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hat, exactly, is the IoT? And how does it relate to building energy management? The IoT is the concept of connecting any device with an on/off switch to the Internet and/or to each other. IoT uses one common Internet Protocol (IP) to connect devices, which include everything from smartphones, tablets and digital assistants to various types of sensors and systems such as HVAC, lighting, and security. In other words, the IoT is a fast-expanding digital ecosystem of connected devices. In 2015, there were about 10 billion connected devices; by 2020, that number will more than triple to 34 billion. This growth is not surprising given the current environment where broadband Internet is widely available, technology costs are decreasing, smartphone use is becoming ubiquitous, and more and more devices are designed with built-in sensors and Wi-Fi capabilities.
So, how does the IoT enable smarter buildings? The IoT helps create dynamic, and intelligent cloud-based interoperable networks by connecting electrical, mechanical, and electro-mechanical systems and platforms. By communicating with each other, these systems can help monitor themselves and act when necessary (e.g. turn down air-conditioning or heating needs in a little-used area) to provide the data and analytics needed for facility managers to intelligently optimize performance and create smarter buildings.
The technology to enable this competitive edge is already at hand. The Internet and significant price reductions on IT components such as wireless sensors have made smart building technologies much more affordable, creating a strong business case for owners and investors to invest in more intelligent technologies to increase building performance. For example, advanced smart-energy sensors – a market whose revenue will almost triple between 2016 and 2025, from $1.2 million to $3.2 million, according to Navigant Research – can play a critical role in BEMS. These devices contain “sensing” technology that captures and sends digital data to a BEMS to enable analysis and support actionable insight. Sensors that measure and provide continuous feedback on temperature, carbon dioxide level, humidity, and air pressure, for example, can deliver valuable information. Controllers, gateways, and sensors can also increase energy efficiency and help cut costs.
All at once, these devices, systems, and platforms connect to a central, open IP backbone to provide a holistic view of building performance. This backbone not only integrates all the data generated by the devices, but also presents it via a friendly user interface displays (desktop, tablet and mobile) that use powerful graphics, data-rich reports, and trend visualizations. Most importantly, this central backbone helps facility managers make strategic decisions through data analysis and actionable insights to ensure buildings are working smarter and running at maximum efficiency. Data analysis can also include artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms that help buildings self-diagnose and optimize. In turn, this creates more comfortable environments that drive productivity by increasing employee engagement and satisfaction. With the right IoT platform in place, buildings are ripe for improved energy management by easily integrating technology. An open, secure, and scalable platform that delivers deep and actionable insights can significantly increase operational efficiency within buildings. Additionally, correlation and analysis of data across historically disconnected systems can yield unexpected insights. In short, IoT is creating enormous opportunities for information gathering and sharing that will have an astounding impact on the way buildings are managed and operated. By using a collaborative smart building IoT platform, devices are connected with software and services to realize these opportunities.