When you are right bang in the middle of a situation or an industry, it can sometimes be hard to spot that you are actually part of a ‘revolution’.
Sometimes, it’s only with hindsight that we can point to a year when things really started to change.
That said, I’m prepared to take a bit of a punt and say that 2018 will be marked as significant for the building services sector, and for building controls in particular.
One of the reasons I say this is that only last month Dell and Vodafone joined forces with an energy management company to enter the intelligent buildings market in dynamic way.
They’re following other ‘non-traditional’ controls companies such as IBM and Google (in smart homes) into this area.
We will see more ITC companies entering the world of building performance management
The important role of installers
What do IT and mobile tech companies see in buildings? A potentially huge market of connected devices that produce large amounts of data which needs to be analysed and made ‘actionable’.
The rise of intelligent building services equipment, which is IP addressable is moving us ever-closer to the truly intelligent building – though it won’t be a straightforward journey.
IP-addressable building services equipment has been developed by a number of leading players, who are introducing products that can be ‘discovered’ by smart devices easily and quickly.
Many familiar building services products from leading manufacturers can already connect directly to the cloud, collecting their own performance data for end-users, and allowing them to have granular control of that equipment, often from a hand-held smart device.
The upshot of this is that building services installers now play an important part in installing controls systems for a building – saving time and effort. And users can have hands-on control of their equipment.
However, a big stumbling block on the road to an IoT future is the use of different communication protocols and data formats. And that means integration is a frustration when it comes to mining data produced by ‘smart kit’ to identify energy savings and other building performance issues.
And yet, where there is a vision of how much easier things could be, there are those who will start to explore further.
For example, CABA (the US-based Continental Automated Buildings Association) has coordinated an initiative to devise and promote an international standard method to ‘tag’ devices (which is to simplify a very complex project) to make it much easier to integrate data from various devices.
CABA’s 2016 report (titled ‘Project-Haystack’) * highlighted the real value of this information: “Data has become the oil of the digital economy in the 21st century, which if refined properly unlocks the potentials of driving optimal and profitable businesses… Data science can make a major contribution to improving efficiency.”
Here's a prediction
For those outside the world of building controls, Project-Haystack may have passed unnoticed as the technology seems so specialised.
Yet it is significant, because it is bringing the reality of intelligent buildings ever-closer.
It’s my prediction that as integration becomes easier, we will see more ITC companies entering the world of building performance management, and driving forward the use of data from building services to optimise building performance.