You probably have heard the term the “Internet of Things” by now. It means physical objects everywhere will be connected - people, places and things all communicating with each other. This technological advancement will change significantly the way we interact with the things around us.
And it stands to have an enormous influence on commercial and industrial buildings. As a result, building owners and facility managers should consider learning all they can about the Internet of Things. Those who do will position themselves to realize and appreciate its many benefits.
In this blog post, we will define the concept of the Internet of Things. We will examine its impact on commercial buildings and the potential drawbacks to a universally connected world, such as security issues and privacy. And we’ll look at what you should do as a building owner or facility manager to prepare for the upcoming technological changes (we will refer to the Internet of Things as IoT throughout this blog post).
The IoT will usher in the connectivity of man-made and natural objects to the internet and to each other – an enormous network of things communicating over wireless technology. The concept is not new. In the 1980s, inventors connected a toaster and a Coke machine to the internet. In the late 1990s, the term IoT was named. Today, it draws nearer.
“IoT is not truly in practice, yet, but discussions around the possibility started with development of IPv6, which provides for virtually unlimited IP addresses compared to IPv4, which was limited to four billion unique addresses,” according to Dev DuRuz, a senior consultant with Paladino and Company, answering a set of email questions.
“IoT application development in commercial buildings will evolve as equipment manufacturers supply integrated IP.”
Internet Protocol (IP) is the way information travels the Internet. The introduction of IPv6 three years ago allows us to provide virtually limitless Internet addresses to things, experts say. Obviously, this is a critical factor in making the IoT a reality. Other factors also have paved the way for its development: the availability of Broadband Internet; wireless technology; decreasing connectivity costs; the cloud; and smart devices.
So what does the IoT look like? A better question might be: How big is your imagination?
It could mean a device sets your office lighting and temperature to your preferences while you drive to work. It could be a refrigerator texting you when the milk has run out. It could be your office copy machine orders paper when it needs more. And it could be a farmer’s irrigation system monitors soil conditions to reduce waste and improve yields.
Cities could use the IoT to monitor activities in real-time (this already is happening). This could be useful in the event of natural disasters or emergencies. Researchers believe it may be possible for people to use their minds to control machines. And other people.
And it likely will mean many more things we have yet to realize.
A connected world won’t happen overnight. First, to be connected a physical object must be assigned a unique identifier – an IP address. Second, sensors will be needed to transfer data wirelessly from the object over a network – the Internet - to an end device (this might be a smartphone app). These sensors detect changes in the physical world around them – light, pressure, motion, sound and temperature.
DuRuz uses the example of a TV or cable remote. We have “500 channels with details at the push of a button, regardless of content originator. IoT buildings will deliver 100% of device data via web-enabled appliances,” he writes.
So what could be connected? You name it: appliances, machinery, vehicles, traffic signals, trees, soil, and people are just a few examples. That’s just the beginning. By 2020, experts say, 200 billion objects will be connected. That’s the equivalent of 26 smart objects for every person on Earth! For comparison, in 2006, 2 billion objects were connected.
The economic impact? By 2025, experts estimate, it could reach $4 trillion.
Needless to say, billions of connected objects will lead to the creation of enormous amounts of data. Experts suggest we think of data creation in three ways: creation, collection/organization and ongoing use. Much of the data generated today by devices goes unused. That will change.
Owners will be tasked with deciding where to store their data - either internally or in the cloud - and how to use it. One option would be to hire a third-party service company to segment and analyze it. This already occurs, such as when service companies track energy usage and make recommendations to building owners about ways to reduce it. The IoT, however, stands to streamline and improve the process.
And if building owners don’t utilize IoT technology? Experts say we may reach a point when not doing so will cost more than using it.
For years now, sophisticated building automation systems have monitored conditions in buildings and facilities, prompting HVAC units to provide heating or cooling where needed. In this way, automation systems have imitated a part of the IoT process – machine to machine communication. The IoT will precipitate additional lines of communication, such as machine to people.
And this is where the fun begins.
DuRuz believes one of the most remarkable benefits of the IoT to building occupants will be their ability to provide feedback about environmental conditions. “Soon, tenants will be able to ‘see’ their buildings’ performance profile: temperature, schedules, energy use, etc. Eventually, tenants and owners may allow opt-in tools for tenant feedback via smartphones.”
Feedback will lead to increased occupant comfort because it is real-time and continuous. That’s important, experts say, because in most cases tenants don’t renew leases due to an inability to control their environment. In addition, since the IoT would be able to detect how occupants interact with a facility, increased cooling or lighting could be provided in high-traffic areas when needed, without the need for human interaction with the system.
Facility managers also stand to benefit from the IoT’s capabilities. Given the ability to monitor an entire facility’s resources simultaneously, they could be everywhere at once. If a filter needed to be changed, for example, the facility manager would not need to discover it – it would notify him. That’s attractive to insurance companies, who may decrease insurance premiums because potential problems could be detected before they grow into bigger ones.
The maturation of the IoT comes with concerns, however. First, how secure are systems? Will data be safe? As data increases and more devices become connected, will systems be safe from hackers and criminals? And what about privacy? Who will have access to data? What data should be collected? What is off-limits?
DuRuz says any software carries with it the risk of being hacked, “But using 1-way, push-only web appliances to store and analyze data in the cloud can mitigate security concerns.”
Certainly, technology leaders will address these issues as IoT technologies develop.
In order to remain ahead of these changes, experts say, business leaders should create a plan for how their company will interact with the IoT.
“Make sure buildings have broadband,” DuRuz writes, and “evaluate web-based analytics platforms like buildpulse.com, which can unlock existing BAS data now. Plan capital improvements with IP addressable devices.”
Also, stay on top of the ongoing development of the IoT by reaching out to others within your industry and outside of it. What are they doing? How are they preparing? What’s more, building owners and facility managers should consider updating their facilities for the IoT, experts say, as one day tenants will expect it.
Technological advancements often lead to improvements in our work and personal lives. Those advancements do present concerns, however. But like many things in life, change carries risk. Those who navigate the changes and risks intelligently stand to make the greatest gains. Building owners who stay informed about the IoT and connected to those within their industry will be better able to capitalize on this new, exciting technology.
DuRuz predicts the IoT will lead the HVAC industry down a path similar to one taken by the auto industry.
“Consider the auto industry. Although intended primarily as an emission controls failure device, introduction of OBD II diagnostics democratized engine service. Over 30 manufacturers worldwide all making the same thing – combustion engines,” he says.
“Now consider the building controls and HVAC industry: over 70 manufacturers but no single diagnostic tool allows access to various brands, yet they all do exactly the same thing! A promise of IoT is to unlock building automation and operational data. Competent experts will still be in demand to evaluate analytics reports, but a lot of time now wasted will be saved.”
For more information on how Knipp Equipment is embracing the IoT by using building data to produce actionable insights, please email Jonathon Goering by clicking here or call 316-265-9655.
Knipp Services works with commercial and industrial building owners to identify solutions to reduce downtime and increase building efficiency. We provide services that enable building owners to have a high-performance building.
Topics: Internet of Things