Smart Buildings

The Innovative Startups that could bring AI & Blockchain to Smart Buildings

The world is full of new technologies promising to reshape society but perhaps none are more exciting and wide-ranging than artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain. The smart building sector has begun to embrace and understand the potential of these technologies for its own continued growth.

“With the advent of artificial intelligence in the smart building sector, a building can now have the capability to learn how to best optimize itself by analyzing occupant activity. This advanced learning process can draw in meteorological data, holiday schedules, even public transport and traffic information to reduce energy waste while also improving efficiency and comfort of occupants,” explains our latest report StartUps and their Impact on Smart Buildings 2017.

Among the young companies covered in the report, a number of them are innovatively bringing AI into our buildings in a way only start-ups can. These new entrants are currently exploiting the technology across a range of applications, from BIoT, energy management, security, real estate and property management and smart building to smart grid applications.

B2B IoT startup Verdigris is one such company. The firm applies a rudimentary form of AI to building management, according to CEO Mark Chung. Verdigris’ system listens to electrical signals to identify the type of equipment in the building, it can then create algorithms to offer predictive analysis and anomaly detection. “The main value proposition is to use the platform around energy efficiency and data layer to get better feedback around energy performance in a building,” said Chung.

Another start-up, Google-owned DeepMind, uses AI to control air-conditioning systems in huge power-hungry data centers. Its system claims to make data centers 40% more efficient by predicting demand for the services that influence data center temperature. While property management firm, Cape Analytics leverages geospatial imagery, computer vision and AI to automatically extract proprietary property data for insurance carriers and other property stakeholders.

In the UK, start-up Upside Energy have partnered with Heriot-Watt University on a government funded demand response energy project. Using machine learning and distributed artificial intelligence the project will manage a portfolio of storage assets to provide real-time energy reserves to the grid. This ‘virtual energy store’ will relieve stress on the grid by managing a range of distributed storage resources.

This kind of technology has far-reaching implications for the smart building and smart city sectors, as well as the energy system as a whole. AI has the potential to optimize and manage systems like never before; it is therefore no surprise that AI start-ups are attracting vast amounts of investment from a variety of sources.

Blockchain technology is another exciting technology with wide-ranging but still mysterious applications. It is essentially a distributed ledger, which records ownership and value. Transactions are traceable and tamper-proof on distributed systems without the need for centralized monitoring. For the smart building sector blockchain primarily permits direct transactions between energy producers and consumers.

“Using blockchain for distributed energy trading provides a flexible and low-cost approach to highly granular transactions that are difficult to replicate in a centralized system and it places consumers at the heart of the smart grid, with the introduction of a new business model for peer-to-peer energy trading,” explains our comprehensive research on startup companies in the smart building space.

New York City based start-up LO3 Energy announced a collaboration with Siemens to develop microgrids that allow energy trading through the use of blockchain technology. Along with Ethereum developer ConsenSys, they initiated a microgrid pilot program in the New York borough of Brooklyn. Five buildings enabled peer-to-peer electricity by selling excess solar energy to other buildings, with all transactions managed by blockchain.

“Based on experience with the pilot project in Brooklyn, Siemens and LO3 Energy intend to implement additional blockchain-based microgrid and Smart City projects to test out various other business models and gain insights about the replicability of solutions on other regions of the world,” states the report.

Be it AI, blockchain, or other disruptive technology, the smart building sector is enabling the innovative power of start-ups to accelerate it into the future. Wisely, established corporations are choosing to nurture and collaborate with these innovative new companies, creating powerful partnerships that are bringing about some of the most disruptive technologies ever seen.

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