The Internet of Things……IoT

A Not-So-Well-Known Benefit to Building Owners

 IoT becomes important in managing commercial building systems where pennies per square foot make the difference between profit and loss    


The Internet is an information highway with an infinite number of lanes. It is far vaster than you can imagine and although it has been around for several decades, we are only at the early stages of understanding its reach and power.

We all connect to it every day and stay connected for most of our awake time. Being personally connected could be looked upon as “The Internet of People” (IoP). But people connections fill only a few of those lanes. “Things” can also be connected, hence “The Internet of Things” (IoT). It has been estimated that the IoT will consist of more than 50 billion “things” by 2020, many of which will be in buildings. (Source: Cisco IBSG, April 2016)


Wikipedia defines The Internet of Things pretty well, “IoT allows objects to be sensed or controlled remotely via an existing Internet connection creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit in addition to reduced human intervention”.

IoT represents the next expansion of the Internet itself. To add some perspective, the number of things connected to the Internet will far exceed the number of people with smart devices even though the number of smart devices exceeded the total number of people on the planet some time ago. As you jump on Face Book to tell your friends about a new event in your life, machines jump on the Internet to report on how well they are performing; are they keeping up with demand or falling behind, are they working at max capacity or half speed, are they being as efficient as they were designed to be?

So how do “things” get on-line? Specialized sensors, some close to microscopic size, can be imbedded into virtually anything. These chips gather operational data in regards to their host devices. For example, hundreds of micro based sensors and microprocessors are part of the modern car. There are thousands in commercial airplanes, and it is hard to imagine how many there will be in commercial buildings. Either wired, or wirelessly through Wi-Fi, cellular or dedicated short-range, low-power connections, these device will connect to the Internet and download the data that they are programmed report on.  They can also execute on instructions sent by the person or thing responsible for that machines continued efficient and profitable operation.

These imbedded sensors manage the performance of processes or machines of all kinds. Among the things of critical interest to building owners are building automation systems such as the control, automation or regulation of lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and security systems. Also important to them and their tenants are insight into the workings of appliances such as washer/dryers, robotic vacuums, air purifiers, ovens or refrigerators/freezers and private web cams that all use wireless connections for remote monitoring.

IoT becomes very important in managing commercial building systems where pennies per square foot make the difference between profit and loss. Just as people connect to the Internet to communicate and increase their knowledge and productivity, “things”, usually with the help of some form of artificial intelligence (AI) connect for many of the same reasons. There are literally thousands of building applications analyzing and acting on the collected data. All this is geared to increasing efficiency, decreasing costs and helping to ensure a positive financial benefit to the commercial building owner.

Notwithstanding the privacy debate, IoT applications are also capable of tracking consumer behavior, which leads to anticipating customer needs and intentions. This produces extremely useful and high value marketing data.

It is of benefit to the real estate professional to recognize that the Internet has two nuanced distinctions. One side is for “people”, the flip side being for “things”; IoT. Those three letters are quickly becoming an established part of the commercial real estate lexicon and practice. In the long run they represent a subject that should be well-known by real estate professionals.


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