By Donna Moore
Smart buildings can rely on Internet of Things (IoT) enabled services to generate efficiencies, resource conservation, improve tenant experiences, and building managers’/owners’ profits. With insurance rates increasing and local municipalities adopting regulations to ensure safety, IoT offers an easy and fast path to compliance that delivers meaningful ROI.
What is LoRaWAN?
Many buildings already have building management systems (BMS), which are used to manage and monitor tasks within a building. But especially in older buildings, these proprietary systems are difficult and expensive to update—often because they are hardwired behind walls—to address the growing number of smart building applications.
This is where LoRaWAN is used to add value and capability to existing systems. It is a low power, wide area networking technology that collects data from sensors to operate buildings in a healthier and more efficient manner. LoRaWAN is ideal for buildings because it is wireless—so there is no need to retrofit any hardwiring—and transmits very effectively through concrete, metal, and underground, allowing it to access areas of the building where mechanical equipment and utilities tend to be located. It is also an open standard, which gives buildings a wide variety of choice in terms of system and solution providers, with no risk of being locked into a single vendor. Additionally, LoRaWAN supports tenant/resident privacy because it’s easy set up and lack of data identifiers ensure privacy and minimize disruption while allowing effective building management. Finally, the data that LoRaWAN collects can be easily integrated into existing BMS systems to give property owners and managers a true 360-degree view of what is happening in their building.
There are many applications that LoRaWAN supports in smart buildings, such as providing real-time data on energy usage, leak detection (gas, water), occupancy patterns, and environmental and structural conditions. Let’s explore some of the key use cases and their ROI.
Using IoT applications to conserve utility consumption has been a major focus for smart building enablement. Historically, this is an easy win with IoT-enabled sensors and meters being used to monitor and manage power, heat, cooling, leak detection, and lighting-related energy consumption more efficiently. Using LoRaWAN-enabled sensors allows building managers to collect real-time data on energy usage, and apply that data to optimize building systems, such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, to reduce energy consumption and costs. LoRaWAN can also allow for the integration of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, into building systems, enabling further energy savings. As an example, with more than two million sqm. of space controlled by LoRa Alliance member company Nordic Propeye, they report a reduction in energy use of 15 to 30%, 10 to 25% building optimization cost savings, and 10-12 months to achieve ROI for legacy buildings.
With water leaks reaching $300B in annual water damage claims globally and insurance costs increasing by more than 300% since 2017, effective monitoring and prevention is critical. Leak detection using LoRaWAN for early exposure is ideal to provide 24×7 visibility and protection against unnoticed water damage, with real-time notification of any water intrusion. This allows building engineering and maintenance resources to take preventative action to avoid flooding, damage, and losses. LoRa Alliance member company Kairos reports that customers see a return on investment within six months and none have experienced property loss claims following installation of its LoRaWAN leak detection sensor technology. They’ve successfully helped their real estate development clients achieve a reduction in builders risk insurance premiums.
Gas detection is another strong application for LoRaWAN technology in smart buildings. Because gas concentrates until it explodes, causing significant property damage and risk of injury or death, governments are increasingly mandating continuous monitoring. LoRa Alliance member company ProSentry monitors for a wide array of building critical issues including water leaks, mechanical malfunctions and rodents using LoRaWAN sensors. ProSentry’s upcoming natural gas solution allows buildings to automatically notify local authorities about the location and concentration of a leak and can reduce the time to turn off the gas by a factor of 10x—allowing for turn-off even before the fire department gets onsite. The ability to deliver real-time notifications offers a significant opportunity to save lives and property in the event of gas leaks, and extends the useful life of buildings by allowing the safe use of natural gas.
With the tight labor market created by COVID-19, LoRaWAN offers an opportunity to increase productivity by replacing route scheduling systems and other guesswork with data-driven insights that allow labor to be deployed more efficiently and cleaning resources to be directed to those spaces that usage data indicates as ‘high priority.’ This leads to increased customer satisfaction while cleaning more efficiently with less labor. LoRa Alliance member company Microshare reported that one of its facility management customers has netted a up to 30% productivity increase per head using LoRaWAN. Additional benefits have been realized through a self-reporting system that allows for real-time response and improved sanitation by providing early warning of leaks, malfunctions conditions and/or depleted supplies.
The Bottom Line
Making buildings smart is more critical than ever to protect people’s health and safety as well as improve operational efficiencies. The good news is that LoRaWAN provides low-power, long range networking that safely, securely and privately transmits critical building insights. Buildings are no longer limited by existing systems or technologies, but now have the opportunity to augment existing building automation with LoRaWAN. Using fit-for-purpose open standards like LoRaWAN offer a compelling value proposition to building managers and owners in terms of cost savings, while simultaneously enhancing health and safety building occupants.
Moore is CEO & Chairwoman of the LoRa Alliance. In this role, she oversees the organization, its strategy and direction to drive the global adoption of the LoRaWAN® standard.