The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming a widely recognized option in the residential HVAC market. The U.S. Acquity Group’s 2014 IoT study found that 69 percent of consumers plan to buy an in-home device in the next five years, and, by the end of 2015, about 13 percent of consumers will own an in-home IoT device such as a thermostat or in-home security camera.
While the residential market garners many of the headlines, the commercial IoT market is taking shape, as well.
“[The commercial] market still has a lot of confusion around business and industrial applications and how the IoT will be applied,” said Brandy Moore, director of global field services, Schneider Electric. “Phones and Web browsers have shown people how the IoT can benefit them in small ways, and sharing of data can be easy.”
While that confusion exists at the moment, signs are pointing to a surge in growth and understanding for commercial IoT use.
A Memoori Business Intelligence Ltd. report estimated the value of building automation services (BAS) hardware associated with building Internet of Things (BIoT) projects at $35.15 billion in 2014. The report projects that number to skyrocket to $76 billion by 2020, excluding the BAS services hardware.
HVAC manufacturers are taking a variety of approaches to the shifting landscape of smart building technology.
Per Frost & Sullivan, some building technology (BT) providers, such as Siemens AV, Honeywell Intl. Inc., and Schneider Electric are opting for partnerships and joint alliances with consortiums like Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) and communication leaders like Cisco Systems Inc. to design suitable analytic platforms.
“Establishing partnerships and alliances with consortiums and IoT providers will enhance the opportunity to bring innovation to IoT-enabled devices and software frameworks,” said Anirudh Bhaskaran, energy and environmental research analyst, Frost & Sullivan. “Collaboration between large BIoT and IoT providers will also be the key to developing cloud-based analytics and drawing out the full potential of IoT.”
“We have partnerships with companies like Cisco, but the way Schneider Electric has responded [to the growth of the IoT] is twofold,” said Moore. “From a technology and services perspective, a lot of our hardware has open communications, but our software is enabling a lot of the communications, as well.”
EcoStruxure — Schneider’s information technology (IT), buildings, and process architecture designed to help companies boost energy efficiency — has been in the marketplace since 2009.
“When we started down this path, we wanted data to be transferred from system to system very seamlessly,” continued Moore. “There are standards between all of our platforms, and data can be shared easily through multiple, robust platforms using an open standard and speaking to third-party platforms.”
Honeywell’s Command & Control Suite smart building solution is designed as a consolidation platform. It brings data into one place from any system that contains information relevant to a building.
“We think connectivity is the core of IoT and helps us create a best-of-class environment in the building,” said Greg Turner, vice president of global offerings, Honeywell. “Bringing everything together on a common backbone is essential, but facility owners and managers shied away from integration for a while because it means so many things. Now, IoT is really a building block for convergence. Around two years ago, we started talking about the connected home, and now the connected building is an important topic.”
“BAS with Internet connectivity has been a part of the Trane portfolio for nearly 15 years,” said Dane Taival, vice president, business services and customer care, Trane. “Today, the focus is on the ability to enable all of the devices in a building to communicate with each other and to a central Internet Protocol (IP)-controlled device. This allows for all the data that a unit controller or piece of equipment sends and receives to be shared with that IP connection.”
CUSTOMER DEMAND IS GROWING
Companies are beginning to move away from the earliest parts of the adoption cycle as consumers are beginning to directly inquire about how to incorporate IoT elements into their smart buildings rather than having companies bring the information to them.
“Customers are coming to us and saying, ‘Why would I want it and why would I need it?’ said Turner. “We need to bring forth the benefits of IoT. We have informed customers who have questions about how this great technology can work for them and not have negative effects.”
“As with any new technology or advancement, there is an early adopter set,” said Taival. “We understand at Trane that the IoT is still a very unknown and vast area. It will continue to grow and evolve as it moves forward. IoT is still early in its maturity, and many people have different definitions of it, similar to when the idea of the cloud first came out. I do think smart building owners are asking about the key drivers for their businesses. They know there are data in their buildings; they know their system is smart. They’re asking how to leverage that information and those data to make better decisions and to be more impactful. These are some of the key concepts behind the notion of the Internet of Things — buildings impact business results, and smart buildings enable us to better impact our customers’ businesses.”
Along with the user-friendly benefits that come with the IoT, customers are looking for enhanced analytics that are easier to read and access than ever before.
“There is definitely a higher demand for analytics and simplified access to them,” said Moore. “Analytics has historically meant graphs and charts for smart people to analyze data, but now, results are being explained in plain English. The average person can understand them.”
“We are seeing a big increase in analytics requests, but customers don’t just want graphs and dashboards anymore,” said Turner. “They want someone who can almost be a consultant and provide recommendations and audits and handle implementation. Customers who apply analytics tend to be very surprised by initial findings. We are seeing you have to turn data into recommendations and turn those into quantifiable answers and solutions.”
“Customers want to know what [the results of analytics] mean for them and how they can use the information to make better decisions,” said Taival. “Customers tell us they want a lower-cost operation, more reliability, and a more comfortable environment. Those are all benefits that analytics can help provide. With analytics, you get the intelligence to help you run the building more effectively and efficiently. All the data are available in the building, and the analytics help make sense of it. It’s about providing the best way to take that information from different components and systems and bring it all together so it’s usable and concise for the customer and pertains to the key performance indicators they are interested in.”
One concern that comes along with any development or advancement in technology is security. In an age where cybersecurity breaches and hacks are becoming all too commonplace, customers need to be assured of the safety of the technology they implement. The unfortunate reality is that the more data that are collected online can only lead to a greater opportunity for hackers to steal online data and gain access to sensitive information.
“Every event we hold has a session on cybersecurity, and customers do have concerns,” said Turner. “We are seeing increased sophistication in cybersecurity, and we see the IoT as strengthening the ecosystem within a building. It gives us new ways to connect to tenants, and it’s a logical evolution. People in a building interact with many user-friendly things, and the IoT can really drive the consumer experience. Still, we must always be cautious of technology for the sake of technology.”
“Cybersecurity is a massive concern across the industry, and, for a long time, we’ve put out position papers and whitepapers on security and preparing for cyberattacks,” said Moore. “The frequency of those communications has increased, and we have an entire team dedicated to addressing issues and concerns directly. On the services side, we’re a manufacturer first, but we’ve made headway into the services space over the last few years, and, while the IoT is also technology-first, an increased amount of analytics and data are driving additional requirements for action.”
Publication date: 8/10/2015