by Terrence McManus
By blending physical assets, sensors, and cloud based computation, the Internet of Things (IoT) vastly expands the reach of information technology for the buildings industry. The possibilities that arise from the ability to monitor and control things in the physical world electronically have inspired a surge of innovation and enthusiasm.
Why is the incorporation of IoT technologies into the built environment important? It’s because what is measured can then be streamlined, fixed or improved upon. Raw data points can be combined to create information and knowledge. In turn, knowledge can be combined to forecast or institute change. While the term IoT-enabled buildings can be a bit ambiguous, the essence is that an IoT-enabled building leverages internal and external information sources to create actions and workflow that benefit energy efficiency, tenant comfort, building health and/or operational excellence.
Although the capabilities for IoT-enabled buildings have been around for many years, there are some current factors that have accelerated the adoption of these solutions.
Prices are being driven down for IoT technologies due to popularity within the larger tech market. Tech giants are building hype for IoT and investing in these technologies, which in turn is benefiting the buildings market. Intense competition in the metering and sensor market is driving down cost. With the mix of hype and technological improvements, governments are also starting to get involved. Municipalities are exploring IoT options for their buildings and cities, and utility programs have emerged to support IoT initiatives.
Awareness of IoT has not been lost on building owners and managers. These sweeping changes are transforming how building owners and managers view physical assets, leverage health and comfort of tenants, and even how smart cities will operate in an integrate digital environment not only for management of city assets, but for security, and infrastructure improvements all leading to an inspired vision of a very different future.
IoT is being prioritized on a building owner or facility manger’s list, as historic way of operating no longer meet the needs of an information rich environment. The biggest roadblock to the adoption of IoT in the built environment is education, but that is changing, with the explosion of information available online and from IoT vendors.
Legacy buildings will be in different stages of technology adoption, thus creating a ‘journey’ of education, implementation, and ongoing operation services to fully maximize the knowledge created by IoT technologies.
The most important ingredient to an IoT-enabled building is adding intelligence to capitalize on the data captured from sensors and other sources. This is how intelligent energy management systems are helping to push forward the IoT vision within buildings by leveraging building’s existing technology – the Building Management System (BMS) and sensors if available. These platforms use the BMS as data sources and proxies for cloud-control. Data is gathered through the BMS and, by applying cloud-computing and machine learning, packaged into actionable data to improve building operations. More advanced offerings can even implement closed-loop control for real-time savings.
Secondly, in order to get started with of IoT, one must understand that legacy buildings will be in different stages of technology adoption, thus creating a “journey” of education, implementation, and ongoing operation services to fully maximize the knowledge created by IoT technologies. It’s time to get started.
Opportunity & Outlook: Mechanical Contractors
Although IoT vendors will remain the advocates and drivers of IoT technology, there is an immediate opportunity for mechanical contractors to embrace IoT technologies and the creation of IoT-enabled buildings. The biggest benefit that IoT-enabled buildings will create for mechanical contractors is the advantage of information for remote diagnostics, troubleshooting, and solving building issues before they move to critical stage. In addition, more and more customers will expect upgraded levels of IoT-enabled control over devices and the ability to view more comprehensive operational data.
IoT-enabled buildings will become the standard, so getting started on the journey now will be the right thing to do. With recent advancements in technology, data science, and artificial intelligence, the future of Internet of Things technologies will certainly exceed our expectation.
With a new tech-savvy generation moving through the ranks into middle management and higher-level positions, this transition is inevitable. Adoption will be more substantial in locations where energy costs are high or local programs are in place to support such efforts, although it should be clear that this technology strategy can be beneficial to any building today.
Recent advancements in technology, data science, and artificial intelligence, illustrate that the future of Internet of Things technologies will certainly exceed our expectations. The transition will happen incrementally as all building management stakeholders continue to adopt data driven information and visualization tools to manage the physical assets of a building.
Terrence McManus is vice president, business development at BuildingIQ.