Is your building IoT ready?

BMS, BEMS, building management system, controls, Internet of Things, facilities management, Schneider Electric

There are many benefits to be gained by the building-management system becoming the platform on which the Internet of Things within a facility flows. Simon Garratt of Schneider gives an insight into the potential.

Have you heard this one before? According to Gartner Research, there will be 20.8 billion connected objects by 2020. That’s more things than people on earth. Why does nearly every discussion about the Internet of Things (IoT) include a count? Because the number is astounding and exponential — and you need to understand the magnitude and drivers in order to not just prepare but also leverage the IoT in your buildings.

Despite Gartner’s 2016 forecast of 6.4 million connected objects, we still consider the IoT to be still emerging. In a typical large building of 10 000 m2 square feet, there are thousands of intelligent devices which have the potential to be connected.

What’s happening at home, where people can control their HVAC, lighting and security systems from anywhere, is heading to the office. Building occupants are expecting the same seamless IoT experience at work as they have in their personal lives. So, what’s holding your building back?

We understand the big issues — budget, resources and security, adding another level of complexity to your building may seem daunting, but leveraging the IoT will actually address these concerns. Your team will be more productive, and your structure will use less energy. Plus, you may already have the foundations in place.

A building-management system (BMS) like SmartStruxure from Schneider Electric is the platform on which the IoT within a facility flows. With BMS as the infrastructure, the next step is a matter of re-examining business process and reprioritising. Then you’ll see that as the IoT comes to life, it will not only provide new functionality for your occupants, but also deliver new data for you to gain insight. In turn, you’ll have more time to focus on strategic activities. Taking advantage of the IoT to better manage the day-to-day activity of a building means you can reallocate resources to higher-value tasks.

As part of operations technology (OT) you might be asking, ‘So what does this have to do with me?’

It’s the job of IT to ensure that servers and the data they process are protected — right? Yes, this is true. However, take a step back and think about how many of the systems you manage are connected. Then go ahead and substitute the word ‘connected’ with the word ‘vulnerable’. Now you should realise that facilities managers have a new role to play in cyber security. The thought of connecting your BMS to numerous new systems may bring recent high-profile breaches to mind, but rather than looking at the incident with concern, use it to apply best practices to your managing your IoT infrastructure. Embrace the convergence of OT and IT.

The days of keeping data within the building are quickly disappearing. We are moving to a world where you have to push out information for anytime, anywhere access to enable more intelligent real-time decisions and satisfy tenants. In fact, putting the occupant at the centre of the experience is key to meeting new user expectations and fully realising the benefits of the IoT. If you don’t rise to meet this demand, you may soon find yourself in an empty building.

BMS, BEMS, building management system, controls, Internet of Things, facilities management, Schneider Electric
Having IoT devices integrated with HVAC systems means that organisations can collect real-time data about their product and service.

Like many other markets, the IoT is driving innovation in the HVAC software and applications market. This is impacting both organisations as a whole and the way people work.

Thanks to the IoT, IT and OT systems are now better connected, which is helping create new experiences, generate more value and improve the working environment for users within a facility.

With buildings being more dynamic than ever, new software solutions are helping facilities managers move away from the world of paper. Mobile applications enable remote control, and the cloud serves as the foundation for software and mobile. A cloud infrastructure delivers the power to turn data into insight by supporting more intelligent mining of the vast volumes of information created by building-management systems (BMSs). Having IoT devices integrated with HVAC systems means that organisations can collect real-time data about their product and service. Understanding and organising this information can, and is, allowing organisations to take a fresh look at their current practices, generate business change and create efficiencies.

Energy will remain a core focus for the industry over the next several years, especially as prices continue to fluctuate. Companies will keep developing sustainability initiatives, and there’s likely to be a greater shift toward net-zero-energy projects.

This is not the only trend toward efficiency; companies are also looking to develop smarter workplaces through smarter buildings, turning traditional offices, universities, retail stores and healthcare facilities into spaces that will attract tenants and invigorate employees.

An emphasis on cyber security is also surging. More building environments are incorporating more connected technologies as part of the IoT, and organisations are starting to understand the risks associated and how to mitigate those risks. It is critical that IT and OT infrastructures and processes are aligned. The projects will only be successful if the key stakeholders share the same passion for secure, connected and intelligent buildings.

Simon Garratt is manager, field devices, with Schneider Electric.

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