The building was once the domain of the operational technology (OT) industry until things started getting smart. As buildings began to generate more and more data, the information technology (IT) industry leveraged their expertise to take its share of the evolving market. Today, OT firms race to develop the data capabilities that will allow them to seize a share of growth, while IT finds its limits as major companies battle with the operational complexities of the real world. There is a third element to the smart building, however, and a big industry standing behind it.
Between operating buildings (OT) and managing the massive amounts of data being generated (IT) there is connectivity, the communications infrastructure that glues it all together. The IT sector spurred a wide range of ICT (information communications technology) solutions that enable the transfer of data throughout a facility and to/from the cloud and drive the evolution of smart buildings. Communications is the domain of major telecom, however, and as connectivity evolves these giants are beginning to see their route into the lucrative smart buildings market.
Last week, on July 31st, Korea Telecom (KT), South Korea’s largest telecommunications company, announced plans to launch a suite of smart building services in cooperation with its subsidiary, KT Estate. The new ICT-based integrated offering consists of two services — Smart Building Sensing and Smart Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) — presenting a smart building solution that will leverage KT’s infrastructure and brand recognition to become a leading solution for the South Korean Smart Buildings market.
"Smart Building Sensing monitors boilers, water tanks, motors, and other operational facilities, alerting the building manager in real-time to breakdowns, glitches and other malfunctions. The company's IoT control center assists through around-the-clock, remote monitoring,” said Moon Sunguk, head of KT's Enterprise New Business Development Unit. "Smart Building BEMS is a building energy management system jointly developed by KT and KT Estate, which specializes in property development and management. It is a real-time energy management and operational consulting service for building owners and constructors.”
"KT's smart building service ensures safe and convenient building management at low costs, and we will continue to expand our product lines with AI technology to provide an integrated building management solution," Sunguk continued, hinting at a long-term strategy in the smart buildings space.
KT's BEMS model is enabled by cloud storage, reducing running costs compared to systems operating independently in conventional buildings. KT Estate’s 5-year remote energy management service, managed from its integrated control center, will also bring down the cost of building maintenance. While a special consulting service, where experts systematically analyze, measure, and evaluate major energy-consuming facilities to improve energy efficiency and conservation, will round off a comprehensive smart building solution.
Regulation has also become a major driver for smart building adoption in South Korea. Currently, public buildings with a floor space of 10,000 square meters or more are required to set up a BEMS. Proof that the BEMS meets regulations must be shown before the building is used. The regulation is scheduled to be extended in 2025 to private buildings with a floor space of 1,000 square meters or more and public buildings with a floor space of 500 square meters or more — a huge boost for the South Korean smart buildings industry over the next decade.
When it comes to ICT, things often happen first in South Korea. In 2019, the Asia-Pacific nation launched the world’s first 5G network, ushering in a new age of connectivity. 5G promises to disrupt the current in-building communications landscape by enabling buildings to utilize wide-area urban networks for their internal connectivity. A disruption that puts major telecom companies in the driving seat for a smart buildings market that is hungry for easier, faster, and more mobile data transfer capabilities. This new service from KT could be a sign of things to come around the world.
Major telecom companies in the West are no strangers to smart buildings but, so far, they have approached the space from a smart city perspective and through partnerships rather than direct involvement.
In 2018, AT&T teamed up with the Synchronoss, using the firm’s Digital Smart Building platform to power its new BEMS offering in the US. In 2019, Verizon launched its low-cost, low-power NB-IoT network for the IoT but not the platform itself. While in the UK, British Telecom (BT) has begun trailing 5G for connectivity in industrial buildings and complexes.
KT’s smart building offering feels different, however, and a South Korean market that sits ahead of the curve for ICT development, seems to present the perfect conditions for major telecom companies to make their move. “Big Telecom” around the world will be keeping a close eye on developments in South Korea and, as 5G rolls out across the world, it will be interesting to see how this story plays out in other markets. Just as OT and IT are finding a balance, Telecom could arise to rock the smart buildings boat.