The largest buildings in the world have had smart building technology for years. It’s delivered by market leaders such as Honeywell, JCI, and Schneider. But these buildings comprise barely 10% of the world’s commercial real estate. So what about the other 90%?
Until recently, smart building tech that monitors and controls HVAC, lighting, power and related systems didn’t pencil out in buildings under 100,000 square feet. Traditional building management technologies typically cost at least $2.50/ square foot, so it can take years to recognize a positive return on investment (ROI) in small to medium-sized buildings. No wonder nearly 90% of buildings contain little if any smart technology! They’re still looking for their share of the pie.
Fortunately, two key technologies are changing the equation:
1. The Internet of Things Finds Its Sweet Spot
New smart building solutions have arrived in the form of low-cost, easy-to-install Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, switches, and gateways. These IoT devices overcome the capital barriers that limit traditional building management systems (BMS). For the first time, these new products can be cost-effectively deployed by non-specialized personnel in existing buildings. They’re coupled with apps for analytics and visualization. They gather critical data and extend the reach of existing BMS systems. They can even provide entry-level BMS functions for mainstream applications in under-100,000 square foot buildings.
Of course, most of these new smart building IoT solutions aren’t full BMS in the traditional, big-equipment sense — yet. But many can handle specific use cases such as energy management, remote control, alerts, tenant sub-metering, or thermostat control. They may not employ PID loops, but they’re affordable and functional enough to provide a high ROI for mid-market buildings.
2. There’s a Secret Weapon in the Cloud
The second advance powering the smart building technology revolution is its secret weapon: it leverages the cloud. The cloud is an industry-changer. It’s democratizing the world of data and services. Open, cloud-based platforms and tools enable more developers to deliver more innovative apps quickly and cost-effectively. Amazing cloud-assisted mash-ups of products, data, analytics, and visualization are changing industries from finance to healthcare to travel.
The building controls industry is not immune. Now the “big data” generated by the new wave of IoT devices at the edge can be gathered into cloud-based management and analytics services, over existing networks. That allows remote devices to be easily monitored and controlled by facilities managers via smartphones and tablets.
The Foundation is Shifting
With new players lowering costs and providing more capabilities, smart building technology is now compelling and accessible for the other 90% of the market. Examples include:
- Intel’s Building Management Platform on industry-leading gateways that are available off-the-shelf;
- Google and Microsoft providing normalized IoT data to thousands of app developers via Google Cloud IoT Core and Azure IoT Suite;
- Lucid, Altair, Losant , Leverege and others are providing cost-effective, cloud-based smart building applications and quick-start enablement platforms that create value from IoT data and low-cost hardware;
- Even some of today’s building controls leaders such as Schneider, KMC and Tridium are adding IoT and cloud features to their systems
Notice what else is changing: the new wave of building management solutions is largely backed by outsiders. These are global, highly influential technology companies, including Intel, Microsoft, Dell, and Amazon. They may not have backgrounds in building controls, but they are the experts on IT, cloud, security, and embedded technology. And they’re moving fast, partnering where necessary to build the depth they need in smart building applications.
Just look at how serious Intel is about this market. And when the big news is about hackers gaining access to traditional BMS, then the credibility conversation quickly shifts from VAV fault detection to critical network security.
Don’t forget that these companies also have massive sales and distribution channels. They’re actively targeting IoT markets that show significant opportunity. Since IoT and cloud services are shifting building controls solutions from operational technologies (OT) toward information technology (IT), it’s important to understand that new solutions backed by these powerful players will not only wrap in the expertise, but also may carry higher credibility with customers’ IT departments.
The building controls industry is ripe for disruption. Systems integrators and value-added resellers that target smart buildings of 100,000 square feet or less are poised to take advantage of this tremendous new opportunity.
Written by Steve Raschke, CEO, Candi Controls.