- BuildingDesign News - Construction / Services News Archives

Article Date: 21st March 2019

Schneider Electric - The Smart Buildings ‘Gene’: The Digitisation Journey

Smart Buildings - Motion Detectors - Occupancy Sensors - Digital Twins

Schneider Electric - The Smart Buildings Gene

In the last piece we explored the trends shaping smart buildings and identified the importance of its ‘gene’. Now it is time to explore how organisations can plan for an economically sustainable digitisation journey, whilst also keeping pace with technology advancements such as IoT.

The two pillars: IoT and Sensors

The extensive amount of data that sensors record is the foundation for any smart building. It has been estimated that by 2020 there will be 1.3bn IoT sensors in use, a 78.8% increase from 2015.

Buildings no longer just comprise of legacy sensors, such as thermostats. They have now adapted to include motion detectors and occupancy sensors, which can determine how many people are in each room.

The benefits of having more intricate devices is that they can provide more in-depth analysis on your building’s performance. For example, certain technologies can now deliver information on the temperature, air quality and other conditions – all encompassed into a singular device.

Yet, understanding underpins this all. Only when you understand the technology can you begin to harness it and start the building journey. IoT is also fundamental – it allows for data to communicate either in local environments or remotely to provide actionable insights.

The importance of Digital Twins

A ‘digital twin’ is a digital replica of a building’s physical infrastructure, processes, and systems which plays an integral part in our technological driven world. This is not to be confused with Building Information Modelling (BIM), but is rather just a key enabler for twinning.

Digital twins are one step ahead of BIM. They use real-time data, obtained largely through sensors, to not only analyse performance, but also employ predictive analytics, test future scenarios, and ultimately overhaul planned maintenance philosophies. Digital Twins are an evolution of Smart Buildings that cannot be stopped.

However, it remains clear that the industry has still not fully embraced digitisation. To combat this, IT infrastructure must be put in place for the future. The installation of sensors which have the ability to communicate with various systems will enable condition-based monitoring, which will start the building’s journey in becoming ‘smart’.

Becoming Predictive

We no longer have to spend hours trawling through systems to find the issues that are causing a problem. We instantly get alerts of issues happening in real time or those that are impending.

The development of neural networks now allows systems to study different patterns of operation and failure, which in turn can predict future incidents. Ultimately, this empowers managers and operators to optimise their maintenance costs through Condition-Based Monitoring and Diagnosis.

Sensors are the foundations of this technology and capture continuous operation data that enables both actionable insights, and continuous improvement of the technology. Utilisation of the cloud to store this data enables cloud-based-services such as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which add a further layer of dynamism in data analytics, also enabling more economical subscription models for Predictive Maintenance programs. These services can further be completely managed by the service provider (MSaaS) to provide total peace of mind to the end user.

Establishing the future

To ensure that building owners are fully prepared for this new era of digitalisation they must begin with a Digital Strategy for their estate. This will most often start with an Intelligent Building Management System (iBMS). Certain systems employing open protocols allow for easier integration of disparate building systems such as their HVAC, along with lighting controls, fire and security, and importantly the Power distribution and IT networks. The goal is to be as efficient as possible is achieved through the simpler operation one visualisation gives to the user, as well as through the collection of common data, processing, and sharing, enabling a gradual digitisation of the building.

Decentralisation of Electrical Distribution and evolution of the mesh grid also brings in the need for similar digitisation of the Power System. By adopting a model of IoT-enabled connected products, sitting underneath a Software Layer providing control and analytics, building operators can realise a more efficient, resilient, and sustainable building system. Digitisation will enable dynamic interactions between the building and the power system to deliver stronger control capability in an increasingly complex operating environment.

Next steps

The key challenge when it comes to trying to adopt digitisation is the age of most buildings. We must consider what is economically sustainable before embarking on the digital journey. Ultimately, every project must be individually assessed to establish the best course of action. This analysis will prove beneficial to all buildings in the long term and will ultimately improve efficiency, reduce consumption and energy costs.

By Ram Venkat, Smart Buildings Marketing Manager

Schneider Electric - The Smart Buildings Gene
BuildingDesign Media © - BuildingDesign Portal | BuildingDesign Tenders