A to Z of Smart Buildings

D: Data

Posted by The Comfy Team on May 13, 2016

Everyone talks about Big Data and IoT, but behind the buzzwords and technical jargon, what's the Big Deal? Building operators have been utilizing sensors, collecting large data sets, and identifying trends since the '70s—certainly way before the term "Internet of Things" gained mainstream popularity. The difference is recent advances in computing and affordability are allowing smart buildings to collect and analyze data on a whole new level.

Big Data solutions are shifting the paradigm for facility management, energy consumption, and business operations. As Noah Goldstein, Senior Research Director at Navigant Research, explains, "A lot of buildings in North America are run with older systems at a level that adequately meet the expectations of their owners or operators, but Big Data offers the opportunity to unlock an incredible improvement in performance—dramatically changing the occupant experience, saving energy, and operational costs."

Just how dramatic are we talking? Here are a few images that capture the scope and growth of Big Data in smart buildings:

Unlocking Building Management Systems

Folks outside of the buildings controls industry are often surprised to learn that legacy building management systems have been collecting information on building operations for decades. Skyscrapers of the 1930s included basic controls and automation tools to monitor and adjust environmental conditions. Today, sensors and meters in the basement, on the rooftop, and throughout the building are tucked away from occupant eyes, but have the ability to pull data on energy, water usage, lighting, heating and ventilation, security, and communications. Until recent years, most of that data has been siloed and could not be fully collected and processed—but that all changed with the Big Data boom.

Capturing Data Through Connected Devices

Today, in a typical medium-sized building, it is not uncommon for roughly 250 building components—digital security boxes, wireless modems, thermostats, actuators, cooling towers, CO2 detectors—to be capturing 160,000 data points every 1-15 minutes. This level of data storage capacity was unimaginable during the floppy disk era. Now, anyone with a smartphone has more computing power in their back pocket than a supercomputer of the '70s.

Dominating Smart Cities

Legacy systems and existing sensors in smart buildings have been collecting data far longer than any other smart city sector. So, it's no surprise that a Gartner research study estimates that of the 1.6 billion connected things used by smart cities in 2016, smart commercial buildings will be the highest user of IoT (a projected 32%). IoT in Transportation, Utilities, and Smart Homes follow with 23%, 22%, and 15% respectively. Public Services, Healthcare, and other subcategories make up the remaining market.

Surging Data Volumes Around the World

In 2010, the amount of data collected in buildings across the globe was 1.2 zetabytes. For perspective, that's nearly three times the estimated size of the entire world wide web (0.5 zetabyte) just a year earlier, in 2009. We've seen 60% annual growth in the amount of data collected in smart buildings and can expect the volume to double every two years.

Big Data Mergers & Acquisition Activity

In recent years, we've seen a surge in the number of new companies formed to address Big Data and cloud-based services. In addition, Fortune 500 enterprise software and tech companies are creating entire divisions dedicated to smart buildings. The market for Big Data in buildings has grown from $107.48 Million in 2010 to over $9.17 Billion in 2015, and with 33.2% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate), it will expand to nearly $30 Billion by 2020.


Big Data is modernizing every industry, from retail to healthcare to human resources. By collecting information and uncovering trends on everything from buying habits to website searches, Big Data is changing the way businesses work. In the world of smart buildings, this newfound ability to finally compute and process information—from a variety of inputs and outputs, in multiple legacy and new systems—is nothing short of revolutionary. Building operators have a whole new set of tools to seamlessly improve the occupant experience. Big Data is, and will continue to be, an integral part of the evolution of efficient and smart buildings.

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