Developers have been talking about "smart buildings" or "buildings of the future" for more than two decades. Today, smart buildings are a reality. Essentially, a smart building leverages Internet technology to access information and control multiple building subsystems anywhere and anytime. From security to heating and cooling, Web-enabled integrated systems can be accessed to control or monitor important systems or events from any PC.
The term "Web-enabled" means utilizing browser-based software to access building systems and data from virtually any PC with Internet access. To determine which Web-enabled technology will give the most value, consider the following information:
A fully browser-based system. In order for building owners and managers to securely access security and facilities systems with immediacy, they need a solution that is 100-percent browser-based. This kind of solution will allow integrated access to systems that include: closed-circuit TV, access control, elevator control, lighting and energy management, HVAC and facility management applications. A 100-percent browser-based system is one that will also allow remote access via the Internet, and is therefore one that will ultimately be the most flexible and scalable to building owners' and managers' needs.
Open systems.Web-based building automation or security systems must be designed with an open architecture, which allows the software to be integrated into many different or proprietary building subsystems.
Ease of use. Today, the proliferation of the Internet has led to a near universal acceptance of and familiarity with the graphical user interface (GUI). Choosing a Web-enabled system that utilizes a point-and-click interface will mean vastly reduced training time-weeks can turn into mere minutes-while ensuring that users are more competent and better able to navigate the system.
Flexibility. Again, one of the problems in employing an integrated security or facilities-management solution has been the complexity of the most highly regarded systems. A truly Web-based solution allows the building owner to utilize the GUI to change the system as tenants' needs change. With a quick and clear interface, users can drag and drop new devices to create a unique, personalized and easily altered protocol. This can include clearly outlined steps for the system to execute in the event of an emergency. This kind of automation virtually eliminates human error when those highly charged situations arise.
Scalability. One of the most attractive benefits of a browser-based system is the ability to monitor and manage multiple sites, and to add new properties quickly and easily. The advent of broadband connectivity allows building managers and owners to create a "virtual information umbrella" over their property holdings that can be altered as quickly as their portfolio changes.