Uptake of Convergence: IoT in Commercial buildingsJune 2020

While there is a great deal of interest in Convergence and in the potential for IoT in commercial buildings, there is still limited understanding of just how many devices are being connected, and many published numbers include consumer devices, residential products, utility metering, asset tracking in the supply chain and industrial product.

BSRIA believe there is a need for reliable numbers for connected devices in commercial buildings as the majority of connected devices today are audio streaming, data transfer such as fitness trackers and keyboards, home security, automation and utility metering.

BSRIA has been tracking convergence in commercial buildings over the last 15 years and the uptake has been slow, but we expect to see an increase in the number of connected devices over the next 5 – 10 years due to the latest developments in both wired and wireless technologies. One example is the Wi-Fi access points (Wi-Fi 6, 802.11ax) which can handle multiple devices using several protocols such as Bluetooth and Zigbee”.

BSRIA’s latest study uses the IT/Ethernet network as the basis for estimating the number of connected devices in commercial buildings. Connected devices use an average of 40 – 50 metres of structured cable per device, except for some products that use one connection point for several devices. Daisy chaining where multiple devices are wired together in sequence or in a ring is mainly used for access control products such as lock actuators, readers and keypads and thermostats, sensors and Power over Ethernet (PoE) lights.

There were an estimated 154 million Ethernet connections/ports worldwide in 2019. The majority of these are supporting data (and voice), but a significant number are connected to wireless access points (WAPs) and Distributed Building Services (DBS). The key products included under Distributed Building Services are surveillance cameras, audio/video, access controls and building automation controllers.

An average of 3.6 devices are connected to each of the 17 million Ethernet port for Distributed Building Services, equivalent to more than 60 million connected (cabled) devices.

Wired Ethernet connection/nodes for data, Wireless Access Points and DBS, worldwide 2019*

Source: Convergence - IoT in commercial buildings. No. 61564

*Other includes: Blinds, fire detection and notification, point of sales, Distributed Antenna systems (DAS), asset & personal tracking, Smart parking etc.

The use of wireless technologies in commercial buildings is increasing. The most prominent short-range, low-power technologies in commercial buildings are Bluetooth and Zigbee followed by EnOcean. The typical applications for short range low power technologies are sensors and lighting. BSRIA estimated the number of connected (wireless) devices in commercial buildings worldwide in 2019 to be 150 – 200 million.

Short range wireless connected devices in Commercial buildings worldwide 2019

Source: Convergence - IoT in commercial buildings. No. 61564

The uptake of low-power wide-area (LPWAN) technologies such as Lorawan, Sigfox and NB-IoT is still very limited in commercial buildings. They are used mainly for smart metering, tracking the supply chain, monitoring of soil and livestock, smart parking, etc.

Connectivity is about connecting devices, collecting data and undertaking analytics and diagnostics that will enable end-users and building operators to manage and operate their buildings efficiently. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the focus on safety and trust, which potentially includes monitoring of use and social distancing, access to buildings and increasing use of remote monitoring.

BSRIA expects that the Covid-19 pandemic will negatively impact 2020 sales network infrastructure (structured cabling) and connectable devices due to shut-downs, supply chain interruptions and a reduction in new construction, but in the medium term, the penetration of connected devices could be boosted due to the need for remote monitoring and safety issues.