When the Internet of Things (IoT) became mainstream in the marketplace, it set off a frenzy within the colocation space as it offered operators a massive potential for savings compared to traditional SCADA and building management systems (BMS). Though BMS style solutions were apt for commercial property and limited multi-site applications; these traditional building technologies lacked the critical holistic view and price point required when deployed across large geographic areas in a mass.
Beyond this, these solutions have limited capability to easily capture valuable data from new IoT technologies that are now infiltrating structures of all types and purposes. Overall, these traditional building-centric systems are not ideal for remote monitoring of critical and highly distributed infrastructure.
IoT platforms now entering the market are an alternative solution to this long-standing problem, while still allowing building management systems to retain control of their trade environments respectively.
IoT platforms erase complexities
Buildings are filled with subsystems. Access control, battery systems, HVAC, surveillance, and generators to name just a few. Typically, in a multi-site rollout there are multiple vendors of equipment and generations of equipment models. Each call for customised on-site configuration, or hardware bridging of technologies, to allow for cohesive monitoring as each communicates uniquely, even if they are all using a standard such as BACnet.
This communication complexity adds significant expense to the build-out of sites, not to mention points of failure. And often separate software packages are needed for monitoring each system.
IoT platforms by nature operate on the premise of overarching communication and by design are not tied to a single trade or vendor solution. Their primary goal is interconnectivity, not exclusivity. This methodology eliminates data silos in buildings by wrapping and normalizing all subsystem data.
At their core, IoT platforms are built for diverse data at a massive scale–not to mention the simplicity of installation and growth. IoT platforms don’t rely on on-site commissioning or custom programming to bridge the hardware, they instead extract data from dozens of in-building protocols and subsystems–and typically allow for remote provisioning, management, and monitoring from the cloud. The bonus to this is the massive flexibility in control and monitoring that can adapt, over time, to changing needs of the data at hand.
IoT platforms consolidate technology data silos by collecting, organizing, and delivering all the critical data from all the connected sites and associated connected hardware. A simple edge appliance is wired to the data sources at each site, then connected to the Internet and powered. Multi-site facility operators and NOCs can make changes remotely and expedite the rollout process without “boots on the ground” to custom program or configure.
One edge appliance can expedite communication with dozens of protocols and hundreds of subsystems at each site. When additional modifications and provisioning are needed, they can easily be done in the cloud.
IoT platforms offer real-time scalable data storage of all the sub-system data in the cloud where data is tagged and organised into a consolidated dataset. This mitigates the complexities of different brands of equipment that speak different languages and organises these datasets for coherent use by analytics and visualisation tools.
IoT platforms are not hardware snobs
Unlike their cousins–BMS, SCADA and other custom solutions-IoT platforms are hardware agnostic when it comes to connections. Engineers don’t need to use hardware and subsystems specific to a proprietary ecosystem. They can choose any equipment best suited for their application with the assurance of centralised monitoring.
IoT platforms offer all the standard monitoring and management functionality from one application interface. This allows facility operators to rapidly define their needs for a specific deployment and adapt over time to changing needs in the visualisation tooling/analytics package they want; without having to open various software applications from equipment manufacturers. Beyond just monitoring, alarming and reporting this cloud-based consolidated data-collection allows any third-party tools – from visualization, AI, and analytics – to be integrated through a single-source API.
This provides operators a holistic view and expandability through custom applications, trouble notification systems, asset management systems, energy efficiency, and work order management – just to name a few.
Embracing actionable analytics
Once IoT platforms are deployed, the single source of “data truth” allows more flexibility for monitoring geographically distributed sites. It also allows IoT micro-service analytics to run on the data set for various purposes. For instance, multi-site retailers can analyse traffic patterns for merchandising purchases. With access to building performance actionable analytics, facility operators can reduce and save on their energy usage. Or they can make best use of space and adjust leasing options for increased revenues based on space utilisation. The list goes on.
IoT platforms aggregate all that is integrated into buildings on a scale, allowing building technologies to become more than simple facility maintenance; but an integral part of the business operation.
No doubt, SCADA and BMS solutions continue to bring value for facility operations and maintenance. However, an IoT platform layered on top of the existing systems further enhances the performance competency of the traditional trade silos, and natively handles multi-site consolidation without massive expenditure.
In today’s ever-evolving digitised infrastructure world, multi-site facility operators and managers equipped with the best tools can expedite data-driven business decisions to remain competitive. To achieve profitability, IoT platforms can easily be integrated into various existing systems or new applications without complete redesigns.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the IoT Tech Expo World Series events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.
Rojenx is a leading concept artist who work appears in games and publications
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