June 2020

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The Role of Data and Analytics in Responding to the Covid-19 Challenge

Any response to the Covid-19 challenge should first center on identifying and adopting best practices.

John Petze
Partner, Co-Founder SkyFoundry

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We spend a good portion of our time communicating with our many implementation partners and customers around the globe. As you would expect, Covid-19 is a primary topic of recent conversations. We are exposed to many viewpoints and gain insight into how different organizations are responding and how it is affecting their business.

While it’s clear that no single technology or product can provide definitive protection from Covid-19, data and analytics have an essential role in supporting the efforts of facility owners, operators and managers as society works to re-open the built environment.

Start with Best Practices
Any response to the Covid-19 challenge should first center on identifying and adopting best practices. Those include the facility’s responsibilities for sanitation of surfaces and spaces, the individual’s responsibility for following personal hygiene social distancing guidelines AND the proper operation of the environmental systems that support the indoor environment.

Operation of Environmental Systems (HVAC)
ASHRAE, along with universities and scientific research organizations, have provided detailed guidance on best practices in the operation of HVAC systems to minimize the risk of airborne transmission of “infectious aerosols” in indoor environments. Research has shown that proper indoor environmental conditions minimize the likelihood of aerosol transmission of virus particles. Proper control of humidity, temperature, filtration, pressurization and fresh air levels are fundamental to providing conditions that minimize the potential for transmission by HVAC systems. “ASHRAE is uniquely qualified to provide guidance on the design, operation, and maintenance of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems to help reduce the dangers of pathogen transmission through the air in these settings. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.”
We direct readers to ASHRAE resources for their most up to date guidance, which can be found at the following link and is likely referenced by a number of this month's articles:

Data’s Role in the Operation of HVAC Systems
The operation of environmental systems to address best practice recommendations requires the use of modern automation systems. Tracking their operation and performance to confirm proper functioning and identify deviations is the role of data analytics. Application scenarios for the use of analytics include:

Data collected from automation systems and sensors is captured and analyzed to identify actual operating conditions and inform operators of issues and improper operation. Analytics has a major role in simplifying and automating reporting to both internal teams and outside agencies and regulators. Reports can be used to confirm desired conditions are being maintained as well as delineating deviations.

Data Supports Manual Tasks as Well
When we think of data analytics in buildings, we think of data coming from equipment systems, sensors and meters over communication networks, but analytics can be effectively used with manually entered data such as cleanings events, status checks, and other manually entered readings. Employees can enter data manually through forms and integrate data collection from handheld devices via APIs and web services.

As we confer with owners and operators of facilities to gather their plans for reopening and risk mitigation, we see the following measures being put in place, some of which lend themselves to being made part of an organization’s data resources:

Data’s role: record schedule times and actual occupancy activity to confirm buffer times are being adhered to
Data’s role: recording sanitation activities, comparing results versus plans

Data’s role: record deployment times and servicing events

Data’s role: record inventory levels, usage rates

Data’s role: record sanitation schedules and completed activities

Data’s role: Gather data confirming use and identifying any failures for automated door equipment that provide communications capabilities

Data’s Role: Collecting and analyzing data from occupancy sensors capable of detecting presence and counting of individuals

Data’s role: monitoring status of filters via sensors, control and monitoring of active UV filtration devices

Data’s Role: Recording temperatures, anonymizing data, identifying trends and correlations

Data’s Role: Integrating data from different sources and formats, processing into reporting, notifications and information displays to inform occupants

Data’s Role: Recording test activity, and results, anonymizing data for trend analysis separate from informing individuals of personal results

contemporary Record keeping, data capture, reporting and analysis to confirm completion of manual tasks creates a valuable resource to both verify that actions are being completed and communicate that information to occupants to assist in building and maintaining confidence that mitigation measures are being actively executed. Combining manually entered data with the data supplied by sensors, controls systems, and other smart devices enhances the ability for owners and operators to have comprehensive situational awareness and meet reporting goals and requirements.

Our Shared Responsibility - Vigilance
A critical component of society’s response to the pandemic is for all of us to remain vigilant in watching for symptoms in ourselves, co-workers and family, maintaining social distancing and practicing recommended hygiene. We offer the following as a reminder.



About the Author

John Petze is a partner and Co-Founder of SkyFoundry, developers of SkySpark™, an analytics platform for building, energy and equipment data. John has over 50 years of experience in building automation, energy management and M2M, having served in senior level positions for manufacturers of hardware and software products including Tridium, Andover Controls, and Cisco Systems. At SkyFoundry he is working to bring the next generation of information analytics to the built environment.

More information on SkyFoundry and SkySpark® analytics is available at


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