Building Management

The Internet of Things and Device Level Control

The Internet of Things, or IoT, has been getting a lot of attention. That’s understandable since forecasts call for there soon to be tens of billions of connected devices. The IoT also will, according to estimates, generate more than $10 trillion of economic activity worldwide.

But all of those big numbers depend on some small things: sensors. The foundation of the Internet of Things – and its usefulness – rests on data that is translated into information. Take temperature. Knowing that it’s 30o F outside let’s people take action, such as putting on a coat before leaving work. When tied to weather info, such as the fact that rain, sleet or snow is falling, the temperature data becomes even more valuable.

In the case of a BMS, temperature and weather data can be combined with occupancy information to yield performance improvements as well as energy and cost savings. After everybody has bundled up against the elements and left, a BMS can put the entire building or specific rooms into an energy saving deep lower temperature setback. A BMS can also make sure the lights are off when everyone is gone, another cost savings.

All of these desirable outcomes start with data from sensors that measure and communicate temperature, weather conditions, the presence or absence of people, and a host of other conditions in the physical environment.

For the device level of a BMS, the Internet of Things demands certain capabilities of control devices. They must deliver critical data on conditions to the BMS and enable needed adjustments to ensure optical performance. So when it comes to control devices

  • Sensors have to be highly reliable and accurate
  • Devices have to be connected
  • They have to be smart and secure.

Sensor reliability and accuracy is important because the data will go into valuable information products. Having a temperature reading off a few degrees, or not available at all, becomes more than just a nuisance when those measurements determine performance and energy reduction strategies.

As for connectivity, that’s the whole point of the IoT. In the past, a connection might involve many hops: first from a sensor, then to a BMS, and then to the wider world. That creates a whole series possible problems. If any link goes down, then the whole chain does. A more certain approach is to take advantage of the Internet for connectivity. It’s highly redundant and resilient, implementing concepts about how to make a network survive the worst.

But, as anybody who reads, listens to, or watches the news knows, exposure to the Internet can be dangerous. There are cybercriminals out there, holding people’s data hostage and taking over industrial systems. So even at the device level, having robust security is a must.

Additionally, devices need to be smart. For one thing, that will help improve security. For another, getting the most out of the IoT involves two-way communication. Sensors may have update rates or other parameters adjusted on-the-fly and actuators may implement new control strategies on command. A more intelligent device makes all this possible and easier to do.

The payoff of the IoT and these device level control improvements will be a better managed building. Take just one example: deep setback. Putting a site into deep setback is only half the picture. Rooms and buildings also have to come out of it at the right time so that the people within them can be comfortable and productive when on site. With the IoT and the appropriate devices, both going into and coming out of an energy saving setup will be easier.

So, to get the most out of the Internet of Things, make sure the basics of device performance and control can handle the new landscape. Your BMS will thank you for it. For additional information, please read this article from Building Operating Management.

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