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Boosting building safety: What role can broadband play?

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and subsequent investigation, the issue of building standards and safety has rightly come into sharp focus in the construction and property industries. Indeed, there have been a number of government consultations on the issue, many of which focus on cladding and other materials used in construction. However, the benefits of digital infrastructure in improving building safety is not often considered by decision makers in the sector, says Jeremy Chelot, CEO of Community Fibre. Specifically, full-fibre networks have the potential to greatly improve building safety and efficiency, while laying the foundations for Smart building technology in the very near future.

Currently, the main reason given for landowners to have full-fibre installed on their premises is to provide better internet for their tenants. However, the potential benefits of this infrastructure are much broader than this. The unlimited and fast data that a full-fibre optic network delivers is often underappreciated, in that it can be used to enable a number of Smart and interconnected technologies which can greatly boost safety for residents and improve efficiencies for managers.

A prime example of these are Internet connected fire and intruder alarms, that can be made possible through full-fibre connections. Interconnected smoke alarms form an integrated system of protection for a building, therefore if one alarm in a building detects smoke, all interconnected alarms will sound- whilst also alerting offsite managers through their mobile and laptop devices. These devices are more reliable, thereby reducing risk and as a result, a building’s insurance premiums. Further to this, full-fibre will enable Smart door entry systems and remotely connected IP CCTV cameras, which help to improve a building’s overall security.

A full-fibre installation at a property can provide fast and almost unlimited bandwidth for your IP connected sensors and devices. Fibre optic cable has a small form factor, just 3mm diameter, and is passive and so does not need a power supply to operate. This makes it simple to install data-points in any part of a building and in locations where it makes most sense for your smart sensors to collect the most relevant data.

Fibre is the future foundation that will support the UK digital development and growth.  Installing a full-fibre network will ensure the bandwidth required to support security, safety and other building IoT devices will not impact the broadband speeds of the customers. By installing this digital foundation into buildings, customer, landowners and property managers alike can enhance the buildings smart technology as that technology advances over time, without having to worry about the bandwidth constraints these devices will have.

Of course, this technology is likely to become more prevalent in Smart Homes and buildings of the future, which also means that it is becoming increasingly important to consider the full-fibre infrastructure in the development and maintenance of a building.

Community Fibre recently completed its full-fibre installation at the 1,700 property Churchill Estate in Pimlico, London with many residents now receiving better and faster Internet services. The landlord wanted to install CCTV within the estate’s lifts to improve resident’s security whilst at the same time significantly improving their entrapment service. It was possible to provide very cost-effective data connectivity for the lift CCTV service because the fibre-optic foundation had already been installed.

The Government’s recent Future Telecommunications Infrastructure review sets an ambition to start turning the existing copper telecommunication networks off in 2030. Although this may seem a long way off, it should be remembered that procurement for in-building technologies can have life cycles of ten years or more. Therefore, landlords will need to start to think now about whether the technologies they are buying now will still operate with the full fibre-optic networks of the future.

As a result, it is encouraging to see digital infrastructure rise on the government’s agenda in recent years. The government’s target of getting all homes connected with full-fibre broadband within the next 15 years within its Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review is a key part of this. The review considers how the UK can speed up the switch from old and inferior copper-based internet cables, to fibre-optic cables in order to meet this target.

As a result of these ambitions, solutions that have previously relied on copper connections, such as lift alarms, telecare and significantly fire alarms, will need to be replaced with Internet Protocol (IP) devices. It is therefore vital that the construction industry plans ahead to make sure what they procure and install now will still be working after the copper switch off.

If you are interested in finding out more about key infrastructure trends today, you may wish to attend the flagship infrastructure exhibition at the NEC in April 2019 : UKIS 2019

Click here for more information on how to register or exhibit at the UK Infrastructure Show 2019.  

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