In a world where cars can drive themselves and identities can be verified with a retina scan, it seems almost inconceivable that people are still struggling to use their cell phones indoors – especially in light of the expanding global market for smart buildings, which is expected to reach more than $37 billion by 2023 per the Globe Newswire.
Ironically, new buildings continue to be plagued by poor signal propagation as a result of the very same features that brand them eco-friendly and attract potential occupants: low-emissivity (Low-E) glass, galvanized steel, metal roofs, and concrete walls are but a few common culprits. In the case of older properties whose designs simply didn’t take mobile coverage into consideration, building materials such as stone, concrete, and brick are notorious signal blockers, especially in densely populated urban areas.
Whether buildings are old or new, all were constructed using the ‘smart’ innovations of their time. But when considered against the context of today’s connected world – especially one in which smartphones are the foundation for a host of IoT services – it begs the question: are smart buildings really that smart?
Going green means enabling intelligent connections
Our expectations of modern buildings have changed drastically in recent years. No longer simply a space in which to live, work, learn, or visit, we are increasingly insisting on buildings that are sustainable in a manner that neutralizes or redresses carbon emissions and other environmental impacts. As a result, one of the goals of the World Green Building Council is that all buildings will have reached net-zero operating emissions by 2050.
Energy efficiency goes hand in hand with this. Reducing carbon emissions is not just good for the environment, but it’s also good for business. Building owners who make this a priority will attract tenants to their residential or commercial spaces who are both environmentally aware and want to be smart with their pocketbooks. In all likelihood, this cohort will also be digitally savvy – making building connectivity a must-have. In fact, the World Green Building Council lists “Consideration of the environment in design, construction, and operation” as a key ‘green’ building feature.
But if you consider how embedded smartphones have become in our daily lives, it seems fair to point out that the inability to connect indoors falls short of the consideration above, specifically as it relates to operability. Forget, for a moment, about your occupants’ ability to use their phones in their apartment or office space, how will you control a smart building’s automated heating, lighting, or security systems – and reap the operational benefits – if you can’t connect to your smartphone indoors?
Cel-Fi: A smart solution for smart buildings
Cellular communication is now dubbed the fourth utility, and considered the most important among the next generation. As connectivity requirements continue to increase due to the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the global economy in general, cellular is finally taking center stage. According to Ericsson, by 2024 there will be 4.1 billion cellular IoT connections. For property owners, mobile connectivity represents an opportunity to offer mobile-driven, value-added services that will not only increase building values, but will also maximize occupancy rates.
To accomplish this, the appropriate infrastructure must first be in place to make reliable 3G, 4G, and eventually 5G coverage a possibility. (For most building owners, being 5G-ready simply means selecting infrastructure that can transition seamlessly to this next-generation technology.) In the past this has been a challenge, in part due to the sheer amount of time needed to facilitate coverage between mobile network operators, equipment vendors, and property owners. In fact, it could take a year or more to install traditional in-building solutions such as active DAS.
Not surprisingly, property developers and owners were left to their own devices to come up with a solution. Many turned to passive DAS repeaters for their affordability, availability, and relative ease of installation. However, carriers around the world frowned on this technology as products tended to interfere with their networks – and many were outlawed by regulatory bodies as a result.
Luckily now there is a better way, and building owners and integrators have switched to more reliable solutions. Things have changed considerably in the last several years, thanks in part to the proprietary technology developed by Nextivity that has given rise to the Cel-Fi product line. Unconditionally network-safe, Cel-Fi has been authorized for use by nearly 200 mobile network operators in 100 countries and their coordinating regularory agencies. Cel-Fi has also was recognized as product of the year by the Small Cell Forum for the enterprise Supercell solution, along with multiple IoT product of the year awards.
With a reliable and affordable solution now readily accessible, property owners are no longer hamstrung by coverage problems; by providing seamless mobile coverage they can indeed operate smart buildings. Not only does this help their properties stand out and deliver a better end-user experience, it also enables them to take full advantage of smart capabilities – such as metering, heating, and security to name a few – that enable a building’s systems to accurately share information for optimal performance.
The end result is happy occupants, reduced energy consumption, and significant operational savings. Now what’s not smart about that? To learn more about the enterprise cellular coverage solution for voice, data and cellular-based IoT applications, download Cel-Fi QUATRA In-Building Enterprise Cellular System.