The evolution of the IP communications space has driven incredible innovation in the multimedia communications space, enhancing communications capabilities of businesses and consumers through traditional mechanisms (i.e., phones). Of course, it also has made possible a whole new era of communications capabilities that transcend voice-only and integrate voice, video, and text-based communications in a variety of configurations and applications – the products and solutions we’ve come to know as Unified Communications (News - Alert).
But, the same technologies that allow sales reps on the road to access their corporate PBXs to make and receive calls, and allows contact centers to hire at-home agents, and allows service providers to integrate services across multiple devices and access networks for users, can be extended into the underlying physical infrastructures the support day to day business operations.
Among the latest hot conversation topics – and the subject of a series of podcasts that can be found on the Smart Data Centers community – is the concept of Connected Buildings.
Connected buildings are a natural extension of unified communications, reflecting the new age of building systems that can now also be connected using converged IP networks, including lighting, security, HVAC, structural health monitoring, and energy management. These systems have traditionally been managed as disparate systems, each with its own management system.
Now, with the ability to connect these key systems and control them using central management systems, like Panduit’s Physical Infrastructure Manager software (Panduit just announced version 3.0 of its platform), enterprises can enjoy significant operational cost savings, while creating a more effective business environment, because these newly interconnected facility and network systems are operating on a single platform.
So, aside from the cost savings and management and operational benefits that connected building designed based on a unified physical infrastructure deliver, the question is, how does this design manifest itself in the facilities? In other words, how do connected buildings benefit the general employee base?
One example might be the integration of employee badge scanners to environmental systems. For instance, when the first employee comes into the office in the morning and scans his badge, lighting systems can be triggered in key areas of the facility, lighting the path to his desk or area and unlocking the necessary doors. Or an elevator can be called to the ground floor to automatically bring an executive to the top floor where his office is. Or, network access can automatically be triggered with the same card swipe, as can surveillance cameras, heat, and other systems that can be powered down to conserve energy during overnight hours.
Inter-system connectivity can also be leverage to create a safer work environment because emergency and back-up systems and protocols can automatically and immediately be triggered by certain events. For instance, if a fire alarm is set off, security cameras can start automatically, all exit doors can be unlocked, all critical network data can be backed up, and recorded announcements can be made automatically.
Furthermore, corporate green initiatives can be enhanced through environmental control automation. Lighting can be reduced during daylight hours or based on light sensors. Or, when utilities mandate reduced power consumption during peak periods, especially in the summer months, the systems can automatically adjust, ensuring critical infrastructure remains online, and ancillary system utilization can be reduced.
These are only a few of the ways connected buildings deliver operational efficiency defined by the UPI vision embraced by Panduit. By delivering data and information between various systems across a single, converged infrastructure, policies can be easily defined that support business needs, environmental initiatives, and employee and customer needs, turning the physical facility into a true asset. Connected buildings not only create operationally efficient businesses, but also have the ability to improve the workplace experience, which, as has been well documented, results increased productivity.
Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Erik Linask