Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.
Heart and Soul of Smart Buildings
The S4 Group, Inc
Originally published Feb 28, 2019
Seeing the barrage of IoT-themed messages that cross my desk on a daily basis might lead one to believe that we are in the middle of a technology revolution and Smart Buildings are something completely new and different. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Don’t get me wrong; Smart Buildings are a very important concept in building operation and management. However, we have been on that journey for many years. Incremental improvements in building automation technology, algorithms, and applications started many years ago and will continue into the future.
became “smarter” on the day that the first pneumatic controlled
thermostats were installed. This innovation made it possible to
telegraph demands for heat to the central plant and dramatically
improved occupant comfort in buildings. This certainly wasn’t a perfect
solution, but it was a step forward, and with proper maintenance it got
the rudimentary job done. The next incremental change came as building
automation companies began replacing pneumatic controls with
proprietary DDC systems. These distributed networks of small computers
and supporting electronic sensors, valves, and actuators ushered in an
era of rapid improvement as each manufacturer improved their algorithms
with each new release. At this point, the focus was still on heating
and air conditioning control. At the same time, user interfaces evolved
into graphical representations of the building, making operations more
intuitive and efficient. Trending and alarming capabilities utilized
the power of the computer to provide tools for the building operator.
Then Came BACnet
is the use of BACnet important? First of all, the BACnet standard is
maintained under the auspices of ASHRAE SSPC 135. The standard is
continually evolving to meet the changing needs of buildings, as
previously stove-piped subsystems now become a part of the managed and
monitored enterprise. The BACnet committee includes representation of
all stakeholders who have an interest in making buildings smarter.
BACnet has its roots in standard IT and networking technologies. That
continues as BACnet SC embraces Cybersecurity technologies developed by
the IT community. At the same time, other initiatives within the BACnet
committee continue to define new BACnet services to support additional
building subsystems, enabling them to work together to make buildings
flagship S4 Open: BACnet-N2 Router is a unique example of the
versatility of BACnet. As mentioned earlier, the BACnet standard does
not dictate the algorithms inside of your device. It focuses on the
protocol interface and the services offered. This flexibility allowed
us to offer a gateway to legacy building automation system that goes
way beyond the traditional protocol converter. S4 followed this
addendum to the BACnet standard that provides best practices for
gateway implementation. S4 products automate much of the integration
process itself and offer powerful management and monitoring
capabilities. S4 innovations provide the enabling technology to make
legacy buildings smarter with leading-edge BACnet value-added
applications while setting the stage to transition legacy equipment to
current technology being offered by the BACnet community. In 2019, you
will see us utilize our integration framework to bring traditional IoT
products into the B-IoT ecosystem.
BACnet, by its nature, provides local control of a building. That removes any dependencies and risks of relying on external networks and services to maintain a comfortable and productive environment for building occupants. If employees are not comfortable, their productivity goes down. If customers in a retail or service environment are not comfortable, they likely will take their business elsewhere. BACnet technology and the innovative algorithms manufacturers have developed in their devices, keep these things from happening and protects the revenue stream for the building owner / operator / tenant.
Simultaneously, these BACnet systems optimize the use of the HVAC systems resulting in significant savings in utility costs. What is missing in many cases is adequate instrumentation to monitor current conditions. Typically, this was to save costs during the initial construction process. The cost of adding instrumentation has gone way down as technology has advanced. We’ve heard it over and over again - you can’t manage what you don’t monitor. This is relevant to all control systems, not just building automation. Adding instrumentation is a major step forward. But, this has to be done strategically and carefully. These sensors should be connected directly to the local BACnet infrastructure so that you can leverage the current investment in BACnet technology and associated control algorithms. Then, any and all data in the BACnet system should be published to cloud-based value-added services. With BACnet holding the dominant position as the protocol of choice for building automation systems worldwide, the existing investments should be protected and leveraged. Local first. This strategy gives you the best of all worlds: local control to keep your building humming at top efficiency, BACnet, and the power of cloud-based value-added services and universal secure access via your smartphone or tablet, IoT. This is exactly what B-IoT delivers!
Editor's Note: For more information read this LinkedIn discussion
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