Microsoft, PCL Construction to develop cloud-based smart building solution
- Microsoft and Canada-based PCL Construction announced plans to develop a smart building solution using Microsoft’s Azure cloud services and internet of things (IoT) technology platform and artificial intelligence.
- The technology will track workers, inventory and environmental conditions during construction to help increase jobsite efficiency and improve safety, according to a statement from the companies. It will also monitor maintenance and utility costs as well as occupants’ energy usage to help optimize resources and create more comfortable living and working environments, the companies said.
- PCL chief information officer Mark Bryant told the Journal of Commerce that by leveraging Microsoft’s cloud capabilities, they’ll be able to create a “software platform for the building itself.” Microsoft and PCL claim that their smart building technology will offer cost savings by allowing owners to automate building features like lighting, heating and cooling, room utilization and more. According to the announcement, the platform will be able to intelligently learn from data collected in a building to automatically turn off heating or cooling in an unoccupied room, for example.
The Internet of Things is the exchange of data between everyday objects that are embedded with computing devices. Products like smart thermostats or drones offer their own analytics and usage data, which a user can monitor from the device or a mobile app, but devices don't always communicate with each other.
A December report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that smart technology can reduce a commercial building’s energy usage by 18%. By bringing a cloud-based IoT solution to commercial building, however, PCL and Microsoft say they are packaging data from individual devices into a more centralized view of a building’s performance.
Several companies offer IoT platforms that make buildings smarter by organizing data into a cloud-based platform. Microsoft and PCL will compete with IBM’s Watson IoT, which uses sensors to collect data on building equipment, space utilization, energy expenditures and more. Honeywell Building Solutions offers a Vector Occupant app that connects building occupants to the smart network by providing them a direct line of communication to facility management. App users act as sensors themselves by providing real-time feedback on the comfort and performance of spaces in the building.
However, a February report from MRI Software suggests the commercial real estate industry is set in its ways and slow to adopt new technology. Out of the 219 professionals surveyed, 42% said they still rely on spreadsheets.
- Journal of Commerce PCL and Microsoft aim to give buildings a brain
Follow Kathleen Brown on Twitter