How IoT is Reshaping Smart Building Management Systems
As a building owner or facility manager, you might be thinking, if the facility is still operating and there are no apparent issues, why remodel it? Building management systems (BMS) are working the way they should - just as they were when they were first introduced decades ago. Will the upgrade bring unnecessary costs?
While these concerns are understandable, you are missing out on the enormous cost savings and optimization opportunities of modern smart buildings. Gartner predicts that the building automation industry will experience high growth in Internet of Things (IoT) and connected device penetration in 2020. IoT implementation of building management systems is more than a simple technology upgrade, it involves unprecedented insight into every aspect of a building for comprehensive, intuitive and proactive facility management.
But before we dive into the immense value of IoT in smart building automation, let’s take a quick look at the current state of traditional building management systems and their shortcomings.
IoT Building Management System at a Glance
Building management systems (also known as building automation systems) have long played an important role in the energy management of many commercial and industrial facilities. Building management systems first appeared in the late 19th century and have undergone some major evolutions, most notably the move from pneumatic systems to computer-based control systems. Regardless, most building management systems we see today still serve the same purpose as they were originally intended - to simplify the management of core building functions, especially heating, HVAC equipment.
Why are traditional building management systems no longer powerful?
Despite its importance, legacy building management systems are becoming increasingly obsolete with today's rapid technological advancements. In the digital age, wired building automation networks quickly reach their limits in providing adequate and timely building data, given the high cost and complexity. With the exception of a handful of thermostats, controllers, and HVAC equipment, most traditional building management systems lack the scalability needed to support granular feedback sensors and extended functionality.
Due to limited input, dynamic changes in indoor climate in dispersed building areas are often ignored in HVAC regulation. This creates a lot of wasted energy, especially in large facilities. In addition, the power consumption data provided by a large number of existing building management systems is not granular enough. So even if you can identify usage anomalies at the building level, it's difficult to pinpoint the root cause with accuracy.
In addition to HVAC controls, lighting automation, security and fire protection systems are increasingly being adopted to enhance building functions. However, these systems are often isolated from each other and disconnected from the central building management system. Even with the introduction of an open protocol like BACnet, retrofitting or expanding the cabling infrastructure is itself capital and labor intensive, making building management system integration planning a burdensome job.
How the Internet of Things is reshaping the field of building management systems
Under the pressure of ever-increasing energy efficiency and the complex demands of a new generation of tech-savvy tenants, the field of building management systems (BMS) will undergo a complete makeover. But it would be a serious mistake to think that modernizing traditional building management systems will inevitably cost a fortune. With the proliferation of IoT technology, you can take advantage of endless possibilities to optimize your property operations without incurring high costs.
1. Worry-free upgrade of building management system to expand functions
Inexpensive, self-contained, and easy to install and maintain, battery-powered IoT sensors, coupled with robust, scalable, and low-power IoT connectivity, can be deployed throughout a facility to gain a comprehensive view of various building functions and distributions type assets. Then, the sensor data can be aggregated at the IoT gateway, and then the sensor data can be forwarded to the corresponding building management system server through open interfaces (such as MQTT, RESTAPI). This automates relevant workflows such as equipment reconfiguration, activation or shutdown, maintenance scheduling or triggering alarms.
This IoT-based architecture circumvents costly, disruptive retrofits to existing wired infrastructure, while adding a new data layer for more efficient facility management. Additionally, insights into different building aspects can be unified on a single platform for simplified and integrated management activities. In addition to significant economic advantages, the use of IoT wireless connectivity has injected enormous flexibility into the network architecture. As new business needs and retrofit needs arise, you can easily relocate existing sensors or install additional sensors.
2. Greater utility savings to reduce costs and environmental footprint
Energy efficiency has always been a major motivation for building management system implementations, and IoT technology can help you do just that. Until recently, HVAC equipment was often regulated in a uniform, predefined way, leading to wasteful issues such as overheating or poor ventilation throughout the hotel. In this case, real-time fine-grained IoT sensor inputs can enable on-demand micro-area device control, resulting in higher energy efficiency.
Additionally, using occupancy data, building managers can reveal important trends in HVAC and lighting demand to optimize equipment on/off times. For example, you might realize that the HVAC and lighting systems will be running until 8pm, but the tenants have mostly left by 7pm. With these adjustments, you can save a lot on your electricity bill by reducing your energy consumption by an hour a day.
In terms of usage monitoring, wireless utility subsystems can help provide energy consumption data on separate building areas or even individual assets, especially energy-intensive ones.
3. All-round view facility management
However, the benefits of IoT for smart building management systems go well beyond classic functions such as HVAC and lighting control. Wireless sensors enable building owners to gain a 360-degree view of their property operations—facility health, equipment condition, waste management or safety and fire safety.
For example, water leak detectors help to notify early plumbing failures and close valves immediately so serious water damage can be prevented. Likewise, temperature and vibration metrics for critical assets such as chillers, elevators, etc. can reveal impending or ongoing problems for timely inspection and repair. If your building is decades old, sensor input data on inclination, vibration, crack formation and moisture exposure, combined with advanced analytical algorithms, can help you effectively inspect and monitor its structural integrity. Ultimately, the potential value of IoT for building management is limitless.
4. Improve tenant/occupant well-being and satisfaction
Facility owners know the importance of tenant relationships. Today, the growing popularity of smart home and smart building technologies has led to higher expectations from modern tenants. Indoor temperature used to be a key measure of occupancy comfort, but this is no longer the case. Air quality, lighting and humidity are now ideal climatic conditions for occupant health and productivity. In this regard, wireless IoT sensors are powerful tools to help maintain a healthy and optimal indoor environment.
Using movement data, managers can also accurately assess foot traffic and usage in different building areas to prioritize cleaning activities. This ensures that high standards of sanitation and adequate amenities are maintained throughout the facility. Likewise, a smart parking system helps create a positive tenant experience while eliminating the productivity loss caused by blindly searching for a parking space.
5. New revenue opportunities
Massive IoT data opens the door to new data-driven income that property owners may not have considered. When it comes to tenants, you can provide many insights to help them improve their decision-making process.
For example, your customers are likely to want to understand their utility (water, electricity, gas, etc.) consumption and office space usage behavior.