Arun Awasthy, President and Managing Director at Johnson Controls (India), in an interaction with Industry Outlook, shares his views on the smart buildings domain. During the conversation, he discussed the issues pertaining to smart building design development, up-to-date technology implementation and more.
The global smart building market is projected to reach $328.62 billion by 2029. How is the smart build domain developing in India? What are the key factors driving the growth?
Under Union Budget 2021-22, the Smart Cities Mission in India has been allocated Rs. 6,450 crore. By the next decade, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will become megacities, with some of the fastest economic growth in the world.
There are four key drivers behind the growth of smart buildings in India. Firstly, protecting the health and safety of building occupants is now the prime driver of technology investments globally. Given the ongoing pandemic, organizations have to rapidly digitalize to ensure business continuity and respond to the dynamic situation.
Secondly, smart buildings can enable higher productivity of occupants by enhancing their well-being and providing the tools that can improve work processes. For instance, smart thermostats can intuitively adjust the temperature, humidity and light based on occupants’ preferences and climatic conditions.
Rising awareness around sustainability is also driving the smart building domain in India. Digitalization is the key to meeting our environmental and reduced emissions goals. We need to take drastic measures to reduce the carbon footprint from buildings — which is responsible for some 40% of global carbon emissions — to achieve the COP21 target by 2050.
The fourth driver is India’s pace of urbanization over the next few decades, which in turn drives rapid infrastructure development. India is projected to house 416 million new urban dwellers by 2050. Increasingly, technology will be used in the development and running of India’s megacities.
Developing a smart building design has gained much complexity due to the use of technologies, materials, and construction methods that differ from traditional practices. Along with customizing the characteristics to the specifics of smart buildings, it is also imperative to match the user-specific requirements. How should the industry address this issue? How can an impeccable design be attained?
At Johnson Controls, we offer a tailored solution to meet the needs of each customer. Our products and solutions are implemented in companies and large organizations from the public infrastructure, data center, healthcare and industrial sectors across India. No two customers are alike — each organization has its unique set of built environment demands — although all share similar concerns, such as the need to drive greater energy efficiencies, improve productivity and enhance occupant safety.
As the global leader in smart, healthy and sustainable buildings, Johnson Controls combines 137 years of domain expertise in buildings with digital innovation to deliver OpenBlue, a suite of connected solutions. Our efforts have garnered industry recognition: the 2022 Verdantix report named Johnson Controls a global leader in providing Internet of Things (IoT) platforms to connect building systems and devices.
Launched in 2020, the OpenBlue is a suite of tailored, AI-powered service solutions that offers remote diagnostics, predictive maintenance, compliance monitoring and advanced risk assessment. The primary objectives are to deliver impactful sustainability, new healthy occupant experiences, and respectful safety and security.
The timescale for the construction and the lifespan of developments are out of step with the rapidly developing nature of technology. This not only creates a planning challenge to ensure that smart developments incorporate the most up-to-date technology but the challenge of remaining competitive and profitable in the fast-moving technology market. How do you propose to overcome this challenge?
Firstly, upskilling the workforce is critical to overcoming such a challenge. There is great potential in the Indian market for talents in technology, digitalization and software engineering.
At Johnson Controls, we’ve recently added an OpenBlue Innovation Center in Hyderabad to focus on research and development of security products and intelligent edge devices. We are looking to recruit more engineers, data analysts, scientists and other specialists in emerging fields, including IoT, edge computing, AI/computer vision and UI/UX. We have also opened up a Global Business Center in Gurugram in July 2022. We aim to attract top local talents and provide them with opportunities to be part of Johnson Controls global early talent development and growth program.
Secondly, smart building planners need to be thorough at the design stage and be sure to incorporate inputs from solution providers. Digitalization with the use of tools such as Building Information Modeling and “digital twins” can help. Our OpenBlue Innovation Centers in India are advancing the development of such capabilities and more.
Moreover, it is of vital importance to find the right partners with the breadth and depth of domain knowledge in building technologies. Johnson Controls partners with industry leaders like Microsoft and Accenture to complement its service offerings.
Maintenance of buildings is also a massive challenge today. With rising costs and a lack of strategy, maintenance of the infrastructure is often overlooked. How can this problem be solved?
Smart buildings are, in fact, easier to maintain. For instance, smart connected chillers from Johnson Controls generate invaluable insights which in turn, enable us to revolutionize how chiller plants are serviced and maintained.
Using advanced machine learning and AI-enabled analytics, Johnson Controls OpenBlue platform tracks efficiency at the plant room level, beyond just monitoring the health of chillers. By proactively tracking the performance of whole system and individual assets like chillers, and linking up with connected load and weather data, the OpenBlue platform generates in-depth insights that enable building owners and facilities managers to make data-driven decisions more systematically.
To date, Johnson Controls frontline service professionals in the Asia-Pacific region are serving over 650 customers with proactive monitoring on more than 2,000 connected chillers on the OpenBlue platform. With such detailed insights on the equipment, Johnson Controls has enabled customers to cut unplanned emergency repairs by 66 percent and shorten repair time by 65 percent, on average. These capabilities, together with detailed automated reports, help inform customers on the health of their assets, provide them with greater visibility of the equipment’s performance and aid in improving their budget planning processes.
How do you see the smart building segment evolving in the future?
More than 50 percent of organizations surveyed in India expect to increase investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, or smart building technology in 2022, according to Johnson Controls 15th annual Energy Efficiency Indicator Survey. The top two barriers to pursuing energy and building technology improvements are lack of funding and lack of technical expertise to evaluate or execute projects.
This insight opens up opportunities for built technology providers like Johnson Controls to catalyze accelerated action through innovative funding models and solutions. An example is our OpenBlue Net Zero Buildings as a Service that enables decarbonization with no upfront capital and with reduced operating expenses as well.
Digitalization and sustainability are interconnected initiatives in smart buildings. A smart building becomes more operationally sustainable by adapting and reconfiguring more easily to changing conditions. By applying digital technologies to data from both inside buildings and beyond, we can help drive sustainability directly and create “healthier” buildings.