The Internet of Things is crucial to construction

Claire Kenny of IBM sees a groundswell of innovation and change in the construction industry

13th September, 2017
Claire Penny, Global Leader for IBM Watson IoT (Internet of Things) for Buildings

What's your name?

Claire Penny

What position do you hold?

Global Leader for IBM Watson IoT (Internet of Things) for Buildings

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

On a day-to-day basis I get to combine all my passion, experience and learning from the past 17 years and focus it into IoT for Buildings, with an emphasis on the operational phase of a building's lifecycle. This combination means that I can add value to customers, whilst working and collaborating with brilliant teams, to develop and deliver IBM cognitive building solutions. I spend a huge amount of my time travelling the world visiting clients and speaking at conferences, which helps me to understand the specific challenges and opportunities companies have.

Through this role I also help to drive IBM’s thinking and vision, to strategically shape our Buildings and Retail cognitive (IoT) solutions, which are helping clients to drive operational efficiencies, cost savings and even generate new revenue streams.

I regularly share my knowledge and passion through publications, social media and public speaking activities, delivering presentations on topics such as Cognitive Buildings, IoT, BIM (Building Information Modelling), IWMS (Integrated Workplace Management Solutions), Energy Optimisation and Environmental Affairs.

What is your professional background?

Unrelated to the role I am in now, I studied Applied Biology at university and my PhD investigated the Heavy Metal Stress Responses in Coniferous Trees! I even held a Post-doctoral Doctoral Research position in Trinity before embarking on a big career change in the year 2000, when I joined IBM.

My career at IBM spans 17 years and includes roles in IBM Real Estate, where I led the European energy and environmental team. I have also worked in the integrated supply chain, leading a global environmental team and various business development roles within the software group.

Tell me about yourself away from work?

I have a fantastic family who keep me on my toes, and my weekends usually revolve around rugby, hockey, gymnastics and swimming. When I do get time, I like to run and have recently taken up pilates (which I love!)

In an extended work capacity, not one to sit still even after hours, my external commitments include chairing the CitA BICP (BIM Innovation Capability Programme) Client BIM Task Group, Ireland, and non-executive director of WEEE (Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment) Ireland.

Tell us something very few people know about you?

Well, my husband is Scottish, I am English and the kids were all born in Ireland – it makes the Rugby Six Nations an interesting time in our household.

You are speaking at the 2017 Construction Industry Federation conference. What are you speaking about?

BIM (Building Information Modelling) and IoT (Internet of Things) are two major topics in the construction industry. I am going to talk about the importance and value of transferring and using data generated during the BIM process into the operate phase of a building's lifecycle and the concept of developing a digital twin. I will discuss how the on-going use of this meta-data, supplemented with IoT data can not only deliver savings in operational costs, but can also increase the value of the building itself.

I am also going to talk about cognitive buildings and how we (IBM) are working towards delivering buildings that learn how people use them, and how this influences energy utilisation and the performance of the assets.

What challenges do you see for the construction sector?

I think that the headline in the August 17th, 2017 issue of The Economist says it all: “American builders’ productivity has plunged by half since the late 1960s”. The ability and willingness to innovate has held the industry back. Couple this with complex contracts and supply chains, in a landscape that is made up of a very few large companies and many, many SMEs and you have an industry that produces headlines like the one above.

However, the good news is that the changes in business process that the likes of BIM and IoT are driving is starting to create a groundswell of innovation and change, so it is a very exciting time to be part of the construction industry.

Where would you like to see the industry in 10 years time?

I would love to see the construction industry digitally embracing the full lifecycle of the assets that it is building. With not only a physical asset being delivered, but also a digital asset (digital twin) of each construction being delivered right from the get-go. The digital twin will provide detailed information and insight into, not only how the building is performing in relation to its occupants and use, but also, how it is being managed and maintained across its entire lifecycle, right through to decommissioning.

Claire Penny will be appearing at the Construction Industry Federation's Annual Conference at Croke Park on October 12th. For more information on tickets, which are open to members and non-members, please visit

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