Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.
EMAIL INTERVIEW – Brian Ratcliff and Ken Sinclair
Brian Ratcliff, U.S. EcoBuildings Services Director, Schneider Electric
As director of services for Schneider Electric’s US EcoBuildings group, Brian Ratcliff helps building owners transform the way they manage energy, systems, and workers. His career spans 21 years, beginning in the building-automation-and-control arena and expanding into energy-performance contracting, software, and connected services. In 2003, he opened the Richmond, Va., office of Schneider Electric and helped it grow into a perennial $30-million branch. In 2009, he co-founded Entegral Solutions, a Texas-based energy-services company that became a dominant player in the K-12 market. Most recently, he served as executive vice president of Flywheel, a software start-up developing fault detection and diagnostics.
Sinclair: What are some of the ways the Internet of Things (IoT) is impacting building management?
managers are being asked to deliver much more in terms of comfort and
continuity of business, with much less of staff and funding. As a
result, over the last few years, we have seen a steep increase in
connected devices and sensors in the built environment. With the
proliferation of data, cloud computing, and robust analytics platforms,
facility professionals are rethinking the way they operate their
facilities, moving away from reactive processes to more predictive
strategies. A recent study from Schneider Electric found that 89
percent of facility managers indicated that they expect to achieve a
return on their IoT investments within three years, and seventy percent
of respondents expect that the IoT will impact their building
management policies within the next year, which corresponds to facility
managers’ new ability to measure success using digital technologies.
Sinclair: What level of interest do facility managers have in implementing new digital technologies to maximize the potential of the IoT within their buildings? What are the benefits?
Ratcliff: Like any
technology innovation, there will be early adopters and laggards. With
IoT in the built environment, I believe we are rapidly moving past the
early stage and into the early majority of adoption. Our study
found that more than 90 percent of respondents believe that connecting
systems to the internet will ensure smart, productive, profitable
operations and allow service providers to deliver better value and
maximize energy and sustainability. Overall, the interest in IoT
technologies and connected services is on the rise, with 42 percent of
respondents expressing that they are very interested in utilizing an
analytics managed service to gain insight into their buildings and plan
Sinclair: What are the biggest barriers facility managers face in adopting these new technologies?
Ratcliff: It is no
surprise that our study indicated that financial considerations are a
barrier, both in terms of up-front investment (43 percent) and
confidence in ROI (14 percent). However, what is more interesting
is that a quarter of those responding perceive that a meaningful
adoption of IoT will put more burden on their staff, at least
Sinclair: Are today’s facility professionals more proactive or reactive when it comes to maintaining building systems?
Ratcliff: The industry
is still very reactive when it comes to building maintenance – yet
facility managers are rapidly shifting to predictive thinking in order
to get the most out of their connected building systems. Half of the
respondents to the Schneider Electric study characterize themselves as
largely or very reactive when it comes to their approach to maintaining
building systems. Only 35 percent of respondents said they are
proactive in their approach to maintaining building systems and just 15
percent of respondents said that they fully utilize predictive
maintenance tools to assess and target equipment maintenance efforts.
Sinclair: Do you have any predictions for the future on the impact of the IoT on the facility management industry?
Ratcliff: I firmly believe that in the next decade the bulk of our building stock in the world will be moving in unison towards a new way of managing facilities. Within the next 10 years in the US alone, 50% of the experienced workforce in facilities will retire, taking their tribal knowledge with them. This recognition has already catapulted the market into an exploration stage, and we see a steady uptick in transformative action. Our study validated this, showing that 32 percent of respondents stated that they currently have an IoT/analytics solution in place, and another 50 percent are interested. We also predict that analytics will converge around four key areas: video surveillance, fire and life safety, access control and building management and HVAC systems.
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