IoT:For energy-efficiency in commercial buildings

IoT:For energy-efficiency in commercial buildings
Oct 2016 , by , in Technology

IoT: For energy-efficiency in commercial buildings

According to the UN, currently there are 28 mega cities globally. By 2025, there will be 41 and 10 of them will be in Asia. Thus, the imperative to reduce emissions is universal, but the pressure to do so is particularly strong in Asia. According to Gaurav Burman, VP & Country President, India of 75F, a Minneapolis, USA headquartered building automation company, having a smart buildings is no more a matter of choice, butan indispensability.

In the context of building management applications, IoT can be defined as a large number of data points brought into a cloud environment where analytics can be applied to influence outcomes. Smart appliances that interact with each other and share information using Internet of Things (IoT) and other building automation solutions have been around for years, but their high cost has traditionally been difficult to justify. Now, more affordable technologies and IoT architecture are being used to lower costs, add new capabilities and change the market dynamics for building management. With sensors getting cheaper by the day, more and more physical objects are becoming part of a network of things, changing the way we live and work.


This year, we will see 4.9 billion connected things and some predict that, by 2020, the number of Internet-connected things will reach or even exceed 50 billion. Machine-to-machine (M2M) connections will grow from present 5 billion to 27 billion by 2024, worldwide.


Building Intelligence for predictive maintenance

IoT makes possible a variety of applications using connected devices and data driven decision support systems. The most beneficial of these provide predictive or pre-emptive knowledge of building or facility operating parameters such as, space temperatures above or below service level agreement values or energy consumption rates above targeted operating ranges. Using analytics to understand what’s happening in a building and then making appropriate corrections, allows for quick resolutions and taking pre-emptive steps to resolve problems before they actually emerge.

In the near future, IoT will lead to huge cost cuts as businesses will get the visibility of the performance of the grid, point of loss of energy and where the savings potential really is. Smart grids allow energy distribution to be managed in real time based on immediate data rather than historic patterns of power usage. Together with smart meters, they could noticeably reduce a business’s energy costs and improve their sustainability credentials. According to estimations by the McKinsey Global Institute, the IoT will have a total economic impact of up to $11 trillion by 2025.

Smart building technologies typically pay for themselves within one or two years by delivering energy savings, furthering maintenance efficiencies & improving reliability. Connected solutions deployed in buildings represent one of the most meaningful opportunities in the IoT realm.


The Changing Paradigm

Today’s commercial building developers grapple with growing pressure to reduce energy consumption and increase operational efficiency in order to boost the bottom line. However, commercial buildings often have disparate systems like HVAC and security systems that have to be controlled independently due to a lack of integrated building automation. These issues can be addressed by deploying a building automation system (BAS) and IoT can drive down BAS cost and change the market dynamics for building management.

IoT is enabling powerful solutions that make existing buildings or new construction much more efficient and economical to operate. Such technology not only deliver energy savings but also contributes in productivity gains in all types of commercial buildings, including retail stores, factories, and corporate office spaces. The solution gives building administrators end-to-end flexibility and keeps structure alterations to a bare minimum.

According to The Energy Statistics 2013 of India’s National Statistical Organisation (NSO), electricity accounted for more than 57 per cent of the total energy consumption during 2011-12 in India, and building sector is already consuming close to 40 per cent of the electricity. This is expected to increase to 76 per cent by 2040. India’s commercial sector energy consumption growth is projected to increase at an average rate of 5.4 per cent per year which is also the world’s highest.


Therefore, leveraging IoT is extremely significant to ensure energy efficiency in commercial buildings. Gartner predicted that going forward, smart commercial buildings will be the highest user of IoT technologies. Gartner says these technologies can reduce building maintenance costs by up to 30 percent.

The beauty of IoT is that it inter-connects all electronic devices unlike traditional Internet which is based on an open architecture that invites broad developer participation. This openness creates an environment that fosters a rich ecosystem and reduced costs through economies of scale.

