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How IoT will make buildings intelligent by connecting systems to the Internet

How IoT will make buildings intelligent by connecting systems to the Internet

EuropeGreen Technology
Connecting a building and all its subsystems and sensors to the Internet, will enable decision making benefitting the user.

The Internet of Things is getting a lot of attention these days. A reason is the size of the economic activity generated – as much as $11.1 trillion by 2025 in an analysis from the McKinsey Global Institute. According to McKinsey Global, the IoT economic impact on factories, retail settings, work sites, offices and homes could total as much as $6.3 trillion by 2025.

Some of that impact will be in the form of sensors and other hardware that goes into buildings. Some of it will be building management software, applications and services. This makes buildings more efficient, which in turn makes people more productive.

IoT helps make enterprises smarter. The arrival of IoT means that the old way of doing things will not work. Building management systems will have to evolve. But beyond the smart building itself, there will also be data available from weather monitors and financial information – like the price of electricity, other utilities, and even commodities. That data can factor into how buildings are managed. So, buildings will be more intelligent and systems will be able to make adjustments on-the-fly.

According to the 2016 Navigant Research report, Data Integration for Intelligent Buildings, one impact of IoT is that people are going to expect buildings to be smart. They are going to demand data-driven solutions that improve energy and operational efficiencies, facility planning, preventative maintenance, fault detection, occupant comfort, and safety in buildings.

But this requires more than sensors. You need data integration. The data may be in various formats, with different naming conventions and syntaxes coming from a variety of devices, sensors and systems. As a result, gathering, processing and analysing the information may not always be easy.

Two drivers will make this data integration happen despite these difficulties:

#1 Utilities are expanding energy demand response programmes that offer varying energy pricing based on time of day

#2 Energy mandates to increase efficiency by adjusting consumption are becoming more standard

Responding to either of these requires collecting and reacting to information, often lots of it and sometimes very quickly. Consequently, there will be a strong incentive to harness the power of IoT. The arrival of IoT means that the old way of doing things will not work. Overall building technology will have to evolve.

Anybody involved or concerned with managing a building needs to anticipate and plan for changes brought about by the IoT. Navigant Research reports that end users are going to be conditioned by their experience with intelligent devices to expect smart buildings.

With the added data and intelligence IoT brings buildings, facility owners, managers should not underestimate the potential risk of security breaches. All of the protections and best practices of a standard office network will have to be part of the software package.

While being robust enough to ward off attackers, building management software should be able to collaborate with multiple- and third-party systems and devices. A not-so-obvious aspect of IoT and the experience with smart devices is that users expect to be able to take any device, get it on the network, and then have it work.

To make IoT a reality, buildings need to be more efficient, comfortable and easier to manage. Changes in software and its integration into hardware devices will make this possible. IoT-ready products, such as sensors, actuators and controllers, that are connected to a building management system, need to deliver efficiency and optimisation impact at every level of smart building operations.

When software and hardware systems connect and communicate via a central Internet Protocol backbone, buildings become a hub or network that enables connected things to come into the building from the outside and vice versa.

Sensors are a very large component of the IoT – eventually they will be connected to everything, everywhere. As noted in the Navigant Research report, the cost of sensors and actuators is dropping. However, you cannot go by price alone. Reliability and ease of integration are key factors when choosing the right IoT-ready products to go with your building management system.

Part of what IoT can enable is system health and predictive maintenance. A building management system should be future-ready and have the ability to grow and adapt as the technology advances. IoT enables system health and preventive or better yet predictive maintenance. Repairs can be scheduled when there is less disruption and less expense. It is important, to get IoT-capable hardware for a new build or when doing a retrofit. That applies to everything from the control devices up to the building management system.

Most current managed service offers focus on platforms for predictive energy optimisation. They use algorithms and predictive analytics to automatically reduce operations in commercial buildings. The benefit comes from managing and monetising all the data gathered from the plethora of sensors we talked about earlier.

For managed services to be of value, they must ensure the sensor data is gathered, stored, managed, optimised, safeguarded and monetised in the cloud. IoT offers the ability to coordinate the response in different areas.

Building services will become more vital. Part of the reason for this is that government regulations call for increased energy efficiency. The US, for instance, is pushing for a nearly 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions within 10 years. Companies will therefore increasingly turn to sophisticated and optimised building energy management systems to meet these requirements. Building services will help produce significant energy savings. They will also deliver better running smart buildings that make IoT a reality.

Connecting a building and all its subsystems and sensors to the Internet, will enable decision making benefitting the user, explains Tracy Courtemanche at Schneider Electric.

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