Whereas in the 1960s computers used to take up entire rooms, the advent of the microprocessor has led to the rise of the sensor and the internet of things. 

Mary-Anne Bowring headshot landscape

Mary-Anne Bowring

We can take small intelligent devices and embed them in buildings to monitor and react to changes in the building’s environment.

By installing sensors, we can open up new capabilities that enable successful management of build-to-rent developments. Sensor tech can provide eyes and ears for onsite teams via the detection of lurking issues at an early stage.

Buildings with sensors that were able to detect air quality and movement were also better able to mobilise for the realities of Covid-19.

Sensors can also assist with the things we can predict. With residential properties contributing to around 25% of all UK emissions, and energy becoming an increasing cost for households, we know that operating buildings efficiently will be paramount for both people and the planet. The advantage of sensors for energy optimisation compared with energy meters is that they can detect anomalies and sub-optimal operation and advise building management as an extension of the building management system.

Sensors provide a nervous system for the building, able to perceive problems as they arise. However, such a nervous system requires a central conduit to a brain to turn all that data into information.

The key to a successful deployment of such sensors is that there is a platform – such as our Busy Living operational platform – that turns the data into information that can be considered by a human with the capacity and intuition to then take appropriate action.

Such platforms must also accept and present different views of information to different parties. When teamed with a community app they become even more powerful tools.

Apps are not mere window-dressing but provide a means to supply information and interactivity to customers, which enables them to connect to one another. This interactivity itself can grant its own seams of data that can be channelled back into feedback loops to improve the way the building is operated. After all, we all carry around a device in our pocket now that is just packed with sensors.

Mary-Anne Bowring is group managing director at Ringley