The year 2015 was a whirlwind for Building Robotics. Comfy was featured in The New York Times, Bloomberg, Forbes, and Wired as a solution to greater workplace comfort and productivity. We tripled our staff and quadrupled our number of clients, including our first international launch with Infosys in India. We witnessed the public release of long-awaited and resoundingly positive results from Comfy’s inclusion in the GSA Green Proving Ground program. We introduced our new partner ecosystem +Comfy and created the BOLD Awards to recognize admirable building operators, leaders and disruptors.
We are really excited to see what 2016 will bring, to our emerging world of workplace comfort technology, and to the larger community around us. Here are a few things that get us most excited about what lies ahead in 2016, and where we'll be setting our sights.
Our predictions for 2016:
1. Buildings will become even more people-centric
Over the last 10 years, we've seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of space allocated to each employee, from an average of 250 sq ft in 2004 to 185 sq ft in 2014. This is leading workplace teams to focus on quality over quantity- providing more collaborative spaces, more flexible and adaptable spaces, and more efficiently managed spaces. Simultaneously, employee expectations are rising constantly for better technology in the workplace. And now, the tech world has finally caught up with these demands- technologies like Comfy are out and available on the market. We are seeing more and more building owners looking to intelligent building technology to meet the demands of employees. We expect 2016 to bring a siesmic shift towards better, people-centric, workplace tech.
2. Building IoT grows up...way UP
The Internet of Things is not a new concept in commercial buildings. In fact, most building managers were regularly employing complex networks of sensors and controllers in commercial buildings long before Kevin Ashton popularized the IoT phrase in 1999.
The true excitement lies in the recent entrance (or re-entrance) of tech giants like Intel, Cisco, and Dell into the world of smart buildings. Inexpensive tiny embedded processing chips are leading a surge in interest in IoT for buildings, and we've been excited to start partnering with these companies, such as with the Intel processor we use for our Comfy gateway box.
3. Interoperability will become a necessity
Today, most buildings have siloed technologies that control and monitor HVAC, lighting, space utilization and more. However, the maturing of the intelligent building industry means that these stand-alone systems will become better connected via common protocols, allowing for a more holistic and efficient approach to facilities management. And, as a part of that movement, we are excited to bring +Comfy to the table to help make sure these interoperating systems work not just for building operators, but for occupants as well.
4. Green Buildings will become Healthy Buildings
The continued growth of the WELL Building Standard and the Living Building Challenge last year are illustrative of the increased attention to human health in buildings. We anticipate a continued focus on wellness metrics, increased attention to biophilia, and materials transparency. With a greater desire to improve the tenant experience and the advent of the technological advancements needed to make it a reality, it's likely that the focus on healthier and happier occupants that we saw in 2015 will grow exponentially in the new year.
5. Will Computers Steal Our Jobs? The Increased Role of Automation in Buildings
We've been tuning in to a growing debate in the buildings world, as thought leaders debate whether computers will start taking the jobs of architects, such as these posts in Architect Magazine and Huffington Post. Building operators are facing the same questions. Ronald Zimmer, president and CEO of the Continental Automated Buildings Association, recently stated in a Building Operating Management cover story on Building IoT, that "[t]he goal is to ultimately integrate intelligent devices with network systems that are self-sensing, self-controlling, and self-optimizing, all automatically, all without human intervention." But is that future really possible?
From what we can see, 2016 will NOT be the year that computers take over the jobs of facilities management. Every building is different, every building is utilized differently (and constantly changing), so there's no replacement for the human touch. But there’s one superpower that all facility managers need, and none have: the ability to be everywhere at once. Technologies are finally emerging that help facility managers cut out low-value work, like responding to hot/cold calls, and allowing them to turn their attention to more high-value projects, like plant optimization. And, of course as these new technologies evolve, the need for skilled engineers to harness the power of the tools will only increase.
It's no exaggeration to say the commercial building space is undergoing a revolution! We are excited to share the ride with you all as we strive for better buildings for people and the planet in 2016.
Stay tuned for the latest news in healthier, more intelligent, and more Comfy buildings!