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Evolving Technology Is Redefining Building Automation

By Ken Sinclair

Buildings connected with open protocols to the powerful Internet cloud and its Web services are redefining the building automation industry, with the result that the reach and the visibility of the industry have never been greater nor has change been so rapid. Our clouded future includes new virtual connections to buildings from the communities they are part of with both physical and social interactions. An example: digitally displayed energy/environmental dashboards to inform all of the building’s impact in real-time energy use, plus the percentage generated from renewable sources. And connections to the smart grid make buildings a physical part of their supply energy infrastructure.

The ability to operate buildings efficiently via the Internet cloud from anywhere allows the building automation industry to be better managed and appear greatly simplified. Web services, or software as a service (SaaS) as it is sometimes called, coupled with powerful browser presentation is changing how we appear and interact with clients.

The data cloud for our industry has become real. As we see applications and services moved “off-site,” you can imagine the opportunities for managing real estate, reducing energy use, and providing value-added applications for buildings.

We must unhinge our minds and find new pivot points from which to build our future. We must embrace the power of the cloud while increasing our comfort level in using the solutions within.

Cloud Opportunities

The new applications and infrastructure do not reside in end users premises; instead, the end user accesses the application on demand via a Web browser on any device. This means he can concentrate on using the application for its purpose, without investing in capital expenditure while avoiding the overhead of installation, networking, and maintenance.

With the emergence of open system protocols wired and wireless, and the worldwide emphasis on energy management and sustainability, the rate of adoption of new technology by building automation vendors has increased dramatically. In particular, the use of web technology and open system architecture to integrate and converge with IT networks to create new features in a more cost effective and time efficient manner.

Online Commissioning

Connectivity of everything is a growing reality, and with each new connection comes new opportunities and new perspectives. Just as low-cost powerful connectivity is changing and actually simplifying our personal lives with Internet extensions (i.e., “apps”) to our handheld devices, building automation is caught up in the same connectivity growth.

In today’s complex buildings, even small problems can have big impacts on performance. Lighting, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems need continuous performance tracking to ensure optimal energy efficiency. Yet a formal process for data gathering and analysis is not commonplace in the nation’s building stock. Plus there’s often a disconnect between the energy modeling done in isolated, one-time re-commissioning or energy audit projects, and what happens in day-to-day operations.

What’s needed is a systematic approach to tracking energy utilization that helps detect problems early, before they lead to tenant comfort complaints, high energy costs, or unexpected equipment failure. That’s why new robust energy monitoring technologies and monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) techniques are now at the forefront in building automation.

Energy Management

The continuing question is how to convert data into meaningful information that is contextual and actionable. The operations center is an environment where meaningful information can be extracted and presented to produce a high level of situational awareness, align related work processes, minimize workload and errors, enhance task performance, and provide information and reporting tools required to manage the building’s operations.

I am very pleased that Jack McGowan’s book includes Chapter 14, Haystack Connect and the Next Generation of Energy Standards, and Chapter 15, The Internet of Things. It shows how this far reaching book has information only created a few years ago and provides connections (words to Google) to evolving online resources.

When you have read this book completely you will grasp the scope and complexity of energy and analytics big data, building systems and technology integration for the 21st Century.

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.

Part 1: Back From The Stack: Haystack Connect And Big Data


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posted on 6/10/2015