The IoT convergence: making buildings more efficient and reliable

The UN weather agency recently announced that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere increased at record-breaking speed in 2016, meaning that rapid cuts to CO2 and other greenhouse gases are now needed to avoid “dangerous temperature increases” by 2100 that would far surpass targets set in the Paris climate accord.

The IEA estimates that buildings currently account for about 33% of global energy use – more than industry or transportation – and 20% of energy-related GHG emissions. By 2050, 66% of the world’s people will be living in cities, consuming over 80% of the world’s electricity. Driven by these trends, your facility team may be facing corporate mandates and government regulations aimed at making your building, campus, or plant more efficient and sustainable. But you’re also likely dealing with higher capital and operational expenditures, and increasingly complex building systems.

But there’s cause for optimism. The IFMA estimates that with active controls, a 50% increase in efficiency can be expected. And with proactive, predictive maintenance and analytics you can save up to 20% per year on maintenance and energy costs. What’s needed is the right combination of tools. The Internet-of-Things (IoT) offers an answer. In this blog series, we’ll look at seven IoT-related innovations that are converging to create intelligent buildings that minimize energy use, optimize performance and lifespan of physical assets, and ensure the safety, security, and efficiency of people and processes.

The new IoT architecture

Navigant Research envisions that “2017 is poised to tip the scales for investment in intelligent building technologies.” By 2020, total smart devices in buildings will reach 4.4 billion, maybe as high as 10 billion.

These smart devices enable your facility team to deeply access your power network by measuring, collecting data, and providing control functions. Digital power meters, power quality meters, and smart circuit breakers measure all aspects of electricity and other utilities. They also monitor equipment performance and alarm on threats to reliability or efficiency. It’s now possible to meter energy and other parameters at every key point throughout your facility’s power network, from the main utility incomes down to individual plug loads. This will reveal every instance of energy waste while helping your maintenance team address risks before they can cause downtime or damage.

Device connectivity gives you the reach you need across your entire facility or beyond. Smart devices and gateways connect over wireless or Ethernet, with data often accessible through any web browser or mobile device. Extensible networks allow the integration of all your distributed energy resources such as solar, storage, EV chargers, and CHP.

Data is aggregated to cloud-hosted repositories that share data with everyone that needs it, using a choice of analytic platforms including power and energy management, building management, and asset management. If you need outside support, an IoT network makes it easy to access remote monitoring, maintenance, and engineering consultation services.

Compared to traditional solutions, the connectivity, interoperability, and cloud-based architecture of IoT-enabled solutions make them easier to install and use, as well as being a more affordable option for small and medium-sized buildings.

IoTPower meets building management

Industry analyst Verdantix notes that “the majority of solution and service providers are now integrating some aspects of power, building, asset, and maintenance management.” Integrating these systems broadens energy and operational insight, as well as helping catalyze collaboration across facility teams.

IoT-enabled networks allow management of energy, HVAC, fire, and security to be more tightly integrated. This gives facility teams a unified source of data, and a unified view of operational conditions. Data can be shared between systems or power management capabilities can be embedded directly into the building management system, for example. This helps put occupant comfort and energy efficiency in proper, balanced context.

Going mobile

Gartner estimates that by 2022, 70% of all software interactions will occur on mobile. Smartphones or tablets are being used more and more by operations and maintenance teams to access data from equipment, perform control actions from a safe distance, and contact expert services when needed.

Teams in large buildings typically use computerized maintenance management systems to keep records of physical assets and to schedule and confirm work performed. For small and medium buildings, new cloud-based mobile maintenance software is designed to be more accessible and interactive, for a more collaborative approach between facility managers and contracted technical services.

These systems stay connected to IoT-enabled assets, helping monitor equipment performance, as well as sending alarms to smart phones or tablets to alert the facility manager and contractors of any immediate maintenance needs. In this way, the system gives visibility to everyone, helps prioritize and manage work, improves response times, and enables predictive maintenance to boost operational performance.

From ‘big data’ to big decisions

Having IoT-enabled devices throughout your facility’s infrastructure is highly valuable, but also results in ‘big data.’ To make sense of it all, specialized analytic software converts granular data into dashboards, key performance indicators, graphical views, and reports. Some solutions allow information to be tailored for each type of user, simplifying understanding and speeding up decision-making.

Energy and power analytics can address many applications, including:

  • Allocating energy costs to drive energy-efficient behaviors
  • Analyzing energy consumption to help optimize equipment settings
  • Comparing energy performance, setting baselines, tracking the progress of initiatives, and validating savings
  • Determining the most cost-effective times to self-consume renewable energy resources
  • Model and predict energy needs to optimize energy costs and avoid utility penalties
  • Calculating carbon footprint to support sustainability reporting
  • Using predictive techniques, like breaker aging analysis, to reduce maintenance requirements while improving service continuity
  • Isolate sources of power problems to improve response times
  • Find hidden spare capacity that can be used without compromising reliability

In my next post I’ll discuss the remaining three converging innovations: cloud computing, using external data, and cybersecurity. To learn more about this subject, download the white paper ‘How IoT In Buildings Is Unifying Operations, Catalyzing Efficiency, And Boosting Uptime’ and visit our solutions page.

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