Going through the proper channels

Alan Johnstone, BEMS, Internet of Things, Trend Control Systems
Alan Johnstone

Only a systems integrator that understands all the capabilities of a building energy management system can fully exploit its potential. Alan Johnstone examines the importance of choosing the right partner.

Systems integrators are now responsible for supplying, engineering and commissioning the vast majority of building energy management systems (BEMS) across the globe. According to BSRIA, the global building automation and control systems market was worth more than $18bn in 2015 but this figure is predicted to rise to just over $26bn by 2019. These days, systems integrators account for most of the sales of BEMS – a massive difference to the situation in the early 1980s, when almost all systems were supplied directly by manufacturers.

The current situation isn’t without its pitfalls though. It is worth remembering that BEMS installation is an unregulated sector, which means that anyone can set up a business as a systems integrator and try to secure work.

Systems integrators play a crucial  role in delivering, commissioning and maintaining BEMS.

Most leading vendors that operate their own channel partner programmes undertake a strict vetting procedure to ensure that any systems integration company that joins is able to provide cutting edge workmanship, contract management, documentation and quality control.

They will often have to provide a full business case that is evaluated and undergo regular formal audits to ensure their activities continue to meet the highest possible standards, with those that cease to measure up being removed. This also offers significant benefits for end users and provides them with genuine choice of supply which is important, not only when a client first installs a system, but also later on if it is modified, expanded or extended into other buildings.

A good systems integrator should be able to provide expertise throughout all stages of a project – from consultancy, design and specification through to installation, commissioning and maintenance. They will also be fully up to date with the latest technological developments in the world of BEMS and be able to recommend upgrades and other ways to augment, optimise and future proof an existing system. This can only be achieved through knowledge about various building types and the ability to plan for future usage of the building or estate.

The commitment of BEMS manufacturers in strengthening the channel is reflected in the heavy investment some companies have made supporting the suppliers of its solutions. One noticeable development is the proliferation of software tools that simplify the process of engineering and commissioning systems by saving time, while also improving on-site health and safety. For example, voice commissioning systems are now available that comprise a digital enhanced cordless telecommunications (DECT) headset, which is connected to Microsoft Windows programme with built-in voice activation functionality. A single engineer can now simply check sensor operation and record data by speaking into the headset to carry out these tasks – cutting down the time taken to complete this operation by up to 50 per cent, with no loss of accuracy.

Training for partners is essential if clients are to get the most from their BEMS.

Our increasingly connected world means that modern commercial buildings are smarter than ever and BEMS need to be in tune with the demands of the Internet of Things (IoT). With the vast majority of BEMS now configured with monitoring and management software, manufacturers are developing solutions that allow systems integrators to configure systems that boast state-of-the-art functions such as centralised data logging, archiving, alarming, trending, master scheduling, system wide database management, and integration with enterprise software applications.

The IoT is driving huge change and the need for previously isolated building services technologies to link seamlessly means that approved systems integrators will play a vital role in fulfilling its potential.

Alan Johnstone is UK&I partner channel sales leader at Trend Control Systems

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