Tech Insights

Smart buildings and the future of automation

HPE Edge Computing Smart buildings blog.pngAfter twenty years of driving the same car, I recently found myself in a strange new world. My fresh from the factory, 2022 car is equipped with a myriad of sensors, all providing a constant flow of information. At first, the experience was daunting, But after I settled in, I became appreciative of the newfound information. Built-in sensors give me vital situational awareness such as blind spot detection, lane departure lights, adaptive headlights, and of course, a backup camera. 

We are now seeing a similar benefit to today’s modern buildings – thanks to situational awareness of IoT devices. HPE’s weekly newsletter, enterprise.nxt, explores this topic in the article, Hyper-aware smart buildings: The future of automation. The author, Michael Tennefoss, VP of IoT and strategic partnerships at Aruba (an HPE company), explains how hyper-aware smart buildings are connecting, protecting, and analyzing the interactions of machines and people.

Joining edge data and context

For many decades, building automation and IT have tried to connect facilities that interact with infrastructure throughout the building. And although connectivity is essential for sharing data, it’s only the beginning. The edge connected networks can also generate contextual information, which can deliver the safety, efficiency, productivity, and profitability derived from situational awareness.

According to Tennefoss, IoT devices are the eyes and ears of a building, and IT systems provide the contextual information needed to make sense of the data. Combining edge IoT systems and network-generated context allows buildings to become hyper aware, and this data can be shared across applications and groups within the organization.

Hyper-aware buildings on the rise, thanks to data availability and sharing

Fun fact: The innovations that enable buildings to become situationally aware didn't come from smart building control vendors; they came from the IT industry. That’s because enterprise IT buyers prioritize edge cybersecurity, open data exchange, application awareness, and specialized location services.

“Advanced IT cybersecurity systems must identify every user and device before granting permission to access the edge network,” explains Tennefoss. “This identity data can be shared with other authorized applications, enabling a rich suite of services based on who—or what—is on the edge network, how network resources are being used, and the real-time security posture of network users.”

While large building automation companies may still use vendor lock-in based on proprietary solutions, newer vendors are producing open, standards-based sensors and actuators. These solutions result in open, interoperable building controls and systems. A building becomes hyper aware when identity, application, security, and location data from edge IT networks are combined with open sensor and actuator data.

“The richer the set of available edge data, the more readily new applications can be added by just repurposing existing data flows,” continues Tennefoss. “The infrastructure essentially becomes a future-proof platform on which new services can be built. The IT technology to accomplish this exists today, and the good news is that even legacy IoT devices can be tapped for data if the payloads can be interpreted.”

More sophisticated IT networks can interface with wireless edge IoT devices to control locks, lights, HVAC systems, elevators, and cameras. Some can even adjust temperature or turn on/off the lights based on occupancy, identify if someone is smoking or vaping in a restricted area, or even detect water leakage. Sensors can be deployed almost anywhere within a facility using existing IT infrastructure and without installing any new cabling. Wi-Fi access points serve as secure edge gateways.

How to get started

Keep in mind that an enterprise can’t achieve hyper awareness for every building project overnight. It’s a journey with numerous steps along the way.

  • Identify the strategic goals of your organization and ensure that your smart building objectives align.

Goals will vary by organization and department, so it’s important to clarify the gains expected.

  • Set key milestones; don’t be drawn into implementing something just because it’s a new technology.

Instead, ensure it aligns with your business objectives. Also, don’t invest in something until you understand all the steps, timing, and stakeholder support you need for success.

  • Consider data availability, and more importantly, what you want out of it.

Ensure that data can be shared and analyzed to support this decision. For example, how quickly do you need results from data? Is real-time decision-making required (i.e., security or fire)? Do you need to make decisions on site?  Locating compute at the edge speeds system response times, whereas cloud services are massively scalable. Make sure you think through this step to determine which architecture works best for you.

Future-proof your smart building

Key benefits of hyper-aware smart buildings include enhancing human productivity, energy reduction, health compliance, and physical safety. Hyper-aware smart buildings provide a future-proof foundation with an almost limitless set of services. And best of all, you can accomplish this transformation without ripping and replacing infrastructure.

To learn more about edge computing, read the report: The Doppler, Your Edge. Your Future. Where insight meets opportunity. Download the report and jump to page 53 to read the full article on hyper-aware smart buildings.


Hewlett Packard Enterprise


About the Author


Al Madden is involved in all things Edge. With degrees in chemistry and marketing, he is committed to finding the best ways to put technology to work. Whether in environmental monitoring, power distribution, semiconductors, or IT, Al now focuses mostly on making tech consumable, understandable, and usable through marketing and content strategy.

HPE Webinars
Find out about the latest live broadcasts and on-demand webinars
Read more
Online Expert Days
Visit this forum and get the schedules for online Expert Days where you can talk to HPE product experts, R&D and support team members and get answers...
Read more
View all