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IoT in Commercial Real Estate: How LoRa Makes Buildings Smarter

At first glance, real estate may seem like one of the industries least affected by the internet and new technology. After all, constructing and maintaining buildings had been done perfectly well long before the advent of the Internet. However, underneath the bricks and concrete, buildings feature highly complex systems that need to be constantly monitored and maintained. Traditionally, this has been a manual, costly, and inefficient process, in which problems often undiscovered and repairs not made until it’s too late, lead to incidents such as floods and explosions.

This is why the concept of smart buildings is so revolutionary. Equipping buildings with IoT-enabled sensors to gather data can not only prevent major problems, but also simplify management, reduce maintenance costs, optimize energy use, improve tenant satisfaction, and increase property values. 

And this is where LoRa comes in. 

What is LoRa?

LoRa is a wireless platform that allows real-time transmission of data from sensors to the cloud. LoRa has a longer range and uses less power than WLAN, which makes it ideal for the Internet of Things (IoT) in Commercial Real Estate (CRE), where connecting multiple devices that deliver small amounts of data to the cloud is crucial. 

Semtech, the company behind LoRa, calls it an “efficient, flexible and economical solution to real-world problems in rural and indoor use cases, where cellular and Wi-Fi/BLE based networks are ineffective.” 

Why is LoRa worth our attention and how can it practically help companies who want to innovate in CRE?

How does LoRa help Commercial Real Estate?

LoRa technology is already being implemented in many industries, including supply chain, logistics, smart cities, and agriculture, and is especially well suited to Commercial Real Estate. The long-range signal can connect devices up to 30 miles apart in rural areas, and penetrates dense building materials in urban environments. LoRa-enabled IoT devices are low-power, able to operate for up to 10 years on batteries. Here are some of the ways these features bring real business value to CRE:

  • Simplifying management and maintenance

Remote access to real-time data and long battery life means minimal maintenance and fewer in-person site inspections.  

  • Improving safety

LoRa-enabled sensors can detect dangers such as gas leaks, and generate alerts, helping to prevent explosions or other accidents. 

  • Improving sustainability

Smart buildings can help save energy and water. LoRa-connected buildings can also monitor patterns of utility usage. With the assistance of AI this data can be used to create better systemic solutions in the future.

  • Maximizing savings

More efficient utility usage means lower bills. Moreover, fixing small problems early on eliminates the need for costly major repairs down the line.

  • Higher tenant satisfaction

Outages and the ensuing repairs are costly and annoying not only for landlords and building managers but also for the tenants. Therefore, preventing malfunctions and accidents means increased tenant satisfaction. 

  • Increasing property values

Information gathered by LoRa-enabled devices can also help better estimate the building’s condition and its true value.

LoRa application examples and the rise of IoT machine learning solutions 

Let’s have a closer look at how LoRa technology helps businesses achieve better energy efficiency and prevent damage and how, thanks to machine learning, its effectiveness will increase with every use. 

With the integration of LoRa into smart building devices, the CRE owner or management gets a set of valuable data regarding:

  • Energy usage
  • Water or gas leaks
  • Fire detection
  • Humidity levels and presence of mold
  • Temperature
  • Presence of people

The data is provided in real-time and can be accessed at any moment via the cloud, so there’s no need to monitor it regularly on-site. The solution is fully scalable - a larger property just needs more sensors. 

Data gathered over time can be analyzed by algorithms powered by machine learning, which enables planning for better management in the future. For example, if the data shows that people are only present in a given area at specific times of day, the system can be set up to heat or cool the area only when needed. That, in the long run, will go a long way toward improving a building’s sustainability.  

The sensors can also allow for predictive analytics. Equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms, they can predict problems before they occur. For example, SenseIoT, a leakage and moisture detection system from the Swedish company iioote, uses LoRa technology coupled with AI and ML to detect mold, preventing costly damage.

Such data provides an invaluable resource for insurance companies: it allows them to prepare better policies and more accurate premiums for CRE. Lower risk and fewer accidents allow both sides to profit.  

Considering these advantages, LoRa is not a costly investment. Moreover, it’s getting more and popular and widely applied in third-party devices. The LoRa Alliance, an open, non-profit  community, now has over 600 members, including IBM, Orange and Cisco. 

It is beyond doubt that it’s technology to watch for any company that wants to own or manage smarter, greener buildings.

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