February 2018

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Building IoT: Implications for Consulting Engineers

Seasoned professionals and new engineers entering the workforce will need to work with and feed off of each other’s knowledge to fully realize the benefits of the IoT.
Tyler Haak,
Northeast Business Development Manager, Schneider Electric

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Smart systems are all around us. From our phones to digital assistants, connected technologies have infiltrated every aspect of everyday life, including the buildings where we live, work and play. As devices are more connected than ever and connectivity continues to become more complex, facility professionals must harness new skills to ensure these technologies are being used to the best of their availability. For smart systems in buildings, the consulting engineer plays a critical role in ensuring these technologies are implemented in an efficient manner and are being used to their full capacity. Here, we’ll explore key considerations for consulting engineers to ensure building IoT adoption is as fruitful as possible.

System Integration Requires Advanced Collaboration
As IoT integration becomes more critical to buildings management, engineers from different backgrounds will be expected to understand the ins and outs of how various building technologies work. Mechanical, electrical and IT engineers who previously worked in silos will need to have a deeper understanding of what each position brings to the table and how to best work together to realize the full potential of the IoT. When a system is being integrated, it’s critical to bring each of these groups together early on, so each position is involved in the initial planning and strategy discussions for IoT implementation. This enables each of the engineers to voice the easiest and most affordable way to integrate systems from their own unique perspective. If communication does not occur up front, engineers from different sectors of the building may develop a plan that only addresses their area of expertise, making it more difficult to integrate building technologies later.

Additionally, as disparate building systems become connected through IoT solutions, there may be an overlap in responsibilities or gaps that need to be filled. An integrated approach to fluid communication will ease a lot of stress when attempting to fit pieces that were once disconnected together. Particularly with networking, engineers will want to work closely with IT personnel to ensure that each area of the building is adequately connected to the internet with enough bandwidth. IT personnel at all levels will need to communicate their input to all engineering trades as IoT solutions become more critical to buildings.

Cybersecurity Comes to the Forefront
While IoT solutions will bring new efficiencies to day-to day-tasks for building managers and enable easier communication between systems, cybersecurity concerns will undoubtedly grow. Facility managers and consulting engineers alike need to understand the new risks associated with IoT-enabled systems and implement strategies to decrease the threat of security breaches. One strategy to consider is an in-depth defense approach, which enables systems to protect themselves from a potential breach.

Following are several best practices to consider when developing a cybersecurity plan:

As new ways of remote monitoring are developed, and mobile devices are integrated into building systems, engineers must constantly be aware that security threats are imminent and take proactive steps to ensure their buildings not fall victim to them.

The Need for Skills Development
The newer generation of building management professionals generally has the deep technical knowledge and is comfortable leveraging new technologies as part of their everyday lives. Conversely, more seasoned facility professionals may not be as tech-savvy as their younger counterparts, or as adept at bringing new technologies into their working and professional lives. However, both generations have much to learn from each other with regard to developing new skills.

Traditional consulting engineers can learn how to implement and operate new technologies more efficiently from the younger generation. On the other hand, older professionals have experienced previous transitions in the industry, and have developed skills to adapt quickly to new scenarios as building technology adoption grows.

As building systems become more intelligent and connected, the volume of data being generated by these systems will grow exponentially. This means that both generations of facility professionals and engineers will be expected to learn more about data processing and analysis. Technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other emerging capabilities will soon play a greater role in buildings as they continue to develop. Building engineers should embrace the evolution of technology and devote themselves to continuously learning.

It’s clear that consulting engineers will play a critical role in the implementation of IoT solutions and the way facility managers use them. As technology evolves, we will need to communicate and assign responsibilities early on in project development. Additionally, engineers will need to adopt new skills including high-performance networking and cybersecurity protection to ensure their IoT solutions are as safe and secure as possible. Seasoned professionals and new engineers entering the workforce will need to work with and feed off of each other’s knowledge to fully realize the benefits of the IoT. This will ultimately ensure that IoT systems are being used to their full potential with the best outcomes for building owners, managers, and occupants.


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