How can WE create smarter buildings?
The companies that do get it are the system integrators of the world that are at the cutting edge.
“The Building Whisperer” — Making buildings talk to people
Published March 19, 2019 LinkedIn
That’s a pretty good question. How do we get a more hands-on-deck when it comes to re-inventing building automation and create smarter buildings? How do we transform existing buildings into modern, sustainable places that reduce energy efficiency, whilst increasing well-being and productivity? How do we make the most of modern technology in a standardized way that’s better for everyone?
HVAC-R/Building automation know-how is the key
It’s fairly easy, to be honest. You just have to understand the past and the present in order to build a sustainable future. There are a handful of companies that get it, and those are not the Siemens, Schneiders, Honeywell’s nor Tridiums of the world. Well, they might get it too, but they are bound to be disrupted in the next decade. Or acquired by Telcos, IT companies, or equivalent. We’ll probably see a major merger within the next 18 months.
The companies that do get it are the system integrators of the world that are at the cutting edge. So-called Mass System Integrators or even Super MSI’s. They are the ones with knowledge around HVAC-R, control systems, pneumatic, chillers, boilers, VAV boxes, Air Handling Units, and all the mechanical stuff, and everything in between. They’ve seen it all; they know it all. They understand that working with buildings is complex and they are masters of their domain as Scott Cochrane puts it.
Examples are Heptasystems who does phenomenal work with Jason Houck at the helm, as well as global giant Iconics who’s got a 15% stake in the global building automation arena. I had the pleasure of talking to Chris Bromley attending the Smart IoT expo last week, and they are also doing amazing work.
What they’ve understood is that you need to black box all the complex stuff, raise digital maturity in buildings, and get to the IP level. It’s like swimming to the surface when you are in an ocean. It’s difficult to see what’s on land, or even think about it when you are deep down in the murky waters. But once you get to IP level/the surface, you can breathe, listen to the world, and actually see what the open world has to offer.
And, maybe the key point being, they want to work WITH the real estate owners. Of course to create a win-win-wins of saving money, increasing asset values, and perhaps also make money with new business models. But what is most important that they seem to have no hidden agenda. They are not doing it to exploit, but to actually real estate owners create solutions that will cater to energy savings, predictive maintenance issues, as well as increasing productivity and wellbeing of users of their space. And that’s exactly why I love these companies because that’s what I’m all about — helping others.
I have over 10 000 connections now in my network, and I would say a majority of them have something to do with Smarter Buildings, BACnet IoT, and/or anything digital when it comes to real estate. I constantly try to change my strong opinions because they are loosely held.
What is the road towards the future of building automation?
First of all, BACnet is the worlds leading building automation protocol. It is a common misunderstanding that BACnet only has to do with Building Automation, but BACnet is a device-to-device communication standard that defines Physical-, DataLink-, Network- and Application- layers of the ISO model. Most importantly it defines the Application layer, how devices communicate with each other on a network and the outer world. This is very important as it gives devices from different vendors the capability to communicate intelligently with each other right from installation.
We are using it as a base to stand on, and we have recently joined forces with a Mesh Sensoring company called Conectric combining the latest and greatest in terms of wireless technology, and an automation protocol that exists in over 60% of all commercial real estate assets in the world.
What I usually do when getting new connections is that I ask them what they think of our BACnet/Mesh approach. Most of the time, people do take the time and respond, and we are seeing a lot of orders coming in this way. But this time, it was a bit different.
My initial inquiry was this one below:
Maybe this would be interesting for you? Autoconfig, no manual configuration in taking old meters, legacy systems as well as IoT solutions, safely to the cloud and back. Also, auto-config with Trend logs if need be. I’d love to get your feedback considering your knowledge in the industry. What do you think of this one?
And the response was this:
Hello Nicolas. It is interesting, but I feel that an IoT solution should not be BACnet since this protocol is a little outdated and not very flexible or secure. Traditional building control networks are designed to be stand-alone systems. All the sensing, control, and monitoring functions are performed by devices connected to the main control network. This closed architecture does not easily allow for internet-based functions to be supported. The IoT is the complete opposite: it involves connecting all devices to the world’s single, universal network, through which any device or ‘thing’ can communicate with any other connected and discoverable thing. And history suggests that, once a technology platform begins to support internet connectivity, users want more and more of it. I know that many buildings have a BACnet-controlled HVAC system, but why add to that? Ethernet-based IoT platforms are more robust, secure, and easier to use. Ethernet connects all the PCs, servers, switches, and routers in offices.
