Data and Building Automation

By March 2, 2017Product News

Accessing data from existing building automation systems is critical to any smart building project. The advent of standardized protocols has taken us from the initial challenge of connectivity to our equipment systems to the new frontier of data management and the end to end processes involved in effectively utilizing our data. Challenges remain in the areas of data collection, processing and integration of data from diverse systems and devices. Add to this, the techniques and methodologies for managing, presenting, analyzing and deriving value from this data.

Building automation architecture is continuing to flatten as more devices directly connect to networks, and edge devices are becoming more intelligent. These devices are performing data aggregation, data integration, and routing directly to other devices and value-added applications. Today’s devices are equipped with faster processors, more memory, a selection of connectivity and capacity options to support a variety of applications with the ability to go beyond simple connectivity to include configuration, management, data storage and device-level application enablement.

With the increasing number and variety of equipment, sensors, devices and building systems available to connect to and the amount of data that is available from them, many data projects stall or never reach their potential because companies struggle with the complexity of the data. While data is technically available, the challenge lies in working with it across multiple applications, managing it and getting useful information out of it especially as data sets come with various formats, different naming conventions, and syntaxes. Said another way, “it's one thing to have access to data; it's another to make it actionable.”

When it comes to the data, it is one thing to have access to it; it's another to make it actionable. With more data available than ever before the industry is presented with a new challenge. Device data is stored and communicated in many different formats. It has inconsistent, non-standard naming conventions, and provides very limited descriptors to enable us to understand its meaning. Simply put, the operational data from smart devices and equipment systems lacks information to describe its meaning. Without meaning, time-consuming manual effort is required before that data can be used effectively to generate value. The result is that the data from today’s devices, while technically “available,” is hard to use, thus limiting the ability for building operators to benefit from the value contained in the data.

Today, efficient utilization of data is much less an issue of connectivity than it is of the costs associated with managing volumes of diverse data and quickly interpreting the meaning of the data. Obstacles include:

    • Planning for data access and management
    • Navigating and meeting cyber security requirements to access data and connect to external applications and systems
    • Lack of standardized naming conventions
    • Data validation

When it comes to planning, most building operations departments do not have a defined “data management plan.” What passes for a data management plan often consists of storing data to a database associated with the Building Management System. With that approach, the information is limited to just those systems monitored or managed by the building management system.

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