July 2017

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3 Key Considerations of Smart Building System Integration

A good solution demonstrates immediate operational savings and ROI; a great solution continues to do so well into the future.
Peter Rake

Peter Rake,
Systems Integrator
 Switch Automation

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Companies pursuing a fully optimized smart building portfolio have many questions to consider as they design a strategy. The systems integrator is the lynchpin in the successful execution of the program’s implementation. Charged with joining subsystems together and ensuring they function in unison, it’s critical to evaluate programs against a standard criteria. In an era of rapid technological advancement, the systems integrator role is more complex than ever. They must uncover barriers to implementation and system compatibility while troubleshooting operational roadblocks.

In an effort facilitate the process, here are three key conversations to have prior to designing your integration strategy. Below are the most common ‘this vs. that’ discussions we have with corporate and commercial real estate teams:

Custom vs. Configurable

The word ‘custom’ implies tailored, unique and high-quality. While that may initially sound ideal, when it comes to software, the word ‘custom’ can be deceiving. Software customization is particularly costly because the upfront implementation takes longer, and any feature updates or upgrades are completed at the user’s expense.

Consider this: Configurable software, on the other hand, has standardized functionality and can scale to meet evolving business needs. A systems integrator can easily incorporate additional subsystems and controls because a configurable solution is flexible with multiple technologies. Product features and upgrades occur automatically without disruption to users. Plus, there are no advanced technical skills required, eliminating avoidable expenses and lengthy waiting periods. In short, a configurable system’s framework is flexible and designed to expand in alignment with business and user needs.

Pilots vs. Phased

Companies often think a ‘try before you buy’ approach will help them compare vendors on a building-by-building basis and better understand what solution is best suited for their needs. In reality, selecting multiple pilots often waste valuable time, effort and money for the customer and the slew of vendors. The systems integrator is swamped with a variety of siloed projects with no interoperability. Vendors typically have different value propositions, which means it’s also difficult to conduct an ‘apples to apples’ evaluation or dive deep enough into individual solution performance. Additionally, it’s nearly impossible to prove scalable ROI on just one building or floor without a significant data set.

Consider this: We’ve seen companies gain far more value when they select a subset of representative buildings in their portfolio to integrate with one vendor. They implement, analyze and demonstrate the quickest path to value—which effectively serves as Phase 1. This provides an accurate representation of a portfolio-wide program and facilitates informed decisions from a fair starting point. The best news is if the vendor proves a worthy partner, then executing Phase 2 is a much more streamlined and cost-effective task for the systems integrator.

Today vs. Tomorrow

[an error occurred while processing this directive]Companies are often driven to pursue a smart building solution by a specific pain point. Perhaps today it’s meeting energy rating mandates, understanding real estate utilization or reducing hot / cold calls. But just as companies have a primary need, they typically have a long-term vision for a holistic smart building program that allows them the flexibility to add new services or technologies such as cloud-based control, or nuanced sensor points like indoor air quality or occupancy. This scenario creates a dual need for a program that can launch right away to address the challenge at hand and later expand to meet future objectives.

Consider this: To accommodate the short and long-term goals of a diverse portfolio, it’s critical to identify a partner that’s experienced in enterprise technology. One who can evolve quickly, simply and cost-effectively, allowing program roll-out with minimal disruption and maximum impact. A wise systems integrator will advocate for a solution that can expand in alignment with evolving portfolio needs. Choosing an open architecture foundation to best leverage the myriad of IoT products available enables the company to incorporate the latest technologies as they are introduced to the marketplace. An ideal platform offers the option to start simply with a feature like utility benchmarking to understand baseline energy consumption, then add more advanced fault detection and diagnostics to identify valuable savings opportunities and/or command and control to manage building performance in real-time.

Ultimately, the only constant in real estate is change. A good solution demonstrates immediate operational savings and ROI; a great solution continues to do so well into the future.

Download this Evaluation Roadmap E-book to learn how to ask the right questions, avoid costly mistakes and implement an effective smart building program to dramatically improve your portfolio's operation.

About the Author

Peter Rake is a Systems Integrator at Switch Automation, where he helps corporate and commercial real estate teams optimize their building performance.


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