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The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) is positioning itself to be a key driving force for the smart building industry. Already in 2019, we’ve seen the organization announce smart building focused collaborations and host high-profile events centered on a variety of smart building topics. Now the TIA wants to take the lead in developing crucial industry standards for connectivity in smart buildings.

The TIA is made up of more than 400 companies around the world that enable high-speed communications networks and accelerate next-generation Information Communication Technology (ICT) innovation. In January, they announced an agreement with the Internet of Things Community, the world’s largest and longest standing global independent IoT Community, to accelerate the digital transformation of the Internet of Things and further the development of smart buildings.

The two organizations signed an MoU to collaborate on a set of initiatives regarding smart buildings, manufacturing, connected vehicles, intelligent transportation, healthcare and more. They will share insights and explore opportunities for collaboration, information, and expertise, then develop solutions to accelerate the development of the Internet of Things.

“Harnessing the power of the Internet of Things is essential for the successful development of smart buildings and eventually smart cities,” said Harry Smeenk, TIA’s Senior Vice President of Technology Programs. “TIA looks forward to working with the IoT Community to enhance the development of the Internet of Things and enable the digital transformation of smart cities and smart buildings.”

A month later, in mid-February, the TIA announced a new agreement to work together with UL, a leading global safety science organization, to accelerate the development of a common framework for smart buildings. The two organizations are collaborating on an online aggregation portal designed to educate and inform stakeholders on the multiple aspects and solutions available for the smart buildings market.

They will also work to create a list of relevant standards for smart buildings, develop training content, and provide information on the value proposition of smart buildings.

“Smart buildings have the potential to improve efficiencies and safety, reduce costs, and dramatically improve the Quality of Experience for tenants, visitors, employees, and others within buildings,” said Smeenk. “Working with UL – a trusted name in research, standards development, and certification – we aim to standardize certification scheme requirements to accelerate technology and building development across the globe.”

At the end of February, the TIA took another step toward their smart building industry ambitions when they hosted a series of sessions at MWC Barcelona 2019, one of the world’s largest technology events. Memoori was in attendance for the programme of panel discussions titled ‘Smart Buildings & 5G: The Use Case’ that explored the infrastructure demands of 5G, and the challenges of densification in the built environment through the use case for Smart Buildings.

One of the most interesting topics brought up during the TIA’s sessions was the concept of distributed data centers. These “edge data centers” are expected to become commonplace in our smart buildings of the future, enabled by 5G, according to an expert panel. Edge data centers reduce latency and cost, enabling the smarter technology.

“Consider facial recognition for access control, which must be super quick to be effective. It needs to happen locally, you can’t expect to send that data off to a data center 300 or 400 miles away and expect that yes/no answer to be validated in such a short space of time. That’s just one example and there are many more throughout the smart building,” said panelist Jon Abbot, Technologies Director at Vertiv.

“5G technology will allow us to get rid of all the LAN cabling that we use today, we will also reduce dependency on WiFi, which makes building networks more secure, and telephony will reduce too, so it’s a big wrap around. Then, of course, you can leave the office, be handed over to the conventional network and continue that conversation. It is a very very different environment to the one we see today,” Abbot continued.

“For me, 5G is the plumbing system for the flow of data,” said Ty Schmitt, Dell VP. “The edge connects to these pipes and there is a push-pull effect where data can enable applications, accumulate to garner insight. Whether monitoring people or things the data swings back around to increase efficiency and functionality of the application, whatever it may be. The edge is not defining the usage models. The usage models are defining the edge,” he added.

The third panelist at the TIA session, Harry Smeenk, VP at the TIA, explains that these pipes described by Schmitt cost money. “It’s front-haul and it’s back-haul and it costs real money. The distance that data is sent makes a difference in terms of latency but also cost. So, by moving data centers closer to the end user you reduce the latency issue but also facilitate greater applications by reducing the cost of infrastructure.”

“I see edge data centers inside smart buildings. They are an integral part of how a smart building will perform. If you have a smart building with thousands of sensors and devices, you need a network to support that. In order to get all that data back and forth, we need fine-tuning capability and speed,” Smeenk continued.

The TIA is trying to position itself at the center of the smart building sector, creating crucial connectivity standards for buildings because they are now a connected entities, not just physical structures. The smart building is both the edge within a city-wide network and the center of a building-wide network. It is a place for people and technology, for health and productivity, for security and accessibility. Tomorrow, building functions will run on data, so the data infrastructure, be it internal or external networks, cloud or edge data centers, is fundamental to the current evolution of the building.

“The smart building is like an aggregation point for the orchestration of the building as an ecosystem, not only for the workforce but for the building itself – the building is a living breathing thing,” said panelist Jon Abbot, Technologies Director at Vertiv. “This is a massive sea change. Creating a genuinely new workplace environment.”