The Internet of Things (IoT) is uniquely qualified to solve day-to-day Operational Technology (OT) problems. IoT has blurred the line with traditional Information Technology (IT) systems in providing a flexible mechanism for monitoring using remote sensors and intelligent facility control using remote actuators. OT applications of IoT have delivered innovative applications that bridge the gap between device-level interfaces and real-time cloud application servers.
In one growing example, the innovative application of IoT can deliver key metrics for improved building operations. We’ll take a look at a few key building operational metrics that can enable proactive facility management. When facility managers gain access to the right type of data, meaningful operational and financial gains can result.
Utility usage (e.g., electricity, water, gas, etc.) can represent the core of a building sustainability initiative. The availability of real-time utility data is helpful, of course, as compared to monthly utility bills, but so much more value can be delivered as a key building operational metric. Utility usage for an entire building can provide seasonal insights, but have limited value in delivering operational insights.
Enter submetering. Real-time utility submetering data can provide granular insights to the utility consumption for parts of a building. Those parts can be dedicated to a particular tenant, a particular floor, a particular facility equipment, etc. The real-time utility submetering data will enable facility managers to track the day-to-day function of that part of the building, which represents a wholly different proposition from the total utility spend of the building.
Electric submetering in particular has grown in importance in delivering day-to-day insights for individual electrical loads. Electric submetering is not a new concept; commercial electric submeters are widely available to generate real-time electric submetering data. The relatively low rate of retrofitting of electric submeters into existing buildings is likely indicative of the technology gap in gaining access to that real-time data in the cloud. IoT is well equipped to bridge that gap and expand the usage of submetering generally.
Another key operational metric for buildings is space usage. Occupancy sensors are not new. Their capacity to track usage of space in a building by floor, room or other identifiable section of space will provide tremendous operational insights. Occupancy sensors have traditionally been used discreetly to provide some measure of intelligence to control individual lighting circuits for energy efficiency.
Today, lighting control companies are incorporating occupancy sensors into the very lighting infrastructure to provide the most comprehensive real-time occupancy data set available for buildings. While HVAC companies are motivated to integrate that granular occupancy data into a Building Automation System (BAS) for intelligent HVAC controls, the true value of that data is the ability to proactively repurpose space that is found to have low utility by building occupants. Real-time occupancy data across the entire building will enable tenants to maximize the value of a commercial lease. Whole-building real-time occupancy data will provide massive value as a basic building operational metric.
Critical Facility Equipment
Buildings heavily depend on critical facility equipment such as HVAC (e.g., RTUs, chillers, boilers, cooling towers), safety systems, back-up generators, elevators, etc. A failure in any part of the critical infrastructure is flatly unacceptable. IoT is providing real-time visibility of critical facility equipment operation to enable Asset Condition Monitoring (ACM).
Real-time tracking of critical facility equipment operation using alerts and analytics will provide proactive facility management. For example, efficiency ratings for critical HVAC equipment (e.g., EER, kw/ton, etc.) will provide insights into the need for preventative maintenance to ensure smooth, continuous operation.
One of the challenges faced by operators of commercial/industrial buildings is access to this building operation metrics for all critical facility equipment using a single cloud platform. IoT is helping to bridge the gap between traditionally disparate systems in providing a singular interface to access real-time data for the entire set of critical facility equipment.
Indoor Environmental Quality
Green buildings mean too many things to too many people, as evidenced by the various types of certifications that are available (e.g., ENERGY STAR, LEED, LBC, WELL). What remains true, however, is that buildings will affect building occupants first and foremost. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is rapidly advancing today because the entirety of the commercial/industrial real-estate market is woefully underserved with building operational metrics driven by IAQ. The vast majority of buildings have no way to determine whether indoor air pollution represents a current hazard to building occupants.
The health effects are real and the industry is only now awakening to the severity of the issue. A building certification that depends on the potential health hazards in a building environment will become indistinguishable from product safety certifications. Building open to the working public will need to provide some measure of assurance that occupant safety will not be compromised by systemic pollution hazards within a building. IoT has made real-time indoor environmental quality data easily accessible. The market for such IoT products will inevitably advance.
The right building data will drive key building operation metrics. In turn, these metrics will help drive a proper understanding of the true value of buildings.