Smart, Intelligent, and Very Well Connected Buildings

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    May 07, 2013
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Its been done before ............but not by me :-)
Its been done before ............but not by me :-)
Photo by Nina Matthews Photography

For many in the tech industry, Geoffrey Moore’s adoption curve is the go-to graphic for attempting to understand and/or explain the rate at which new ideas are adopted. Moore began with Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations Theory and added the concept of a chasm to the adoption curve.

Rogers believed that any new idea went through five basic steps of human acceptance: 1) Innovators, 2) Early Adopters, 3) Early Majority, 4) Late Majority and 5) Laggards. Moore added the idea that there is a Chasm in the middle of the early adopter stage which must be crossed or jumped in order for an idea to fully take hold. Basically, a series of events happens at a certain point in time that allows an idea to jump the chasm and become accepted by the mainstream. When applied to this model, every new idea from the first portable computer to cloud computing, and now smart buildings, seems to align with this principle.

The commercial, corporate, institutional and government real estate industry has had its own set of progressive, chasm jumping ideas. At conferences over the last 15 years, ideas such as Google Earth (Keyhole), web enabled property management systems, tablets, integrated platforms, centralized CRM and many other ideas move from innovator to early majority status. After a while, you no longer become frustrated with the markets’ hesitancy, you simply wait for the chasm jump and then watch a good idea take off.

We are witnessing yet another jump in the phenomena of smart, connected, high performance, intelligent buildings. Not the Building Management Systems (BMS) of the past, but rather the open architected, integrated, interoperable and IP centric networked smart buildings of the future. The idea of IP enabling every electro-mechanical device in a smart building, attaching it to a network, extracting valuable data, controlling it remotely, automating the associated processes and driving extraordinary efficiency in both operations and energy makes a great deal of sense. However, even great ideas need to go through the adoption process.

The journey began in April of 2002 when an Advisory titled "Network Appliances – Connecting Buildings and Processes to the Net" was published. The Advisory detailed how the authors applied the logic associated with computer networks to the intricacies of the systems found in buildings, then proceeded to the early adopter stage when three to five sophisticated commercial real estate firms took the leap. Those Early Adopters put hundreds of buildings on IP networks, created command and control centers and led the way, figuring out how it all worked from both a technical and business perspective. Two years ago, two very large and influential organizations, Microsoft and GSA/PBS, made a commitment to this new way of managing buildings and set out to change their approach. Over the last 18 months, they have been working hard on their strategies and the early results are extraordinary. Microsoft is retrieving 500M data points each day from their Redmond Campus and GSA/PBS is nearing its goal of having 50 smart buildings connected and data flowing.

We started to jump the chasm somewhere within the last 12 months. It is anyone’s guess as to where we are; at the jump edge, in the middle, or close to landing on the other side. In an informal survey last summer, a dozen professionals deeply embedded in this new industry were asked where they thought we were, and almost all agreed that we have jumped. This means that the early adopters have done their job and begun to prove the idea of the smart building on a bigger scale; and that many others are watching them and getting ready to make decisions to also embrace this new generation of smart buildings.

The number of people reporting that they have now embraced the idea of connected smart buildings has grown significantly. Organizations that only a few years ago paid little attention to this concept are now embracing the idea in an aggressive manner. This increased level of activity would suggest that we have in fact jumped the chasm.

Going forward, the number of real estate organizations who adopt this idea of network connected smart buildings in order to drive extraordinary efficiency and increased revenue potential will only increase. With the level of success the early adopters have realized it is hard to believe in a reverse course at this point in time. It is similar to the move from mini-computers to local area networks. At first it was slow, then the speed of adoption increased, then everyone was doing it and it became the new normal.

While there is plenty of work to do and an incredible amount of business process re-engineering ahead, it seems that the methods we use to manage buildings will never be the same. It is new, difficult, challenging and sometimes very confusing for those who have been operating buildings for a long time; however, the benefits of implementing this new smart building concept for managing buildings is well worth the effort.

Author's Profile

Jim Young is the co-founder and CEO of Realcomm, the commercial real estate leader in technology, automated business solutions and intelligent buildings. For more information on commercial building automation and efficiency, please go to

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