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Accelerating Smart Building Solutions with Cloud, AI and IoT

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Throughout our Internet of Things (IoT) journey we’ve seen solutions evolve from device-centric models, to spatially-aware solutions that provide real-world context. Last year, at Realcomm | IBcon 2018 we announced Azure IoT’s vision for spatial intelligence, diving into scenarios that uniquely join IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) and productivity tools.

Since then, we’ve progressed this vision by introducing new services designed to help enterprise customers across industries optimize the management of their spaces. Across Azure, Dynamics and Office, Microsoft continues to accelerate results from a growing and diverse set of partners creating smart building solutions on our enterprise platform.

This year, we attended the Realcomm | IBcon conference with over 30 partners who have delivered innovative solutions using our spatial intelligence and device security services to provide safety to construction sites, operate buildings more efficiently, utilize space more effectively, and boost occupant productivity and satisfaction. These smart building partners are accelerating digital transformation in their industries.


IoT is an invaluable part of the smart building lifecycle, even before the building comes to fruition. PCL Construction has embraced digital transformation in the construction industry with its Job Site Insights application. Job Site Insights sources its data from a variety of IoT sensors in the field, models that data in the context of the physical world using Azure Digital Twins, and then visualizes and interacts with that data through tools and canvases such as Azure Maps, Microsoft Office 365, and PowerBI. By gathering and analyzing IoT data, PCL is improving its processes to increase quality, safety, efficiency, and productivity while positioning itself as a future-ready builder.

Building Operations

Building operators are reducing their costs and increasing their margins by enabling digital feedback loops which power predictive maintenance, process efficiency, and more. We’ve enabled partners to integrate their solutions to solve the needs of building operators throughout the industry.

ICONICS provides automation software solutions that visualize, historize, analyze, and mobilize real-time information. It uses a variety of Azure IoT services to ingest data from building equipment and environmental sensors, which are presented to facilities operators and managers as dashboards and can be used to alert technicians through Dynamics 365 Field Service if problems such as clogged air filters or burst pipes need to be solved.

ICONICS’ data is also used by other Microsoft partners including Willow, whose WillowTwin(TM) platform uses Azure Digital Twins to integrate, analyze and manage data at scale, delivering insights to improve the performance and experience of buildings and infrastructure networks. These insights can be used for many essential scenarios, including using machine learning to run safety simulations to determine the best evacuation route, and modifying digital signage in real time to guide people to appropriate exits. WillowTwin is commonly leveraged to manage energy utilization, hand over buildings from construction to building operator, analyze building performance across an entire portfolio, and manage fault detection and maintenance.

MacDonald-Miller, a facilities management company with mechanical engineers, electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians, uses Dynamics 365 Field service to manage and dispatch field technicians while running the integrated ICONICS and Willow solutions in their own Azure subscription to provide services for daily operations.

In the field, technicians can use RealWear HMT-1 hands-free industrial wearable displays that attach to their hard hats and allow them to see all the telemetry, faults, and work orders in real time while working on a piece of equipment. Operators can also use voice commands to request more information, start calls through Microsoft Teams, and to dictate notes as they work.

Infosys offers next-generation digital services and consulting of smart building solutions using Microsoft offerings. Its SCALE (Sustainable, Connected, Affordable, Learning (Systems), Experiential) framework helps assess, design, implement and manage smart buildings, leveraging data and insights from connected assets. These insights help with energy efficiency management, improved asset security/surveillance, enhanced end user experience, improved building operations, predictive maintenance, and significantly reduced operational costs.

Space Utilization

Building owners, operators, and occupants alike have a vested interest in physical space management in smart offices. Many offices in the United States have open floor plans to spur collaboration, while hotdesking and coworking spaces are becoming increasingly common as workers are becoming more mobile. Microsoft’s partners are helping their stakeholders optimize space usage since unused space wastes rent and increases utility and maintenance costs.

Steelcase specializes in architecture, furniture and technology products and services designed to help people reach their full potential. The company uses Azure Digital Twins as the foundation for its Steelcase Workplace Advisor app, which collects space utilization data and transforms it into actionable insights for a more effective workplace. More recently, Steelcase complemented the same Azure IoT backbone with Microsoft Graph integration to create Steelcase Find, which gives occupants quick access to the best workspaces across their organization so they can spend less time searching and more time collaborating.

Occupant Experience

Building occupants desire engaging spaces which can power personalized experiences and higher productivity. Smart buildings are a driver for talent and recruiting, and a catalyst for employee productivity.

CBRE strives to provide building owners and occupiers with ever-greater experiences and services. They introduced CBRE Host, a workforce empowerment platform that offers capabilities including room scheduling, service requests, and wayfinding to add delight and efficiency to employees’ lives. Simultaneously, facility managers can deliver more timely maintenance, and owners/investors gain insight into space and service utilization.

CBRE Host is powered by Azure Digital Twins and the Microsoft Graph. While remaining agnostic on sensor connections, key shared partners Rigado and Yanzi Networks accelerate Host deployment through their turnkey packages for gateways, access points, occupancy+comfort sensors, and device management capabilities built on the Azure IoT platform. As Host evolves, key tests underway include integrating Azure Spatial Anchors, a mixed reality service that enables employees, guests, and building managers to use a smartphone, tablet, or HoloLens to find and activate virtual anchors in their environment to populate real-time data in the context of the physical world.

Sagegreenlife designs living walls that bring the benefits and beauty of nature into man-made spaces. The company needed a way to remotely monitor their irrigation systems and ensure optimal plant wall performance but didn’t have the developer expertise in-house, so they turned to Microsoft and Cradlepoint for help. Today, Sagegreenlife uses Azure IoT Central and Cradlepoint LTE network solutions to detect and resolve issues before they affect plant health. With this IoT solution, Sagegreenlife can provide an exceptional customer experience, deliver new insights across the organization, and scale its business on a highly secure, easy-to-use, customizable platform.

Device Security

Throughout the world’s commercial real estate properties, there are millions of microcontroller-based BACnet devices enabling scenarios that control building systems. While there are significant efforts being made to secure the BACnet messaging protocol, the devices themselves frequently lack sufficient security to ensure they are not vulnerable to being taken over or spoofed, which could lead to unexpected behavior on a building’s network. L&T Technology Services has partnered with the Azure Sphere team to build a guardian module implementation that can protect BACnet devices while translating the messaging protocol into MQTT messages that can be ingested by Azure IoT Hub and IoT Central. With the capabilities that L&T is delivering, device manufacturers and building management organizations can retrofit the Seven Properties of Highly Secure Devices into their solutions.

Next Steps

We’re excited to see the accelerated innovation and momentum from partners over the last year as we’ve continued to provide tools to enable developers to create digital feedback loops for building owners, operators, and occupants. Microsoft will continue to empower our partners to deliver smart building solutions with powerful services and platforms to model and sense the physical world, derive insights from spatial data, and create innovative experiences. Download the whitepaper: Creating Intelligent Spaces – Five strategies to accelerate smart building transformation.

For the full list of Microsoft partners and original published blog, click here.

Matthew Vogel, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft
Matthew Vogel started at Microsoft in 2012, launching the initial versions of Office Mobile on Windows Phone, iOS, and Android. After Office Mobile, Matthew worked on natural language and IoT within Office, then joined Skype IoT to envision and launch Skype integration with the Harmon Kardon Invoke, Alexa devices, and other incubations. Matthew has been a part of Azure IoT since October 2017, working on Azure Digital Twins and Solution Accelerators focusing on Smart Buildings scenarios.

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