Smart homes and buildings: connected and efficient

Residential, public and office buildings account for one of the largest shares in global energy demand. In the EU, buildings are responsible for 40 percent of energy consump-tion and 36 percent of CO2 emissions. Buildings need to become greener in the context of climate goals. In addition to power-saving solutions, sensor systems are key. Intelligent sensors make it possible to reduce smart building energy consumption by 30 percent.

Smart buildings: Whether offices, schools or train stations – smart buildings are intelligently connected and digitalized. They rely on software, communication networks, secure data and dynamic interface management. Smart buildings help cut operating costs, improve security, increase comfort and make energy use more efficient.

Smart homes: More and more private and residential buildings are equipped with smart technologies. Interconnected devices are controlled centrally and are able to monitor, communicate and trigger actions, e.g. in the fields of home appliances, entertainment, lighting or home automation. This makes our living more convenient – and also greener.

NEW: EE Times Feb. 2022: Cover article on radar sensors and energy efficiency

Did you know that in 2025 the number of smart homes is expected to reach 500 million worldwide? Connected devices, like smart fridges or ACs, make our lives more convenient, but they also consume additional energy. In the face of climate challenges, we need to find intelligent ways to limit overall energy consumption, specifically consumption by smart functionalities. And this is where sensors come into play. They enable connected devices to intuitively understand their surroundings and to react accordingly. We call that “contextual awareness”. In addition to safety and convenience for smart home inhabitants, this ability makes it possible to save energy. Sensors make sure devices are not simply always ON, instead they only run when needed. And with great benefits: We reduce CO₂ emissions, increase device lifetimes and cut costs.

Click to the right and explore three sensor examples which have a real impact:
Everybody would agree that in most cases it makes no sense to use electricity when nobody is around – whether generally at home, in a room or close to an electrical device. Conversely, it's very convenient that devices switch on when a person enters the room or is in the vicinity: The air-conditioning starts to run, the lights go on, the music begins to play. Energy consumption should be linked to real needs and room occupancy. How do we achieve this? With high sensitivity, XENSIV™ radar sensors are able to detect people and movements in a room, switching devices on or putting them into deep sleep mode. This way, radar sensors not only increase comfort and user experience (e.g. the music is there where you are), but also optimize the energy consumption of many smart home applications. Are you aware of the latest TV innovations? One is definitely the Samsung Frame TV. When not in use, the screen shows an artwork instead of “black space”. The 2021 model runs with an Infineon XENSIV™ 60GHz radar sensor. This sensor can detect people in the room and turns off the art mode once nobody is around for a certain time. This not only saves OLED lifetime, but also energy. Effective measurement of air quality has become especially important in pandemic times. In addition to the benefits for health and well-being, professional air control helps to reduce energy consumption. Intelligent ventilation systems can be controlled by sensors, measuring CO₂ concentration, related to the number of persons present. According to the results, the room is provided with a calculated amount of fresh air – only as much as needed. The same effect is achieved by opening the window and closing it at the right point in time. This reduces heating and cooling efforts. Did you know that 50% of the EU's energy consumption in buildings and industry is related to heating and cooling? There is enormous potential for energy savings. E.g., a ventilation system with a XENSIV™ PAS CO2 sensor can save up to 55% of energy. The impact is even higher when combined with smart thermostats and building automation systems. Many smart devices (e.g. doorbells, video cameras, smart speakers) use microphones to record sounds, receive commands or input and to allow for communication. Most of the time, these devices are on stand-by until a certain input "wakes them up". This is why built-in XENSIV™ MEMS microphones have two modes: In normal mode, the microphone has the best acoustic performance, allowing for clear audio input. In low-power mode, the microphone’s energy consumption is dramatically reduced, while it is still able to “listen” – mostly for wake-words like "Alexa" or "Siri" or triggers like the sound of a door opening. Once such an input is detected, the microphone switches to normal mode for optimal audio pick up. The fact that smart speakers have more than four microphones and spend up to 90% of the time in low-power mode means there is great energy savings potential. In an ideal world, electrical equipment in buildings would run without failures and consume energy in the most efficient way. Of course, this is not always the case. Integrated in the critical elements of a system, sensors can monitor the condition of devices such as HVAC or lighting. The data collected may show deviations from normal values indicating a decrease in performance and efficiency. The result: Expensive down-times and higher power consumption. Due to aging and degradation, devices no longer run at their optimum performance. This can be detected by various sensors. E.g., in an HVAC system the DPS368 barometric pressure sensor detects reduced airflow due to a clogged filter, the TLI4971 magnetic current sensor indicates motor failure and the IM69D130 microphone detects sound anomalies in the compressor. In addition to condition monitoring, sensors also enable the next step: Predictive maintenance. Smart feel, smart nose, smart ear and smart eye: All together, Infineon's sensors are inspired by human functions and are able to interpret their surroundings, including implicit intentions and context. It almost seems like the devices with built-in sensors intuitively understand what we want them to do. That's why we call this intelligent technology “Intuitive Sensing”. Sensors connect the real and the digital world, making life not only easier and safer, but also greener.

Self-aware, intelligent and green

Smart homes and smart buildings offer numerous possibilities to reduce energy consumption and enable more while using less. This is mainly driven by semiconductors and intelligent semiconductor systems – a combination of power management ICs, sensors, controllers as well as connectivity and security solutions. Major fields for potential energy savings are for example Consumer appliances, Lighting and Heating/ Ventilation/ Air-Conditioning (HVAC)

Application page: Smart building solutions

Video: Ready-to-use solutions for smart buildings

EE Times article: Making buildings smarter, greener, and more energy-efficient

Focus on sensors and "Intuitive Sensing"

The chipman presents Infineon's consumer sensors: MakesSense

Intuitive Sensing Technology: Interaction between people and devices

Comprehensive portfolio for efficient buildings

Smart buildings help reduce energy consumption and support the sustainable use of resources. Intelligently placed sensor systems build the foundation and allow sensor input to trigger actuators and automate decisions; Power management ICs, microcontrollers and security ICs also act as the crucial link between the real and the digital world.

Sensor systems enable predictive maintenance, reduced down-time and enhanced information. They enable building owners and users to reduce costs and thus support lifetime enhancement of devices as well as of installed equipment.

A great variety of innovative solutions support energy saving in modern buildings and turn them into self-aware, green and intelligent buildings – helping to meet the challenges of urbanization and climate change. Power semiconductors, microcontrollers and different types of sensors are able to significantly cut energy consumption and improve convenience and well-being of a building’s occupants.

Explore our portfolio for smart building applications

Explore how to increase energy efficiency in other use cases