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The vast, internationally famous Cleveland Clinic system takes an important part of the Building Internet of Things — connectivity — to extremes, and happily so. It has 25 million square feet of buildings, including regional hospitals and family health centers, throughout the United States, and also reaches out to Canada and Abu Dhabi. And its integrated building management system allows the clinic to connect to nearly all of those buildings over the Intranet and monitor comfort levels and systems, including HVAC, elevators, and pneumatic tube systems, which are used for transporting specimens and drugs.
All of that information flows into a central command center on the main campus in Cleveland that features 22 television screens. A software system lets the clinic bring all of the different legacy and proprietary controls into one platform.
“Basically, we could control everything if we wanted from Cleveland,” says George Thomas, a lead HVAC technician. “We do like our facilities to control their own buildings, but we’re able to do analytics and diagnostics ourselves here and kind of reach out as their partner and show them things that we see wrong.” The system also allows convenient alarm monitoring of facilities on nights and weekends and quick response, adds Larry Rubin, senior director, facilities management.
The main hub of all the connectivity is the HVAC controls, as well as lighting controls and elevators. “As far as what we’re doing with the information, we’re presenting dashboards, whether it’s at the executive level or the mechanical view level, to whichever audience needs to see this information,” Thomas says. The analytics software “allows us to analyze buildings at just the click of a mouse and send reports to the appropriate people, so it’s pretty intense.”
The clinic’s system has so many sensors — checking everything from humidity and motor amperage to discharge and return air temperatures — that they cover more than 500,000 data points, Thomas says. “We’re able to watch energy use live.”
And because of the critical nature of health facilities, Rubin says, it is important to see the entire electrical system. “We’re able to trace electricity from the utility power system all the way into the buildings to the panels, so if there’s an outage we can trace it pretty fast,” he says.
“Our goal,” he adds, “is to save energy, and this system has really done a phenomenal job of that because now we can read it and become more proactive.”
The challenges of running such a sophisticated system are many, Thomas says. Among them: “trying to integrate older legacy controls or proprietary controls that are in an open system and bringing them to one platform; improper installation of building controls that we have to fight; people understanding how the IT world works, how it talks, and how it does integrate into our building; and making sure that we’re naming things correctly and not bottlenecking our information going across our network.“
Rubin’s goal is to have all the software systems talk to each other, so that if an air handler, for example, sends out an alarm, it automatically generates an electronic work order. The technician getting the work order through a mobile phone or tablet sees that 12 filters are needed. When the technician removes those filters from the stockroom, the inventory system would determine whether more filters are needed, and if so notify the purchasing system to order more. That way, Rubin says, “everything is paperless.”
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