When announcing the publication of its latest report, “Uptake of Convergence: IoT in Commercial Buildings,” BSRIA explained, “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. Many published numbers include consumer devices, residential products, utility metering, asset tracking in the supply chain and industrial product.
“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 continued.
The firm has been tracking convergence in commercial buildings for more than 15 years and commented that the uptake has been slow, but that it expects to “see an increase in the number of connected devices over the next 5 to 10 years due to the latest developments in both wired and wireless technologies.” BSRIA specifically pointed out WiFi 6/802.11ax, which can handle multiple devices using several protocols, such as Bluetooth and Zigbee.
The most recent 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 to 50 meters of structured cable per device, except for some products that use one connection point for several devices,” BSRIA observed. “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 lights.
“There were an estimated 154 million connected Ethernet connections/ports worldwide in 2019,” BSRIA added. “The majority of these are supporting data and voice, but a significant number are connected to wireless access points and distributed building services [DBS]. The key products included under DBS 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 ports for DBS, equivalent to more than 60 million connected (cabled) devices.”
Concerning the increasing use of wireless technologies in commercial buildings, BSRIA explained, “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. We estimate the number of connected (wireless) devices in commercial buildings in 2019 to be 150 to 200 million.
“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, et cetera.
“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.”
The firm further said it expects the COVID-19 pandemic to negatively impact 2020 sales of structured cabling and connectable devices because of shutdowns, supply-chain interruptions and a reduction in new construction. It added, however, that in the medium term, the penetration of connected devices could be boosted by the need for remote monitoring and safety issues.