opinion


Paving the Smart Buildings way

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece, Synchronoss CEO Glenn Lurie explores the challenges and opportunities provided by the smart buildings opportunity.

As the COVID-19 storm begins to wane and leaders start to ease lockdowns, the entire world faces many unknowns. How much longer the virus will be around? Will there will be a return to lockdown status? What is best way to protect individuals and communities from infection?

One thing we do know is that we will not be returning to our pre-pandemic lives any time soon. And although nobody knows exactly what this “new normal” will look like, we already see changing attitudes towards health, wellness and safety. This will become especially pronounced as countries make efforts to repair their economies and businesses seek to get people physically back into workplaces and other indoor spaces.

With a COVID-19 vaccine still a distant reality, employees need some form of reassurance that their physical health is protected by their employers. Masks, gloves and body temperature checks simply won’t be enough to appease fears. If there was ever a time to turn to technology for help, now is it.

Realizing building wellness

For some time, smart city and smart building technology has gained momentum based in part on a growing global emphasis to reduce energy consumption. Smart building technology helps building and facilities managers better manage critical building applications such as lighting, air temperature and ventilation, and it provides a means to reduce the complexity associated with building management by giving greater visibility into how formerly dumb buildings behave. Altogether, technology has provided tools to reduce energy use, minimize operational risks and increase profitability.

In a post-COVID-19 world, smart building technology will have an even bigger role as we look to it to keep buildings “healthy” and those who enter indoor spaces confident that they are protected from pathogens.

Because large enterprises with multiple office locations and hundreds or thousands of employees simply can’t manually monitor each worker, the focus must turn to building systems. By using an array of smart technology sensors to keep a watch on factors such as space utilization, water and air quality, or even virus detection in ventilation systems, enterprises will be better equipped to transform their buildings into healthier venues for all who walk through the doors.

The challenge is managing multiple unconnected sensors. These often are manufactured by a myriad of vendors, which makes the job of monitoring them by facilities and building managers extremely difficult. Why? Existing building applications often exist in siloes. Collecting, storing and analyzing huge amounts of sensor data from different sources is an overwhelming job for those who must make decisions to maximize building wellness. The truth is that true building wellness will only truly be achieved if enterprises have all the right tools—from appropriate sensor technology to a holistic, single-pane-of-glass smart buildings platform that gives decision makers a single source of information to make sense of all the data.

It is only a matter of time before we see the emergence of “building wellness” scores to certify that physical locations meet certain requirements that support the health of individuals who walk through their doors. Similar to current cleanliness and popularity ratings already in place for restaurants and hotels, building health certifications will publicly declare that a business has taken action to protect human health. Technology will make meeting new certification standards possible.

Creating ecosystems and partnerships

Because choosing the right well-building tools for a company or building is daunting, operators worldwide have an opportunity to help enterprises around the world navigate these new building wellness requirements and to help proliferate the adoption of smart building technology.

One reason is that operators are well-positioned to orchestrate the collaboration of smart building technology vendors and ecosystem coalitions, such as the AT&T Smart Cities Alliance. Operators who serve a significant number of enterprise customers with physical locations have the ability to not only help promote building wellness, but also to facilitate the tools and solutions enterprises use to better guarantee employee health and safety.

Another reason enterprises will look to operators for guidance stems from the massive respect operators have earned as a pandemic swept the world. Operators clearly rose to the occasion to provide critical communication services that have kept consumers connected and economies running in a time of need. This well-earned credibility and trusted role will be applied to enabling smart building solutions that care for employees.

Economic recovery and a return to what we consider a normal pace of life relies on being able to assure the health of workers around the world. For enterprises, this a huge commitment and a huge responsibility. As we move into the next phase of this pandemic, we’ll see just how valuable operators can be in leading enterprises the world over toward smart healthy buildings.

 

Glenn Lurie serves as Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors of Synchronoss Technologies. Glenn joined the Synchronoss team in November, 2017 with nearly 30 years’ experience in the telecommunications and wireless industries. Prior to joining Synchronoss, Glenn was President and Chief Executive Officer of AT&T’s Mobility and Consumer Operations where he successfully grew the nation’s leading wireless and consumer business. During this time Glenn managed sales and distribution, customer care, operations, home entertainment and video services. Glenn and his team were also responsible for the integration of AT&T’s Direct TV and the company’s digital business.

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