The proliferation and increasing sophistications of the Internet of Things (IoT). The emergence of smart building technology. The massive infusion of capital into building projects thanks to The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

Taken together, these and other factors suggest new convergences between IoT and smart buildings are on the horizon, presenting new opportunities and challenges for engineering employers in turn. Here’s what you need to know.

IoT in focus

You’ve no doubt heard a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT) over time, but as the technology continues to morph and grow in maturity, what does the term “IoT” mean today?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an increasingly advanced ecosystem of physical objects — hence “things,” not computers — that can connect and exchange data using embedded sensors, software and other technologies.

To understand the upside of such an ecosystem, look no further than the healthcare industry, where medical equipment of all kinds, from heart rate monitors to wheelchairs, are now commonly designed as connected devices with the potential to save lives.

But it isn’t just healthcare. Looking to the near-term future, IoT will confer increasingly far-reaching benefits for businesses across virtually all sectors, from construction to manufacturing, automotive, transportation, retail and more.

smart buildings in focus

What are “smart buildings?” A simple definition:

Smart buildings collect data from on-premises IoT devices and use it to automate processes controlling things like heat, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, security and other systems. By applying AI and machine learning algorithms, the automation can be applied in ways that are responsive to the needs of those who use, manage or own those buildings.

The advantages of this kind of infrastructure are manifold, including:

  • cutting down on unnecessary energy usage
  • better aligning the allocation of space to the needs of occupants
  • shrinking the environmental footprints of buildings

Applied at scale, the level of impact can increase by orders of magnitude. The Edge in Amsterdam, for example, home to Deloitte and other businesses, received the highest ­sustainability score ever issued by British rating agency BREEAM thanks in no small part to its 28,000 sensors.

At the same time, the advent of smart building technologies poses new risks as well. There’s cybersecurity, for example. If devices, sensors and systems within a building are communicating over a network, then that network needs to be secured. But in some cases, fortunately, the intelligence of the network itself can be used to help detect or even prevent threats, anomalies and intrusions.

IoT, smart buildings and implications for construction employers

Already, IoT applications are being leveraged within the construction industry in a number of different ways, such as enhancing site management, with the goal of maximizing the efficiency of the building stage.

However, construction-management solutions are just the tip of the iceberg. Going forward, the possibilities are virtually limitless, from design to safety, performance, maintenance and more. The current uses of IoT in concrete curing — the process of maintaining adequate moisture and temperature levels in order to aid cement hydration — are a case in point.

Looking ahead, all of this will have a significant impact on engineering employers, too. As the technology continues to advance, it stands to reason that demand for workers with increasingly specialized skill sets will increase in turn. And for an industry that already needs about 25,000 new civil engineers each year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that could be worrisome, especially as The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) kicks into gear.

Viewed in that light, upskilling and reskilling existing employees may be the most effective workaround for forward-thinking employers eager to capitalize on the benefits of IoT. It’s also an area where strategic partners can contribute a lot of value. Check out these IoT-specific solutions from Randstad Engineering, or get in touch with us, to learn more.