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Building IoT: How to Overcome Barriers to Success

by Tyler Haak

As our world becomes increasingly connected, the Internet of Things (IoT) has made a significant impact on the way buildings are run. By 2020, Gartner predicts there will be 20 billion connected devices – and this rapid growth shows no sign of slowing down. Forward-looking building owners and managers are implementing IoT systems in their facilities in hopes of gaining better insights, easier systems management and improved efficiency. However, many facility managers are still hesitant when it comes to taking advantage of the IoT and are not running their facilities at their full potential.

A recent study found a number of barriers exist in using the IoT to achieve building maintenance goals. Almost half (43 percent) of facility managers stated the level of investment required is the biggest challenge they face in adopting intelligent, digital solutions within their buildings. Nearly a quarter of respondents (23 percent) indicated a lack of internal resources available to interpret building data into actionable results was a key barrier. Eighteen percent believe their buildings are not suited to the adoption of connected technologies, and 14 percent indicated there was a lack of proof around ROI. 

Originally, building management systems were designed to cut down on energy usage and costs. But with advances in connected technology, building management systems bring new value to a facility by identifying opportunities to optimize sustainability, space utilization, operational efficiency and employee productivity. The key is leveraging the IoT to integrate various building systems and connect them to a centralized “backbone.” This connected infrastructure can help facility managers identify problems before they occur and make buildings more productive and efficient. And with up to 75 percent of a building’s lifetime costs spent on maintenance and operations, leveraging data to optimize systems and resources is more critical than ever. 

So how can facility managers overcome some of the key barriers to implementing IoT in their facilities? A key step is taking initiative to become well-versed in the IoT and its implications for buildings. 

Knowledge is Power

Similar to when LEED certification was first introduced to the buildings industry in the late 1990s, there was a period when facility managers and contractors were unfamiliar with the process to secure certification and hesitant to change their business practices. But with education efforts from industry leaders and tangible results, LEED certification became commonplace and its benefits easily understandable. 

While it may feel like the IoT is still in early stages, it has already made a significant impact in both commercial and residential buildings. For example, a large office space may pay to keep 45 conference rooms well-lit and heated during normal business hours, when realistically there are no occupants on Fridays in 25 of the rooms. This information and analysis provided by an IoT-based system allows the facility manager to turn off the heat and light in those rooms on Thursday – drastically reducing the utility bill for the organization. 

Facility managers should seek out IoT success stories and learn from past cases to identify which solutions may drive the most value in their own buildings. Armed with this information and a deeper understanding of how to derive benefits from connected devices and systems, facility managers can become an internal advocate for IoT within their organization and secure necessary funding to implement new technologies and get IoT projects off the ground. 

IoT: A Worthy Investment 

In the last 10 years, the IoT has allowed facility managers to unlock more value out of their connected building systems and has proven to be a worthy investment. Laying a groundwork now can provide for an infrastructure that can support the future of connected technology in buildings. Looking to the coming years, even more insights and data can be gleaned from a connected system. Facilities that have held off on IoT implementation will be unable to access the same advantages and potentially fall behind. 

In addition to these advantages and staying ahead of the competition, it is also important to acknowledge the IoT as a recruitment tool. Young facility professionals who are entering the industry will expect the same access to technology and functionality as they experience in their everyday lives. From an employee perspective, the next generation of the workforce expects to work in connected buildings. Staying current with the changing technology landscape is a key factor that will designate innovative companies that employees want to work for from those they don’t. 

The same study mentioned previously found that nearly a quarter of facility managers had concerns about interpreting the data gleaned from an IoT-based system and felt they weren’t prepared to take on this task. While it is true that more data will be available from an IoT-enabled system, this is a manageable obstacle. 

Many building IoT platforms come with an analysis software package that takes all available building data such as temperatures, occupancies and more, and turns it into visual and actionable insights. These software platforms make data easily digestible and can be viewed on any computer or mobile device in a series of trends and reports. Choosing a platform carefully can make a world of difference in the ease of adaptability.

Building IoT: Keys to Success

The key to being confident with installing a connected IoT system in your facility is education. By researching case studies, success stories and the benefits of IoT platforms, facility managers will feel confident that they are making a sound investment and will be able to get the most out of their building systems.

The technology landscape for facilities is changing rapidly, and understanding potential of the IoT is essential to staying ahead. The impact and potential of the IoT is broad ranging and can positively impact a building’s energy saving, revenue generation and maintenance needs. Common barriers to success can be addressed easily through preparation leading to a successful installation and tangible results. 

Tyler Haak is US Northeast Business Development Manager with Schneider Electric.

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posted on 11/8/2017