March 2011

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Visual Depictions of Data
Visual depictions of data are almost universally understood without requiring knowledge of language.
Nino Kurtalj
Nino Kurtalj, President,

Elma Kurtalj Ltd

Contributing Editor

Operating cost awareness increasingly utilizes Building Automation Systems. The owners' endeavor to save energy, not compromising occupant comfort, is one of the key points for the penetration of smart building technology into the sector and it is rapidly increasing globally. Clearly, the wealth of the nation significantly depends on how efficiently we use our resources.

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Recently, I was asked to present smart building possibilities at a conference which was specially addressing hospital energy issues. Preparing for the presentation I found graphs in one of the CADDET brochures, with the Energy Consumption for hospitals in different countries.

Graph Energy Consumption for Hospitals

On the graph, it is clearly indicated that Switzerland and Sweden have the lowest electrical and thermal energy consumption per gross floor area. Compared to the US their consumption is around 1/3 for typical hospital stock. Typically, such kind of data is in energy reports. How effectively can we use such knowledge if it is frozen within the pdf type of document? How many Building Managers are aware of the existence of this information? I do not have the answers, but I know that having the opportunity to compare in real time our facility energy consumption with corresponding typical similar facilities in various countries could change and reposition our view and understanding of our facility.  It could as well significantly influence our reconstruction strategies. 

Making our data public could help us to better understand our position. Internet technology has  reached the point where real time information as a service can remodel managing buildings. Unfortunately, most of the installed systems hardly use these features and capabilities, simply because of the nature of how the BMS industry works with their customers. Most BMS vendors claim that their system is the best one. In almost every brochure you will find that in comparing to the other vendors their particular one provides significantly more value to the customer. However, rarely will you will find a comparison as in the graph above. Let’s face it, we need to compare our KPIs with the average industry ones, and through that, the progress and adaptation of the industry will speed up making the open intelligent building model dominant.  How to compare different facilities? They are different, and as with every statistic we could be comparing pears with apples.  How to be sure that the numbers fit? One of the answers could be by establishing good building classification. The second thing that we will need is the redesigning of the traditional BMS infrastructure. We will need to add more sensors, which will then be used for keeping a good level of comfort, to predictive and proactive managing and operation.

The ideal system would be self calibrating with diagnostic capabilities as well as simple to operate. In one word, it has to be “Smart”.

There are many parameters that the system could utilize as real time data elements, such as outside temperature, dew point, precipitation, wind, solar radiation, air quality indicators, energy pricing data as well as any other data, which could be useful for day to day operation of the building. Data like people behavior, legislation changes, etc could be a base for very pragmatic comparisons. As the outside parameters will influence control sequences of AHU units, boiler rooms and any other system installed in the building, the business process data will contribute too. This new knowledge will change control as well business strategies.

 BrightCore in Corporate Process Structure

As this image presents, we always have the core business and process environment, as well as interaction between subcontractors, facility operations, management and other services.  Boundaries of the system are changed for ever; just national comparisons are not relevant any more. Global companies understand it very well since they are covering the global area.

Such intensive usage of real time data needs pure network architecture and BMS, which are 100% ICT discipline as telephony today. We cannot rely any more on just client server architecture. Real time outside services are bringing a producer –consumer model right into the heart of our industry. Such a wealth of data is changing core company values, and adding new dynamics to the decision making process.

To achieve such simplification and manageability of data from various data sources – either on-premise or hosted except the general common data model, we have to establish a common graphic presentation model too.   We need to network real time with database data. Therefore, interoperability of real time and database data, and their presentation becomes a foundation for all other developments. Standard client server model could not support such a request. We have to adapt a full network model.

Graphic Display System

The vector based graphic display system could significantly help in presentation of building data. Usage of open vector formats like SVG or in more demanding situations some other CAD or BIM format will reshape usability of building data. Adding layers will open multi usage of graphics through various services without forcing unnecessarily details. Features like zoom in on a selected area for more detail without redrawing the picture significantly facilitates usage of the HMI drawings.

Component Editor

Such an editor is included within the BrightCore framework.

Too often we need to create real –time analysis reports with both static and inconstant sources of information.  Today, we still use Excel for such tasks. Rarely do we have a powerful Analysis Framework in such a model. In the open conceptual model, it could be easy to add such an infrastructure. Integrating energy usage with total sales per month could be a very easy achievable task. If we have sub metering, we can go deeply into the analytics of thevCore Business data with the process environment data.   

Now as we can measure everything, our Service Level Agreements have a totally new flavor. The ability and decision to compare energy with sales, as well as to compare support service with the energy opens a totally new segment of utilizing KPI performances. Possibilities are endless. 

After we measure, we need to draw a picture. It is an important general principle in explaining things. Most people will accept visual information much more quickly than information in other forms. Simple, visual perception is more immediate than a sequential scan of numbers and letters. Graphics data presents and shows relationships more clearly. Visual depictions of data are almost universally understood without requiring knowledge of language. The purpose of graphical data is to communicate information clearly and accurately.

The wealth of a nation significantly depends on how efficiently we use our resources.  To be able to understand how we perform graphical data presentation represents a cornerstone to all future efficiency models.


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