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By Marc Pégulu

The preservation of history is an important yet difficult task. From art and antiques to buildings and landmarks, preserving the artifacts and traditions of a community requires care and supervision. Once a tedious task, the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) simplifies preservation techniques.

Defending against natural disasters and general wear and tear, IoT-enabled technologies such as low power wide area network (LPWAN) sensors are being installed in buildings worldwide to monitor for and identify harmful conditions. By identifying these conditions at an early stage, building managers can take action before issues worsen.

Building Protection

Whether old or new, buildings carry unexpected baggage. Asbestos, faulty floorboards, broken water heaters and leaks—the list goes on and on. There are many factors, some unpreventable, that can harm visitors. As such, it is important to keep a pulse on the state of a building, and there’s no better way to do so than with IoT technology.

So what are LPWAN sensors and why are they a popular tool for monitoring buildings? LPWAN sensors are small, low power sensors that continuously monitor environmental conditions wherever they are installed. Not only do these sensors monitor environmental factors, but they alert end users to unsafe readings in real time.

LPWAN sensors are able to penetrate dense building materials such as concrete to provide accurate readings related to various internal and external building conditions. This improves the safety of a historic building as well as safeguarding the health of building users.

Preventing Leaks

The most widely used application of IoT sensors in building maintenance is leak tracking and notification. Building leaks can occur in water or gas infrastructure, and can generate exorbitant repair costs. With the help of IoT sensors, leaks can be detected early, allowing building management to address the problem before any long-term damage occurs.

A report from Transforma Insights states that by 2030, there will be 700 million smart water meters deployed globally. Why transition from traditional to smart water meters? In order to avoid scarcity due to leakages and gain the ability to monitor consumption patterns. Comprised of LPWAN sensors, smart water metering is able to efficiently collect data and streamline operations to cut down on water waste and identify issues in a water distribution network.

Leak monitoring is one of many ways that LPWAN sensors support IoT-connected smart building functions. Here are a few additional ways that sensors can preserve the structure and integrity of buildings, while improving the convenience of everyday life.

Automate Building Temperature Control

Large buildings experience high volumes of foot traffic. With people constantly entering and exiting a building, cold drafts in the winter and warm drafts in the summer can create uncomfortable conditions in lobbies and entrances. That’s where smart thermostats come in. In industrial buildings, LPWAN-enabled thermostats have the ability to measure temperature, humidity and even light in order to alert management to stark increases or drops in temperature and automatically adjust these to fit a specific environment. This can help buildings, most notably historic buildings which tend to be less effectively insulated, save on energy costs.

In historic homes and buildings, temperature control protects interiors from unforeseen elements. Sensors monitor air pressure, temperature and humidity to optimize conditions for historic wood or painted surfaces, which need extra attention due to their age.

Manage Building Security

Property managers want everyone to feel safe in their buildings—especially older, historic buildings that were not originally designed to fit today’s security standards. Managers also want assets, such as building furniture and technology, to be properly secured. When it comes to safety, implementation matters. Monitoring door locks, water and gas meters, outdoor lighting and more rely on constantly available, efficient technology. The extensive coverage of LPWAN sensors provides both indoor and outdoor connectivity for large and small buildings. Due to their long battery life, up to 15 years, these sensors require little maintenance, which is extremely beneficial to historic homes that already require significant upkeep.

Many sensors run on public or private networks designed to wirelessly connect devices to the internet and manage communication between end node devices or gateways. For this reason, it’s important for building management to invest in secure networks. The LoRaWAN® standard, for example, is secure by design with built-in authentication and AES128 encryption tools. This delivers privacy and protection to users, even those operating in the same building simultaneously.

Property Management Via Mobile Devices

Like many software applications, smart sensors have the ability to send real-time alerts and notifications directly to end-users on a laptop, tablet or mobile device. Changes in anything from temperature fluctuations and carbon monoxide levels to leakages and even contact tracing can be reported to users as soon as they occur. This allows end users to continuously monitor and take action from anywhere, as necessary.

In historic buildings, conditions can rapidly deteriorate. Take storms and natural disasters, for example. Fallen tree limbs or debris can more easily damage older windows, siding, and even outdoor air conditioning units. Real-time alerts instantly notify building management instances as soon as damage occurs, enabling immediate action.

Let’s Build This City (On LPWAN)

Flexibility and scalability are crucial to building management as smart cities continue to flourish and expand. With the ability to obtain information on real-time conditions, building managers can automate manual processes to free up staff availability and ensure the integrity of building property. Moving forward, building preservation, both new and old, will be a focus for cities and municipalities when looking to improve infrastructure and city operations and preserve historic landmarks.

Pégulu is Vice President and General Manager of Internet of Things and General Manager, Semtech. Prior to this role, he served as the Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Wireless and Sensing Products Group, a position he had held since June 2015. 

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Read the full article "The Benefits Of LPWAN Sensors In The Modern World" on Facility Executive Magazine.

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