The future of smart buildings: digital planning tools hold the key

ABB Australia Pty Ltd

By Ian Richardson, Market Development Manager – Energy Distribution, ABB*
Tuesday, 24 August, 2021

The future of smart buildings: digital planning tools hold the key

Today, digital planning tools are a competitive advantage. Tomorrow, they will be seen as basic necessities.

Not long ago, electrical installation planning tools were a piece of paper, a pencil, some catalogues and a calculator. However, these days we have seen a rise in digital planning tools that have made the entire process more effective, more productive and ultimately more rewarding for both the installer and the stakeholders of the installation.

The practical benefits of digital planning for smart buildings

Imagine a hospital project where the stakeholders are looking for a consultation to learn more about what products are on the market to provide a cutting-edge design. Digital planning tools can help bring the project to life on-screen while achieving the following benefits:

  • Insight: Important project scope details can be captured, such as size, purpose and required functionalities, helping focus on only the systems and hardware that make the cut. This helps to reveal stakeholders’ priorities, such as aesthetics and functionalities, and only show the options that meet their requirements.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Many solutions come with a wide range of options. A digital planning tool can help determine in minutes if the project budget will cover the functionality and design desired and, if not, where to effectively cut costs.
  • Innovation: With the speed that technology changes, planners can’t be expected to know about every new thing each system can do. A digital planning tool incorporates the latest functionality of whatever system or products are being considered so that the latest features can be taken into account. In this hospital example, a planner might discover that the latest version of a system has received a significant upgrade since they last installed it on a different project, impacting recommendations.
  • Flexibility: Few buildings are ever built as first conceived. As scope and budgets change throughout the life of the project, a digital planning tool can easily help to pivot and adapt solutions as needed. It can also warn of any issues that may arise due to proposed changes, so planners aren’t caught unawares later on. For this hospital, updates to the project could be made with just a few clicks of a button as changes are made to the hospital layout.
  • Confidence: A digital planning tool provides a single source of truth for the project. For these stakeholders, the tool could be used to ensure everything was installed in exactly the right place as planned.

The future of digital planning technology

Some installers are still using versions of the paper and pencil method. This is because there have been relatively few digital planning tools available that provide the ease of use and functionality necessary to plan effectively. However, as more and more digital planning tools are released on the market by various manufacturers, installers will soon not just expect the option to use digital planning tools, but will demand it.

As a result, digital planning tools are poised to become a business enabler of the future. Very soon, no customer or installer will be willing to work with a manufacturer who cannot offer the insight, cost-effectiveness, innovation, flexibility and confidence a digital planning tool can provide. While these tools are a competitive advantage today, tomorrow they will be seen as basic necessities.

In addition, these planning tools tie directly into one of the megatrends impacting the world today: the need for data. These tools are able to use data in sophisticated ways to help installers scale and grow their knowledge and capabilities. In turn, manufacturers will use the data produced by these planning tools to gain new insights into their customers and how their products are used, helping to inform everything from their sales and marketing approach to how they design new products. A digital planning tool is not only a win for the installer and their customer, but also for the manufacturer.

At ABB, we consider these to be very exciting times. As a frontrunner in the development of digital planning tools, we’ve seen firsthand what these tools have been able to do for the business of our partners and installers. In just the past few years we’ve been busy rolling out planning tools for systems ranging from door communication to fire alarms to smart homes and buildings. The world is about to enter the golden age of digital planning, and we’re excited to be part of it.

*Ian Richardson is the Market Development Manager for Energy Distribution within Smart Buildings in ABB Australia’s Electrification business. Ian leads the product life cycle of energy distribution solutions for developing and product engineering through to marketing strategies. Ian has more than 40 years of industry experience in the building automation and energy distribution sectors. He has also been Chairman/Director of the KNX National Group Australia since 2011. KNX is the only worldwide standard for home and building automation, adopted by Standards Australia as a technical specification. KNX devices can manage lighting, blinds and shutters, HVAC, security systems, energy management, renewable energy, audio/video, whitegoods, visualisation and remote monitoring.

Image credit: © Perig

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