August 2017

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Custom Analytics for Diverse Buildings

So, what are the key factors these stakeholders and their partners should look for when evaluating analytics platforms?

Mike Reed
Mike Reed,
Business Development Analyst
Hepta Systems

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Control Solutions, Inc

Of all the buzzwords in the intelligent buildings industry, “analytics” may have the widest range of definitions, perhaps even more so than what it means to call a building “smart.”

As building owners, operators, engineers, and technicians each have their own goals and visions for intelligent buildings, campuses, portfolios, and cities, each stakeholder can end up with different expectations for what analytics can bring to their role. If these stakeholders have partnered with a Master Systems Integrator, these disparate goals will be brought into a single vision and technology plan for any upcoming project, and determining the role, inputs, and outputs of an analytics platform is certainly a large part of that plan.

So, what are the key factors these stakeholders and their partners should look for when evaluating analytics platforms, especially as new offerings hit the market at the rate they do today? Further, what kind of plan should be in place before choosing a platform to ensure it is as successful as possible?

In order to serve diverse stakeholders, an analytics platform must be agile in its ability to perform complex functions and display results in a way that properly reaches and empowers those stakeholders to better perform in their roles. In other words, a platform should have the ability to provide broad overviews for C-suite stakeholders while still giving granular reports to building engineers, or feed into work order management systems to push action from the insight it provides.

Analytics platforms are complex and require a very specific mix of talents to produce. As more building stakeholders become accustomed to integration platforms that take huge amounts of data and package it into logical, navigable interfaces, an analytics platform must work within that framework to avoid over-complicating an end-user's existing toolkit.

To that end, creating a successful platform requires input from integration experts, controls engineers, software developers and graphic designers.

Integration is key with analytics platforms because, quite simply, if end users can’t easily access the insights a platform provides, they can’t act on the data. Analytical rules must be custom-written based on a building’s sequence of operation; if the platform doesn’t know how a building should operate, it can’t accurately show users the problems with how it is operating. These analytical rules are often written in complex programming languages, and therefore require the full attention of experienced software developers to ensure accuracy. Finally, to present complex outputs in logical views, designers work with the whole team to create custom reports that provide the right people with the right information.

The best analytics platforms make it easy for end users to make informed decisions about potential changes to operational schedules, equipment setpoints and maintenance priorities. The smartest put software developers to work even more to integrate directly with work order management systems, providing detailed information about specific building issues, and recommended steps to fix them.
Conversely, an analytics platform that doesn’t give the ability to visualize and control building systems or integrate to third-party software with ease can add more burden that it relieves. Adding any new siloed system, including software solutions like analytics simply do not fit today’s most commonly agreed ideal of an intelligent building. Achieving that ideal with a standalone analytics platform can add myriad hours of development time, and may ultimately be futile, as autonomous buildings become a reality. A standalone system likely will never be able to adjust sequences automatically to prevent negative outcomes.

Control Solutions, Inc Before a new analytics platform is implemented, stakeholders must consider who will be tasked to do what with the data the new system outputs. After all, an analytics platform can provide an unprecedented level of insight into how a building is operating when no one is looking, even applying accurate costs to each rule within the system, but it cannot automate every maintenance task. Therefore, if no action is taken as a result of that insight, no return on investment can be enjoyed.

Much like choosing an integration platform, selecting an analytics platform is an incredibly important decision for stakeholders in intelligent buildings projects. The right platform can provide whole new levels of optimization and automation that go beyond showing what a site’s disparate systems are doing when you’re looking, and toward explaining the issues that happen when nobody’s there. With so many ways inefficiencies can drain budgets, analytics platforms can catch concerns that may not affect tenant comfort, and therefore may never result in a call to maintenance.

Evaluating the options on the market today is a complex process, but with proper planning, a unified vision, and trusted partners, stakeholders can rest assured that the right choice is made, and benefits will be reaped for years to come.


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