Connectivity: What the Future Holds for Commercial Buildings

Posted by Kris Lindahl on Thursday, June 21st, 2018 at 7:30am.

Connectivity and Smart Buildings Represent the Future for BusinessNo one today would dispute the need for building-wide reliable communication. Business and commerce run on digital connections, and developers who underestimate the need for such services simply cannot compete in an increasingly technology-dependent world.

Speed and mobility are equally important to forward-looking companies. Even the terms are different. Networks that formerly supported landline telephones and fax lines, bulky desktop computers and other business machinery are no longer necessary in a voice and video-driven, cloud-based, wireless world. But the advances and the new efficiency have also brought new challenges; corporate tenants in both single structures and high-rise buildings have new and important demands. Designers and developers must take note.

The Need for New Infrastructure

Connectivity demand has grown and changed so much with the development of voice and video streaming that even regular updates to existing networks are inadequate. The investment required to move from copper-based to fiber-centric systems can be substantial, but ignoring the need for advanced communication ability can spell decreased relevance and desirability for commercial real estate owners and developers. Whereas an increased demand in green features and smart technology is more related to desire, demands centered around connectivity are considered core assets.

Planning for the future involves addressing the need for both effective internal communication channels and the more comprehensive need for communication with the wider world of "clients, contractors, investors and shareholders, employee unions and society in general," according to British author L.B. Belker, who writes about project-oriented success. The observations are as applicable to smaller firms as they are to global business operations. And what he has to say is especially pertinent to space planners, developers and building owners.

Infrastructure to handle the variety of communication tasks is critical. As the workplace environment is altered to include a wide variety of scenarios, the basics of connectivity must also change.

Information Sharing: The Key Concept

Growth facts are startling: Internet traffic is expected to triple by the year 2021. In just a five-year period, according to a recent report, smartphone traffic is destined to exceed PC traffic, with a ratio of 33:25 percent of the total. That constitutes a definitive shift from 2016, when desktop computers represented nearly half of total traffic. The growth of wireless and mobile devices is a force that must be reckoned with; by 2021, the number of devices connected to IP networks will be about 3.5 times the global population.

The report also predicts that by 2021 video traffic will represent 82 percent of all traffic, both business and consumer oriented transmissions. The need for building infrastructure to support necessary changes and enhancements is all too obvious. Networking has been termed "the fourth utility" in some quarters, as important to building design and tenant satisfaction as plumbing, HVAC systems and electrical needs.

Traditional copper wiring for data transmission and communication is fast becoming the technology of the past. With an effective life span of approximately five years, according to most estimates, copper requires more space and attention than modern fiber-optics, and is not nearly as adaptable to changing needs.

Looking to the Future

While it seems clear that future business enterprises will rely heavily on smart devices and increased connectivity, the need for traditional office space is not so clear, according to findings from a recent conference focused on the future of business communication.

The insights are fascinating, including a prediction that in 2025, while the traditional office might still exist, mobility will have become even more important and consumers will drive the direction that business communication takes. Many observers predict that the nature of such communication still has room to change dramatically.

Wearable technology and voice controlled devices top the list of future developments, reinforcing the need for building infrastructure that supports seamless connectivity for both "resident workers" and visitors.

One thing is certain: The future will not wait, and waiting to see what happens may mean being left out of the connected future in Hennepin County. The ability to optimize the exchange of information will extend far beyond the boundaries of the traditional office or building to include numerous new options.

Key takeaways from the conference also centered on the future of business collaboration through virtual or augmented reality, and the growth of artificial intelligence. The future of connectivity is viewed as a time of total immersion!

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