July 2014

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A Resource for the Internet of Things (IOT) for Automated Buildings

Ken Sinclair,

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Facilities Management

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Hi, my name is Ken Sinclair. I am the founder – owner – publisher of an online resource called AutomatedBuildings.com. I have been requested by FacilitiesNet.com to provide a monthly column for facilities folks about what is new in the Internet of Things (IOT) for building automation that is likely to affect your lives … soon. Our online resource is a business to business (B2B) web site so we all talk real funny using more acronyms than words. I will attempt to extract from this mumbo-jumbo techno-speak the evolving concepts that will likely have a profound effect on your lives and facilities in the near future.

For you to better understand why I have been requested to be your own personal guide, curator, and interpreter, I feel you need to know a bit about our website, its contained industry collaboratory, and myself.

It has been a labour of love creating AutomatedBuildings.com but while I wallowed in the memories of the last 15 years, it reminded me that this is not my story but the story of industry giants helping me create an online collaboratory of their powerful thoughts.

In this representation, the new medium is the message. This cloud web service provides an anywhere, any-device graphical interaction that gives you 3D navigation of over 150 past issues of AutomatedBuildings.com. This is a great way to understand the depth of our online resource while quickly catching the theme of each issue. With a quick read of the editorial you can catch up with the buzz of that time and decide if you wish to read more.  One click provides direct connection to the original issues. An onsite Google search allows you to quickly interrogate the complete resource.

In addition we have created a map of the collaboratory: 15 Years in the Collaboratory: Why It Was Time for a Timeline. Starting in 1999, leading building automation professionals were early collaborators in the effort to put real time data in service to better interior comfort and energy efficiency. They recognized their role as catalysts of this paradigm shift and set to work aligning all the necessary people, processes, and technologies. Here's a timeline of their achievements. All the thought-leadership articles, commercial announcements, and press releases used to compile this timeline were found in the database of Automatedbuildings.com.

I am accompanied on my journey to fill my online virtual resource by a group of large building automation experts who volunteer their time and words as our contributing editors. In addition to this resource we have several industry leaders who have written for us regularly for the last 15 years.

That is our online resource, but now who am I and what do I know about facility operation?  Most of my online readers know me as the editor/owner of AutomatedBuildings.com, but before doing this “retirement project,” I spent over 35 years in the industry optimizing operating procedures in existing facilities and large buildings as an energy and automation consultant with Sinclair Energy Services Ltd. We grew up rapidly in the DDC revolution using dynamic control strategies from the teachings of Tom Hartman and created with the help of many a request for proposal for purchasing automation system. These documents are still online and were a true harbinger of the power of the Internet.

The DDC revolution started for me in 1975. Those were the early days for DDC; we had to invent it before we could use it. The norm for those days was control point adjust (CPA) of pneumatic controllers driven from computers as big as refrigerators.

OK. Now I have set the scene as to why I may have some insight into what is unfolding in the exciting world of IOT and building automation plus enterprise cloud integration.

As I mentioned I grew up in the DDC revolution, AutomatedBuildings.com grew up in the Internet revolution, but we now are all in the Internet of Things Mobile Cloud Revolution or simply the Cloud Revolution. My approach will be to quote and highlight articles from our publication that are significant to your evolution.

The first article explains the shift in thinking now occurring in the industry.  Actually, likely the reason you are reading this column is the result of one of those unlikely collaborations that started in New York this year when Ed Sullivan suggested we explore how we could work together. The article is called The Value of the Collaborative Community. Collaboration simply means to work together with a shared vision and desired outcome for the future.

Today, many innovations are being fueled by collaborative, connected community efforts. We see it most clearly in the Internet and Web, where new capabilities are continuously developed by communities that build on the work of others, creating “mashups,” and new complementary applications. We also see it in M2M and are beginning to see it to some degree in our very own industry. Collaborative community efforts are helping drive new ways to extend the value of our building systems and effecting change and innovation. 

