Finding the Best IoT Path

May 9, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

internet_of_thingsThe Internet of Things (IoT) is gradually revolutionizing the facilities management sector by making it easier for energy managers to collect and analyze huge amounts of data. This data collectively indicates the health of the facility and can control how energy efficiency and other functions can be improved.

The capabilities of the IoT are massive, and there will be many ways to approach harnessing it. Finding the right mix of technologies, analytic approaches and user interfaces that energy managers require – and doing so cost-effectively — will determine the ultimate impact of the IoT. This means that real world decisions about which vendors to use will need to be made. And the IoT, since it is a cloud-based, is rolling out quickly. These are questions that facility and energy managers must think about today.

One option is Verdigris, which is headquartered in Mountain View, CA. The company applies a rudimentary form of artificial intelligence (AI) to building management, according to CEO Mark Chung. The focus is on 24/7 operations such as hospitals, hotels and manufacturing facilities.

Verdigris uses a form of machine learning. The sensors that Verdigris deploys identify the type of equipment that is in the network by measuring its characteristics. This extends to lighting, HVAC, electrical vehicles chargers and everything else, Chung said. “Rather than tag and label where sensors are, the system listens to electrical signals and learn what type of equipment is in the facility,” Chung said.

The second step is to use the profile that is created to form algorithms that offer predictive analysis and anomaly detection. This is done using a deep learning framework called THEANO. The framework can manage security, usage forecasting or other key parameters.

The system – whether the issue is use forecasting, a machine that is about to go down or a security threat – send warnings or advisories to administrators. “The main value proposition is to use the platform around energy efficiency and data layer to get better feedback around energy performance in a building and to automate things they do on a daily basis such as routine walk-throughs and to predict failures in large piece of equipment,” Chung said.

Verdigris will compete with many other approaches to win the hearts and minds of building owners. At some point, there will be vendor and technology consolidation. The former will eliminate a lot of confusion (and create a lot of millionaires in the tech community). The later will combine more than one approach into a single product.

That likely will happen down the road. Building managers will need to react in the shorter term, however. Chung offered advice to facility managers who are charged finding the right product or service in this new and to many unfamiliar area.

The first concern is security. The dark side of the IoT is that linking so many critical systems together creates a huge target for bad hackers (black hat hackers, who also are known as crackers). These facilities – military installations, airports, hospitals and others – need to focus deeply on security. Legacy systems probably won’t do the trick

The second suggestion is to get a very precise idea of what is needed. IoT technology is going to come in many forms. “[Y]ou need to look at how comprehensive your needs are. Do you need to monitor down to every circuit, to every actual appliance? If you can benefit from that, there definitely solution like ours that are very cost efficient. Do you need remote accessibility? Say you are a portfolio manager [with a need to track multiple buildings]. Is there something that is easily programmable that can automate all the things you want to do and has a modern API?”

Total cost of owners (TCO) also is the third issue to which Chung suggested facility managers pay attention. He said that organizations need to look at the big picture. Hardware can be priced attractively, but he suggested that building owners look at associated costs, which include system integration and operational costs.

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