Smart buildings are boosting comfort, reducing energy usage and saving money

(Editor’s note: contributed blogs like this are part of’s annual sponsorship program. Find out more here This blog was authored by Mark Collins, vice president of the partner organization at Cisco Canada.)

Mark Collins, vice president of Cisco Canada’s partner organization

Buildings are no longer just purpose-built physical structures. A combination of hardware and software platforms is making them more intelligent, aware and better able to adapt and respond over time to the specific needs of their owners and tenants.

Facilities managers are combining Internet of Things (IoT) technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and sensors with secure Power over Ethernet (PoE) systems to give them better control over their buildings, improving the experience for users and reducing energy costs through more efficient power usage. In the past, buildings used siloed systems and networks for different functions. For example, lighting would be controlled in one system, and heating in another. In a modern smart building there are no silos. Everything runs over a Ethernet Converged Network (4th Utility) and can be viewed and controlled through a single building management system, giving facilities managers a single, unified view of their buildings and centralized control. 

For users, smart buildings offer more comfort, allowing them to personalize their own experiences. And they’re becoming more intelligent as AI and machine learning allow them to identify preferences and trends over time.

For example, a management system in a smart building could identify a user based on their security card as they enter an office, automatically set the temperature and dim or brighten the office lighting, based on that user’s past settings, creating an ideal, personalized work environment. Or an AI solution could identify a piece of building machinery that is at risk of failure, by identifying an anomalous reading and sending an alert to the facility management team, allowing them to take preventative action. 

With smart solutions boosting comfort, driving productivity, reducing energy costs and saving money, it’s no surprise the market is growing rapidly. According to research from global market research firm Stratistics MRC, the global smart buildings market will reach US$43.96 billion by 2022, up from just US$6.46 billion in 2015. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 31.5 per cent. This growth presents exciting business opportunities for partners and resellers. 

In Canada, Cisco and our partners have a wide range of customers who have made the move to smart buildings. One example is Emera Power, a geographically diverse energy and services company based in Halifax, N.S. Emery’s Halifax campus, Emera Place, was recently recognized by Cisco as Canada’s smartest building. Emera Place boasts the largest Cisco-enabled PoE lighting deployment in North America and smart solutions including the heating, ventilation and cooling system, access control, cameras and white noise generators. The HQ Facility is built to meet the world’s leading green building standards and has a rooftop solar array connected to a Tesla battery solution for electric vehicles.

Another example is Oxford Properties Group, the Toronto-based real estate investment arm of OMERS, one of Canada’s largest pension plans. Oxford, with help from partners like Rogers and RYCOM, is implementing Cisco smart building solutions across its property portfolio to boost operational efficiencies. Cisco’s technology platforms allow Oxford to gather information on how space is being used, how energy is being consumed and when maintenance on important pieces of machinery should be performed to avoid downtime. This information allows Oxford to make more informed decisions about its properties, improving tenant comfort and building operations.

Naturally our own office in Toronto at RBC WaterPark Place serves as a leading example of what smart buildings can achieve. We worked closely with partners such as Philips on the lighting system and FlexITy Solutions on the overall implementation. Heating and air conditioning, lighting, security and elevators can all be viewed and managed in real time over a single network. Employees can control thermostats in their work areas from their smartphones leading to advanced energy savings and an improved occupant experience. And systems in unoccupied areas are dialed down automatically during and after business hours to save energy.

Smart building technology is no longer a futuristic vision. It’s being used today in buildings across the globe, improving tenant comfort, saving energy and increasing operational efficiency. You can learn more about the benefits of smart building solutions here.

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