Building management systems do a good job of managing the complex energy and operational processes of commercial and industrial buildings. However, some in the industry are starting to realize that they also leave a lot of value on the table. A new generation of products and services that combines sensor technologies with software-based analytical platforms is helping squeeze this untapped value out of building management systems.
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Erik Russell, IBM Software Group Senior IT Architect, Smarter Buildings Industry Solutions, and one of the leads in developing IBM’s new Smarter Buildings solution. The platform can be applied to existing BMS systems available today, leveraging the system’s existing protocols and alert systems to provide actionable data streams on buildings’ energy use and operations. The platform goes one step further than your typical BMS, though, by running new building management analytics that depict what’s going on in a particular building at a remarkable level of granularity. It also enables predictive building management, an element missing from many building management systems that can nip costly emergencies and equipment failures in the bud.
Of course, it’s always nice to test the capabilities of a system like this at home and that’s exactly what IBM has been doing. Using its own facilities and campuses as test beds and working with industry partners including Johnson Controls, Eaton, Honeywell, Schneider Electric, and Siemens, IBM has been able to evaluate the potential applications of the system to other companies and organizations that manage large building portfolios.
Using this platform, IBM creatively assembles a wide range of data inputs including the BMS’ existing alert systems, badge-in/badge-out employee tracking, and other specialized sensors. These inputs are then collected, analyzed, and formulated into a dashboard that can be customized for different stakeholders in energy and operational management, from executives to facility managers.
The solution will help companies with large building footprints manage energy costs, operations, and space utilization both on a building scale as well as across their entire building portfolios. With it, a company can answer questions like, “Which five facilities use the most energy per square foot?” or “Are we utilizing our office space as efficiently as we should be?” In effect, the system uncovers new opportunities for companies to increase efficiencies and reduce operating costs that the BMS alone can’t reveal. For example, IBM tested its solution on one of its major manufacturing facilities and found additional savings even though the facility had already undergone significant energy savings programs.
In a broader sense, IBM’s Smarter Buildings solution ties into a larger effort happening at all scales, from single facilities to entire cities, to digitize and analyze data streams that not only make asset management of all varieties easier but also open up entirely new approaches to energy and cost management that were impossible in the past as well. Platforms such as IBM’s Smarter Building solution serve as an initial “backbone” on which more and more data and analytics can be layered over time and they represent one of the first steps toward holistic energy management at the community, city, or grid scale.
Article by Eric Bloom appearing courtesy the Matter Network.