The Power of Connectivity

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming what buildings can achieve when it comes to energy efficiency today. Here, Dan Ritch, chief information officer and vice president of Connected Services for Honeywell Building Solutions, discusses the IoT’s impact on buildings and energy service.

Distributed Energy (DE): What’s your take on the Internet of Things and what it means for the buildings space?
Dan Ritch (DR): The Internet of Things and historical levels of connectivity are fundamentally transforming how building managers interact with and manage their buildings. No longer are buildings simply four walls and a roof. Thanks to IoT and connectivity, buildings can be organizational assets and drive bottom-line benefits—they are no longer viewed as simply capital expenditures. Organizations can put their buildings to work if they have the right technologies in place. The buildings space has a huge opportunity, but the key is knowing when, where, and how to take advantage of this connectivity.

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DE:  How has integration changed in the last few years?
DR:
  We can’t control what we can’t measure, so knowing how a piece of equipment should be functioning is critical to catching malfunctions early and being able to proactively address issues before they become major problems. Thanks to increased connectivity introduced by IoT, there are a wealth of data points we could not measure before that impact how we manage connected services in buildings, and we are now able to see patterns we couldn’t before.

For example, we can now track vibrations to see how assets like fans, boilers, and chillers are running. We can make recommendations about performing maintenance earlier that may result in not having to replace an entire piece of equipment. If an asset is being used more frequently, we can make note of that. This means we can make recommendations about replacing equipment before an asset becomes inefficient or malfunctions, saving time, energy, and money.

The more data we collect, the more we can analyze and the more savings we can create.

DE:  What does the connectivity enabled by IoT mean for energy management and energy efficiency, specifically?
DR:
  New technologies are emerging that enable buildings to draw from the collective power of IoT devices, cloud applications, and, when the right connectivity is in place, even the deep domain expertise of service engineers who may be thousands of miles away. When all the right connectivity and pieces are in place, organizations take advantage of the internet and the various sensors and endpoints in a building to help transform what it can do for an organization, and the value it can provide. This can include many things, from providing more detailed, real-time insights into how a piece of equipment is operating so organizations can address issues faster to save money, to forging a tighter link with employees so organizations can quickly remedy any comfort related issues to keep them happy and satisfied.

All of this plays a critical role in how an organization manages its energy use and where—and how—it can drive efficiencies, ultimately saving on energy costs. We’ve found that building performance can drift by up to 7% annually if it’s not monitored closely. By taking advantage of building connectivity and sensors in buildings, organizations can now apply analytics to monitor performance and ensure building equipment is operating in line with key performance indicators—from HVAC systems to security technologies, including cameras and access control—to keep building performance on track.

DE:  What does that mean for building service, then? Isn’t all service pretty straightforward?
DR:
  This new connectivity—and all it enables—means buildings no longer have to rely on the service of yesteryear, marked by a technician visiting a building on a set schedule, regardless of whether service is needed or not, and calling it good as long as nothing appears to be malfunctioning. Similarly, occupants are no longer left on their own to maintain their comfort, either. We feel that connectivity and IoT have transformed the definition of “service,” and buildings can take advantage of it.

For a building’s service and maintenance crew, tapping this type of service approach could mean less time spent manually checking building equipment—an often daunting task for multi-facility campuses in particular—and instead focusing maintenance activities where they can have the most impact on overall building performance, saving time and money in the process.

DE:  What kind of impact do you think a service approach that leverages IoT concepts and connectivity can have on building energy management and savings?
DR:
  Organizations have tended to have isolated technicians at individual buildings. There’s only so much one person can achieve by moving throughout a building to check on things, however. If an organization can take advantage of the connectivity and sensors found in today’s buildings, they have an opportunity to enable service technicians to work smarter, not harder when it comes to service—and then even quantify how service is tangibly impacting an organization’s bottom line.

Imagine combining advanced automation and data analytics and enabling service experts to access and scrutinize building assets around the clock, identifying anomalies and misconfigurations earlier than traditional maintenance. This helps identify building problems and improvement opportunities that can drive energy savings and operational and comfort improvements—and, as noted before, save valuable time and money.

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