Smarter is Better
“Smart infrastructure” is about gathering and analyzing data from the connected elements of the built ecosystem around us. The copious quantities of crunched data give us knowledge of our environment, and knowledge is power to be in control of our buildings, cities, transportation, and energy grids.
Smart infrastructure encompasses many things, but let’s discuss how it applies to buildings you might own and manage. The principle behind smart infrastructure technology for buildings is simply that our buildings should work for us, not the other way around. The correct combination of connections, monitors, and equipment empowers facility managers with data, insight, and control needed to make educated decisions and execute long-term, big-picture strategies that work.
But just what makes a building “smart?” A smart building is any facility that uses automatic processes to control systems such as heating and cooling, ventilation, fire and life safety, lighting, access, and more. This technology can move beyond operations and into other areas like telecommunications, office data networks, access control, video surveillance, and A/V systems.
Smart building technology collects data from the facility’s equipment using sensors, and then each system is proactively controlled by a BAS (building automation system) or BMS (building management system) to increase operating efficiency, optimize energy usage, maximize occupant comfort and safety, and save money.
Rather than relying on the traditional machine-to-machine connection model used by many building management and automation systems, smart infrastructure opens new doors for software and hardware platforms to communicate with each other. Information technology and operational technology are converging like never before. Smart buildings leverage this power to take advantage of advanced sensing options, real-time data and analytics, customizable dashboards, and an unprecedented level of control. The technology is a tool to help you make decisions – only better, faster, and more efficiently. It gives you the data you need and automates everything else.
The Three Dimensions of Building “Smartness”
Think of building intelligence as three dimensions, represented by X, Y, and Z axes in space. These axes represent the elements that are essential to building intelligence. The X-axis represents “Automation.” The Y-axis is “Integration” and, the Z-axis is “Data Analytics and Visualization.”
Near the intersection of the axes, where all three elements are low, building intelligence is also low. But as we make progress on any axis, building intelligence improves. When we have a high amount of all three elements, building intelligence is at its peak.
The lowest-hanging fruit here is Automation (X-axis). By simply automating any building system, you gain efficiencies, lower costs, and begin to capture data. The process is scalable. As more systems become integrated, efficiencies are increased, costs can be lowered, and data becomes more valuable.
Integration (Y-axis) simplifies the process, allowing building managers to log into one program to get a handle on all facets of their building’s operations. Maximum integration requires an interoperable BAS/BMS network protocol, such as BACnet. BACnet is the de facto standard for building system communications and enables optimal automation and integration of various systems.
Because essential, real-time, intuitive information is so vital to your facility operations, Data Analytics and Visualization (Z-axis) is currently getting wide-spread attention. BACnet building automation and control systems can reliably collect, trend, log, and display a tremendous amount of data. Bolt-on third-party packages exist that can help make better sense of all this data. Working together, these data analytics and associated data visualization packages make for better management and higher building intelligence, especially across a portfolio of properties.
Smarter Building Solutions
At KMC Controls, we have been working in the building automation dimension for decades, keeping up with the newest technologies as they developed – from pneumatics, to analog electronic, to digital, to IoT (Internet of Things). Our latest IoT solution, the KMC Commander™ platform makes IoT solutions easy and affordable, yet powerful, tools for smart infrastructure. KMC Commander is an out-of-the-box solution to visualize, connect, and manage energy, building, and other systems. Furthermore, the management can be done on a device as simple as the smart phone you already have in your pocket. In other words, KMC Controls can help make your building work for you.