By Brian Turner, President, OTI
Consider this scenario: A corporate real-estate executive is contemplating a presentation to the Board of Directors for her company which owns and operates a group of commercial office buildings. She is experienced at operating efficient class A properties, often improving the bottom line and increasing revenue for the buildings in her portfolio. She is very tech-savvy and has become accustomed to having access to everything in her world within a few touches on her tablet, phone, or laptop. Everything, that is, except for the operational technology assets in her buildings.
This is quite different from her home life, where, for example, she can let a visitor into her home while sitting at her favorite coffee shop. She can even watch them enter and exit via IP-connected cameras. She wonders why she doesn’t have this technology available in all her buildings. It isn’t like her company hasn’t invested millions of dollars, under her leadership. She has been trying to get this done for several years, but something isn’t right.
She wants to make her office buildings the ideal location for every potential tenant by making them functionally superior. She wants to provide things like the latest technology for security, parking, elevators, guest access, Wi-Fi, heating and air conditioning and lighting controls. She wants to provide the latest innovations in comfort and healthy environments as prescribed by industry groups like LEED and ASHRAE. She wants to attract the best tenants by providing the best and safest digital experience possible.
Sound familiar? Now…how does she get started? And how does she get it right?
Where the conversation starts and sometimes stops
This scenario is playing out for busy real estate executives around the world every day. Somewhat paradoxically, technology and the expanding list of innovative IoT manufacturers are making it harder to answer that very first question – where do I begin on revolutionary projects for commercial office buildings?
Once these real estate execs start to look for the best solutions to fit their needs, it seems everyone and their brother has one to offer. Some solutions come from household names, while others come from agile businesses working to bring the next big technology to the industry. They’ve all got the best interface and the easiest to use integration platform. Plus all of their employees know how to solve any problem, no matter how obscure. There seems to be no end to the amount of money or energy that can be saved when these technologies are installed. Great! I’ll take three! Right…
Let’s try to make sense of all of this. As a master systems integrator, I must make sure my team knows about the new latest and greatest technology available, so I attend several conferences per year to see what the market has to offer. When I look out on the composite of these show floors, I see hundreds of access control vendors, hundreds of HVAC control manufacturers, metering solutions from big and small vendors, thousands of smart equipment and device manufacturers and hundreds more lighting control manufacturers. Each of the products and solutions have merit, but there is a lot of cross-over in function and benefit.
The second, more complex issue, is that integration means different things to different people and thus produces a wide variety of results and solutions. Artificial Intelligence is promising, and providing, in some cases, fantastic results in buildings. Building analytics platforms are also getting better at giving users the information they really need, in a form that helps them act, again aided in some applications by AI. Remote connectivity is another area where innovations are starting to see positive returns, helping to get the building automation industry closer to IT standards of security and management.
I have read a lot of stories lamenting failed IoT projects and how one technology or process could have solved the problem. Some of the solutions sound reasonable and some are a stretch. At the end of the day, we are all human, trying to solve human problems. What’s great and also extremely difficult about right now is we have more tools than ever before to address these problems. The overwhelming abundance of shiny new things is, in some ways, paralyzing us.
The good news is that we don’t have very far to look for the answers. For those busy real estate execs, the IT group has some of the answers. The facilities, or OT group has some of the answers. The OT master systems integrator (OT MSI) has some of the answers. Together, as the IoT team, we will get it mostly right. These three entities are the keystones to making solid, well informed IoT decisions. You likely already have your IT team in place, so this means a first step in your IoT transformation will be to find a good OT MSI. I suggest you look for one who takes the time to understand your business goals and who will work with you along with your IT and OT teams to make all of these decisions together. By working as an IoT team, the agony of making each IoT decision is lessened and the likelihood for success is greater.
Now go forth and make an IoT decision!