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December 2018
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Our Journey to the Edge

 – It’s not just about the technology
monica

Monica Holbrook
System Architect,
Climatec LLC

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Our journey to the edge relies on the merging of technology and people. Distributed collection and robustly distributed network architectures give us the ability to perform more complex tasks than ever before. Analytic events, reports, and dashboards generated by industry professionals, all aim to provide the end user a set of tools with actionable results. Yet, even the most advanced analytics and visualizations require a level of analysis and ‘boots on the ground’ to address repair needs and further diagnose complex system issues.

The role of the integrator is expanding, requiring a need for new education, support and workflows. No longer is the core business going to be slinging wires and hanging boxes. The next generation of the building automation business is one that is a convergence of IT, data science and mechanical understanding.

The challenges facing integrators today include empowering technicians to obtain the information and support they need to embrace new technologies while not getting lost in the overwhelming newness of it all. Technology alone won’t get us to where we need to go on the journey to the edge. The technicians, designers, and engineers all need new ways of thinking about tools for deployment, implementation, and support. IT network solutions, distributed architectures, embedded/smart local analytics devices all require specialized knowledge. The good news is that none of these things are completely foreign in our current work environments, nor are they out of reach for the newly graduated from the emerging technical programs serving our industry. Leading technical people in an organization will continue to take on the challenge of creating new systems and researching best practices as they emerge. The tricky part is merging the new technology requirements and diagnostic/analytical tools into a traditional workflow.

Data management and acquisition is one of the first and most critical technical steps. It incorporates not only setting up trends but devising the best means of acquiring and storing the data as well as a platform for analyzing and visualizing the collection. There has been a lot of conversation in recent years that has led us to protocols and resources like Haystack designed to make the standardization of data collection accessible. However, it requires planning and implementation. And most importantly, people. Technicians, engineers, and managers in the organization (both in new buildings and existing) need to have the time and operational support to test and implement new methods. This is often a very real challenge in a contracting environment. But the only way forward is through, and that entails a certain amount of investment in the future.

Control Solutions, Inc Once the data is collected, and reports are generating a process for analysis and diagnostics along with a path to billable work is imperative. Our technology and means of reporting the mass amounts of data have grown exponentially in recent years, yet, we still require boots on the ground to investigate and address issues. Technicians still require the ability to understand and diagnose identified issues, whether that event is reported through a fancy new analytics system or a traditional alarm. The ‘edgification’ of the building environment provides us with smarter, better-distributed tools. However, the need for an operational system to address issues as they arise remains imperative.

Before we as integrators get too caught up in the semantics of tagging and the logistics of distributed network architectures, we first must have established the importance and space for the implementation of new and important core data and analytical policies within our organizational systems.

Organizational questions to consider in the move to the edge include: Who are the champions of these efforts and does the management of the company support the changes required? Who will support the field tech as new analytical programs are implemented? What improved metrics and reports will the facility managers receive that provide actionable value? Once the organizational needs are understood, the technical, operational questions need to be addressed: What trends are required for analysis? What tagging system will be the standard and wherein the deployment process is that implemented? How do we manage new construction versus retrofit analytic needs? These are among the questions successful, “edgified” organizations will answer as the convergence of technology and people comes to fruition.

Monica Holbrook: System Architect, Climatec LLC  Over 20 years in the operational end of the building automation business.

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