Despite the turbulence of 2020, smart buildings are still high on the agenda for the world’s biggest technology companies. This week, Samsung and Microsoft announced a global collaboration focused on digitally transforming the real estate development and property management industries. While pushing out the standard promises and benefits for all stakeholders, the collaboration actually makes a lot of sense and extends the trend of big-tech smart building collaborations into the post-COVID era.
“This collaboration, combining smart appliances and digital cloud technologies, aims at helping to drive improved building operations and maintenance, along with creating better experiences for both service technicians and residents,” the official statement reads. “This new strategic alliance brings together the power of Microsoft’s Azure IoT platform and productivity cloud services with Samsung’s smart devices and SmartThings platform, to help optimize building operations, equipment maintenance, energy management, asset performance, and new tenant experiences for commercial, hospitality and residential buildings as well as mixed-use developments.”
The standard boilerplate language around this deal is refreshingly normal considering everything else in recent months. Reassuring the smart buildings industry that big tech is still putting big money in commercial real estate solutions.
And, this deal is not just timely, it shows real promise of making a mark on the sector. The scale of the two companies is noteworthy, of course, but the compatibility of their solutions also shows potential. The collaboration will leverage Samsung’s smart home appliances, HVAC systems and smart TVs, together with Microsoft’s Azure Digital Twins technology and Dynamics 365 Field Service, to improve building maintenance and management by aggregating and analyzing IoT data from building systems and connected appliances.
This new capability could allow building managers to not only create an integrated dashboard for handling building issues in real-time but also anticipates issues to save time and resources. Increased data quality and quantity from Samsung’s wide range of smart appliances lay the foundation for broader integration allowing better monitoring and greater system intelligence. Azure, meanwhile, is a leading platform for data processing, using Machine Learning and AI to help building managers and operators determine what issues need to be addressed.
Microsoft was increasingly active in the smart building space prior to COVID-19, primarily through their Azure suite of data services. In June last year, the firm announced a partnership with digital services and consulting company Infosys. The smart building focused collaboration utilizes Microsoft’s Azure cloud and analytics services in combination with Infosys’ experience creating connected ecosystems for buildings. The collaboration should improve energy efficiencies, optimize space utilization, enable higher people productivity and deliver differentiated user experiences.
Later last summer, Microsoft also became a member of the EnOcean Alliance, a 400 member strong non-profit organization that aims to standardize and develop intelligent building solutions with integrated energy harvesting wireless technology. The emergence of big-tech firms in such alliances and the wider smart building space was and is still considered a key driver for the entire sector.
“When it comes to smart building developments, we are seeing companies like IBM and Microsoft now entering the market providing data management and analytical services. The sensors we deploy in buildings are generating vast amount of data but most of them have been deployed in either ‘dumb’ buildings or where there’s only local control. They are not able to do anything with the data that’s being generated,” says Graham Martin, Chairman and CEO of the EnOcean Alliance.
The Microsoft – Samsung collaboration is the latest step in big tech’s romantic interest in the Smart Building space. The continued and renewed focus of these major firms in buildings underlines the profitability of the smart building movement and reinforces some of the pre-lockdown forecasts for intelligent commercial real estate. The smart building, in all its forms, remains a key battleground for big-tech, which is comforting for the industry in these challenging times.