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Smart Campus IoT Success Strategies

from Realcomm’s CoREtech 2017
Therese SullivanTherese Sullivan,
BuildingContext Ltd

Contributing Editor

Smart Campus IoT Success Strategies

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“There are so many great ideas floating around this space that the starting point gets confusing,” said Brian Oswald of CBRE, speaking to the attendees of CoREtech 2017. Conference planners want to make it easier to get on the path toward to a more data-driven approach to building operations & management. For their IoT-enabled, Smart Buildings & Campuses discussion, they pulled together a panel of facility directors with the most experience leading large IoT deployments across a full portfolio of aging and new buildings. On the stage were Paul Maximuk of Ford Land Energy, Gerry Hamilton of Stanford University, Zorba Manolopoulos of Microsoft and Brian Oswald of CBRE. Rob Murchinson of Intelligent Buildings moderated—and as Steve Lefkowitz of Time Warner said on an earlier panel “Thanks! Intelligent Buildings for knowing how to make a business case.” 

Panel Discussion 

Murchinson also knows how to make a discussion relatable and fun, inviting the panelists to describe their IoT journeys from square-one. He also included a speed- round of questions that teased out the common points:

  1. When do you engage your IT department? They all agreed that getting IT representation on the project team had to happen right away up-front in initial planning and design.
  2. How important are analytics, among applications to be deployed? They all agreed that analytics software selection was crucial to success and should be well-matched to the specific goals of the project and characteristics of the building.
  3. When should you formalize your goals?  They all agreed that big campus-wide goals could be set after a few small, well-chosen learning projects. But, each pilot should lay the foundation for the next in iterative OODA Loops.

With major university, big tech, big manufacturing, and big property-management-firm-run campuses all represented on the panel; each speaker brought unique challenges and competencies to their IoT journey:

Stanford University on IT Engagement

Stanford University strives to run campus buildings as near to perfect as the SAT scores of admitted students. In fact, it received a top ranking for sustainability among North American university campuses, in no small part due to the Stanford Energy Systems Innovations Program, a cutting-edge energy supply system. Director, Facilities Energy Management, Gerry Hamilton, explains:

“The Smart Campus drivers for senior management at Stanford have been more energy savings, non-energy operational savings, and IT security. Security was the co-benefit that put us over the edge toward a major building controls platform upgrade over the last few years. OT systems are IT systems and subject to the same security audits. Our 2015 security review found that we had a lot of physical servers related to operations around the building. We have been rapidly virtualizing those servers and grouping our network architecture. Server virtualization is not only the best way to take advantage of modern server computers' processing power; it is the best way to maintain security

“To make these changes with no risk to operations, we forged a tight partnership between IT and our building controls group. When we tore down any barriers and just let the subject matter experts work together, we began to realize amazing economies of scale and scope. Some tasks that we budgeted over a year to accomplish in our 2016 Master Plan have been accomplished in a matter of weeks. Now, IT professionals are managing the virtual machines and our communications networks.

“This is saving us a lot of labor on the controls side. In effect, our building controls team has delegated some of its workloads and has more time to harvest value from all this smart technology. Did we get an ROI on IT security improvements? That is not even the question. You cannot, not do security today.

“I consider the partnership that we now have between IT and our traditional building operations our biggest success. We meet regularly to discuss new construction and retrofits projects. With other IT systems – email, accounting, student services — users, applications, and devices are coming and going all the time. I’ve found that IT likes to be involved in building systems. Here, administration and security are more straightforward. We know exactly which users and devices should be on each virtual network and which to kick off right away.”

Ford Land Energy on Getting Connected

Energy Director Paul Maximuk had a vision that Ford business leaders understood: “Cars now have a substantial amount of sensor technology integrated into them to deliver customer safety and a unique driver experience. Why wouldn't we be doing the same in our buildings?" Like Stanford, an IT security audit of OT systems was a triggering moment for Ford’s top decision-makers to take a closer look at building operations. Ford management recognized that IT and OT needed to approach the IoT-enabled Smart Campus arm-in-arm. Maximuk effectively spoke to the second step on the journey: getting all the right things connected in an ‘IT-legal’ way:

“When I came in we had applications reading meters, running buildings, and doing other operational tasks with no engagement of IT. Eventually, the IT auditors arrived and demanded that we shut down the shadow IT systems. This led to more detective work and, eventually, to my being drafted into the IT organization. We took stock of all the ways our OT systems were being connected—the wireless connections, IP connections, and serial connections. Most of the systems we were evaluating were over 20 years old. Then we began a systematic move toward updating, standardizing and securing all those connections and systems.