Collaboration is a powerful alternative to conventional processes and procedures for effecting change and driving technological innovation. Collaborative connected community efforts tend to be loosely structured, highly adaptive, and inherently creative. Collaboration aims for speed, efficiency, and pervasiveness. By creating collaborative opportunities where community connections are made, ideas are cross-fertilized, and collective knowledge is developed and shared, collaboration generates rich opportunities for innovation. When the right people are brought together in constructive ways and with the appropriate information, they are able to create powerful visions and robust strategies for change.

Collaboration through Connection Communities appeals to people in a wide spectrum, not because it offers everything to everyone—but because it deals with a fundamental belief distinct from a program or agenda. Collaboration requires that we look not only at the outcomes of our efforts, whatever they happen to be, but also at the process by which we arrive at those outcomes.

How is collaboration really playing out? Check out this article: Building Controls Go Social and Mobile. With mobile and social platforms, the sky’s the limit on how we can improve building operations in relation to occupants.

There’s always talk in the tech world about the next big waves of innovation. Today, two of the big spotlights are on “social” technologies and mobile technologies.

“Social” technologies harness the power of established networks of people to help consumers make decisions like purchasing, inventing new things, etc. We see it with technologies like Yelp, Amazon customer reviews, and Websites like Kickstarter.

And when the tech world says “mobile,” it doesn’t just mean that you can access something on your phone. True mobile innovation is “mobile first" — technologies that recognize that smart phones are not just small versions of your computer, they have an enormous potential beyond that. Phones go everywhere with us, phones have sensing capabilities far greater than computers, the list goes on.

Now that the buildings industry is migrating towards the Internet of Things, what will this IoT landscape enable, in terms of truly groundbreaking technology? It’s not just the ability to look at more data, or to speed up our existing business practices. It’s allowing buildings to become a part of the technology revolution, where mobility and the harnessing of social networks are becoming the norm.

You can read more in this interview: How Social Applications Will Transform Building Management and the Security Experience.  Ultimately the whole point of creating social spaces is to empower them to take actions based on the ability to know, talk, and trust.

Sinclair:  I’ve heard of the Internet of Things (IoT), but what is this growing trend called the Social Internet of Things (SIoT), and how is it different?

Odess:  Social networks and social applications have become the single hottest growth category for both web and mobile technology. Social applications have literally transformed the way our society uses computing devices and have proven useful in real estate, navigation, family management, reviews, business networking, and news distribution.
There’s a growing trend called the Social Internet of Things (SIoT). These are physical devices connected to social applications that let us interact with them in the same ways we interact with people — status updates, texting, group updates, checking in, posting photos — all that, with so-called “social things.” Through the SIoT, we will be able to log into “things” with our social identity and based on our attributes the physical device will provide functions and privileges. For example, sign into a door, the HVAC goes to 70 degrees. On the other hand, if you have not been verified, a turnstile won’t provide access or the lights won’t turn on. All based on exactly who you are.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Another article considers the possibility that the IOT will make relatively new technologies DOA (dead on arrival). Oh my! The article is: Is POE DOA in BAS? Readers of my May column in this publication know that I believe companies need to move quickly to keep up with the accelerating change in the BAS industry.

The concept of using POE (Power Over Ethernet) as a platform for networking in lighting and BAS control systems has a seductive attraction.  After all, it’s consistent with the current big ideas in networking, the IoT (Internet of Things) and IoE (Internet of Everything). And it ought to lower installation costs since it will reduce the number of (expensive to install) line voltage wiring points in favor of (less expensive to install) low voltage wiring points. So what’s not to like? Compared to the historical approach of line voltage devices with separate network cabling POE might be a good alternative. But is that the right question? Perhaps a better question is how it compares to the emerging approach of low voltage devices with wireless networking. And in that comparison I am not sure POE will fare so well.

These are some of the concepts today that are radically changing our approach to facilities management. In the future months in my column I will attempt to keep you abreast of changes in the IOT in buildings that will radically affect your today’s decisions. Now that you know the resource, and the guy who writes the column, I can write more about trending next month to help you better manage your facilities.


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