As we end 2016 and look forward into the New Year, the big question for many companies in the industry in North America is, “Where will the opportunities be for cabling, electrical contractors, and electricians in the coming years?” In the United States, will 2017 mark the year that things pick up? Both new and existing commercial buildings will require a lot of adding and retrofitting existing power and network infrastructures.

The largest single opportunity for contractors

Certain things are a given in the market segment. Those certainties play a definite role in the determining of where the future business opportunities lie and where business strategies should aim for.

The certainties in the United States market are:

  • More people are switching to new edge technology: smartphones and tablets. The key focus is to have adequate network infrastructure to support all of these new devices, and their applications, at work as well as places of sports and entertainment (this means a huge build-out of infrastructure).
  • More than 97 percent of commercial space needs to improve their available intelligent amenities (power and broadband connectivity infrastructure) to support mission critical applications, which are on the rise (this means more build-out).
  • The demand for faster speeds to personal and corporate edge technology is growing.
  • The growth of wireless devices is projected to go from 10 billion devices to as many as 75 billion, depending on whose study you believe, by the year 2020.

With more people switching over to new edge technology, the demands for technology support on current buildings have changed. Every building’s facilities manager needs to review and redefine their requirements for redundant intelligent amenities (power and network infrastructures).

Redundancy to support mission critical applications is a critical issue. It is a must-have and not just a “hoped-for” building amenity in most, if not all, markets. More owners and property managers need to understand this, if they want to attract and maintain top-rate corporate tenants in the coming years.

I have pointed that out in my book, "Location Location Connectivity," which discusses next-generation real estate, including intelligent business campuses (IBCs), and intelligent retail/entertainment/convention center complexes. I recommend reading it going into the new year to understand the new multidisciplinary approach to real estate, which includes the convergence of real estate, infrastructure, technology, and their combined impact on regional economic development and regional sustainability. Understanding this new paradigm shift, will help you identify where to pursue the new opportunities, in building out infrastructure needed for competing in the 21st century marketplace.

I am currently working on a detailed whitepaper on this issue to shed more light on the need for commercial buildings’ infrastructures to support mission critical applications. A whitepaper is needed to improve and expand many current facility managers’ and contractors’ scope of understanding. As I have told audiences at various national building conferences, “You cannot solve 21st century problems with 20th century solutions.”

Power versus information throughput

As stated in last month’s column, we need to start developing and applying better metrics that measure actual information throughput to better manage commercial buildings and data centers as all facets of business and society depend more on the transport and availability of information.

Typical metrics used today focus on one facet of total energy management. We need to go beyond these industry-accepted practices and get to new metrics that measure information throughput and how it relates to power consumption.

The need for redundancy equals new opportunities

More corporate applications are becoming mission critical. That means there cannot be any single point of failure within any information network. When you look at the vast majority of buildings, most are using a single network route to the central office for all their traffic. That is not acceptable for mission critical applications, which are growing from 33 percent of all corporate applications to 50 percent of all corporate applications.

Most buildings are also connected to the power grid with one connection for all of the power coming into the building. That is unacceptable in a mission-critical world where you should be getting power from at least two diverse sources and not both off of the same grid source. More buildings need to have redundant sources for power and network connectivity.

With new mission-critical applications being employed by more and more corporations, property owners need to ensure they are offering buildings with redundancy in both the supporting power and network infrastructures.

Just adding the lines and network diversity to each building that needs it would be a great infrastructure project where we could get many electricians working. We don’t need “shovel-ready” projects. We need projects that can employ so many skilled people who are out of work or underemployed.

Editor’s Note: Carlini will be addressing the International Drone Expo in Los Angeles, CA (in December) on Intelligent Infrastructure & Drones.