Big Buildings Meet Big Data
As always, the challenge is not a shortage of data but managing it smartly. However, the technologies and tools are evolving to meet the task.
Recently there has been a lot in the press about “big data.” Big data comprises government and business servers that are collecting and analyzing massive amounts of data on everything from weather to web browsing, shopping habits to emails, on to phone calls and more. While there are some very valid concerns about data privacy in general, the use of big data has resulted in big benefits. Results include improved storm forecasts, tailored web searches and shopping, and improvements in national security. Businesses are using these tools to better understand their customers and to make decisions on products and services.
In buildings, we also have a large amount of data available. Within the BAS, we have data such as temperatures, humidity and CO2 levels, pres-sures, power usage, schedules and alarms. Other information such as energy usage and weather may also be in the BAS, but it more likely exists in spreadsheets or on websites. Just think about the “other information” that exists in a commercial building. This may include information about lease terms, recommended maintenance practices, information on the use of elevators and parking garages, and a trove of other valuable data. Today, the only place that this data comes together is with the building engineer. Their ability to find (much less process) this information is limited to their available time and energy as they deal with the many challenges of operating a large building.
It would make sense that the tools and methods used for the analysis of other big data could be applied to the information available in commercial buildings. We have seen a broad variety of vendors starting to introduce products and services to do this type of analysis with the introduction of tools or services that are called energy information, analytics, fault detection and diagnostics, or continuous commissioning. By our count, there are well over forty such products on the market today, offered by suppliers ranging from new startups to large control companies.
One that is of particular interest is a new solution from Atlanta-based McKenney’s. They have introduced a new solution called “BDOC Business Intelligence for Buildings.” What is most interesting about this new solution is the approach that they have used. Instead of designing their own ana-lytic engine, they have chosen to use a “big data” tool provided by Splunk. Splunk is one of a number of software providers (including SAS, SAP, Oracle, and many others) who are focused on building tools for analyzing big data. Bringing tools to bear that are developed for other markets has great benefits in terms of speed to market and scalability. After all, at the end of the day, “data is data,” and whether it comes from a building system or the sales information of a large retailer, the same tools and techniques can readily be applied.