Smart Buildings – Can the cloud replace on-site systems?
Smart Buildings – Can the cloud replace on-site systems?
As well as being a distributor and training centre, One Sightsolutions act as the MSI (Master Systems Integrator / Smart Buildings Consultant across a range of sizeable projects in the UK. Working directly with the main contractor or client to ensure that all the data for all the different systems within a building, is in a normalised and consistent format. Therefore, is Smart Building-ready and in a position to communicate with the cloud.
This article will cover the following topics:
What’s driving the change and what are the benefits that a building owner can achieve?
Dependancies, in order for the sytem to be operational, what needs to be in place?
Other emerging technologies that will also add benefit
Home Automation Market
What are IoT overlays and how can they be used
What are the likely outcomes and what will this lead too?
1. So what, or who is driving the change?
Cloud operating hype-scalers such as AWS (Amazon Web Services), Google and IBM have visions of replacing all site-based controls with cloud-based controls. The reasoning behind this is that they believe their machine learning, artificial intelligence and analytcis modules in the future will be better placed to make decisions about the way a building operates. To provide optimised control, better energy solutions and improved staff/visitor wellbeing than can be deployed by all of the trade systems put together in a building.
Models can be written, and with data continuously flowing to the cloud, these models will in time become tighter and more accurate based on the amount of data collected, and the machine learning taking place. An example of this might be knowing exactly how long it takes to pre-heat or pre-cool an area within a building. If the cloud was collecting data from a variety of sources such as internal temperature, external temperature, number of people within a space etc, in time it would be able to understand based on the building fabric how quickly it would take to heat or cool the space. However, things will constantly change as people move around the building and external conditions will also change. So the models need to keep refining itself to take all of this information into account.
By knowing all of these variables and getting the right level of control based on prediction, will not only provide better environments to work in, but will also be more energy efficient. Due to the fact that you will not continuously be over heating or over cooling an area.
This is just one example of how machine learning can benefit the building. Imagine that you have data from all devices across all of your systems that an infinite number of rules could be written. However, if the data hasn’t been presented to the cloud in an understandable format, then it’s highly unlikely to be done at a later date. That’s why we are seeing hundreds of thousands of points being mapped during the projects we’re working on.
So it’s easy to see the benefits for the building owners as they can market the buildings to attract the best or highest paying tenants. But we are also seeing that the facility management companies starting to embrace the change. As the new technologies will reduce some of the man power that they have traditionally had on site. And if they don’t, they know that their competitors will. Another plus point is for the landlords that have a large portfolio of buildings. They will now be in a position to see which buildings are the most effective and then concentrate on the worst performing sites or selling them and removing them from the portfolio.
In order to achieve cloud-based systems, it’s going to be dependent on IT infrastrcuture and system uptime. Clearly a lot of the above would work, but what would happen if the internet or IP infrastrucutre failed? It could still work but local control would need to resume to take over with traditional control methods. However, as we move forward into the future, clearly 100% uptime is becoming acheivable to more users.
Challenges to the above also come into play, like understanding strategy for things like heating & cooling Systems, do the cloud services providers know as much about the on-premise systems and how they control? I guess over time, and we are seeing this, the big cloud providers are now engaging with building services trade contractors to understand more about how the building operates, hence learning the pitfuls and where control and safety challenges await.
3. Other emerging technologies
It is clear that IOT sensors and services are becoming more predominent with disruptive technologies. These are likely to be delivered as a subscription model with cloud to cloud connectivity, lending the full cloud control to become more of a reality. As more systems embrace the cloud, it will be easier to deliver data between systems at this level, than send control and command down to dumb endpoints.
Here at One Sightsolutions, we are constantly speaking with companies within this space and evaluating their products. As its vital for us as a business to keep up to date with the latest technologies, This enables us to better inform the customers and consultants for the projects we work on. We can also review as a business if we have the right skills sets within our teams. Finally we can better eductate and support the System Integrators that we supply products and training to. As we clearly recognise that these technolgies will start to become a big part of their day to day projects.
4. Home Automation Market
The home automation model is rolling out at a fast pace, such as lighting, heating control, doorbells, security, blind control, smart plugs, the list is virtually endless. And the main reason that they are so widely adopted is due to ease of configuration by the consumer and that they are low cost. What we are seeing, is that although they are low cost, they typically come with a subcription model that generates a monthly return as they are effectively cloud solutions that consumers are buying in too.
