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One sensor by itself is an island. One sensor connected to a data analytics or AI assistant is a meaningful contributor to a huge variety of opportunities for improving our buildings and reducing costs.
the past 20 years of working on the integration and construction of
both the HVAC and Lighting industries, I’ve seen some interesting
projects and some innovative solutions deployed. Those first
projects we handled years ago were very clearly distinguished between
lighting projects and HVAC projects. It was a rare Unicorn
project that merged the two together.
handful of integrators and engineers slowly started to see the benefits
of bringing these two territories into the same platform, and in some
cases using the same contractor. Over the past three years, we
have seen an incredible acceleration in this combination and
implementation of the whole building solution, proving that Unicorns
are a thriving species. The drive to connect more
independent pieces into one cohesive solution has, in part, been driven
by what’s been dubbed the Internet of Things. Sensors and
switches have unknowingly been searching for a name for what we’ve been
doing all the years, luckily IoT looks to have finally solved our name
search. We’ve been Things all along.
though it’s not well understood yet, the IoT is becoming a bigger part
of our lives, both in the building sector and our personal
lives. With the advent of artificial intelligence and
virtual assistants (Alexa, Google, Watson, etc.)
sensor by itself is an island. One sensor connected to a data
analytics or AI assistant is a meaningful contributor to a huge variety
of opportunities for improving our buildings and reducing
costs. Here’s only a partial list of what we can do with
the information today and in the near future.
the internet of things expands and gets printed on every piece of
marketing material known to our industry, we need to sort out the
friends at BACnet have a great solution to bridge these silos into one
platform that’s already known to the building industry.
Leveraging existing networks and methods have been helpful and are a
good start and working with a software system that existing personnel
is comfortable with provides a powerful argument for
implementation. This system is growing and doing what it can to
accommodate the aging equipment in a building while also taking
advantage of all these new “things” coming our way, but it can’t handle
the edge computing.
have started to see a trend towards software platforms which lean on
new capabilities in software, hardware, and AI, yet also can contribute
back to the systems such as BACnet. This allows the
building to utilize their existing system but injects much more modern
intelligence into the mix. Any of these software systems can take
the variety of protocols and help them coalesce into one bucket, giving
you one portal to manage the variety of applications as needed, but
only requiring you to learn one new piece of software.
Companies like IBM are using information from wireless sensors in the field to provide previously unheard of granularity. Real estate asset managers are leveraging this with their clients to maximize many levels of the chain. The power in these software packages also allows integrators to be less concerned about the product protocol and more focused on the goal the building owner is trying to achieve.
companies such as Delta Controls, Distech Controls, Johnson
Controls, Reliable Controls, OBX, Digital Concepts, Magnum Energy Solutions are taking
advantage of cloud computing and power of data center hardware to
visualize, analyze, decide and control buildings all over the
Just one quick example, a grocery store chain HQ can now receive a text when any one of their refrigerators is outside of a specified range. Pre-emptively preserving the safety of the food in that section, this reduces liability associated with foodborne illnesses and also provides proof that storage was achieved within specs at all times. This same grocery store can leverage the system to lower the lights during times of day when the store is only stocking, or when sunlight is streaming through the skylights, extending the life of the lights, reducing costs of energy, reducing maintenance costs. These powerful systems can also track shoppers within the retail space to provide the consumer with guidance or coupons as they travel through the store. Like it or not, this is already installed in hundreds of stores.
So how do we collect this information without a massive amount of wiring and costs?
Wireless devices are shown to be the simplest and lowest cost to install into existing building stock and are also proving to be a much more flexible option in new builds as well. EnOcean has been installing wireless devices into hundreds of thousands of buildings over the last 16 years. As we’ve expanded over recent years and grown from the sensor business into the “thing” business, the feedback is clear; batteries are a huge stumbling block.
first battery is cheap, installed in the factory and in
bulk. The second, third, fourth batteries are
prohibitively expensive, installed by a technician, in the field, one
at a time.
sensors, switches, valves, controllers, mouse traps, and many hundreds
of other “Things” can be powered without batteries, completely
eliminating the maintenance point that’s created when a battery-powered
point is installed. This can be accomplished with field-proven
safe energy harvesting methods and not experimental power broadcasting
or other challenging methods. Utilizing just the lights in
the space or a couple millimeters of motion, the members of the EnOcean
Alliance have provided millions of self-powered things to the industry
over the last 16 years. We continue to see major growth in these pieces
of the IoT puzzle, saving countless batteries from landfills or
I look forward to seeing where this new found intelligence capability will take us. With the continued deployment of billions of “things” EnOcean expects to continue to see considerable growth in this sector and we are hopeful more companies will adopt the sustainable and self-powered solutions.
For more of Troy's thoughts read last month's interview - The Worlds of HVAC and Lighting Coming Together Once the two are on the same wireless protocol, they can easily be visualized in the same software suite.
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