Let’s face it, the term “smart” is getting worn out from overuse. Smart cars, smart grid, smart buildings and many more similar terms have diminished the meaning. In most cases, what it really means is bringing whatever it modifies up to modern standards of technology. And that makes more sense.
Smart buildings use technology to make them more secure (video surveillance, security systems, etc.), efficient (HVAC, electrical, lighting, environmental controls, etc.) and offer communications services (internet, Wi-Fi, etc.). The confusing aspect of this is what responsibilities belong to the building owner or manager what falls on the tenants.
One would assume that the building architects and engineers would plan for the building’s electrical, lighting, security and HVAC systems, including fire alarms. Tenants are expected to install their own security and IT systems, including local area networks and Wi-Fi.
But what about mobile/cellular service? Local building codes may require it so emergency responders can be certain they will have coverage in all those areas. It should probably be considered another essential service at the building level.
Most large buildings, especially those with heat-reflective glass, have problems with cellular coverage indoors where about 80% of all cell calls originate, not outdoors. Distributed antenna systems provide cell coverage indoors, and they are widely used in large public spaces such as sports facilities and convention centers. While tenants can provide mobile/cellular service in their spaces if cellular over Wi-Fi is inadequate, who is responsible for the public spaces?
Then there is the internet, an essential utility. Most companies depend on reliable high-speed internet services for their business. Most want more than one internet service provider for backup and additional capacity during high-usage times. Every tenant needs a secure room for its communications connections and hardware.
The hardware can vary. Some companies today have large data needs but rely on cloud computing services, so they need less hardware but more bandwidth. Some companies have small “data centers,” the term that now has replaced the computer equipment room, even if their data and computing needs are small.
Medium users of data would be those who deal with databases such as internet retailers, insurance companies or banks. Many have lots of employees to connect and need plenty of computing power and bandwidth.
Then you have power users. High-speed stock traders need connections to private fibers that offer low-latency communications to computers at stock exchanges. Companies doing computer graphics, animation and gaming are heavy users of computing power and data. A computer-animated movie can use the equivalent of a supercomputer, generates terabytes of data and requires connections capable of moving terabytes of data daily. Co-location companies that host internet servers for multiple clients are probably the biggest power users.
If the building is designed to be smart, it needs pathways to provide multiple fiber optic backbones with connections to every tenant. It should have convenient connections at many locations to simplify drops to the tenants and allow frequent moves, adds and changes. And it needs redundant service and at least two physically separate backbone pathways to each drop. Redundancy is wasted unless the services are routed far enough apart to ensure one survives when the other is damaged.
The building must also have an entrance facility that can accommodate large numbers of connections to fiber optic cables from service providers and to house the equipment they need on-site. That facility must be secure and hardened with special attention paid to possible disasters, such as fires, floods, storms, earthquakes, terrorism, etc.
Obviously, every tenant needs power. Those with a significant amount of tech hardware need more. Power needs to be clean and must have backup. Backups can include batteries, fuel cells and generators capable of supplying power for significant periods of time. Some tenants may even want their own dedicated backups, which would require additions to the physical plant.
An excellent example of a building planned to accommodate smart clients is 11 Town Square Place in Hoboken, N.J., across the Hudson River from Wall Street. The top and bottom floors offer a high standard of tech, and the middle floors were designed from the onset as data center floors. All the building services mentioned in here are provided to the “power” tenants. Not every building needs to offer the option of data center floors, but the services offered to the regular floors in this building are what most clients expect today.