The Smart Building Landscape is Evolving Quickly

September 9, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

ASU Interdisciplinary Science and Technology IV building

The smart building category is big. So are the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), the cloud and big data, four of the catalysts driving the sector. It can be an overwhelming topic unless a step back is taken and advances in the field are looked individually.

The first thing to understand is the speed with which the category is expanding. Yesterday, ABI Research released a study that predicts that annual worldwide services revenue from smart building global facility services will grow from $625 million last year to more than $8 billion in 2021. North America and Western Europe will be the biggest contributors.

The study says that there are a lot of different types of companies – according to ABI, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), system integrators, security companies, telcos and platform vendors – represented in the market. The two areas which will grow most, not surprisingly, are HVAC control systems (49 percent of smart building revenue by 2021) and smart lighting (32 percent).

There will be a lot of confusion as efforts are made to consolidate building automation systems under the smart building umbrella. “Proprietary and independent BAS lack any provision to enable interoperability,” wrote ABI Senior Analyst Adarsh Krishnan in response to emailed questions from Energy Manager Today. “Hardware based integration can be complex and expensive, whereas software platform based integration can result in network latency. For example, fire detection and alarm systems are required to demonstrate the highest level of resilience under harsh building conditions and have traditionally been independent systems limited to automation.”

That’s the overview: A lot of companies are moving into the sector and ways to do so efficiently are being sought. It’s a moving target and therefore difficult to keep track of all the players and their strategies. A snapshot over a certain time period of some of the new equipment, services and partnerships is a good indicator of how the sector is progressing. A lot has happened this summer. Some of the highlights:

Two weeks ago – on August 30, to be precise – Verdigris, a company that uses the IoT and AI to manage buildings, introduced Einstein, which is its fifth generation sensor. The company says that Einstein is aimed an easy to use and scalable sensor for complex enterprise. Each Einstein sensor, according to Verdigris, streams millions of samples per second from the electrical panel to the cloud. It uses the data from these inputs to set building controls, anticipate breakdowns and send use notifications.

Integrating new smart building systems with existing building automation system is important for two reasons. It is inefficient to run dual systems and the data collected for one can be beneficial to the other. PcVue, a provider of Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and human-machine interface (HMI) software, announced PcVue 11.2. The software – which the company said has been given BACnet Testing Laboratories its high level listing, consolidates and integrates smart buildings, distributed energy resources, infrastructure, transportation and industrial automation.

In July, LED vendor Digital Lumens introduced what it says is an enhanced and expanded version of its LightRules 3.0 lighting control and business intelligence platform. The platform uses data from the company’s LED fixtures, digital light agents (DLAs) and LightRules Power energy use software to learn about and control energy usage, savings, productivity and employee and facility safety, the company said.

There also were a couple of interesting deals during the past few months.

Yesteday, GE’s Current and Qualcomm Intelligent Solutions said that GE’s Current sensors, intelligent LED and other infrastructure elements will be installed at Qualcomm’s Smart Campus in San Diego. The goal is to drive down energy costs by deep control of lighting and HVAC, according to GE. The goal is to drive down energy costs.

In another announcement that involves GE, the Schindler Group said it partner to use GE Digital’s Predix. The agreement, which was announced in July, will enable Schindler to use Predix to identify, analyze and result service issues with its elevators and escalators before they evolve into operational problems, according to the story at Investors.com.

Clearly, this is just a sampling of the news of the past few months. Krishnan wrote that buildings of more than 100,000 square feet will contribute more than 80 percent of smart building services revenue in the short term. Small and mid-size buildings, he wrote, will move to advanced smart building technology and witness the fastest growth over a longer time frame. And the goal is not just to save money. “Integration of distributed energy resources (DER), workspace personalization, occupant wellness and tenant experience management are gaining prominence and smart building platforms are seen as a valuable tool to achieve their long-term strategic objectives,” Krishnan wrote. “Preventive maintenance of assets can extend equipment life, which has a direct impact on the capital expenditure. Reducing and preventing equipment downtimes that can result in production stoppages is another advantage.”

The bottom line is that smart buildings is a catchphrase that covers a lot of disparate processes and technical paths. This can be disconcerting and even a bit intimidating. The bottom line, however, is clear: Very sophisticated modern technology is making it possible to more closely monitor and manage energy use in structures of all sizes.

3 comments on “The Smart Building Landscape is Evolving Quickly

  1. I sincerely hope that smart building technology is evolving quickly and companies are packaging various disparate systems in to something cost effective that a customer can buy and implement without bringing in so many different types of experts. We are still not there yet.

  2. Great article. I think that there will continue to be a demand for open protocol like BACnet that support interoperability, however latency and throughput will drive demand for higher bandwidth. In the meantime, buildings will be a mixed bag of hi speed proprietary networks for demanding applications and open protocols where the value of interoperability outweighs network speed demands.

  3. Applications is the key. As we continue to implement and develop ways to transfer information and data on building systems to lay people it is both challenging and complex. In my book a key player is the applications engineer and every successful team evolves with the applications readily available rather than covert and proprietary intelligence.

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