November 2019

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What’s a Building Operating System?

The role of the BOS is to hide the complexity of the field with various equipment manufacturers and protocols and to provide meaningful data on the IT side, so you can deploy independent services from each other without even knowing the architecture of the buildings.
Olivier Poumeyrol
Olivier Poumeyrol

Originally published on LinkedIn

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The way we interact with a building is evolving quickly with the impulse of the digital transformation of our society. This digitalization has serious impacts on how we design BMS/BAS solutions and what value we bring to the different actors.

Why we can’t continue the same way?

On one side, we have end users seeking for more interactions with their surrounding environment: an app to control their comfort, meeting rooms smart booking, issues reporting, chatbot, indoor geolocation… And on the other side, buildings tend to have more and more connected systems producing even more data but mostly failing to satisfy these new needs.

The building digitalization is also disrupting the way we manage facilities and is opening new ways of creating value. Building data is underexploited because of the lack of coherence and structure. That data can generate a lot more value if we improve the way we deal with them: malfunction detection, energy optimization, space optimization, maintenance log, predictive maintenance…

You may think it’s just a hype that will be away soon, but buildings that don’t follow this evolution will have a decreased value in the future regarding other buildings that provide plug & play installation of new services, some we don’t even know yet. Mastering buildings data to provide more value is becoming so important; it’s now one of the key requirements for investors.

What’s a Building Operating System?

A Building Operating System is the middleware between equipment on the field and services. Its main goal is to rationalize and mutualize data between field equipment/sensors and applications. Data are acquired by the BOS, structured and dispatched in the right format to any application that would need them.

The Building Operating System is the evolution of a traditional BMS/BAS to an information system. It differs in the plurality of data it handles: IoT, access control, fire detection…, the contextualization & structuration of data it provides and the connectivity to IT solutions. A BMS is currently deployed with the only purpose to provide a technical interface to Facility Managers. Even if it’s an open system, deploying a new IT service on the top is difficult and expensive because the BMS hasn’t been designed to allow third parties to access easily meaningful data.

With a micro-service approach, the concept of a BOS is to allow any digital service provider to connect to the building and learn what’s inside automatically because every data it interacts with can describe itself and its interactions. So, it’s becoming possible to deploy a new service without changing the current infrastructure of a building or even changing anything with the local data. The role of the BOS is to hide the complexity of the field with various equipment manufacturers and protocols and to provide meaningful data on the IT side, so you can deploy independent services from each other without even knowing the architecture of the buildings.

Why services can’t connect directly to the devices?

The Building Operating System plays the role of an ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) we can find in other IT domains. It handles the integration of data from heterogeneous sources into a single unified interface to provide useful data to services that need them. This integration is done in three phases:

The BOS can acquire local data (communicating equipment, gateways, IoT…) or cloud data (weather, IoT…). The BOS purpose is to make the acquisition at the equipment level as much as it’s possible, avoiding any gateway in order to increase the reliability of the architecture. The BOS should be the only interface between the equipment and the services. This is intended to avoid every service creating a connector to every equipment manufacturer, also called the “Spaghettiware.” It’s a bad architecture for two main reasons:

At the opposite, changes are done at the BOS level, and then it provides automatically the changes to every service accessing the data. This process is automatic.



How does it make a difference with a traditional middleware?

The BOS isn’t just a simple gateway between OT and IT. The BOS is a platform handling data and provides several tools to administrate the data with three main steps:

The concept of data doesn’t only apply to real-time values but covers more complex formats (commands, time-series, events, schedules, alarms…) that are also handled by the BOS.

Step 1: Integrating data

The acquisition must be made with heterogeneous sources, as we have seen before. Using a truly open system like Niagara is important to ensure communication with many different systems. This step is also important to ensure the homogeneity of data (units’ conversion, time synchronization…) and optimal data quality (handling incoherence values, loss of values…).

Step 2: Modeling and structuring data

To allow service applications to access the data they need, it’s necessary to simplify the access to the data by creating an abstraction of systems complexity.

To do that, each field data is associated with various data models: the location (where), the associated subsystem(s) (how), nature (what)… The interactions between the various elements (equipment, sensors, actuators…) are described using mutual relations to elaborate hierarchies between these elements. A BIM model can be used as a data model resource to simplify and partially automate the data structuration.

In order to do this, the BOS uses a graph database which facilitates the description of complex systems and information search process. Data are accessible through individual nodes that each of them represents a part of the system.

For example a node can be a tenant, equipment, a floor…

Each node can have relations with other nodes to define interactions. Together they form a semantic (a dictionary of words) and even more a taxonomy (a classification of terms).

Example: relations are created between “Cooling Water Plant A” and “Fan Coil unit 1” to represent that this fan coil is fed by this cooling water plant. Other relations can be used to describe which tenant(s) is related to that zone(s).

Having this information, it becomes easy for a third-party system to ask the BOS: “which zone is fed by this cooling water plant?”.

Step 3: Allowing access to data and handling IT interactions

Data must be shared with third-party systems using IT technologies and according to different formats: through Web service, Rest API, connectors… A single technology isn’t enough because of the plurality of services and restrictions on IT networks.

Example: time-series data can be transferred to a local database for search purposes like Elasticsearch, while real-time data can be synchronized to a cloud platform like Azure or Google Cloud and alarms pushed to a CMMS API…

Since the BOS is the information system, it must handle the permissions given to every application to control what data they can access. Using the graph database, it simplifies a lot this process.

Example: the administrator of the BOS can authorize the analytics platform to access metering and environmental data but forbids access to other information (names of the tenants, maintenance log…). Another example, the BOS can give permissions to a room booking application the rights to access occupation of each room but forbids access to any other data.

BOS Architecture 

What example of services could you give to an investor?

There are many services that can be deployed to a building to improve comfort, security, maintenance and occupants' experience. The most common one we see is the energy management system collecting metering data. It’s usually a manual process to set it up. Using a BOS can simplify the installation of such systems. The most important advantage is the freedom to change the service at any time without losing much because all the data structuration was past done inside the service and is done now inside the BOS only once.

Interest around Digital Twins is increasing since they provide a real-time representation of a building using a BIM model for static data and live data from a BOS. It’s disrupting the way of handling maintenance in a building by providing very precise and up to date information to the Facility Manager. The implementation of a Digital Twin is simplified a lot and almost entirely automated if the BOS uses the BIM model as an input.

At VayanData, we work in collaboration with Twin Ops from Vinci Facilities to industrialize the use of Digital Twins. We have created unprecedented interactions, feeding the digital twin with highly structured data, sharing BIM information and even reconfiguring local equipment (like a master-slave logic between FCUs) from a BIM model change (like an open space broken into two offices). The result is improved productivity and reliability for people on site avoiding a lot of coordination since it’s handled automatically by machines. See this video for more information.

Meeting rooms are a nightmare for a lot of occupants. Always booked, but mostly empty, people are always looking for meeting rooms. What if the BOS can feed the meeting room booking system with the information of occupation and liberate the room when there is nobody inside after an amount of time? It’s something you can do easily using a BOS.

Meeting Room

Washroom occupation can be monitored, and data synchronized to the Facility Manager's internal application so they can improve the cleaning frequency according to the occupation rate — better comfort for occupants, lower costs for tenants.

Chatbots, mobile applications for parking, analytics… are the future of a Smart Building.

At VayanData, we help companies such as Master System Integrator to bring technical solutions using a powerful stack (Niagara & Active-Framework). We can help your company. Contact us at


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