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Facility managers have a growing number of choices for smart buildings platforms that integrate data from across the portfolio and provide analytics and other advanced features. Aaron Lapsley, vice president of engineering services for Switch Automation, says that facility managers who are evaluating smart building platforms should ask questions about four things to help narrow the choices.
1. Does the platform enable you to control equipment from within the platform itself, via the Internet, from anywhere?
2. Can analytics be done within the platform? The goal is to look at multiple data points and compare them in a way to tell when things are not working properly.
3. To do those things, does the user have to bolt on other software platforms? While the bolt-on approach can provide functionality needed, the facility manager should be aware of the costs and complexity that may be involved. “What if I want to make changes?” Lapsley asks. “Can I do it myself? Are things automated? Or do I have to call up the contractor and pay them to do manual work to redo that?”
4. What ways does the platform have of getting data into the system? For example does the platform have an API, or application program interface? “Can you get data in or out in a relatively straightforward, structured way, automatically,” Lapsley says. “If you don’t have a REST API these days you really don’t have a technology platform.”
An API is essentially the way two computer programs talk to each other. REST APIs are sometimes known as “open” APIs. Sometimes the term “open API” is misconstrued to mean that the API is unsecured. That isn’t the case. “It’s published for the means of integration,” Lapsley says. “Customers can get access to it.”
Data comes in a lot of different forms, Lapsley notes. “A lot of data is still in spreadsheets. If the platform can’t easily do spreadsheet integration, that can be problematic. If you’re need to build a data warehouse on top of this platform, then you start asking yourself whether this platform provides what you really need.”
For more about Switch Automation, visit switchautomation.com. For more about the Building Internet of Things, go to facilitiesnet.com/iot.
This Quick Read was compiled by Ed Sullivan, Editor in chief of Building Operating Management magazine, firstname.lastname@example.org.