The building automation industry might also wish for the control of networking technologies to be more intuitive. To require fewer and simpler controllers and gateways, and to need less intensive training for installers and operators.
Forget about the Internet of Things; we are talking Internet of Buildings!
Hi, great person who wanted to respond! Great points, but I have to disagree with you a little bit here =)
I recently posted a question to my network asking if building automation is dead? Will it be? Will BACnet be replaced? By what? By whom? Any brave commenters?
It got over 12000 views and had some great comments.
So, I have actually been asking the same things quite a few times, and this is my summary. Right now there’s a divide between building automation, proptech, IT services (switches, etc., etc.), as well as HVAC.
IoT, as you say, will mean direct to the cloud for most instances. This works for sensoring technology only for monitoring purposes. However, when you want to create a cognitive building, logic has to reside at the edge, and not only in the cloud.
This article is pretty good regarding local control.
That said all functionalities need to be able to operate without the cloud so to say but still have the potential to run logic on the edge, as well as perform edge analytics.
Okay. So far so good. Existing systems are not connected to the outside world, agreed. This is changing a lot, and most companies go at it with a direct-to-cloud approach, which is wrong. It won’t work. Monitoring yes, but companies right now want a bidirectional loop so that fault detection will actually lead to direct results.
BACnet is legacy, but it’s not outdated. Far from it actually. BACnet/WS, BACnet/SC, and coming BACnet/IT are addendum/standards to make it easier to take data in and out of BACnet networks in a secure way. Does it cover everything? No. But BACnet is a device-to-device communication protocol. By adding semantic tagging such as Haystack, as well as reverse engineering efforts and logic through AI and ML, we’ll quickly figure out what’s in the network.
Basically, we have a solution that harmonizes the new and the old, creating that long-sought-after bridge between IoT, Proptech, HVAC, and building automation. I’m not sure if you are referring to BACnet MS/TP or perhaps BACnet/Ethernet when you say outdated, but BACnet/IP is coming more and more, and that’s what we have as a base.
I agree that the digital maturity in buildings has to be raised, but it needs to be on a proven, global platform and not the sketchy API integrations that we see all around. 80% of the time still goes to data cleaning efforts and by creating One API to the building with tagged, quality data in a secure way, we’ll see faster time to value creation and harmonization between different APIs, standards, protocols as well as disciplines.
Enabling a platform to base future innovation on
This enables a platform. This enables fewer controllers. This enables a standardized environment that is perfectly fit for smarter buildings.
So, forget about the internet of things in buildings. It’s the internet of buildings that is the key. That’s my belief at least, and that’s what you get with BACnet/Mesh.
Ultra-scalable sensoring technology that talks to a universal gateway that sucks in whatever “new” technology is out there, but also communicating with existing protocols, forming a digital backbone in buildings of the past, present, and the future. All in a standardized way which allows traditional BAS specialists to operate within a BACnet environment, System integrators to work remotely, real estate owners to choose if they want to stick with existing technology, or go from an IP level, inviting others to innovate with their building. And IT, IoT, Proptech companies that find it hard to get data out of existing networks will only have ONE single RESTful API to integrate with, in the form of BACnet/Web Services.
So, that’s, in my opinion, the road to freedom of choice for everyone and how WE can create a better world for everyone.
And if you or someone you know need help with questions regarding strategy, innovation, and figuring out how modern technologies can help you where you are today. Look no further. WINNIIO will always be by your side. Just reach out to me, Nicolas Waern, on LinkedIn or check out my Podcast Beyond Buildings if you need any assistance.
Nicolas Waern is the CEO, Strategy & Innovation Leader, and a Digital Twin Evangelist at the consulting firm WINNIIO. He is a thought leader around Digitalization and Digital Twins, regarding Smart Buildings, Smart Cities, and future-ready strategies. And a firm believer that we have all the ingredients to make the world a better place for everyone.
Nicolas is working with leaders in several industries to understand how they can succeed in the age of AI. Assisting them in creating their future, by predicting what the world will do in a week, a month, a year from now. He does this through a Digitalization- Demand approach for anyone that needs to change before they have to.
Nicolas is also Podcast Creator & Newsletter Editor for The Beyond Buildings Podcast
Thought Leader regarding Smart Buildings & Building Automation for AutomatedBuildings
Speaker and Influencer Event Streaming Platforms as the Holy Grail for Industry 4.0 Applications
Subject Matter Expert Real Estate Digitalization Proptech Sweden — Digitalization Expert
And an active Member of Digital Twin working groups Digital Twin Consortium & Chalmers — Digital Twin City Centre
Originally published in April 2019 at http://automatedbuildings.com.