QR code to the visitors smartphone to pass the security barriers and provide directions to their destination. (It’s also able to control certain building management systems like lighting and HVAC by voice command.)

 

IoT/smart things can be used in all kinds of environments from factories, hospitals, airports to shopping centres (find out about Smart Rewards shopping) and so on. The possibilities are exciting as smart building enablement becomes an easier option to choose, we’ll soon have smart cities!

More on smart building operating systems here.

Illustration showing that a smart building is differentiated by a BOS

Scalability for commercial and industrial purposes

What makes IoT scalable is the Internet because it’s accessible in the ‘cloud’. A cloud doesn’t take up physical space where you use your device (excluding on-site servers and broadband routers) whilst providing access to seemingly endless amounts of information and data. Software can be shared via the Internet for downloading and installing onto devices.

Instant access to the Internet’s database means IoT devices can continually be updated. Furthermore, such flexibility to integrate a wide variety of apps quickly enables fast innovation. Web apps will soon be normalised because they remove the storage requirement for an app on a remote server and simply deliver apps on an Internet browser interface.

We also have tech like blockchain, swarm learning, edge computing and 5g, which have the adaptability to sustain IoT for a multitude of uses in all industries including those that require high security, real-time responses and enormous data transferring/storage. The flexibility to integrate various big data tech and the scalability of IoT has been proven on large scale projects like mega warehouses and airports.

Example use cases of scaled-up IoT in mega warehouses is to enable robots to carry out packaging, sorting and collection processes impressively much quicker and more reliably than human workers. It’s also beneficial for the business when the small-sized capable robots can move around in tight spaces so that warehouse space can be maximised.

Security first

Cool if you can transform something into an IoT but where’s the value if its data can easily be stolen, corrupted or maliciously overtaken by an outsider? The value increases with exclusivity and privacy. That’s why a smart space owner should invest in advanced security and privacy measures.

A secure foundation includes a network with a firewall, encrypted passwords, permissions-based accessibility, multi-step verification and, of course, physical locks on doorways/entrances of the smart space. There are many different ways to encrypt passwords and data, each seemingly complex enough until someone hacks it. The good news is that the extremely complex cryptography, blockchain exists today and makes the odds of brute force hacking attempts close to none because it’s decentralised and any guesswork would require improbable amounts of computing power and time. Learn more about it on ‘Blockchain and Swarm Learning to Improve Big Data IoT Security‘.

diagram of hash functions in blockchain, data blocks, nonce and new hash value generation

Social engagement

Considering the masses of tech rapidly developing and the need for sustainable innovation, a smart space app should be adaptable for integrating add-ons (third-party APIs) in particular that are socially engaging. For example, as proven with the success of the Facebook app for smartphones, a smart space app could include an instant ‘chat’ capability. While it’s great to have the capability of controlling devices and systems in your building, there are many human communication touchpoints an organisation needs to generally stay healthy. By including a social side to an IoT platform, communication is made seamless all on a single app. In a smart office, it can also be great to include an events calendar to encourage socialising.

Tomorrow’s smarter space?

You probably already thought it, ‘smart’ isn’t the end of the road for future proptech, there could be smarter or super-intelligent or genius and so on. We’ve discussed some of the vast potentials of developing smart cities and making AI robotics, dare we say, part of everyday working life.

One issue that stands out to limit the future is database storage considering the zettabytes of data there will be to manage. Perhaps, we’ll have self-learning AI someday that can sort through the massive quantities of data and save for us only the quality data. Hopefully, we’ll also find improved storage methods for Big Data.

When all of the processes worth digitising are done, we could have more time to focus on our human social needs and community. Future ‘smart spaces’ would enable us to change our job tasks to the ones we’re more passionate about.

Do the thoughts of smart space benefits sound appealing to you? Don’t hesitate to contact us hello@smartspaces.app

Looking to smart enable your building, increase occupier engagement or just generally interested in the Smart Spaces offering and would like to know more? Fill in the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.


+44(0)20 7481 1655

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