The Smart Homes Market was valued at £56 billion in 2020 and expected to reach £222 billion by 2026. That’s a growth of over 25%. Therefore, it’s no wonder employees are going to be attracted to working in environments that provide similar tech to what they have in the home space. We are also seeing one of the big drivers in specification around wellbeing standards. One of the ways this is achieved is to provide a user experience for services within the building through apps on the user’s phones. In order to achieve this, cloud solutions are again required along with the data from the traditional on-premise systems.
Today’s modern systems are starting to utilsie IOT protocols as standard interfaces, hence MQTT, REST etc are starting to become basic features of major systems. Recent projects are showing that although BMS and Lighting are already capable of delivering IOT connectivity, systems like CCTV, Security, Lifts and much more are adopting their standard offerings to provide a cloud-based solution and not the standard BACnet, Modbus, OPC type of interface. Again showing that technology is driving the data into the cloud and generating a different revenue model.
As you can see from the image above over the past few years, in order for us to get data from all the sub systems in the top right of the image. They will typically communicate via one of the protocols in the bottom right of the image. We have had to install an IoT data collector, the likes of a JACE 8000, so that we can collect all of the system information and then provide valuable meta data or tags against all the points. Without this information, the cloud-based systems would not know which points belong to which piece of equipment. The data is then typically packaged up in a JSON payload and posted to the cloud with a high level of cyber security. However, manufacturers today are adding these capabilities to the terminal units at the Edge. So that the information will be configured by the engineers when they comission the system. And this in time, will negate the need for the data to be double handled and this should potentially mitigate mistakes in the data entry.
6. IoT Overlays
With some of the disruptive technologies that are now flooding the building services market, simple plug and play configured devices can be deployed and located onto floor plans with instantaneous and valuable data about the areas they are deployed in. From IAQ, desks, occupancy, a whole host of information can be quickly installed, mapped to a building’s CAD layouts and then viewed with pre-configured dashboards and associated anaytics.
7. Likely Outcomes
We should probably expect that in the real world, it will be a combination of both working to their best endeavours. Will machines replace man? The answer is yes, as they are more efficient, but man will still need to manage a lot of the processes. Also, the cloud will be able to be more efficient and make quicker and smarter decisions, but the on-prem systems will probably still be required to locally manage the safety aspects of individual systems.
Since the pandemic and with the return of getting staff back in to the workplace, we have seen a big increase in enquires of customers happily adding IoT overlays to their sites so that they can better manage occupanncy within the building through to understanding the air quailty within that envioronment. This is probably done to the fact that a large number of wiress sensors can be installed and connected in a single day without the need of running costly cable runs. Technologies such as LoRa Wab and Sigfox are able to communicate long distances even within the built environment, making it more reliabale than older techologies. We have implimented this within our own offices, where we have installed sensors to all the desk. Staff can then book a space prior to visiting the office. If they don’t arrive for what ever reason the space will be handed back for someone else to rebook. At the end of the day the cleaners then have access to view what desk have been occupied and can concenterte the efforts of cleaning where needed. This also povides us with valuable information as to how the building and space is being used.
Outsourcing FM – automation of planned maintenance tasks
Large portfolio of buildings – all data in a single database rather than multiple disparate systems
Controllers configured to meet SLA at the edge.
Optimium management in the cloud
Abilty to league table sites and concentrate on the problem areas/biggest savings
Introduction of cyber security into the controllers making this achievable
Sharing of data and visuals not just from the headend PC in the basement, but to any number of users
Where can this lead to?
Machine learning / AI within buildings
Smart-ready buildings, attractive to the building owner – For reselling and it can fit into to other company’s portfolios – Ability to attract tenants that want to gain access to their data.
Communication between multiple cloud solutions via API integration – results can then be fed back into the building
In summary, we see hyperscalers driving a change that is highly likley to see the cloud more widely adopted moving forward, as long as the IT Uptime is correct. With the use of IoT sensors/services and disruptive technologies becoming more readily available for all spaces, of which the data will provide huge benefits. Our engineers will need to be more IoT centric, moving from Modbus and BACnet, to protocols like JSON. Landlords will benefit from more efficient buildings, and occupants will benefit from better working conditions, improving satisfaction and productivity. Your cloud solution will most likley be when your building is running at it’s most optimum, but for some reason if you have no cloud connectivity, you will always still need a level of local control.
If you have any questions regarding the information in this article, then please contact One Sightsolutions at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01252 872738.
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