November 2015

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Enhancing Legacy Buildings with IoT

IoT technology has the potential to provide more granular data to BAS and EMS systems, to add intelligence at the edge.
Steve Jones
Steve Jones,

Managing Partner
The S4 Group, Inc

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Note to Automated Buildings Readers: Before I felt comfortable writing this article, I needed to understand what the definition of IoT is TODAY. What I found is a moving target. As many of you may have noticed, the Internet of Things is certainly a buzzword and can be, or often is, used to mean whatever is convenient for the presenting organization. There is a lot of convergence and cooperation that needs to occur before there is a universally accepted definition of IoT. It will probably be even longer until we converge on a universal IoT technology implementation. Food for thought – maybe we don’t need just one implementation! Please use or ignore these paragraphs as you deem appropriate, or substitute your own definition and see what conclusion you arrive at.

First, I checked Wikipedia for a generic definition:

The Internet of Things (IoT, sometimes Internet of Everything) is the network of physical objects or "things" embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity to enable objects to exchange data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices based on the infrastructure of International Telecommunication Union's Global Standards Initiative.[1] The Internet of Things allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure,[2] creating opportunities for more direct integration between the physical world and computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit.[3] [4] [5] [6] [7] Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure. Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020.[8]

See for the complete article.

Then I searched for a more industry specific definition and found this:

But in all seriousness, the Internet of Things — which is a fancy way of talking about how smart devices can communicate with each other in more efficient, interoperable ways — is a very important concept to understand for any facility manager operating high-performance buildings. The IoT is how buildings will go from dumb, inefficient, and obsolete to smart, high-performance, and state-of-the-art.

See for the complete article.

Given this background, here is my assessment. The practical question is: What value does the Internet of Things bring to building occupants today? I think that there is very little immediate benefit to the occupants for existing buildings. The capability of current BAS systems to do something meaningful with this newfound goldmine of data is simply not there.

Longer term, as buildings are retrofitted and updated, or for new construction, the better instrumentation provided by IoT technology will result in improvements in indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and occupant comfort. In order to reap these benefits, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way building systems are designed and in the way people interact with those systems.

contemporary IoT technology has the potential to provide more granular data to BAS and EMS systems, to add intelligence at the edge where incremental adjustments can be automatically applied, break down the traditional barriers between building infrastructure systems (HVAC control, lighting, access security, occupancy, etc.) and improve both occupant comfort and energy efficiency as the BAS, EMS, and other building systems learn how to utilize both the new sources of data and cooperate with the intelligence built into them. Layering on top of this the ability to store and analyze massive quantities of data through Big Data technologies and Analytics engines makes building metrics and benchmarking against like properties a reality. Turning this huge amount of data into actionable information further improves building efficiency and cost savings without sacrificing, and in fact probably improving, occupant comfort.

Our S4 Open: BACnet-N2 Router has been providing access to data locked inside of proprietary systems by publishing it to BACnet/IP where modern on-site or cloud based applications can be used to turn raw building data into actionable information. In the near future, options will be offered in the S4 Open products to publish this data to BACnet/WS and other Web Services based protocols as IoT standards come into general acceptance by the industry. The S4 Open Appliance will act as a proxy agent to present the information locked in proprietary BAS systems as IoT data until the transition to new technology is completed sometime in the future as building owners can afford to make those investments. A purist would possibly not call this IoT data but I’m willing to argue that legacy buildings must be included in this shift in paradigm for the industry as a whole to gain the most benefit in the shortest amount of time. The S4 technology will be there to do the heavy lifting during the transition period.


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