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By Ken Sinclair
The times they are a changing with the transfer of ownership of the two largest Canadian independent control companies, Delta Controls and DISTECH, plus European LOYTEC Electronics GmbH and Australian Daintree Networks. That is a lot of global change happening in the last few months.All the companies have strong presences and are leaders using open protocols while working towards IoT-centric solutions.The purchase of DISTECH by Acuity Brands, a North American market leader and one of the world's leading providers of lighting solutions, and the purchase of networked building startup Daintree Networks by GE shows the powerful directional shift to the lighting industry with new financial clout.We just returned from Lightfair and the CABA Intelligent Buildings & Digital Home Forum. Both events were great eye openers depicting our need to adapt to our open IoT-centric future now.I have written a quick review of the Lightfair event, but you will be reading about the observed changes for months to come. Amazing control of the new source LED lighting is evolving rapidly, and equals and in some areas even exceeds what our open BACnet industry has achieved. The new ability of color control is sexy and provides a strong link to personal preferences and increased productivity and an amazing ability to display products and all our interfacing tasks.The LEDs are capable of much more than just providing light and color. These devices allow low-cost, low-voltage integration, moving sensing and powerful control to the device level at the edge, with low cost sensors for powerful daylighting control, dimming with color shift, occupancy sensing leading to occupancy geo-mapping. Low cost networking via Wi-Fi using either Zigbee or "6LoWPAN," an acronym of IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks.Change is everywhere. The shift from chasing the $3 to chasing the $300 — in the equation of $3 per square foot for energy, $30 for rental, $300 for the people in the space — was very obvious at both Lightfair and the CABA event. The smaller CABA event was powerful and I look forward to sharing with you in our June column.This article talks to the struggles of our present day systems integrators to reach to occupants and operators in the buildings. Past, Present and Future of the Buildings Industry Workforce — “Systems integrators will again gather in June to discuss the challenges at Realcomm’s Intelligent Buildings Conference.” — Brian Turner, President, Controlco “The buildings industry is at a crossroads. Systems integrators will again gather in June to discuss the challenges at Realcomm’s Intelligent Buildings Conference, particularly at the preceding Smart Building Integrators Summit. ‘We are dealing with three different generations of smart building technologies,’ says the program guide. There is a past of closed, clunky, systems; the present, an in-between experimental stage; and the future, where IP backbones and graphical interfaces bring analytics to the forefront. The shifts in technology have been steady, but are now increasing at a more rapid rate thanks to the Internet of Things and its building applications.“While true, this description focuses only on hardware and software, leaving out a key element of the timeline: people. There is also a distinct past, present and future of building operations staff. “The building operations manager of the past is accustomed to tight budgets and short staff, plus the physical responsibility of keeping the lights on, the air circulating, and the buildings secure. These operations managers are used to being the first ones called when anyone is too hot, too cold, or otherwise inconvenienced by building services and equipment. Knowledge of each piece of legacy equipment runs deep. With years of repairing and replacing the same equipment over and over, it can be daunting to make any major shifts. “And then there’s the present. A recent study out of the UK looked at 50 ‘leading edge, modern buildings’ — a mix of retail, office, schools, and healthcare facilities. It found that only one was performing to the specifying engineer’s expectations. The other 49 buildings were missing their energy performance goals, in some cases actually consuming as much as 3.5 times more energy than was predicted. According to the report, ‘many projects had difficulty merging new technologies, in particular building management systems. Many also had problems with maintenance, controls and metering.’ The researchers used the word ‘alienating’ to describe occupant reaction to new mechanical and electrical controls and found that operators routinely disabled them. “Any real estate financial decision-maker that invests in the hardware and software needed to operate a 21st century building should be willing to invest in bringing the people up-to-date too. Occupants and operators cannot be left out of the equation. They are more likely to play their central role in successful deployment if time and attention is given to familiarizing and training them on the systems. People can’t be expected to look at a new graphical user interface and automatically know where their meters are and how to predict future energy usage.”Champions of connectivity are needed to open and usher our industry into the IoT world and are a very important piece of our puzzle moving forward.This article adds this wisdom:What Does It Mean To Be A System Integrator — “We owe it to our people, our clients, and this industry to raise our skill level and to deliver on what it truly means to be a system integrator.” — Paul Oswald, Managing Director CBRE|ESI.“Much has been written about Smart Buildings and IoT and Big Data and Analytics. (Did I miss any buzzwords?) This inevitably leads to the subject of integrating all of the wonderful technology we have at our disposal. But what does that really mean and who are these folks who perform this integration? What skills must they have and what does it really mean for someone to call themselves an integrator?“Let’s start with purpose; the purpose of the system integrator is to take parts (hardware and software), and many times disparate, and create a solution out of them. At a very fundamental level, this consists of getting devices to talk to one another; LON to BACnet, to Modbus, to legacy, etc. At another level it is getting software applications to work together such that data or information flows between the applications as part of a solution. These are two very obvious examples of what a system integrator does.“Wikipedia defines a systems integrator as follows: ‘A systems integrator is a person or company that specializes in bringing together component subsystems into a whole and ensuring that those subsystems function together, a practice known as system integration.’“Beyond the capabilities you need to perform according to these rather obvious definitions, I would like to suggest that there are several skills or qualities I think a company needs to possess in order to truly be called a systems integrator in the industry today; aspects of being a systems integrator that are often overlooked.”To some extent all of us involved in facilities management have become system integrators connecting our existing facilities to a new open world which is part of the Internet of Things. The times they are a changing … smile.Ken Sinclair is the founder, owner, and publisher of an online resource called AutomatedBuildings.com. He writes a monthly column for FacilitiesNet.com about what is new in the Internet of Things (IOT) for building automation.