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Building Brains: The Building IoT Is Transforming Buildings


By Ken Sinclair

AI is the brain, IoT the body speaking with the face and voice of digital transformation. In the title, "Building Brains," the word "building" is used both as a verb and a noun, which makes you read each reference twice to get both meanings. 

Machine learning or artificial intelligence — "AI" — is poised to take our industry quickly in directions never before conceived.  "Building Brains" with its IoT body, face, and voice is changing our world faster than we can imagine; actually, digitally transforming it.

Building brains will evolve rapidly as more and more intelligence devices come with their own machine learning and AI. The challenge will be to manage these bit brains on the edge and use that intelligence for the greater good of the building, the campus, the city, and the world. The new task is to build building brains with the myriad of edge brains creating a virtual intelligence digital transformation community for our purpose.  In the past machine learning and AI only resided in the cloud but with the development of open source learning, voice platforms, and low-cost processor/memory at the edge, bit brains are now everywhere.

Just returned from Chicago and my brain hurts, please read my review, AHR Expo 2018 Takeaways. The epo's education sessions have created an annual pop up university that keeps our industry-current, while encouraging industry sages to bring their younger mentors, their "IoT mini Me's" to the show. 

My favorite session, the Sixth Annual Connection Community Collaboratory, was captured on video by Thanks, guys. I always learn so much at these sessions.  Special thanks to the industry experts for sharing their wisdom.

"The session began with each panel member giving an overview of their perspectives on a range of current industry topics such as IoT, edge devices, edge processing, and the impact of IoT micro-controllers — advancing into several highly interactive discussions.

"This summed up the success of the collaboratory best: 'In the past, our sessions have primarily focused on software, analytics, and protocols. For the first time ever, hardware started to enter into the conversation with the likes of Raspberry Pi's, Beagle boards, Amazon Echos, and Hey Google's… a very interesting transition, which led to some extremely interesting discussions.'"

Further to his input in the video and at the collaboratory Marc Petock adds this: 

What's in Store this Year? While choice is not new, the influence of platforms, the edge, the influx of open, data, analytics and the flexibility of today's technology, make decisions based on choice better than ever — Marc Petock, chief communications officer, vice president, marketing Lynxspring and Connexx Energy.

"IoT continues to alter the way we live in a multitude of ways, from the transformation of business operations to the reshaping of how we operate and manage buildings. It is moving from experimentation to business scale. As I have commented in previous articles, IoT is changing what we are delivering -— how, when and where. However, realizing its potential starts with understanding the value and contribution it brings. IoT is as much about behavioral changes, transformation, and business opportunity, not just technology or the number of connected devices. IoT is the platform upon which to connect, collect and analyze data so we can drive, optimize, measure and validate outcomes. Building owners and operators should not 'buy' IoT; they should purchase solutions to specific challenges where IoT components are part of a solution. When it comes to our industry, we have proven that IoT is driving value and delivering successful business outcomes. 

"When we mention IoT, we must mention artificial intelligence (AI). AI is undoubtedly the buzzword of the day — everyone is talking about it. The upsurge of AI will continue. AI capabilities have been made possible by the massive increases in data and computing power. It's the incredible explosion in data that has allowed AI to advance over the last couple of years; the more data an AI system has, the quicker it can learn and the more accurate it becomes."

And Troy Davis added this: One Cohesive Solution? One sensor by itself is an island.  One sensor connected to a data analytics or AI assistant is a meaningful contributor to a huge variety of opportunities for improving our buildings and reducing costs — Troy Davis, sales director, EnOcean Inc.

"We have started to see a trend towards software platforms which lean on new capabilities in software, hardware, and AI, yet also can contribute back to the systems such as BACnet.   This allows the building to utilize their existing system but injects much more modern intelligence into the mix.  Any of these software systems can take the variety of protocols and help them coalesce into one bucket, giving you one portal to manage the variety of applications as needed, but only requiring you to learn one new piece of software.  

"Companies like IBM are using information from wireless sensors in the field to provide previously unheard of granularity. Real estate asset managers are leveraging this with their clients to maximize many levels of the chain. The power in these software packages also allows integrators to be less concerned about the product protocol and more focused on the goal the building owner is trying to achieve."

Other companies such as Delta Controls, Distech Controls,  Johnson Controls, OBX, Digital Concepts, and Magnum Energy Solutions are taking advantage of cloud computing and power of data center hardware to visualize, analyze, decide and control buildings all over the world. 

So what's the deal? What is the new deal?

The New Deal Initiative Today, the industry is grappling with the impending disruption brought about by information technology, specifically the "digitalization of everything" under the moniker of the Internet of Things — Jim Lee, CEO Cimetrics, Inc.

"The New Deal is based on three tenets, explained in full in the white paper: 1. Open Standards. 2. Digital Twin. 3. Service Transparency.

"Discussing disruptive forces can be both invigorating and uncomfortable at the same time. Many in the industry that makes up CABA's membership will be excited by the New Deal, while others will see it as unnecessary and counter to their current business priorities. A better way to view disruption is that it is inescapable, and the industry's acceptance of this, and an open dialog about self-disruption will be much better than the inevitable external disruption from entities less able to fulfill the needs of building owners, operators, and managers.

"Read the CABA white paper at

"Join the online discussion at"

Ken Sinclair is the founder, owner, and publisher of an online resource called He writes a monthly column for about what is new in the Internet of Things (IOT) for building automation.

posted on 2/5/2018