The Internet of Things & Building Automation

IoTGraphInternet of Things (IoT) — refers to uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure. The term Internet of Things was proposed by Kevin Ashton in 1999 though the concept has been discussed since at least 1991. In 1994, the Internet of Things was known as “control networks,” which Reza Raji discussed in IEEE Spectrum as “[moving] small packets of data to a large set of nodes, so as to integrate and automate everything from home appliances to entire factories.”WIKIPEDIA.

The estimate is that there are now 6 Billion network connected devices out there today (Dec 2014), and projections are for 20 Billion in 5 years. Why does this matter and why do you care? The short answer is that all these devices have to be managed, we have to create networks that can support them, and they have to be protected from malicious intent.

When applied to Building Automation many of these devices will be for monitoring and so you ask, “What are the things we are going to be monitoring?”

  • Temperature Sensors in every room, outside air, hot water , cooling ducts, refrigeration systems / freezers, waste water, Audio Visual Systems, server rooms, and on and on
  • Access Control — allow who can get in, and monitor every window and door
  • Occupancy / Vacancy — for environmental control, conservation of resources, and space utilization… yes every space.
  • Light levels and color — for conservation and Yes light color for mood augmentation.
  • People location/ health — enable spaces to behave differently depending on who is there. Monitor for the well being of occupants.
  • Vehicle location — know where your rolling equipment is located.
  • Machinery activity
  • Motor and pump bearings
  • Valve position — fluid systems such as potable water, waste, and chill water. Also air systems for HVAC.
  • Elevator status
  • Plant moisture level and sprinkler control

Also one of the significant challenges coming will be the security of all this stuff. After all you cant allow a hacker to disable the Auto-Start Function of the office coffee pot!

A few months back a customer commented to me in conversation about the IoT and that “no one would be putting that stuff on his network”. Yes I get his concern. He may also have been one of the managers that 10 years ago said “no video is ever going on my network” – we all know how that worked out. Some things are inevitable and clearly this is one of them I assure you. Why why why you ask? In a single word “Efficiency“, and well there is “Convenience” too. There is an intense push for everything to be more efficient, and the more we know about any environment the more efficient we can make it. Some would also argue that increasing automation and monitoring is convenient, and cool and hip and fun, but also costly, time consuming, and difficult to support. Regardless you can count on a very steep increase in stuff on your building network that will help the building be healthy, happy and efficient.