Powerful, low-cost IoT technologies are poised to dramatically improve the efficiency of buildings, not just the new ones but even the brownfield or retrofit sites.IoT-based facilities management systems can now control an increasing variety of devices, ranging from air-conditioners to car park sensors to soap dispensers. They can analyze data from all these devices to dynamically adjust power consumption, matching energy use to occupancy patterns, optimize the operations of air-conditioners and other connected appliances, automatically perform equipment maintenance tasks as well as automate devices to provide a more desirable working environment. Sensors can monitor things like temperature, power consumption and occupancy levels, Actuators to turn HVAC and lighting on and off, incorporate back-end infrastructure with powerful analytics capabilities and decision-support tools that automate functions and provide smart and actionable insights.

The sign of things to come

Not too long ago, making existing buildings smart was a herculean task. Besides adding functions to a building’s existing infrastructure, the mix of legacy systems and add-ons was unlikely to have a common means of communication and control. Rudimentary capabilities of most legacy building management systems were another obstacle.

Here is where IoT can come into play. Powerful, secure IoT-based platforms provide interfaces with many different devices, transforming data from the devices into common formats for secure transmission to a central platform. Such platform can include software that automatically manages the building’s operations, analytics that seek ways to optimize operations and a management console. Once centralized and analyzed, the resulting insights help identify efficiency opportunities.

IoT is helping us to move towards a new generation of building management – one that is enabled by a more universal set of sensors to make the built environment more contextually adaptive. Buildings will become more task-aware with the ability to adjust in real-time.

Experts opine that, globally, all businesses with $10 billion of annual revenue typically spend somewhere between 3% and 5% of their revenue on energy. The priorities for energy managers are clear: reducing operating costs and energy consumption by addressing those heating and cooling situations. The challenge is that many of them don’t even know how much energy is wasted and where it is wasted. Most energy managers feel, “Let’s just build more eco-friendly, energy-efficient buildings.” However, that is not solving the problem. Emerging IoT analytics solutions will make the need for energy-efficient buildings very visible and can also take care of legacy systems of old buildings.

Leveraging the IoT Industry

The IoT industry is still in at its nascent stage with a need to move from a plethora of technical approaches and one-offs to a more coordinated, standards-based approach. A movement that can better leverage open source, cloud, and container technologies for speed. Single vendor locking won’t work the magic. We need to aggregate the best of capabilities to deliver the desired outcomes.

Ubiquitous sensors and networks are the foundation, but IoT applications that move from cloud to the edge and back using container technology are necessary to address the IoT challenges in energy and other heavy enterprises market. The IoT market is developing new technologies like low cost sensors and embedding them into building equipment, devices and appliances that will support and integrate with the IoT. Today, apparently all homes have some sort of mini network (e.g. Wi-Fi),which equipment and devices can leverage and ride on to transmit energy data over and to an IoT cloud.

When deploying IoT technology, it’s very important that the consultants, designers, installers, integrators, owners, renters, facility management, corporate IT experts are all on the same page. Because if one piece of the IoT puzzle goes missing, then most parts of the building won’t be functioning at all. Thus, the specifying phase is the most crucial phase while integrating a building into the IoT.

It is important to steer clear from a siloed procurement method whereby the various systems which would comprise the backbone of the building’s IoT infrastructure are purchased separately with no overarching program management focused upon integrating the various systems in a comprehensive, sustainable and durable manner.

It is advisable to ensure that data from disparate systems in a commercial building is acquired and aggregated with the IoT applications. Nowadays, building equipment are designed to operate in a fully automatic, totally self-contained fashion. Frequently, liberating the interesting data points from these systems becomes the work of a specialized systems integrator and involves some higher level protocol conversion and a completely separate data storage server.

Also, Network security is of paramount importance when integrating a building into the IoT because, unlike the traditional BAS automation that operates independently, the IoT relies on the IT infrastructural backbone, because of the inter-connected nature of the same. Complete trust and transparency between the integrator, facility operations personnel and the IT staff is critical right from day one. At the bare minimum, there should be firewalls, data encryption and authorization and authentication protocols in place. The IoT technology should be designed in such a way that it is able to alert operators to changes that indicate a potential problem is in the offing before a system failure takes place. This will allow managers and technicians to pro-actively make repairs or adjustments in advance, rather than addressing and solving the problem after it actually happens.

Advancements in data aggregation, algorithms and analysis for business and personal use – all of these are arriving and existing ones are evolving. Therefore, it is indispensable for technology designers and integrators to prepare today’s smart buildings in such a way that it can easily transition into intelligent buildings of tomorrow.



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