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Building a Strong Data Integration Architecture in Smart Buildings

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Patrick Gilhooly

Within an intelligent built environment, data integration means identifying, transforming, analyzing, and utilizing data from disparate sources to improve the performance of a building owner's most valuable asset.

Combining strong data integration architecture with smart technology allows stakeholders to better understand how well a building's systems and equipment work together and create a clear path toward organizational goals. Expert master systems integration and the right tech stack are key to harnessing the full potential of your property. 

Need for Data Integration Architecture in Smart Buildings

Data integration architecture is the means by which building data can be mapped, reconciled, and delivered. With correct integration, data can drive better building performance, easier collaboration between stakeholders, and greater tenant satisfaction.

In a smart building, data integration architecture involves multiple layers:

  • Source systems encompass external and internal applications, record systems, enterprise data repositories, and other existing technology into a central, unified core systems, such as a building management system (BMS).
  • Connectivity is the key to integration. In a well-integrated system, dataflow must be seamless, and you need a secure, reliable connection.
  • Data integration transforms collected building data and allows operators to view it outside silos, providing a holistic understanding of building systems. It makes access and archiving of big data cost-effective.
  • Data normalization standardizes information to make it useful and machine-readable. Technology that enables and guarantees clean, well-modeled, normalized data is essential to fuel all applications such as analytics.
  • Data analytics converts unorganized big data gathered by the Internet of Things (IoT) devices into meaningful, actionable insights.

With an abundance of data points, smart buildings require strong data integration architecture that powers advanced automation strategies and allows stakeholders to make informed decisions quickly.

Key Factors in Data Integration Architecture

Various platform technologies look to harmonize and consolidate data into one architecture. These need to be comprehensive enough to support current system requirements while still allowing sufficient scalability to allow for further architectural development. Advanced data integration platforms are what enable a data-centric approach to managing buildings. 

However, systems that have not been maintained, including controllers, software, and network devices that have not been kept up to date or are no longer supported by their manufacturer, present serious cybersecurity risks. If systems run with many devices offline, it is in effect being operated manually, keeping you from realizing the automation benefits of smart systems integration. As such, both initial design and ongoing maintenance are critical to strong data integration architecture.

The following are key factors to consider:

Data Warehousing

Data warehousing looks at the processing and presentation involved in communicating data to end users. Though all data warehouses are unique, each has standard features. Data warehouse applications support a user's data requirements only as needed.

Data warehousing supports applications for:

  • Forecasting
  • Profiling
  • Summary reporting
  • Trend analysis

Periodically, operational systems update the warehouse database, usually during times when building occupants aren't using it. As this data accumulates, it can then be extracted, filtered, and loaded on a regular basis to a dedicated data warehouse.

Artificial Intelligence

Of the applications involved in data integration architecture, those featuring artificial intelligence (AI) offer the most comprehensive look at a building's systems. AI enables stakeholders a unified viewpoint of data from many unrelated sources and provides the insights necessary to understand the data gathered from a building's disparate systems. 

Additionally, AI simplifies data integration. It improves the flow of data and enhances data processing capabilities. When powered by AI, patterns and trends within datasets are more easily revealed, leading to more accurate statistical modeling and better insights. AI also allows the automation of data mapping and prediction.

Working with Vendors

When it comes to data integration architecture, one of the biggest challenges for building owners involves networks developed and owned by vendors. With access to credentials that give them administrative access to networks and equipment, building controls, and other vendors they can effectively hold clients hostage. 

To prevent overreach by vendors, stakeholders should migrate or upgrade devices and software to eliminate risks and work towards converging networks to ensure full control. One of the most important strategies, however, is working with an expert master systems integrator (MSI). An MSI acts as an intermediary between building owners and vendors and collaborates with IT teams to resolve integration issues and create a unified approach. 

Integration Platforms & Master Systems Integrators

Without the right components, even the most robust data integration architecture will fail to optimize performance or provide the clarity you need to make smart decisions.

An integration platform and independent data layer (IDL) like IOT Jetstream, is key to achieving the synergic relationships necessary to support dataflows between equipment and applications. Once building systems are unified, a smart building platform, like onPoint, that works seamlessly with building systems, IoT devices, and cloud-based applications allows you to fully capitalize on building data. With these technologies, your building performance can truly reach its full potential.

An MSI helps you get the most out of smart building technology. The best MSI understands your needs and your goals and leverages the right technology and solutions architecture to solve your business needs and problems. With their guidance, you gain extraordinary capabilities, control, and insights. 


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