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A day in the life of an intelligent building.

Justin Morgan, president of Morgan Consulting, Inc., is ready to call it a day. As he closes the door of his luxurious downtown off ice space, personnel sensors mounted just inside his off ice door and in the hallway detect his presence and send messages over the building information transportation system to various building information subsystems. They respond instantly:

inside Morgan Consulting's office space, the helper system in Morgan's off ice makes a mental note of the time of Justin's departure. The information is sent to the attendance system for storage. At the same time, the helper system orders a sensory scan of the office. It finds no other personnel present.

Since Justin's departure falls into a time period normally considered an "off ice unoccupied" time, his helper system sends a request to the building-wide helper system. It asks the building-wide helper to send a message if Justin leaves the building. This message, or the failure of Justin to return to the office space in 15 minutes, will generate a message from Justin's helper to the comfort and lighting control systems, to put these systems into their unoccupied state.

Meanwhile, the building-wide helper is setting other events in motion. Having sensed Justin's presence in the hallway, the helper checked its database. There is no need to alert security. Justin's presence is a normal occurrence in building off-hours. A message is sent by the building-wide helper to the building transportation system. A vertical transportation unit is dispatched to Justin's floor

Justin arrives at the transportation area, to be greeted by the arrival of a unit. The doors open, and Justin enters. He presses a button for his floor request and also presses the ground transportation request button. A biometric scan of his finger tip identifies Justin to the transportation management system and the ground transportation storage system. His floor selection is a valid request, so the vertical building transportation unit speeds off. Meanwhile, the ground transportation storage system "picks" Justin's Excel 7000 unit from the garage inventory and sends it off to the transportation pad.

Justin arrives at the ground-level transportation pad to find his Excel 7000 waiting. He drives off into the night, knowing that all environmental systems will shut down automatically and that the offices are safe and secure.

Science fiction? Or a glimpse into the future? No one really knows. All we can say at this point is that Justin Morgan's intelligent building will, in all likelihood, be technologically possible and could become economically feasible sooner than many might think.

Of course, we all have visions of how tomorrow's intelligent building will function. But we are a long way from agreeing upon what constitutes intelligence in today's building. So it is no surprise that disagreement reigns in any discussion of the future.

In fact, for each of the three broad approaches currently receiving the most attention-shared telecommunications and data services, information system integration, and the evolution of facilities management systems-scores of variations are offered.

Whose vision is correct?

Ironically the group that will play the largest role in determining the shape of tomorrow's intelligent building is the one whose opinion is not often found in print: the Justin Morgans of the world who will ultimately be living and working in the environments created for them.

Naturally, direct participants in the supply chain to the building marketplace will exert considerable influence. The collective decisions of system suppliers, building designers, and contractors will continue to be important.

But supply is only half the equation. The intelligent buildings that thrive will be those that most closely and completely address the needs and desires of the occupants. It will be their collective opinion about which packages of functional benefits or products best help them meet their personal goals and their perceptions of the financial worth of these products that will ultimately shape tomorrow's intelligent building.

It is really unnecessary to debate the relative merits of various technological means of delivering functional benefits in tomorrow's intelligent building. It is irrelevant to argue about whether or not the building design and construction process itself as it currently exists will allow the integration of this technology. And it is short-sighted to focus only on today's vendors, products, technology, and buildings or the construction process as it currently exists.

The buyers of tomorrow will elicit changes in all these areas, changes that will pave the way for the delivery of just the right products, at just the right price. This will be as true tomorrow as it has been in the past. It would therefore behoove us all to focus on these people.

The buyer of the future

Is Justin Morgan going to want all the automation offered to him earlier? Will he appreciate an environment in which increasingly intelligent computer systems respond invisibly to his every move, acting on data supplied by seemingly ever-present sensors? Will he want his car to be automatically guided out of its underground parking space? And if so, how much will he be willing to pay for it.?

These specific questions can not be answered with 100-percent accuracy today. But we can make some broad assumptions about the future of our society and those who will prosper in it. For instance:

White-collar, service businesses will continue to flourish, with growing emphasis on improved productivity.

* We will witness the maturation of a world economy fueled by world-class products and services.

* The goal of enhancing output while maintaining or reducing the resources used will become even more critical to the health of our economy.

Naturally, one could fill, volumes with such predictions about general trends and feel fairly certain of their accuracy. But let us stop and consider the impact these few thoughts could have on tomorrow's intelligent building:

In a white-collar world vitally concerned with productivity, people will probably want to automate as many routine and repetitive transactions as possible. So the intelligent building of the future could very likely make everything from security checks to comfort control entirely automatic.

In a world economy, we will need work environments that accommodate the earth's time zones and cultural differences, permitting full and unfettered communication any time of the day or night. This suggests that tomorrow's building will have to extend its capabilities to occupants 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, both on-site and from remote locations.

