Bringing Buildings up to ‘Internet of Things’ Speed

This is the fifth post in the Better Buildings Challenge Blog Series.

A mere five years ago, the Internet of Things (IoT) was still just a trendy buzzword associated with a futuristic technology that many were apprehensive about. News articles almost always put IoT in quotation marks, and followed up with a definition of the term. Now, IoT has advanced dramatically, from buzzword to consumer-ready product. There are a slew of examples we could use here, but to pick just one, consider the new GE Café™ refrigerator, a smart fridge hitting markets this fall that incorporates a Keurig coffeemaker that can be controlled remotely with a smartphone app.

The IoT market goes far beyond smartphone-enabled refrigerators, though. In 2014, IDC reported about 9.1 billion IoT units were installed by the end of 2013, and estimated some astounding numbers for 2020 – 28.1 billion connected units and a market revenue of about USD $7.1 trillion.

For facility managers, IoT technology enables a massive array of new capabilities. IoT-enabled sensors can be networked together to provide an intelligent building system that fully can register room occupancy rates and automatically adjust settings – such as lighting and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). This ensures both that settings are comfortable for occupants, and also that energy is not being wasted on unoccupied rooms. Instituting IoT-enabled systems also broadly expands reporting abilities. Interconnected systems can converge in an advanced building management system (BMS), which provides a holistic view for facility managers. From this system, facility personnel can monitor and manage building systems via a single user interface. BMS can also provide detailed reports that utilize data from all systems.

By 2020, there will be 30 billion devices connected via the Internet of Things

These are all strong positives, but also present a challenge that many facility managers struggle with: where and how does one begin to decipher the enormous amount of data compiled by IoT-connected devices? Big data lives true to its name; with each connected device creating its own bucket of data, facility managers and building stakeholders can easily be overwhelmed by the data.

Thankfully, organizations have options to help address this challenge. For example, they can bring in outside advisors to help decipher the data, and walk through a building’s reports. Building data can provide significant and extraordinarily important insights, highlighting areas where systems are underperforming, identifying system faults and other malfunctions, locating areas of a building that are running particularly efficiently, and more. Bringing in an outside expert to review and analyze the data can provide critical information to organizations – data that can be leveraged in a variety of ways, from incorrigible numbers on progress toward specific energy savings goals to proof points demonstrating return on investment (ROI). These experts can also be leveraged to identify anomalies in data that represent possible faults or malfunctions. Some BMS also offer maintenance reporting features to ensure that routine maintenance schedules are being adhered to, keeping buildings and their components running optimally.

Although the upfront costs of bringing in an outside advisor to comb through BMS data may seem like an unnecessary expense, many facilities will find that the savings opportunities identified by the advisor will help tip the cost-benefit analysis in favor of working with an expert.

The exponential growth of IoT means the torrent of data will only continue to grow. Thus, having a consultant on-hand to help analyze the data and glean crucial insights is a key component. BMS data provides a full array of opportunities for buildings to save resources, both environmental and financial, and operate more effectively, and buildings should take full advantage.


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