As occupants of The Edge office building in Amsterdam approach the parking garage, cameras recognize their car license plates and grant access. A mobile phone app then directs them to their individually assigned work stations, the location of which can vary from day to day.
LED connected lighting tracks their movements allowing lighting, air and temperature to be adjusted accordingly and to their preferences. If they have a meeting, the system provides an appropriate-size room with specific technical requirements. Even the coffee maker recalls how many creams and sugars they like.
More than 27,000 sensors record data which can be used to maximize efficiency in The Edge, widely considered the world’s smartest building. All this data is collected through Power over Ethernet (PoE) which has applications for all manner of buildings.
“We are finally reaching the day where telecommunication is that fourth utility,” says Henry Franc, a technology solutions architect with Belden Canada and a leading proponent of PoE. “You had your heat, hydro and water and now telecom. If you are talking about the things it can do but there’s a call to action – hey, you better be ready, digital building is coming.
“Right now you are running power to a door control, power to a camera plus the data circuit. That’s just the technology that’s there. But the use of cameras, the use of wifi, the use of sensors, is vastly increasing. So you need to be able to provide those services, and part of that is Power over Ethernet.”
Power over Ethernet could mean big savings
Franc says besides the obvious uses – security, adjustments to HVAC systems and the like – abundant examples of PoE technology are in plain sight. Each eliminates the need for massive amounts of cable and connectors throughout a building. It also requires less energy to function.
“What is the current way building services handle washrooms? They start at the top and work down or they start at the bottom and work up, “ he explains, “Or they have the crisis management system which says, ‘Hey, I am out of paper.’ You are either serving too often or not enough.
“A digitally enabled bathroom will tell you when the soap dispenser is empty, when the paper towel dispenser is empty, so you are not waiting for that call: ‘The soap dispenser will be empty in an hour, better get somebody up there now.’ ”
He points out that two people waiting in a smart building lobby might be directed to different elevators depending upon which floors they are travelling to. It’s all about efficiency.
Some supermarkets are rolling out ‘smart shelves’ which increase efficiency when it’s time to restock. Each time a product is scanned at the cash register, data is collected. Management, therefore, knows when to replenish stock, eliminating the need for an employee to go down every aisle at close of business each night.
Franc deals with clients who are outfitting hospitals with PoE systems and says there are numerous sensors measuring and taking data from dozens of systems including the patients’ medical progress. Digital blinds, for instance, will give privacy to patients during examinations but allow nurses to monitor them visually.
Companies leading the PoE charge
There are several companies at the forefront of PoE technology. Carl Huntsman is an account manager with Graybar Canada and is in many ways a ‘go-to’ guy when it comes to custom designing these systems. Like Henry Franc, he sees day-to-day examples which can be applied to modern buildings.
“When you think of autonomous cars, the amount of data they are pushing out is incredible,” he explains. “The fact is these cars talk to one another. So you can’t have a car say ‘I am going to talk to a cloud in New Jersey and come back to a car two lengths away.’ It has to go to a closer data system to process the information so that they are talking in real time.
“That is happening more and more with applications that people have on premises.”
Huntsman believes the possibilities for industrial buildings to benefit both in efficiency and financial savings are endless through PoE.
“There are sensors that you can put in a garbage bin that tell you when it’s getting close to full and when to schedule maintenance,” he adds. “Think of an office building where close to 95 per cent of the time their garbage bins are not even close to being full.
“But in the kitchen, where you might have organic waste, you want someone there all the time. You would rather have a garbage bin that says ‘Hey, I am close to being full,’ so that you only have to maintain this every four weeks as opposed to someone going every week.”
“Be aware this is happening”
The architects who created The Edge were clearly at the forefront of smart buildings and they vow to continue designing even smarter buildings. But as Henry Franc says, it is never too late to improve efficiency through PoE technology.
“My call to action for this is be aware that it is happening and you have got to make moves to accommodate the digitally connected world,” he declares. “But don’t panic, because we are not going to tell people, ‘You have a 50-year-old building, you have got to tear it down so we can figure out how to make you a new building.’
“That’s not going to happen. We have to figure out a way to make technology work in a building whether it’s brand new, or it’s a historical building.”
The Anderson Palmer team at Cushman & Wakefield Waterloo Region has been instrumental in strategic acquisitions, sales and leasing of commercial properties across Canada. For information, contact Scott Anderson.