Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.
EMAIL INTERVIEW – Matt Green and Ken Sinclair
Green, Training Director,
Schneider Electric’s Buildings Business
The major benefits of IT/OT convergence are found through economies of scale – classically defined as doing things more efficiently with increasing size or speed of operation.
are the biggest factors driving the convergence of information
technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) in today’s buildings?
Green: The convergence of IT and OT in today’s building environments is driven by facility managers’ desire to streamline operations, reduce costs and achieve efficiencies wherever possible. Much of the network infrastructure within buildings supporting traditional IT functions can also serve a dual role in supporting operational activities such as IP level controller functions and sophisticated analytic tools. Additionally, integrating disparate building systems – including HVAC, lighting, energy management and security– into one single view will allow for better ease of use and simplicity, while also eliminating redundancy and human error.
The need for this type of integration stems from the proliferation of new technologies, such as cloud and mobile devices, that are creating more building data than ever before that needs to be effectively managed and mined to deliver maximum energy efficiency. For larger, more complicated buildings, the convergence of IT and OT becomes even more critical.
Sinclair: What are the major benefits of this type of integration?
Green: The major benefits of IT/OT convergence are found through economies of scale –classically defined as doing things more efficiently with increasing size or speed of operation. Leveraging existing network infrastructure, coupled with virtualization technology and the requirement and capacity to store and protect actionable data makes the integration of IT and OT seamless in many ways.
This convergence provides facility managers and IT executives with new opportunities to work together and approach building problems from a shared viewpoint and set of priorities. The result is greater insights gleaned from critical building data, more control, enhanced productivity and ultimately operating and energy cost savings. By leveraging IT and OT data, facility managers can quickly identify inefficiencies and deploy preventative maintenance measures. Most importantly, intelligent data enables facility managers to be more proactive and less reactive to building issues.
Sinclair: How will IT/OT convergence change the required qualifications skills needed for facility management? How can seasoned and upcoming facility managers prepare themselves for this new world order?
Green: Facility management professionals, quite simply, will need to understand how to plan, execute and operate effectively in the IT environment of today. The pre-eminent importance of cybersecurity is of top concern and compliance with Department of Defense Information Assurance Risk Management Framework (DIARMF) standards are critical to ensure that equipment in support of building automation systems is never considered a point of network vulnerability.
Conversely IT professionals will need to have an understanding of the technology involved in achieving efficient energy management in a facility. A knowledge of how (and how much) data flows from mechanical systems to server class machines and back is fundamental. This data serves as the actionable information which allows facility managers to understand where best to allocate precious operational expenditures to achieve the biggest return on their investment.
Sinclair: What are the biggest challenges facility managers face in integrating their IT and OT systems? How can today’s facility managers overcome these challenges?
Green: One of the biggest challenges is how rapidly the OT systems are evolving technically (IP control, analytics, connected services, web services, mobile apps, etc.) while also requiring the sustainment and integration of older technology that has a significant product lifespan. Facility managers can overcome these challenges by budgeting over time for upgrades to their systems to ensure they are taking advantage of the sophisticated tools available in automation products of today.
Additionally, facility managers should understand the potential opportunities associated with and prepare for the Internet of Things (IoT) by implementing systems that can collect, store and analyze building data in the cloud. Finally, facility managers need to be concerned about cybersecurity issues as they bring more critical facility data online.
Sinclair: How can facility managers ensure their building data is secure and protected as systems become integrated?
Green: Product compliance to published cybersecurity standards (such as DIARMF) is fundamental. Concurrently, best practices such as user management and strong password policy and enforcement are critical to protecting key data.
New technologies necessitate an understanding of core IT practices by facility personnel such as cybersecurity awareness. Additionally, these new technologies require that facility management personnel undergo strict trainings and education around building technologies. The adoption of connected technologies will further enhance cybersecurity concerns and the need for planning around network bandwidth as well as managing data security on one network.
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