The Next Challenge — And It’s a Big One — is Turning Data Into Action

May 10, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

dataIt’s no secret that the tracking and control of energy use in buildings is a growing discipline. Building owners, utilities, tenants, regulators and others are more or less pulling in the same direction.

The category is facing challenges as it grows, however.

Perhaps the most important immediate task is creating both real time and longer term systems and procedures for processing the huge amount of data that is generated. Navigant Research, in a report released last week, identified the issue:

According to the report, while the potential for using large data sets to improve energy and operational efficiencies is significant, the challenges of organizing and understanding the data have yet to be overcome. New building energy management systems (BEMSs) can be implemented to enhance data collection and processing, but existing systems present obstacles in performing functional data analyses. Additionally, as BEMSs look to incorporate data from networked lighting, access controls, and demand response (DR) signals, the ability to develop analytics platforms as expert systems presents more challenges.

The bottom line is that the data doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t put to good use – and doing so is not easy. The next step in the maturation of the category is the figuring out how to do this in a systematic way.

The Navigant report, despite pointing to the significant challenge, sees a bright future. It found that global building data integration revenue will grow from $89.9 million this year to $971.3 million in 2025. The ten-fold increase only refers to the hardware, software and services aimed at taking the collected data and making it useful to building owners and tenants.

The overall value of the market is expanding as well. Global Market Insights found that the building energy management systems (BEMS) market will pass the $6 billion mark by 2023. The report says that the main driver of the worldwide growth is regulatory pressure to increase building energy efficiency. The organization distinguishes between BEMS and BMS. The latter is a broader category that includes things such as fire alarms and close circuit television systems. BEMS are a subset.

The bottom line is that the overall category is evolving rapidly. There is confusion, however. In January, Mach Energy released a survey that suggested building managers are struggling. This is from the press release announcing the study:

MACH’s White Paper published the findings from a national survey of property managers, facility managers, building engineers, etc. who maintain properties that are mostly over 50,000 square feet from multiple building categories. Just under half of respondents reported that their property had installed an EMS, but in reality, 70% of these had erroneously listed a building automation system (BAS) or building management system (BMS) rather than a standalone EMS, which demonstrates the confusion regarding the two unique systems.

It is not just building managers who are confused. The reality is that it is difficult to get precise read on the way in which it is growing because there is so much similarity and overlap between the similarly named categories. For that reason, it is better to not focus on the precise numbers. Instead, it is good to see the category from the vantage of point overall trends.

The news is less ambiguous when discussing the actual tools that are being used. Sam Wilson, an LEED Green Associate and Account Manager at Engineered Services Inc. told Energy Manager Today that the evolution of BMSs is being driven by energy metering, remote connectivity, trend log history and the overall integration of building systems. These, he said, provide building owners with a simpler way to operate their facilities.

The category’s growth – and why the category names are shifting – is occurring as its very mission is evolving. “BMS’s have evolved to the point of becoming one holistic system, allowing operators to control multiple systems as a single entity,” Wilson wrote in response to questions emailed by Energy Manager Today. “Lighting, security access, HVAC, etc. can now all be controlled in unison. The Internet of Things is a huge buzz word these days, however the essence of what the IoT is, countless connected devices working in unison to optimize our lives, has been a function of BMS’s for decades. The way I view it, the rest of the world is just catching up.”

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