Semantic Web for Smart Buildings is unlocking business value

Most modern buildings are already packed with smart potential. Designed with sensor-rich environments, they have the capacity to run more efficiently and sustainably than ever before while responding in real-time to the needs of inhabitants. However, unlocking these benefits isn’t as straightforward as pushing a power button.

Besides eliminating the roadblock of data ownership, to realize smart-building benefits property owners need to address an essential communication issue. With various building systems are operating in silos, solving tasks independently within their own systems and building data models, valuable data cannot be combined or exchanged machine-to-machine or building-to-building. But carrying out the integrations needed to enable smart benefits is expensive and time-consuming. And the costs only multiply every time something changes in the underlying system or the amount of data increases.

The answer is language. Having a common language is a critical step in the smart building transformation process. When machines and buildings have a shared language, exchanging data across systems and buildings becomes far easier and more reliable, and the smoothly functioning, game-changing smart applications building owners have been dreaming of finally become possible to operate.

The Resource Description Framework – The foundation of the Semantic Web

The good news is that a common language already exists. In the early 2000s, a language for writing web ontologies called Resource Description Framework (RDF) was introduced by the World Wide Web Consortium. An RDF description, aka metadata, allows resources like websites to be described, along with their contents in a standardized way. This common language enables machines to communicate with one another and exchange information in a consistent and formal way.

However, an RDF alone is not enough to unlock business value in smart buildings. In order to take it to the next level of standardization, machines need access to frameworks and vocabularies specific to building operations.

Ontologies for smart buildings: Trade-specific terminology

Built on top of RDF, ontologies specific to the real estate trade are the key to making smart buildings work. Two prominent examples are the open-source ontologies Brick Schema and RealEstateCore.

Brick Schema

Brick Schema provides standardized descriptions of technical building assets. This gives building owners an integrated, cross-vendor overview of the various subsystems in a building—such as heating and ventilation, lighting, and security systems—as well as the relationships between them. Seamlessly integrating with existing tools and databases, Brick helps lower costs and simplify development related to the deployment and maintenance of analytics and intelligent control applications.


RealEstateCore describes the concepts and relationships that occur in the data generated from building systems—such as building structures, ownership, inhabitants, technical systems, sensors, and events. Essentially, it serves as the technical glue and structure that allows a user interface to be created. And this user interface is what enables property owners to connect their buildings with new services on a large scale, without worrying about building or technology-specific implementation details and formats.

Unlocking smart building value

Everything clicks into place when Brick Schema and RealEstateCore work in concert. Valuable data flows more freely, formerly complicated system integrations become easier and more reliable, and building managers gain a consistent overview of building operations. And, of course, this means that smart building benefits become far more accessible—both now and in the future, as the possibilities continue to grow.

Learn more about RealEstateCore

To learn more about RealEstateCore and our operating system Proptech OS that is based on RealEstateCore, contact us. To learn more about Brick Schema click here.

Dr. Erik Wallin

Chief Ecosystem Officer, and founder of ProptechOS and RealEstateCore is recognized as a leader in Building Operating Systems (BOS) and making the buildings of the world smarter. He holds an MSc and a Ph.D. in Media and Computer Science from KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Read his full bio and information here.