Mitch Klaif shares the story of a large intelligent building project he managed as SVP & CIO of WarnerMedia. At 1.5 million square feet, the new headquarters in Manhattan encompasses half the space in a 90 story skyscraper.

Brick-and-mortar storefronts may be a thing of the past for the retail industry, and working from home, or “working remotely”, may be reducing the need for traditional workspaces. But the desire for in-person collaboration and community continues to drive office space renovation and expansion.

These resulting office buildings are not your father’s office buildings. They are “smart” or “intelligent” buildings in which the technology provides incredible opportunities for energy savings, operating efficiency, environmental responsibility, and employee health. The catch? All these systems and platforms need to be designed, engineered, built, monitored, and maintained just like any other technology platform. 

It’s all so new that it’s easy to miss the importance of the CIOs' direct participation.

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A project that I recently completed in New York City’s Hudson Yards development included approximately 1.5 million square feet of office, production, studio, lab, and theater space for 5,000 people – approximately half of the space in a 90-floor skyscraper.

Everything in that building is connected and controlled via IP networks, and in many cases, accessible by third parties. Four corner Wi-Fi connects tens of thousands of devices and probes. That includes technology infrastructure, personal computers and mobile devices, lights, elevators, fitness equipment, and even the cash registers in the cafeteria.

I’ll admit I was surprised to learn that the building itself was a major technology platform that required significant IT involvement and focus.

Think about the consequences of ignoring an Internet-connected system that could shut down—and hold hostage—your office and operating facilities. A bad guy could turn off your lights and power, overheat your critical tech infrastructure, or shut down your key building security systems. (Just watch the USA Network series “Mr. Robot” to see what could happen).


Related article: 7 Real Benefits that IoT Brings

by Tim Reed, SVP of Information Systems and Technologies, EMCOR Building Services


From the start of an office construction, renovation or expansion project, you need to consider how you’ll manage all the facets of setting up and running intelligent building technology and processes. They are just as important as your critical applications, networks, and databases.

Traditional technology may have ignored these systems and services in the past (or relegated them to the facilities or real estate departments), but the technical complexity and control over our physical environments has never been so significant.

All of these systems, sensors, and probes will most likely be on your data network. Make sure your network is properly designed with these devices—which need both internal and external access—in mind.

Intelligent Building Specifics

  • Physical Security: Access and monitoring of facilities are now managed by directories, scanners, and the increasing use of recognition technologies.
  • Building Systems: Lighting, cooling and heating (HVAC), elevators, and power distribution are now turned on and off, adjusted and maintained by knowing what areas are occupied or unoccupied.
  • Digital Signage and Digital Branding: Screens, sound-systems, and other digital signage devices throughout your facility are now tied into content management systems. These systems can provide targeted and appropriate content, based on tracking individuals as they walk through your building.
  • Public Space Management: Conference centers, dining facilities, and meeting spaces are now managed by complex applications and sensors that support audio and visual needs, conferencing and space demand.
  • Audio Visual: Collaboration tools, interactive platforms, high-bandwidth communications, and, in some cases, state-of-the-art digital experiences are demanding new skills and knowledge to operate and maintain.
  • Food Service: Cafeterias, pantries, and all types of food service platforms are full of automation and self-service technology, from vending machines connected to payment and inventory platforms, to self-service check out and intelligent kitchen technology.
  • Health Facilities: Exercise equipment that knows who you are and keeps detailed data on your activities, class and equipment-scheduling platforms, and even RFID tags on clothing and locker room amenities make this data very personal in nature.
  • Medical: Highly regulated medical privacy adds even a higher level of concern to technologies that manage medical history and treatment, along with connectivity issues when nurses and doctors can be remote.

Smart Building Advice for the CIO

Take this seriously from the start. Get involved as soon as discussions begin about a new building or facility. Make sure your real estate or facilities partners know you want to team up with them and that it is of paramount importance that you both view the initiative as a joint venture. Often, your partners will be focused on the features and functions on these new systems. It is your job to educate them about the risks of cybersecurity and critical dependence. Incorporate support and cybersecurity-based criteria in the system selection and contracting processes.

Make the management and monitoring of your smart building part of your information security operating model. Your technology and information security teams may not be familiar with all these new technologies, so educate them as well. Outside consultants and security experts are just beginning to build practices focused on these concerns.  Take advantage of the new services these experts have to offer, including installation configuration validation of endpoints. You may be surprised by how many devices are set to Admin-Admin for username and password.

Once these smart building systems are designed, engineered, and implemented, the real work begins. Make sure these platforms are monitored as you would monitor any other technology, including having a source of intelligence and data regarding these technologies. Know how and where to escalate issues, and how to isolate, disengage, or switch to backup platforms.

Finally, discuss scenarios and action plans with your emergency management or business continuity teams. It may even be time, depending on how large your initiative is, to establish a new internal discipline in your organization with a focus on intelligent buildings.

Technology transformation is not only about data, mobility, and agile development, it’s also about how and where people work to make all this change happen.

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