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Life on the edge

Harnessing the power of the latest connected technologies has improved the performance of the Atea Stavanger building in Norway and enhanced the comfort of its occupants says Jonathan Weinert of IoT and connected lighting company Signify

Technology has taken enormous leaps forward in recent years. Smart cities, smart buildings and other IoT systems have moved applications out of computers and specialised devices and into the spaces that we all use every day – including office workspaces, retail shops, hotels and city streets.

The new Atea office building in Stavanger, Norway, has been conceived from the ground up as a living lab – a test bed and showcase for these connected and integrated systems. That concept has given the company’s facilities managers new insights into achieving operational excellence, as well as improving employee productivity and engagement.

With the help of Signify, a specialist in connected lighting systems for the internet of things (IoT), and networking and telecoms company Cisco, Atea has transformed its office into a showcase for the workplace of the future. “By saying that this building is a living lab, we’re thinking of it as a place where we do our proof of concepts,” says Espen Riska, Smart Buildings Director at Atea Stavanger. “By being in a living lab, we are constantly evolving; we are constantly trying and testing our own products and our partners’ products by using them ourselves.”

Atea is a specialist in IT infrastructure for businesses and public sector organisations in Europe’s Nordic and Baltic regions. With 7,400 employees and 4,000 consultants located in 87 offices across seven countries – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia – it has a strong local presence in each market it serves, offering a full range of hardware and software from the world’s top technology companies.

The systems in the Stavanger building are based on cutting-edge technology. It allows facilities managers to work with technical specialists to experiment with different solutions, and constantly review, test and upgrade these to improve their effectiveness. Working as a living lab is an ongoing process, as technologies continue to evolve and as Atea’s facilities managers’ understanding and experience continue to deepen.

The living lab idea is about delivering on a more scientific vision for managing the operation of a building and the staff that use it. The new technologies include a personal control app for the lighting system, an accurate indoor location system that uses a combination of LED lighting and Cisco DNA Spaces, multisensors, and even li-fi for light-based, high-bandwidth wireless communications.

In the building, all systems are on a single converged IP network. This represents a meaningful step forward over earlier generations of smart buildings, such as The Edge in Amsterdam. The converged IP network powers and integrates all of the building’s different systems, from scheduling systems and meeting room video cameras to wi-fi and lighting.

Employing a single network consumes less energy than running multiple separate systems. It also offers advantages for data collection. “It’s easy to pull out the sensor data from one network instead of having lots of different systems talking different languages,” Riska explains.

The Atea Stavanger building uses an Interact connected lighting system from Signify not only to illuminate the working environment, but also to collect data on the building’s workspaces and the activities taking place within them. The building currently contains around 700 luminaires equipped with multisensors for measuring environmental factors such as presence, temperature, daylight levels and humidity. The connected luminaires and their multisensors can be powered using power over Ethernet (PoE). This means that these luminaires can be powered and controlled without the need for electrical wiring.

“You will always need light, so why not utilise the ceiling and put in sensors connected to the same infrastructure?”, Senior Network Engineer and System Architect Pål Bjelland asks. This is a new approach to creating the smart office. “Altogether, this will give more accurate information than traditional workspace design and will support better decision-making.”

With sensors collecting information from the lit environment on everything from temperature to humidity to occupancy and more, the building generates a large amount of data. The building systems themselves also generate data on status and operations. In fact, there’s so much data that it’s also crucial for facilities managers and technicians to work out what kinds of data to collect, how often to collect it, how to store and remove it, and how to analyse and use it for forecasting and reporting.

Only then does this data become valuable, with facilities managers able to use and take action on it. This insight is crucial for them to know where they need to focus their future efforts on improving building operations.

Cloud storage is also a crucial consideration. Atea is collecting much more data from the building than it initially anticipated, and the data capacity required can often fluctuate significantly, depending on the types of data that need to be recorded and analysed. The cloud allows facilities managers to expand or reduce their data storing capacity to fit their needs. “That’s why we use our cloud service providers,” says Riska, “to have a kind of expanded possibility.”

Bjelland agrees. “By using this kind of technology, we get better utilisation of all the areas and facilities in the building. We work more efficiently and get more satisfied employees.”

About Sarah OBeirne

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