According to analyst firm Gartner, there will be 26 billion wirelessly connected devices on the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020 and every one that is connected to the internet will produce data of some sort.  It is perhaps inevitable then that a smart, machine driven world will undoubtedly give rise to smart intelligent buildings which are vulnerable to attack.  With Gartner predicting that by year-end 2018, 20% of buildings will have suffered from digital vandalism, what does the future hold for building owners and occupiers?

In our current rate of technological change, the smart building will be the workplace of the future.  Think of an office that is tailored to you as an individual, whether you are a customer, employee, partner or supplier.  It will recognise a person entering a building, what physical access they require, what devices they have with them, and what information they might need.  That same office will know what someone’s preferences are for light, temperature, and the type of room you require.  It might even alert you to someone who might be useful to a project you’re working on.  Clever stuff indeed.

Sensor technology will hold no bounds but also this additional sophisticated IT kit brings with it another set of potential problems, namely what to do about security.  Vandals love destroying things, none more so than in cyberspace. Digital vandals will devote an inordinate amount of time creating malware that will damage computer systems and data, affecting every element of a business. They are certainly going to have a field day with smart buildings and all that web-enabled technology.   Recently two Australian researchers from an IT security company were able to bypass Google’s high level authentication of their building management systems in Australia.  So if Google can be a victim, so can anyone.

Smart building components should not be considered as independent entities but must be viewed as part of the larger organisation security process. Products must be built to offer acceptable levels of protection and hooks for integration into security monitoring and management systems.

Insufficient and inadequate security could result in serious economic, health and safety, and security consequences.  Smart cities and buildings are clearly the future but the potential for whole buildings to be turned into darkness is a reality. Digital vandals will raise the stakes even further by targeting the computers that monitor and control more ordinary but nonetheless critical systems -anything from water treatment and distribution, sewage, oil and gas pipelines to electrical transmission lines, wind farms and nuclear power plants.

Our reliance on information technology has brought with it a whole host of cyber security risks.  The threat levels to smart buildings will need to be addressed by building owners, operators and occupiers so they can protect their assets.  Failure to do so is the same as neglecting common health and safety issues.  As more and more buildings get connected to the internet and remotely controlled through cloud based software, security will only grow in importance.