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The Arrival of AI for Buildings

October 10, 2018 | Todd Feist

Artificial intelligence (AI)—the ability of computers to learn and act like the human mind—is here, and buildings are prime candidates for AI-powered solutions. Buildings generate thousands of data points that contain solutions to operations and management challenges. Without AI to examine and learn from patterns in the data, these solutions go undetected, along with potentially significant cost savings.

This was the message delivered by Matt Eggers, vice president of Yardi Energy, at the IREM Global Summit. Eggers introduced the concept of AI by pointing to well-known examples of computers outsmarting champions in chess, Go, and Jeopardy. In the case of Go, prodigy Ke Jie declared the AI-powered computer that beat him, Google’s AlphaGo, “100 percent perfection” and “the god of the Go game.”

The Power of AI in Buildings
AI allows for continuous correction of a building’s HVAC system according to the property’s unique energy profile. After original commissioning at construction, the HVAC system tends to drift into inefficiency through normal wear and degradation, load changes and incorrect operations such as overridden controls. Recommissioning the HVAC system can fix this problem—but only temporarily, until the system once again drifts, wasting energy and money along the way.

Yardi’s AI-powered HVAC optimization platform, LOBOS®, installs like an app on the building automation system and corrects HVAC operations every 30 seconds. This constant correction can result in substantial energy and cost savings compared to conventional operations, as shown in the table below. Another benefit—constant indoor temperature adjustments increase tenant comfort and result in fewer hot and cold calls.

 

Yardi Graphic
Source: Yardi Systems, Inc.

New Risks Ahead
Eggers acknowledged that recent advances in technology—including AI and the big data it relies upon—can be unsettling and potentially harmful. While an army of robots attacking its human creators is unlikely, new technology brings new risks. Hackers exploited a security weakness in web-enabled HVAC systems to steal private customer data from Target, for example.

Security is one reason AI is best deployed in conjunction with human beings, Eggers continued. This includes a trusted solutions provider who can advise on an energy management solution for a specific building, someone who will say if a particular technology, including AI, is not a good fit. Human beings need to be there along the way, as well. A competent property manager or building engineer controls Yardi’s AI solution through a tablet computer, for instance.

AI in Property Management Has Just Begun
AI has the potential to provide solutions to all sorts of management challenges in hiring, customer service, security and other areas of operations. Yardi has other AI solutions on the horizon, said Eggers, and will soon release an Internet of Things (IoT) platform for multifamily properties.

Properly deployed and managed, new technologies can take management and operations to an entirely new level of efficiency and service.

About the Author
Todd Feist is sustainability program manager at IREM Headquarters in Chicago.

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