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Definition of Smart Built Environments

Thee are many definitions of Smart Homes, Smart Buildings and Smart Cities and they are mainly produced by vendors to sell more of what they offer. Which means that they exclude some other vendor products. On the whole they are very unsatisfactory and here we have developed a definition that is meant to be open and at the same time be explanatory.

What is a Smart Built Environment?

The media and marketing have shown us that the use of the word ‘smart’ has been used and abused to such an extent, that its value is almost meaningless. Further, that in the Smart Home, Smart Building and Smart City contexts, some manufacturers and city leaders have made it mean anything they want it to mean.Smart Environment

When building managers and other stakeholders explore what needs to be done to manage the risks to their environments, they must have an understanding and gauge of the level of how smart the environment is to understand how it is to be secured. Just as a ‘smart’ kettle and a ‘smart’ tv don’t make a smart home, nor does a single ‘smart’ infrastructure make a smart city. When it comes to ‘smart’ buildings the picture is a little more complex – where the complexity comes from the fact that of the three environments (homes, buildings and cities), buildings have been utilising technologies that fall into the category of ‘smart’ for several years. At what point did or does the use of any or particular technologies enable an environment to be called smart? Before defining what we mean, it is useful to explore what should be required from the definition.

The requirements of a definition of Smart Built Environments include:

  • It must be able to provide some context of capabilities of buildings and technologies of the past, present and future.
  • It must not be limited to any one type of premises like homes, offices, factories, or public spaces (stations, shopping centres, sports stadiums, etc), so must be applicable to all types of premises.
  • It must describe an environment rather than a type of building or physical or geographical space.
  • It must not be restricted or over stretched to include or exclude particular vendor solutions, but to include all relevant technologies that cover the types of premises to be included.
  • It must not use adjectives about the technology, unless they are accepted industry terms, e.g. the word smart to explain technology does not offer any value and should be avoided, however the word Intelligent in the context of ‘Artificial Intelligence’ can be used, as it is an accepted industry term that refers to a type of technology.
  • It should not centre on specific vendor technology solutions, but on wider technologies available to all vendors.

With the above requirements in mind, the IoT Security Foundation Smart Built Environment Group has adopted the Virtually Informed Limited definition and model of the Smart Built Environment, which is available for use under the Creative Commons License. The following text is from Virtually Informed to describe Smart Built Environments.

Definition of a Smart Built Environment

A Smart Built Environment is one which utilises several technology systems (including sensors) to collect and share data via a network to a unified management system to take actions or make decisions in order to provide benefits to various stakeholder.

The key components making up the environment are:

  • utilises several technology systems (including sensors)
  • collect and share data via a network
  • to a unified management system
  • to take actions or make decisions
  • to provide benefits to various stakeholder.

The single unifying system only becomes smart when all relevant systems are connected together so that data from them can be used to make better benefit decisions, until that point it is only really an environment that uses intelligent technologies. This unifying system is what ties the management system and the decision-making intelligence together to make overarching benefit decisions rather than isolated responses to the environment.

The whole technology that wraps around the environment is secure so that it is able to function with the intended integrity, availability and confidentiality that is expected by all stakeholders. Essentially, the environment must be sustainable as a single unifying system; if it is not sustainable, it is not smart either as a collection of devices, or as a system or as a system of systems.

It must be understood that the installation of any technology into a environment that has the capability to connect to the internet, regardless of whether the technology is considered as a smart technology or the environment is a smart environment according to any definition, must be secured. If any such technologies are installed considerations must be given not just to the security of the devices or systems, but on much wider issues on who can install devices on the network, where and how they fits into the strategic objectives the business and the benefits of the devices. All of today’s technologies can no longer be assumed as localised decisions which can be made in isolation without affecting anything or anyone else.


If an environment does not include all the above elements of the definition, it is not a Smart Built Environment, it may be a Built Environment, with building technology related infrastructure, as indicated in the maturity levels of Built Environments.


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