Why edge-based solutions are key to smart buildings

Why edge-based solutions are key to smart buildings
There is a fair element of subjectivity involved when deciding ideal conditions to provide occupants of a building. This is because what may be considered perfect by one person wouldn’t be so to another. Providing as much customization as possible could be a way around this problem. And for this to happen, technology on the edge is a potential solution.

In a recent blog post, Memoori pointed this out as they noted that creating “healthy, safe and productive environments” is not as straightforward as it sounds.

“One person’s productive environment is another’s distracting space, one person’s sleep is affected more by bright light than the next, some people feel secure in a locked room while others feel safer out in the open,” Memoori said. “Each person is different, even when it comes to these basic aspects of the urban environment, so as smart technology emerges it must give control, directly or indirectly to the user. And that requires these smart systems to move intelligence to the Edge.”

An increasingly popular concept in this regard is the “human-centric Internet of Things (IoT)” that has changed the way building management should be viewed. This calls for a decentralized system with edge-based analytic processors as opposed to them running on the cloud or a centralized server. The major advantage of this is the increased level of control that building managers would be able to have in ensuring that the users are receiving what they prefer.

In its recent report, Memoori estimates that this "edge" or "fog" computing provides real-time intelligence and simultaneously reduces the communications traffic load. As technology evolves, we expect the gateways near to the edge of the network to form an increasingly important bridge between edge devices and higher-level networks, making behavioral decisions, ensuring network security and helping to streamline data flows.

"Edge devices, with their own intelligence, have less need to send information back to a central server because they can interpret the desires of the user and respond themselves,” the research firm noted. “Just as the traditional user controlled a thermostat to set the ideal temperature, the smart HVAC system will learn the behaviors of its users and sense their comfort level in order to set the ideal temperature — for productivity, comfort or whatever the objective of the space may be.”

However, there are some aspects of edge-based technology that requires caution. As convenient as these decentralized solutions are, they also present opportunities for hackers to access networks. As we have seen in recent years, such intrusions could lead to disastrous results. The cyberattack of October 2016 where hackers made use of IoT-enabled surveillance systems and printers is a clear example of how it could happen and what should be done to prevent it.

The unfortunate part here is the lack of understanding on part of building managers when it comes to securing edge-based appliances. After all, which hacker is interested to get information out of an HVAC system? What they don’t realize is that the HVAC connected to a network is no longer just a simple device sitting on the wall. It is a potential entry point to a whole lot of sensitive data.

In short, according to Memoori, two of the most important factors in the development of the IoT in smart buildings are; how systems can better respond and interact with the user, and how we can ensure that connected devices do not make systems more vulnerable.

“By moving more intelligence to the edge, those access points can better defend themselves from cyberattack while also better serving the user’s needs,” the firm concluded. “For these reasons, the ‘edge-ification’ of the IoT seems just as inevitable as the rocky road of cyberattacks we will experience trying to secure it.”
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