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Last edited 06 Jul 2021
Internet of things in commercial buildings
While there is a great deal of interest in convergence and in the potential for the Internet of Things (IoT) in commercial buildings, there is still limited understanding of just how many devices are being connected, and many published numbers include consumer devices, residential products, utility metering, asset tracking in the supply chain and industrial product. BSRIA believe there is a need for reliable numbers for connected devices in commercial buildings, as the majority of connected devices in 2020 are audio streaming, data transfer devices (such as fitness trackers and keyboards), home security, automation and utility metering.
BSRIA has been tracking convergence in commercial buildings since 2005, and the uptake has been slow, but the organisation expects to see an increase in the number of connected devices from 2025 to 2030 due to the latest developments in both wired and wireless technologies. One example is the Wi-Fi access points (Wi-Fi 6, 802.11ax) which can handle multiple devices using several protocols such as Bluetooth and Zigbee.
A BSRIA study uses the IT/Ethernet network as the basis for estimating the number of connected devices in commercial buildings. Connected devices use an average of 40 - 50 metres of structured cable per device, except for some products that use one connection point for several devices. Daisy chaining where multiple devices are wired together in sequence or in a ring is mainly used for access control products such as lock actuators, readers and keypads and thermostats, sensors and Power over Ethernet (PoE) lights.
There were an estimated 154 million Ethernet connections/ports worldwide in 2019. The majority of these support data (and voice), but a significant number are connected to wireless access points (WAPs) and Distributed Building Services (DBS). The key products included under Distributed Building Services are surveillance cameras, audio/video, access controls and building automation controllers.
 Increase in wireless technology
The typical applications for short range, low power technologies are sensors and lighting. BSRIA estimates the number of connected (wireless) devices in commercial buildings worldwide in 2019 was between 150 - 200 million.
The uptake of low-power wide-area (LPWAN) technologies such as Lorawan, Sigfox and NB-IoT is still very limited in commercial buildings. They are used mainly for smart metering, tracking the supply chain, monitoring of soil and livestock, smart parking and so on.
 Benefits of connectivity
Connectivity is about connecting devices, collecting data and undertaking analytics and diagnostics that will enable end users and building operators to manage and operate their buildings efficiently. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the focus on safety and trust, which potentially includes monitoring of use and social distancing, access to buildings and increasing use of remote monitoring.
BSRIA expects that the COVID-19 pandemic will negatively impact 2020 sales network infrastructure (structured cabling) and connectable devices due to shut-downs, supply chain interruptions and a reduction in new construction, but in the medium term, the penetration of connected devices could be boosted due to the need for remote monitoring and safety issues.
This article was originally published as 'Uptake of Convergence: IoT in Commercial buildings', on the BSRIA website. It was released in June 2020.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- BSRIA articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- BSRIA study shows uptake of convergence and IoT in commercial_buildings
- Building Automation and Control System BACS.
- Digital information.
- Digital technology.
- In-building wireless.
- Internet of things IoT.
- Internet of things market.
- Power over ethernet.
- Smart buildings.
- Smart technology.
- The rise of 5G in buildings.
- The smart buildings market.
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