Today’s Building Automation is all about striking a balance between legacy and modern control & monitoring technology:
Internet of Things (IoT) is the recent buzzword. IoT devices are embedded with sensors & software, connected to the Internet and are capable of sensing and taking appropriate control action on their own. Thus, it allows to connect devices used in our day-to-day life like Cars, TV’s, Lights, Air-conditioners etc. directly to the Internet and draw useful insights.
By means of data collection, cloud computing & data analytics the devices can collect and share data with minimum human intervention. Communication has thus become seamless, highly efficient, and quite fast. It has become a prime factor in bringing the world closer. IoT has thus become immensely popular in manufacturing, automotive, transportation, retail, and many other industries.
IoT is rapidly creating its space in Indian Building Automation Industry. Conventional Building Automation is a combination of sensors, control hardware, actuators, switches, enclosures, power supplies, physical cabling, servers & software thus making overall solution appear bulky. It also requires maximum human intervention while supervision, installation, testing, and commissioning of the system. Users also must invest a lot in maintaining and operating the system. There is a higher dependency on local servers where humungous data gets stored. Proprietary nature of Building management system in India is also not helping the cause. All in all, these factors add to substantial cost & reduced reliability and is proving a biggest hindrance in cost conscious India market. So far, these factors have hampered the growth of Building Automation Industry in India.
Though these challenges have become an opportunity for IoT service providers. IoT provides access to low cost, low power sensor technology. These sensors can be easily connected to cloud networks through open protocols. Computation has become easier because of the availability of cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure, Amazon web services, Google Cloud etc. With the advent of artificial intelligence, analytics and machine learning, businesses can gather useful insights in quick time. Low power requirements have also contributed to energy savings.
However, a word of caution, the factors that are relevant to other industries may not be pertinent to the Building Automation Industry. The Building Automation Industry is not only about vertical communication i.e., communication between IoT sensors and cloud. While we talk about cloud connectivity, we are ignoring a basic factor in Building Automation and that is about interoperability between various building services. It is very important that multiple devices talk to each other seamlessly, and the decision about the control action must be taken locally and not through cloud. Imagine a case of fire alarm in the building. In the event of a detector getting activated, a decision to shut off the air conditioning, commanding the lifts to reach ground floor and releasing the access control doors must be taken on the spot. It will be a huge risk to depend on cloud services to monitor and take corrective action as wireless communication may not be reliable for life saving activities.
So how do we overcome this challenge? Benefits of IoT technology cannot be ignored in the contemporary world. The Internet cannot be separated from modern lifestyle. However, there must be an equilibrium between modern technology and legacy solutions. As far as possible avoid sensors directly talking to the cloud for critical/ lifesaving applications. The sensors must communicate with a reliable, modular, scalable control system. The control system must be equipped with open protocols and possess efficient processing capability and be scalable in nature. The control system is required to be placed locally and is supposed to collect the data from sensors & third-party equipment, compute and analyze it. The control logics, at least for all the MEP, Fire & Safety solutions must be written on the controller itself. The data then must be passed on from controller to cloud. By adopting a combination of legacy and modern solution an equilibrium can be formed. Let legacy system stay for local decision making whereas IoT can be utilized for making real time dashboards, alerts, trends, showcasing key performance indicators & for drawing insightful statistics of building energy performance index.
BECKHOFF Automation Pvt. Ltd
Web : www.beckhoff.com