IoT gives building managers the tools they need to make their buildings more secure, more comfortable, more efficient, and more competitive. Here we explain how that works.
Smart Systems for the Building Manager
IoT in buildings focuses on two areas: (1) lowering costs and boosting profits and (2) improving comfort for tenants, employees, and residents by providing more services. The first Item makes the building more profitable and costs less. The second item can help attract and retain more tenants, thus also helping with the first item.
Today there are many applications for IoT in the building. And as this infrastructure is rolled out, those applications will only grow in numbers as people learn more of what is possible.
One use case is to monitor power usage. The building manager has always been able to read the power meter and electric bill. But IoT lets the manager monitor power in smaller areas and report on that by using the cloud.
Maintenance is another area. Smart HVAC systems upload data to the manufacturer’s cloud and provide reports on energy usage and CO2 emissions to their customers. They can send data to the building maintenance cloud and devices using standard interfaces like BACnet, OPC, LonWorks, and Modbus. These smart systems run predictive models to project when fans, filters, and compressors will need maintenance and create alerts and maintenance work orders when any of those components fail or are predicted to fail.
The IoT system also ties into the security system. IoT drives down the cost to deploy sensors and cameras to areas around the facility and keycard control points because they use standard internet wired and wireless technology, thus reducing the need for cabling and proprietary systems.
IoT sensors can also help the office administrators by reporting when waste bins are full and printers and copiers need ink. They can contact the coffee and soda vendor when those machines are spent as well.
Comfort is another goal. With IoT, electrical power outlets and lighting fixtures become intelligent. These let tenants control lighting levels in individual offices and serve the dual role of monitoring power. This creates a more relaxed environment by controlling brightness and glare. Some systems can set mood by changing hue. These smart switches and outlets save money as well by matching lighting to occupancy. And their sensors monitor the temperature in each point of the building and let users and the building manager adjust that. Finally, IoT in the parking facility reduces the stress of finding a parking space.
The IoT Components
Here we explain what the IoT system includes.
First, there is the control system, which is a web page and mobile app that lets the manager control devices, view reports and alerts, set thresholds, etc. The manager can buy or build that or, more commonly, use a vendor’s product in the cloud. Then there is the IoT communications cloud. This connects IoT devices to the building management application cloud. The IoT cloud takes care of provisioning devices, meaning connecting them to a network, and serves as the conduit by which the devices connect to the building management cloud.
Then there are the IoT devices themselves. The IoT device is a computing card with attached sensors and controllers. The card is typically small, about the size of a wallet. It it usually attached to a board where sensors are plugged in. The cards are inexpensive, costing $40 or less. Sensors cost as little as €1. These measure humidity, air quality (CO2, NOX, etc.), motion, temperature, vibration, light levels, etc. They run on throwaway lithium batteries that can last up to 2 years or AC power. And, as we mentioned, IoT is also already built into many smart devices, like lighting, power plants, chillers, etc., so that the manufacturer and not the building manager installs that.
The communications component is wired or wireless. Devices attached to windows and walls can hand the signal off to an adjacent device when the signal only needs to travel a short distance. At the end of this network is a traditional Wi-Fi or wired internet and internal network connection.
Finally, there is the analytics component. This is the planning and operations tool that gathers data from the building and runs data models over that to provide reports and predictive analysis. That for example lets managers more accurately predict costs, measure foot traffic, replace a fixed maintenance schedule with an intelligent one, etc.
All of this together provides the platform and tools that the building manager needs to control the building from a central location and operate it efficiently.