“It took about three years to upgrade the way we deploy our systems. We have installed a more secure wireless and IP infrastructure, and we are phasing out any serial connections. We now have a reference topology that makes clear to anybody that does any integrations or control work within our buildings exactly what type of connections are authorized. Once you have confidence that connectivity is cohesive and up-to-standard, you can move forward with software applications. That is where we are at now.

“Another unique thing at Ford Land Energy is that we are not only dealing with commercial, corporate office properties, but we are also applying this standardized approach to manufacturing operations as well. This side brings in PLC integrations which are a whole other animal. We have well over 500 Tridium controllers and 1000s of connected field devices across our 200M square feet of property between corporate offices and manufacturing. Moreover, Ford is in a huge mode of construction. We have two new data centers being built to LEED Gold standards, one near Detroit and another replica center on a separate site in Michigan. Like Stanford, we are moving toward all virtualized servers for both server performance and security reasons. The plan calls for up to 1 million data points in each data center—connected following our standards and philosophy. IT management elected to adopt our approach.”

Microsoft on Running an Analytics Project

Microsoft set the bar high for other Smart Campus aspirants with its 88 Acres City of the Future project back in 2013/2014. It was early and ambitious in connecting two million data points across the 35,000 building assets that run its Redmond, Washington, headquarters. J.Zorba Manolopoulos, Global IoT Program Manager for Real Estate & Facilities, gave the CoREtech 2017 audience an update on that story with an emphasis on some of the high-value applications, such as occupancy tracking, that leverage that data infrastructure:

“Microsoft has more than 500 buildings across the globe, and today 387 of them have occupancy tracking. The big benefit of this application is better planning of space requirements. When you know where people are and what they need with precision, you can accommodate a lot more people in a lot less space.

“We had a choice of data sources to use to get at occupancy. On our campuses, we all wear badges, so RF badge data was primary. But there are other data too. We tapped the systems maintained by our facilities group, as well data from our business applications. For example, we made use of the Outlook calendaring system for our conference rooms. Our basic approach is to put such data into the cloud, so the Azure team had a big role in our effort as well.

“That is a lot of people and strategies to align. A new occupancy tracking approach is of concern to the average employee too. The level of Change Management difficulty is high with this type of application. Facilities, IT, security and business owners all want employees to be more productive. When we focused on that common goal, we worked together, and it was easier to get things done.

“Once the project was released, we had the data to support our decisions. But, it wasn’t until we took some action – e.g., when we remodeled a building or moved a group to another location– that we realized a benefit. Already we’ve saved enough money to pay for the initial study and other projects beyond that.

“Real estate groups have the most things - buildings, chairs, tables, faucets, doors, etc. Now when we buy a thing - we want them to be smart, we want them to be connected, we want data from them."

(Note that Zorba had a session later in the day on the IoT-enabled Bathroom. That Microsoft Real Estate initiative is a good example of what Brian Oswald explains below as a focused pilot that will provide learning and a foundation for a company to move forward on bigger, longer-term IoT goals.)

CBRE Speaks of Acting in Alignment with Goals

contemporary Brian Oswald, Managing Director of Global Workplace Solutions at CBRE, has witnessed how the traditional controls contracting business has transitioned from being a tradesman discipline to an IT/knowledge-industry professional service. His team within CBRE has managed Smart Building implementations for some very large-portfolio clients, such as for the GSA and a major North American telecom company. He spoke to the alignment of BAS resources with business goals:

“For one client, we have resolved over 27,000 issues over the last several years– all through data that was identified through their building analytics solution. Note this was not through one building automation system or another, although BAS systems did contribute data. I make this distinction to emphasize that success is not an issue of generating an alarm that triggers an action. It’s an issue of taking many data points and driving a more predictive analysis of what is going on.

“When we deploy this type of solution, and it identifies areas that need to be resolved – out of sequence operations of equipment, etc. – the end success is a better overall user experience.  This is because getting at root causes and taking action to fix problems translates to fewer hot/cold complaints. When people don’t need to deal with the same issues over and over again, when they aren’t repeatedly putting in the same tickets in their CMMS application, they are happier. All these things improve the overall operations and optimization of a building and will drive to better end-user engagement.”


Brian Oswald’s closing words summarize the panel discussion about the Journey to the IoT-enabled Smart Campus. He says, “Sometimes it’s the little things that can lay the foundation for what you want to achieve with your long-term plan. No matter how small the project, if you pick components of your campus operations to improve through data-driven decision-making that point in the direction you want to go, you might be surprised at how much value you will derive and how fast you get there.”


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