This goal is being realized on every scale, but the largest and most substantial things we can bring online are our buildings themselves.

Behold Control is a Waterloo-based company working hard to bring the smart city idea to life, not just in the high-tech high-density urban cores, but also in the low-density sprawl of older buildings that makes up the lion's share of our towns and cities. Their solutions, which use cellular technology to bring intelligence to building operation, are remarkable for being easy to deploy in buildings of any age or size.

“We're really driving at the market of smaller facilities that have not had access to this sort of affordable predictive control solution before now,” says CEO Trevor Strauss. “Because we don't have to run cabling, and because there's no custom programming required on a per building basis, it becomes very easy to outfit all these small buildings in an economically feasible way.”

But, what's the advantage of embedding intelligence in our buildings? For a start, in most buildings, equipment like HVAC systems are operating at well below 100 percent efficiency. This drawback not only increases immediate operating costs and environmental impact through energy usage, it also results in more expensive service calls later. It's estimated that for every dollar of proactive maintenance, a facility operator saves four dollars in corrective work.

“This is the type of technology that enables the IoT Industry to grow at a rapid pace. It really delivers on what the market is expecting from the IoT ecosystem — to solve business challenges with a simple solution and clear ROI.”

Bridging that gap from four dollars to one requires intelligent insight into where and when that proactive maintenance is most needed. “It's really about having data points and then building statistical algorithms around them to predict how equipment is going to operate in the future,” explains Strauss.

This insight is the real promise of IoT, that a little bit of data and a little bit of intelligence can have a profound impact on the capability and efficiency of everyday things. This is the real promise of IoT, that a little bit of data and a little bit of intelligence can have a profound impact on the capability and efficiency of everyday things. When those efficiencies come with readily apparent and easily understood economic benefit, that is when adoption really begins to take off. “Outcome-based solutions like these are what enables the Internet of Things to be adopted at a rapid pace,” says Ignacio Paz, General Manager, IoT at Rogers Communications, connectivity providers for Behold Control. “It really delivers on what the market is expecting from the IoT ecosystem – to solve business challenges with a simple solution and clear ROI.”

And, the more widely this sort of technology gets deployed, the better we become able to manage our cities as a whole. “If you look at a smart city from the utility perspective, to be able to dial the grid up and down, they need to have the ability to understand what's happening at close to every node,” says Strauss. “A handful of buildings is not enough to allow them to make smarter decisions with strong insights.”

Think of the smart building as a neuron in the brain of the smart city. Thanks to innovators like Strauss, we are growing new neurons faster than ever before. Our smart cities are about to get a lot smarter.