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“A building manager goes home and talks to his Alexa and has a really great software experience with five or six different mobile apps during the day. Then they get to their office, and all the systems haven’t changed in 20 years,” suggests Luke Schoenfelder, co-founder of smart lock provider Latch, in light of off-the-shelf smart home technology.

New York based Latch, who have raised a total of $26 million since being founded in 2014, create smart access control systems that work independently but only reach their full potential when feeding information into a centralized smart building system. What Schoenfelder and his team face all too often is commercial buildings that simply do not have the infrastructure to become smart without significant capital investment.

Arie Barendrecht, co-founder of WiredScore, a firm that grades buildings’ connectivity and tech infrastructure, reports that only about 20% of New York office buildings have the high-speed internet wiring needed to run a broad set of smart building technologies. He highlights the scale of capital investment required by landlords to modernise their buildings for this smart revolution. “[It’s] never an easy shift,” Barendrecht said. “If you’re a building owner, there’s obvious hesitation to completely cede human intervention.”

Among the 20% of buildings in New York that are ready for this emerging future are those within the portfolio of Rudin Management Company Inc. who have owned, built and managed buildings in the city since 1905. Two years ago, in June 2016, Rudin launched an independent tech startup named Prescriptive Data, who provide building tech to Rudin properties among others.

“Property owners are just now realizing that they need to future-proof their buildings,” said John Gilbert, Rudin’s chief technology officer and executive chairman of Prescriptive Data. The firm developed its own building operating system called Nantum that tracks occupancy and adjusts building systems in response to people entering, exiting or moving around the property. Gilbert underlines that smart technology not only supports energy efficiency and occupant comfort but also add a layer of safety that is increasingly important in this age of climate change and terror.

“Smart building technology can also be useful in the event of a natural disaster or attack,” Gilbert said, highlighting that Nantum identifies the exact position of people within a building in addition to their movement patterns. That, he said, “can help warn landlords and tenants of an impending safety concern in real time and can help emergency services identify the specific location of occupants.”

Another New York based property company, Convene, who specializes in common areas and co-working spaces, is following suit with its own operating system that relies on beacons placed strategically placed around a building. Convene, who have raised $119.2 million in venture funding since 2009, will apply their operating system to automatically adapt temperature and lighting to suit the specific occupant.

“Solutions to ensure the most efficient use of space in office buildings have been available for many years, but with the advent of IoT driven real-time occupancy and location analytics, platforms have evolved to support more accurate insights into the critical context of where, revealing previously hidden patterns into the actual use of space and enabling improvements in the location-based experiences of building occupants,” explains our recent report.

The report Occupancy Analytics & In-Building Location Based Services 2017 to 2022 offers a comprehensive view of the market as it emerges as a key element of modern smart buildings. “The Occupancy Analytics market in commercial office space follows a similar trend to the overall commercial buildings market, with systems sales of $1.54 Billion in 2017, rising to $4.60 Billion by 2022, growing at a robust rate of 24.5% CAGR,” the report forecasts.

While there are privacy issues to overcome, there remains little doubt that occupancy tracking will play a fundamental role in smart buildings. The bigger issue facing adoption of these and other smart building technology is the lack of suitable infrastructure available in the vast majority of properties – as highlighted by the WiredScore research in New York.

This smart future we talk so much about is not waiting for technology to develop. The technology is already here, it’s just that we’re not ready for it. Ari Teman, founder of access control technology firm GateGuard, is clear about this when he says “I don’t think about it as the future. It’s happening right now.”

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