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  • Writer's pictureRealFacts Editorial Team

Smart Buildings Now, Autonomous Buildings Coming


Smart building

The landscape of building technology is undergoing a profound transformation, presenting a compelling investment opportunity for those poised to capitalize on the transition from smart to autonomous buildings. Richard Berger's recent insights highlight this shift, detailing how advancements in facilities management software and technology are heralding a new era in building automation. As we stand on the cusp of this technological revolution, investors have a unique chance to be at the forefront of a burgeoning market.


The Evolution of Building Technology


Brian Haines, Chief Strategy Officer at FM Systems, provides a roadmap for understanding this evolution. He explains that buildings have progressed from traditional structures to connected, then smart, and now towards autonomous entities. This progression is not merely technological but represents a fundamental change in how buildings interact with their environment and occupants.


Connected buildings have been the norm since 2020, equipped with sensors and meters that collect data and send it to the cloud. However, the usability of this data was limited due to the challenge of turning it into actionable insights. Enter smart buildings, which not only parse this data but integrate it to offer sophisticated insights. Despite this leap, it still largely falls on humans to act on these insights.


The imminent phase, autonomous buildings, takes a significant step further. These buildings will not just gather and analyze data but will act on it independently. Imagine buildings that adjust window shading based on the weather or issue work orders for maintenance automatically when a fault is detected. This self-sufficiency in building management is where the future lies, and it’s a future ripe with investment potential.


The Investor's Opportunity


As buildings transition through these phases, each stage lays the groundwork for the next. This predictable progression offers investors a roadmap to strategically position their portfolios. 


1. Retrofitting Existing Assets: Advances in battery, cloud storage, and Wi-Fi technology make retrofitting existing buildings with smart technology feasible and cost-effective. This retrofit market is already driving the widespread adoption of smart building solutions. Investors can target companies specializing in IoT devices, digital twins, sensors, and the necessary software that integrates these technologies. The demand for retrofitting services is poised to grow exponentially as more buildings seek to upgrade to smart and eventually autonomous capabilities.


2. New-Build Development: New developments have a distinct advantage in adopting autonomous building technologies from the ground up. These buildings can be designed to optimize the benefits of such technologies, addressing issues like bottlenecks, indoor air quality, and the placement of amenities based on data-driven insights. Investing in new developments or companies that specialize in designing and constructing these advanced buildings can yield substantial returns as the market for autonomous buildings expands.


3. Generative AI and Machine Learning: The rapid advancements in generative AI and machine learning are turbocharging the capabilities of smart building applications. These technologies are crucial for the transition to autonomous systems. Investors should look for opportunities in AI and ML startups or established firms focusing on enhancing building management systems. The integration of AI and ML can drastically reduce operational costs and increase efficiency, making buildings more attractive to owners and tenants alike.


4. Software and Platforms: The backbone of autonomous buildings is the software that enables data integration and actionability. Platforms that facilitate the manipulation of mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic systems autonomously are particularly valuable. Companies developing these platforms or those offering comprehensive facility management software stand to benefit greatly as the adoption of autonomous systems accelerates.


The Future Outlook


Haines predicts that while smart buildings will become the norm by the end of this decade, the adoption of autonomous building technology will truly accelerate in the early part of the next decade. This timeline provides a clear investment horizon. Early adopters and investors who position themselves now can ride the wave of growth as autonomous building technologies gain traction.


Moreover, as technology evolves, it will continuously generate new data on how people interact with buildings. This data will be invaluable for refining building designs and improving user experiences. Investors in analytics and data science companies specializing in this niche will find themselves at a significant advantage.

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