What Is a Master Systems Integrator?
People who work in commercial buildings naturally have some idea how many systems are working...
Motel 6’s “We’ll leave the light on for you” slogan spoke to the hospitality of the brand, but it could also apply to two main libraries on the University of California at Berkeley campus thanks to their newly installed smart lighting system. The new system gives facility managers the ability to control and automate anything from a single fixture to entire circuits, allowing them to curb energy usage and reduce waste. In the Doe Library, fluorescent lighting shuts off during daylight hours when skylights can provide natural lighting. Using a web interface, Berkeley’s Moffitt Library now regulates lighting according to holidays, exams, and other nuances of the university’s academic year. Facility managers can control lighting on a customizable schedule, using a software scheduling application that is accessible via a web portal and allows overrides for when cleaning crews are on premises.
Using Internet of Things (IoT) technology, smart buildings provide innovative solutions with a direct impact on a building’s overall performance. With data gathered by sensors that provide real-time intelligence, much of the guesswork can be eliminated for maintenance, security, energy use, and other building-related issues. Quite simply, smart building integration helps occupants, staff, and contractors use a building’s resources more efficiently. By exploring some of the best strategies for integration, you are more well-positioned to realize these benefits.
Whether it’s an office, apartment building, industrial complex, or other facility, today’s smart buildings can deliver actionable intelligence about what’s going on in specific areas of a building and in aggregate across the entire system. By combining an array of state-of-the-art devices, systems, and architecture, IoT technology is revolutionizing the way we think of infrastructure-related resource consumption and facilities management. However, using smart technologies to their full potential requires thoughtful integration with a focus on three key factors:
A smart building acts much like a computer in that it is made up of an internal model based on data and learns from the information it gathers through use of IoT-connected sensors and devices combined with digital applications. The operational data gathered allows for the monitoring—and, in some cases, control—of things like equipment functionality, energy use, environmental factors, occupancy, access control, and even engagement with the building’s tenants. Key insights gleaned from the data can then be employed in real-time to plan how best to use resources and improve efficiency, removing the need for guesswork.
When analytics is paired with machine learning (ML) algorithms, smart buildings can use the data they gather to automatically increase efficiency, improve the environment for its occupants, and generally make buildings safer. ML enables systems to learn and become increasingly efficient by refining internal data models over time. This allows for the initiation of actions based on insights extracted from this large volume of organized data that may not otherwise have been apparent. Additionally, the analytics gathered do not just need to rely on one building’s data, but can look at hundreds of similar buildings for benchmarking purposes.
In all cases, a user interface that allows humans to interact with the software in a way that is accessible and easy to understand is invaluable.
One of the most significant advantages of a smart building is the ability to continuously monitor energy efficiency and control many aspects of its interior environment. Significantly, areas of excessive or unusual consumption can be easily identified, allowing facility managers or automation systems to make changes that curb inefficiencies. With smart building integration that can learn, analyze, and predict consumption patterns, businesses that own commercial buildings can then create pragmatic strategies to reduce energy expenditure.
With an intelligent analytics platform driving automation, HVAC, lighting, and electronics systems within the entire building—or even individual rooms—can be adjusted depending on weather or seasonal factors, time of day, or occupancy. This includes not only current conditions, but predicted conditions, and can provide impressive savings on utility costs. It also allows for better portfolio-wide benchmarking and facilitates more efficient operations. For example, with the right smart technologies, you can anticipate maintenance issues, preemptively schedule repairs, and isolate problems faster to improve uptime and optimize equipment performance.
Smart building integration has been shown to reduce energy costs by as much as 35%, which means investing in integration can provide a substantial return on investment.
Access control is another area in which smart buildings prove their worth. Through the use of personnel access badges, electronic door locks, cameras, alarms, and other access control features, security is increased, restricting the building or specific areas to authorized parties. These access control devices work better when used in tandem within a smart building system, allowing specific locations to be armed or disarmed remotely and creating alerts via text, email, or phone should unusual activity be detected.
IoT technology gives facility management effective tools for controlling access by visitors, workers, and occupants. Preventing unauthorized personnel from entering restricted areas also prevents theft or unauthorized access to privileged information. It also helps determine who and when certain parties leave the building, and creates a digital log of everyone who has come and gone. This sort of location data can minimize the risk of unauthorized parties gaining access and or deviating from approved paths when visiting.
Though there are significant benefits to integrating smart technology into buildings, some roadblocks to implementation include:
It is important to understand that smart technologies cannot solve every problem. But with ML within the IoT setting, the data smart buildings gather will become increasingly valuable, helping the building become ever more efficient and able to provide better occupant experiences. While IoT technology does not always perform well with older equipment or systems, this will become less of a problem as businesses modernize, and a master systems integrator (MSI) with expertise in both new construction and legacy buildings can help you address many of these challenges. As more businesses engage in smart building technology, costs will also decrease. Already, strategic smart building integration can offer significant ROI by reducing energy use, cutting operational costs, and making buildings more appealing to occupants.
Buildings IOT can help you understand and adapt your building using state-of-the-art technologies. Our flexible software and services extend the longevity of structural assets while improving indoor environments for occupants and achieving greater energy efficiency. In addition to our continued development of cloud-based building analytics software, we design and install control systems, deploy complex integrated management systems, and provide managed IT services. With our innovative approach, smart building integration can transform the way your building functions, now and for years to come.
Clint Bradford writes about problems encountered and solutions delivered during our smart building project process.