* In an environment that rewards improving the ratio of output achieved to resources used, people will probably welcome systems that streamline the handling of both routine and non-routine transactions that do not relate to their higher level goals. As a result, intelligent buildings will most likely make increasing use of artificial intelligence to help their occupants achieve speedy resolution of non-routine situations.

Beware of oversimplification

These observations, of course, are gross oversimplifications. There may be those who question the probability of such changes occurring; they are, after all, different form today's norm. But we need only look to the recent past to see a substantially different state of affairs in a backward direction. Why would it be unlikely that that should be substantially different when looking forward in time?

Consider, for example, the history of HVAC systems in commercial and public buildings. Not so very long ago, these systems were fairly inflexible. The occupants had little control over their heating, ventilating, and air conditioning services during normal business hours and even less during non-conventional working hours. Not that it mattered. A 9-to-5 world was pretty much the rule.

Not so very long ago, HVAC systems consumed energy with impunity. Building owners and managers had no means of evaluating consumption, other than comparing invoices from their local utilities. Not that it mattered. In those days, the energy was both plentiful and cheap.

Not so very long ago, access control and security were handled via locks, keys, and onsite security personnel. Strangers demanding access to a building were processed like many other non-routine transactions-manually, by asking for identification, requiring sign-in, and perhaps confirming their business via a quick call to those they were visiting. Not that it mattered. People used to stay in one job year after year Strangers and visitors were the exception, and in most building environments, presented themselves in relatively short and predictable time spans-specifically, during the 9-to-5 workday.

And so on: Similar forces shaped the way we handled everything from lighting control to fire management. But all that has changed. Circumstances change, resulting in systems' adaptation to the new circumstances. Unconventional business hours, skyrocketing energy costs, an increasingly mobile work force, and mixed-use structures have all contributed to creating a far different off ice environment.

Today, sophisticated energy, security, lighting, and fire management systems have become quite common. Indeed, the building without such systems may be well on the way to extinction.

It is clear that, whatever shape tomorrow's intelligent building may take, it will be the result of an elaborate network of forces with one thing in common-the nature of the building's owners and occupants.

What lies ahead?

Naturally, those suppliers that prosper in tomorrow's building marketplace will be those that listen carefully and successfully anticipate the proper timing and pricing of products that meet owner and occupant needs. A wait-and-see attitude is not very practical in this rapidly evolving market.

It seems likely that the intelligent building of the future will feature products that streamline the processing of both routine and exceptional transactions. Its systems will feature enhanced communications between the user and the computer, as well as among computers themselves.

Consider in today's market, for instance, the growing use of Touch-Tone telephones for extending communications between facilities management system and building occupants. It is already possible for an occupant to exercise some control over the systems in a building environment by picking up the phone and punching in a series of numbers-numbers which are sent to the facility's system as a control request. And voice recognition technology is emerging to make this interaction even simpler and more natural."

We will most likely see a steady growth in the application of artificial intelligence and expert systems to help computers "think through" the handling of exceptions, thereby minimizing the need for input from experienced operators.

Advances in sensor technology, biometrics, and overall communications capabilities will also shape our buildings' futures. We may soon be able to undergo a security check simply by talking to a computer capable of analyzing our speech patterns-and expect a chain of computer-to-computer communications to ensue.

How much of this will become reality? How soon? That will depend upon a broad range of contributing factors. And these factors will continue to change rapidly.

As a society, we once resisted depersonalization in our everyday lives. Many of us preferred standing in line at the bank, for instance, to managing our finances via automatic tellers. The growth in electronic funds transfer networks and terminals demonstrates that our priorities have shifted enough to accommodate this degree of depersonalization.

Similarly, conventional wisdom says that we would balk at talking to computers and at listening to their responses, that we would view a biometric scanning system capable of permitting or denying access to a building without any need for human interventions as "Big Brotherish."

Yet social and political forces are changing even these attitudes. The concept of a biometric scanner, for instance, is likely to gain increasing acceptance if for no other reason than the rise in crime and terrorism worldwide.

Predicting a day in the life

That is as far as I will go in predicting which technological candidates will win out in the race to control tomorrow's intelligent building.

For those who demand certainty before making decisions, the only solution is to wait until tomorrow comes.

For those of us who can not afford to do so, the only alternative is to go out into the marketplace to talk with or, more accurately, to listen to tomorrow's buyers as they discuss their own needs and desires.

Editor's note: This article is excerpted from A Day In the Life of Tomorrow's intelligent Building by Robert Heller and is used with permission.

Robert J. Heller is the energy services manager for Johnson Controls, Inc., in Milwaukee. He is responsible for implementing energy services, such as specialized energy engineering, financial management, installation, training, supervision, equipment maintenance, monitoring, and energy efficiency reporting. His duties also involve the managing and integrating of these professional services.

Mr. Heller previously worked for United Technologies Communications. He holds a B.S. degree in business administration specializing in finance and an M.B.A. degree from Marquette University specializing in marketing.
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Author:Heller, Robert J.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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