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The intersection of mobile technology and the Building Internet of Things can create powerful efficiencies, both in terms of time and cost. Chances are, you’re already using mobile in concert with the IoT in your personal life.
Your garage door alerts you when you’ve left it open. With an app on your phone, you can tell a device in your home to dispense a treat for your pet. And your thermostat sends you an email when it’s going to turn off the air conditioner.
Indeed, it’s not hard to make a case for the convenience and usefulness of mobile technology (see our March cover story for more on mobile) combined with the sheer possibility of the IoT. But there’s still much work to be done
“Part of the confusion people have about the IoT is that we’re hearing about this term in the general consumer marketplace,” says Jack McGowan, principal with the McGowan Group. And so for buildings, how do facility managers make the most of the connection of mobile and the IoT on a large scale?
“The Internet of Things discussion is really about leveraging what’s already in a building,” says McGowan. “IoT in and of itself is the latest buzzword, and a lot people get confused about how all these things fit. But leveraging the power of mobile is where the IoT really gets exciting.”
McGowan says if you’ve connected your BAS with mobile capabilities, you’re already winning. “(You’re) starting on the fifth or sixth rung of the ladder above everyone else,” he says. BACnet has been around for more than 20 years, so facility managers know how to unlock the network of information and analytics already in a building. “With the Internet of Things, we’re really talking about a network already in place because of standardization with data communication protocol,” he says. “And now mobile devices are compatible with these standards as well.”
As many experts in the burgeoning Building IoT field are fond of saying, if you have a BAS, you’re halfway there. Mobile just adds another element. “The current state-of-the-art is stitching together several cloud-based solutions,” says Robert Knight, a senior associate with Environmental Systems Design. “Opportunities for innovation extend beyond the traditional notion of the BAS.” And that includes mobile.
“There’s a lot of interest in getting rid of the building operator workstation of old,” says Knight. “We’re seeing a lot of web-enabled solutions. Once you put those in place, you can respond to problems in or outside of the office.”
Getting connectivity throughout a building, especially large buildings, is one challenge associated with mobile and the Building IoT, says Knight. Distributed antenna systems and other technology solutions can help. But another challenge is cyber security — facility managers must work with IT to ensure their networks are secure. (See our July cover story for more on this.)
Another challenge is convincing upper managers of the cost associated with upgrading to mobile connectivity with the IoT. Outside of the cost of hardware, and even though mobile capability is generally baked into most technology offerings these days, there may be a small cost associated with adding a mobile module or piece of software, or adding or redesigning a network. If the BAS is an older system or not running as it was designed, there might be even more time and expense required to optimize and tailor it to today’s standards. “Make sure the systems already in place are operating properly and are ready for integration into a cloud-based app,” says McGowan.
He adds that it can be difficult to articulate the value of the investment to decision-makers. The solution is showing how mobile and the Building IoT makes the department more efficient, saving time and money.
And that harkens back to the most important tip in regards to starting anything new with technology: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. “Separating what’s possible from what’s practical is really important,” says Knight. “Adding technology has to be a business decision. Take a careful look at the business problem you’re trying to solve instead of just going out and buying new features. When you just buy new features, they end up underutilized.”
This is the seventh article in our ongoing Building Internet of Things series.
Read the first article about data here.
Read the second article about startups here.
Read the third article about building automation systems here.
Read the fourth article about cybersecurity here.
Read the fifth article about LEDs here.
Read the sixth article about partnerships here.
Read the eighth article about getting started with IoT here.
Intersection of Mobile and Building IoT Creates Powerful Efficiencies for FMs