Facilities In The IoT Equation

IoT-FacilitiesBy Mandeep Khera
From the November/December 2015 Issue

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been deemed the next revolution in technology because it holds the potential to enable new insights and efficiencies by tapping into data from smart, connected devices, machines, and sensors. The IoT provides benefits ranging from improved operational efficiencies and time savings to better energy efficiency. But the first step for facilities managers on the road to developing their IoT strategies is to understand what it really means for an organization.

During my speaking engagements at facility management conferences, it is glaringly clear that these decision-makers need more information and education about IoT, in particular, what it is and how it can dramatically impact the way they work. Facility management professionals are critical to any IoT project in an enterprise.

Defining The IoT

There are many definitions of Internet of Things floating around. Research and advisory firm Gartner defines it as “a network of dedicated physical objects (things) that contain embedded technology to sense or interact with their internal state or the external environment. The IoT is an ecosystem that includes things, communication, applications, and data analysis.” In simple terms, IoT is about automating various processes in an enterprise through M2M (machine-to-machine) connections to gain operational efficiencies.

The successful deployment of IoT technology advancements hinges on an effective merger of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) capabilities within an organization. Gartner defines OT as the platforms that are used in running the operation of physical assets of enterprises, especially those that involve taking specific actions (for example, controlling electricity or energy flow, valves, lighting, ambient environment, machine tools, or robots). Building control and management systems would be considered OT, while IT refers to anything related to computing technology, such as networking, hardware, software, the Internet, and for creation, storage, exchange, and use of information in various forms.

This merger first requires eliminating long-standing conflicts over priorities, budgets, and business resources. Clearly there is a chasm between the two groups. But it’s changing, and the gap is closing. Other industries can look to enterprise data centers for an example of what they must do to dissolve historical lines of division between the function and management of IT and OT departments.

Fusion Helps Enable The IoT

While CIOs and other technology executives are looking at rolling out IoT initiatives from a holistic level throughout the enterprise including deploying sensors at as many points as possible, facility and sustainability executives have been deploying building automation systems using wireless technologies throughout the enterprise buildings. Facility leaders can now play a pivotal role. And, CIOs and CTOs don’t have to shoulder the full responsibility for achieving significant savings and operational efficiencies using technology. They now have partners who are already taking care of the hard work.

This partnership will allow organizations to significantly improve agility for project roll out, reduce costs, and enhance efficiencies.

To achieve an enterprise IoT, technology implementation can start with the control of lighting, which is the most ubiquitous network in an enterprise. By leveraging the same platform, the system can expand to HVAC, plug loads, CO2 sensors, and various other energy and non-energy-related devices. By implementing a platform built around a monitored network, users can make decisions based on the information being transmitted and collected.

For facility managers, a comprehensive data analytics offering brings capabilities such as failure detection, multi-site management, and smart system alerts. A return on investment is ensured with the ability to identify the specific inefficiency sources across all systems and all sites using benchmarks derived from the organization’s own data. Actionable decision support information can also improve the workflow and response time for issues arising in an enterprise building or campus.

Today, the right smart building automation technology and process can drive most of the M2M interactions with monitoring, control, and analytics, within an enterprise. Technologies that are most likely to be frictionless in this context would be driven by open standards, wireless, and those capable of supporting all types of devices.

In theory, it is possible to implement an IoT strategy without using open standards based technology, and these systems fall under the proprietary category. Proprietary systems for managing and monitoring lighting, thermostats, plug loads, and other energy related functions, as well as non-energy functions, in buildings are technologically isolated from each other, using separate, non-interoperable networks and user interfaces. But this process can be costly and complex. Moreover, customers using a single-source supplier cannot easily incorporate new software technology and devices from other companies.

As IoT continues to emerge on an enterprise level, facility managers’ roles will become critical. Those in the OT and IT departments will achieve a harmonious coexistence by leveraging the right open standards driven wireless technology to drive their IoT initiatives.

IoT-FacilitiesKhera is vice president of marketing and channels for Daintree Networks, a provider of smart building control and operation solutions. His more than 20 years of experience includes positions with Hewlett-Packard, including as a general Manager of a software/SaaS business unit focused on IT Asset Management. Khera is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Leading Product Development program and Northwestern University’s Executive Development Program. He also holds an MBA from Santa Clara University.

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