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IoT for Smart Buildings Isn’t What
You Think It Is
| Matt Ernst
IoT for all
originally published Jan12/18
IoT for all
hasn’t been any reason to connect the internet to building automation
systems. The HVAC, lighting, fire protection, and other systems work on
their own. They directly read inputs (sensors) and directly control the
outputs (valves, dampers, fans, locks, lights, etc) to keep a building
comfortable and secure.
Why should a facility manager care about the “Internet of Things” when virtually all existing buildings operate just fine when not connected to any external network?
So are IoT and “Smart Buildings” all marketing hype or can they actually provide value to building owners and operators? Why is the internet valuable to controlling and managing buildings? Here’s a building automation industry veteran’s perspective.
the IoT industry at large has a radically different viewpoint on IoT.
The textbook definition of IoT is “the interconnection via the Internet
of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to
send and receive data.” (And here’s a simple explanation for further reading)
For many industries, the value of the Internet of Things is in the connecting and controlling what is not already connected and controlled. However, most existing buildings today have robust internal networks communicating to devices that are performing useful functions.
So, why do IoT advocates include “smart buildings” as a typical use case? To most in the facility management industry, buildings don’t seem like a very good fit for IoT.
growth predictions tend to show buildings as a key component to the
predicted exponential growth of connected devices.
predictions engender mostly suspicion in the world of facility
managers. What are all these internet-connected sensors going to be
Unlike of the use cases across the rest of the IoT landscape, the “things” that make up the mechanical and electrical components of buildings are not dumb. They are all connected and being used to do useful activities. The internet is just not involved in any way. As Dave Fisher puts it,
if all is well and good, then why the exponential growth in
connected devices? What problems could they possibly be solving?
Well, the first question that needs to be asked is, what are those problems that need solving? Do most buildings meet their goal to provide healthy, safe, sustainable and enjoyable working and living environments for their occupants?
The answer in a lot of cases is no. There’s a ton of ways buildings can improve.
Most buildings are still uncomfortable for their occupants. Recent surveys and studies suggest that most buildings do not meet the industry standard for occupant comfort (ASHRAE 55). If you have ever worked in a commercial office building that is somehow too cold in the summer and too hot in the winter, you may have come upon this same conclusion.
Mechanical and electrical equipment breaks and remains broken for long amounts of time, sometimes without the facility staff even knowing it’s broken. This compounds into a variety of issues.
Equipment in disrepair can potentially create health and safety concerns, especially for critical facilities like hospitals and labs. Some studies even suggest that reactionary or corrective maintenance overwhelms so many maintenance folks that it takes up to 98% percent of their time, leaving only a small fraction for doing preventative maintenance.
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