Smart building technology has been slowly, yet steadily, advancing with connections to 5G wireless for at least two years, but electronics industry leaders still see a need to push for development of more intelligent in-building smart devices.

Innovations underway include use of 5G private networks, experimental Citizens Band Radio Service licenses and connections to cloud systems.

Of course, not every part of a smart building system will depend entirely on a fast wireless network, which is why Siemens and Qualcomm announced a collaboration on Wednesday based on a proof-of-concept network architecture at Siemens’ Buffalo Grove, Illinois, offices.  There, a 5G private network is being tested for efficient connections to heating, ventilation and air conditioning components.  The effort “aims to further advance digitization in building automation by developing new, more intelligent smart devices in the future,” Qualcomm said in a statement.

The current state of smart building innovations relying on fast, low latency wireless is variable around the globe, said Monica Paolini, an analyst at Senza Fili. “Wireless-enabled building automation is growing, especially in China, but also in Europe,” Paolini said. “The US is a bit behind, despite CBRS.”

Telefonica recently described for analysts multiple commercial enterprise applications of 5G used for building automation. Paolini said such examples are emerging “more slowly than expected, but we are making progress.”

The global smart buildings market is expected to grow to $121 billion in 2026, up from $73 billion in 2021, reflecting annual growth of 11% , according to research firm Markets and Markets.  A big factor in that growth is 5G.

The  Siemens offices in the Chicago suburb evidently have required some retrofitting of older HVAC components. “It’s harder to make everything smart if you can’t get components connected,” said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. “The payback is pretty high over the life of the building.”  When constructing a new building, “making everything smart is the right thing to do and fairly easy to accomplish.”

Siemens is already a major player in the smart building market and sees advantages in working with Qualcomm. “It makes sense for them to offer a 5G private network option as a way to outfit brown field solutions for customers rather than trying to pull wireless through potentially huge infrastructure for existing mega buildings,” Gold said.

Qualcomm, meanwhile, “arguably makes the best 5G modems out there, so it makes sense for Qualcomm and Siemens to cooperate,” he added. “If the market demand takes off, Qualcomm could sell a lot of 5G modems” since many large buildings might need hundreds such modems.

Qualcomm is using its Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System in the Siemens proof of concept. The Siemens and Qualcomm engineers have worked together “to successfully prove the automated building use case,” said Sebastiano De Filippo, senior director for business development at Qualcomm Europe.

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