As temperature control contractors continue to trend toward systems integrators, they quickly find they are not providing graphical user interfaces. No, in fact, they are providing a platform with enterprise connected data streams that allow for the IoT-customized services that building owners are looking for. The relationship between the building control data and the owner has just hit warp drive, and with these advancements, IoT applications utilized in modern buildings are ready to take for a test spin.
So, what the heck am I talking about? Well, with the master systems integrator’s capabilities of digitally connecting HVAC, electrical, security, life safety, authentication, data lakes, mobile apps, cloud apps, ERP, work order management, you name it, they probably want to connect to it. When they start to mix that tech together, they can create magic. For instance, the ability to spot someone outside the building, authenticate him or her, automatically open the door, set the office temperature to a personally desired temperature and light level on their work app, automatically login for network use, notify the manager the employee is on the premises, and that’s all done before they walk through the door. (WARP SPEED INITIATED!)So, what are the common building blocks for a building control system platform and how do they work together to accomplish the impossible within budget? Here is my take on it.
1. Owner-Led Functional Design — You can’t provide tech if the building isn’t asking for it — just move on. But, most owners don’t realize what can be done with today’s control technologies. We are typically second fiddle to R&D and IT departments, which eat up all the tech investments coming from large companies. But, the world is changing. People have new expectations of companies that occupy the buildings, such as:
- The Cool Factor — What amenities do their buildings offer to make my experience there better than other buildings?
- The Eco Factor — Is the building energy efficient, clean, and sustainable?
- The Tech factor — Is the building smart? Does the building connect to me digitally? Can it respond to me automatically?
- The Safety Factor — From physical to cyber security to now health ... can my building protect me?
With these new expectations, large companies are jumping into the game thirsty to find tech solutions for these modern challenges. So that’s why the No. 2 building block is so important:
2. Justification — This, unfortunately, does not come in the form of cash as so many would like to brag. It comes as a business efficiency, a safer building from a pandemic, or a new revenue stream for the business because of the building. As with any tech investment, there needs to be a significant direct benefit for the owner right away. Each building has a use case within — we need to understand the use case challenges and focus our goal to fix them. These goals become the justification for the investment, and by fixing challenges, there is a quick return for the owner. And with the new functionality comes new thoughts on how to further address the challenges that the building is facing and then the real tech journey for the building can begin.
Okay, you got it, right? You sold it, they budgeted it, it was designed in your head, and you will be a hero if you pull it off. Though, then they ask, “How are you going to work this into our construction, IT and maintenance departments?” That’s a good question. Here’s the answer:
3. OT Network Design — A network needs to be established as data plumbing for all the building control applications. This can be a part of an existing network or, especially in new construction, is recommended to be a different physical network for the basic fact that the building may exist with different businesses within — as a result, it needs to have its own network to maintain the integrity of the control systems over time. The OT network software becomes the management tool for bringing the data together and allowing for the new applications to come to life. By keeping this software up to date, the building can continue to meet future application needs while maintaining a good level of cybersecurity. The OT network design becomes the blueprint for how the platform plugs together, but we still need one more building block to complete our mission: the doer.
4. The MSI — Master Systems Integrators are the tinkerers of the modern world. The sooner they are brought in, the better. They are the missing link who can put all the pieces together and bring the applications to life, all while saving the owner countless time and money through tech consultation. Their direct responsibility is to provide OT consultation, OT network, OT software, and all connections and applications needed by the owner from that data pool they set up in a cyber secure manner. The MSI usually is a contractor but can also come as a CE, building maintenance department, energy department, or IT department. It’s whoever takes on the dedicated responsibility for the complete building control system platform.
As we are stuck in a rut hoping for economic recovery, let us not go backwards on our tech journey. Our buildings need us to make them more relevant and to get occupants back. We are well-suited for the challenge, and now is the time to use tech to provide new experiences with huge value within these buildings to help them get back to capacity. The building blocks are already out there, we just need to connect the dots.
It's our ongoing mission to explore strange new smart building opportunities; to seek out new capabilities and efficiencies; to boldly go where no integrator has gone before.
This article originally appeared in the August issue of Automatedbuildings.com. See it in its entirety at http://www.automatedbuildings.com/news/aug20/articles/cochrane/200723104909cochrane.html.