There has been much discussion about the transformative value of the Internet of Things (IoT) for home and building automation. The increasing popularity of low-cost sensors and wireless technology is revolutionizing the indoor environment in which we work and live, thereby improving efficiency, comfort and safety. Considering the many common use cases between smart homes and smart buildings, including climate control, lighting automation or security and fire safety, some people think that the IoT technologies of these two architectures are highly similar.
In fact, IoT providers like Ecobee that provide home solutions are trying to expand their products to the commercial market. But can we really use the same thermostat at home and office to measure temperature and humidity? The fact is that in addition to function, scale and cost are also part of the consideration. The latter two factors are often not determined by the device itself, but by the connectivity behind it. In the home environment, a thermostat may be sufficient, but large industrial and commercial facilities will require a large number of distributed measurement points for micro-area HVAC adjustment to optimize energy saving and residential comfort.
More importantly, although home and building automation networks do have some common goals, the latter ’s use case matrix is much more complex. Space management, equipment maintenance, asset tracking, waste management and smart parking are all compelling smart building applications, and these applications are irrelevant in the home environment. Broader use cases mean that more endpoints require network connectivity.
Therefore, even if smart home and smart building networks can utilize the same type of terminal equipment, such as temperature sensors, occupancy detectors or smoke alarms, they are likely to require different communication infrastructure to make the business case work. Popular Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies, as well as mesh network solutions for lighting control, such as Zigbee, Thread and Z-Wave, are ideal for home automation networks. However, they are often not ideal for integrated intelligent building architectures with widely distributed terminals. There are three reasons:
What are the similarities between smart home and smart building
1. Building scale and structure
The physical environment has a significant impact on the performance of wireless networks. A small home environment with a simple structure and few obstacles poses the least challenge to signal propagation in short-range technology. Even though there may be Wi-Fi connection problems in some parts of your home, this problem can be quickly solved by an extender.
On the other hand, when it comes to high-rise commercial buildings, geographically dispersed campuses, or industrial parks with dense facilities, short-range solutions cannot provide the required coverage and penetration. Although the use of mesh topology helps expand network coverage, it is not without its complexity. Given the limited physical scope of the mesh protocol, you need to ensure that the nodes are evenly distributed, and add additional repeaters as needed to establish communication between the two data points. In addition, in large-scale implementation, the infrastructure and engineering costs of the mesh network will rapidly expand.
2. Power requirements
For home automation networks, low-power wireless connection is a good choice, but it is not necessarily required. This is because most devices are located near electrical outlets, and there are not too many device endpoints. Therefore, technically, you can use the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to connect all smart home devices to the Internet without worrying about their power consumption characteristics.
On the contrary, the number of wireless sensors in commercial and industrial facilities is usually thousands, many of which are not located close to the power supply. Even if they do, the wiring of so many sensors is too expensive and cumbersome. At production sites with complex operating equipment and systems, cable trenching is dangerous and can cause expensive production shutdowns. Therefore, in order for an intelligent building network to be economically viable, the equipment must be able to operate on separate batteries for many years. In this case, ultra-low power connection and low self-discharge battery technology are critical.
Although most mesh network protocols are built for low power consumption, the mesh network itself has high power consumption characteristics because devices must constantly listen and relay messages. For nodes that carry a lot of relay traffic, battery life will be severely affected.
3. Traditional radio system
For wireless communication systems operating in unlicensed spectrum, radio interference is a major challenge. Due to its global availability, the 2.4GHz band is especially widely used in existing wireless technologies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and many mesh protocols. Considering the small number of connected devices, the bandwidth problem seems less obvious in the home network. However, for commercial and industrial IoT deployments, the risk of electromagnetic interference is enormous.
In most commercial buildings and manufacturing plants, 2.4GHz channels have been widely used, so you need to accurately assess the saturation of these channels. In addition, even if your building automation network can currently survive the congestion of 2.4ghz, what will happen if you deploy new equipment in the next few years? Scalability cannot be regarded as an additional element in the Internet of Things -It needs to be planned from the beginning.
Long story short, although smart home and smart building architecture have similarities in some use cases, their technical and engineering requirements are very different. For smart buildings, the challenges of network coverage, power and scalability mean that companies need to go beyond the established short-distance and mesh network solutions on the market. (From the House of Things) New technologies developed specifically for large-scale wireless sensor deployments, such as low-power wide area network (LPWAN), although relatively new in the building automation industry, bring unlimited opportunities. Ultimately, the choice of connectivity can determine the success or failure of your IoT architecture.