As government agencies strive for greater efficiency in order to carry out their missions, increasingly they are turning to sensor solutions to achieve their objectives.
Replacing manual operations and processes with more advanced alternatives can be the key not only to efficient operations, but to saving money and enabling more flexibility for agencies, particularly when budgets are tight. Whether these solutions are used in interior or exterior environments for smart buildings, they can make for “smarter” agencies overall.
Let’s start on the inside, in terms of how sensors can make government buildings more responsive and intelligent.
There are several key elements to smart buildings:
- Lighting. The sensor-based ability to control lighting, allowing it to be automatically dimmed or turned on or off based on time of day or activity within the building, can yield significant cost savings.
- Heating and cooling. As the biggest driver of energy consumption, this should be a top priority. Sensors enable smart thermostats along with all the associated systems that keep buildings comfortable for the people in them.
- Security. Sensor-based systems, coupled with <smart video analytics, can provide superior physical access control and intrusion detection as well as the sophisticated data analysis that spots suspicious behavior patterns better than humans can.
- Safety. Smart systems enhance fire safety and the potential risk of injury and damage that it poses, addressing prevention and the monitoring of smoke and fire detection systems and sprinkler operations.
Lighting and heating/cooling
Sensors monitoring where people are working in a building enable heating and cooling systems to adjust dynamically according to real-time usage patterns. If no one is in an area, the lighting and environmental controls deactivate to save energy, but then immediately reactivate when someone is present.
That is a big improvement over basing temperatures and light timing on the time of year or on managers’ best guesses about comfort levels in different sections of an office or building. By combining sensor monitoring and the artificial intelligence inherent in these smart systems, comfort and convenience go up, while costs go down.
Safety and security
Security comes down to knowing and controlling who is in the building and making sure that the people who are in the building belong there. Sensors and smart video analytics – the rapid, artificial intelligence-enhanced analysis of a large number of security camera feeds – enable everything in a government building and its immediate surroundings to be monitored and analyzed by a smart system. Responses to issues are much faster as a result.
For instance, if a sensor determines a door has been left open too long, video analysis can help in detecting and identifying something physical that may be blocking that door and not allowing it to close. The system can also determine exactly how many people are in the building and where they are, which is invaluable real-time information in an emergency.
Such smart systems also detect activity around a building and provide immediate alerts if someone comes too close to the building or breaches a security fence or perimeter.
Sensors can also enhance operations outside the building, on the grounds. By sensing if there are pedestrians present, the lighting can be enhanced during nighttime hours; when there is no activity, the level of light can be reduced, for cost savings.
For government buildings with a large number of public visitors, the combination of sensors and smart video analytics can provide parking space assessments, knowing how many vehicles are in a given area at all times and helping visitors find open spaces.
From a security standpoint, combining sensors with video analytics can enable automatic detection of the entry of people or vehicles into a specific area, such as a parking area adjacent to a government building. Using license plate recognition, the system can provide alerts if there are vehicles in prohibited areas that aren’t authorized to be there.
Other benefits for smart buildings
Among other advantages to sensors:
- Improving the efficiency of routine facility management tasks such as cleaning bathrooms and trash collection. Rather than stick to a rigid schedule for these tasks, sensors can let crews know when and where there are issues, such as a depleted supply of paper towels in a bathroom or overfilled trash baskets. If sensors tell them a given area of the building wasn’t used by anyone that day, they can skip cleaning it.
- Optimizing the use of office space. With their ability to “see” things that humans often can’t, sensors enable new insights into office utilization and occupancy. With quality data gleaned from indoor space sensing, an agency can better evaluate its office space needs in terms of conference room usage and capacities, overall occupancy, traffic flows, and usage patterns throughout the day. Rather than rely on anecdotal observations, the agency knows exactly what space it needs and is better equipped to consider consolidations or other efficiency-enhancing steps.
The bottom line is that by leveraging the data that sensors can provide and the intelligent systems to analyze that data, agencies can make more informed, faster decisions. The ability to capture a much more comprehensive view of what is going on in and around a building opens the door to automating many aspects of building operations and maximizing efficiency.