FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

When is a Smart Building "Too Smart"?

"Smart buildings" -- buildings whose climate, lighting and security systems are managed by computer -- are nothing new. But they've received attention lately as building managers consider integrating their systems into service oriented architectures (SOAs), allowing data to be shared and ported to smaller devices within a building. But at what point does intelligence stop becoming the smart solution?

Research into intelligent buildings has found that often, building management metrics conflict. User comfort, for instance, is not compatible with energy savings if occupants continually turn up the heat and override efficiency settings. Or, if sensors fail, how will the building's systems respond? Will they attempt to compensate, or will the failure act as a "circuit breaker"?

Costs are also becoming a concern. Making a building "intelligent" has very clear up-front expenses as well as maintenance costs. Hardware and software also run the risk of obsolecense; if a sensor breaks and it's no longer being manufactured, will the entire system need replacing?

Building engineers are increasingly taking a more tactical approach to building intelligence, such as focusing on one specific metric (which, more and more, is security). "I honestly think the idea of having everything networked together misses the point," says Harvard architectural professor Michele Addington. "You can do a hell of a lot with a few discrete things. There's a concern that the technology is coming in before we have the sophistication to know how best to deploy it."

In other words, we run the risk of having our buildings outsmart us.

Source: Technology Research News