Intro to the Building IoT: Devices, Applications & Cloud-Based Control

Posted by Connect with ODIN on May 10, 2024 10:26:07 AM

Over the last decade, the Internet of Things (IoT) — a network of interrelated physical objects embedded with sensors and software to exchange data with other devices and the cloud — has seen a precipitous rise. 

McKinsey observed that the number of businesses using IoT technologies doubled between 2014 and 2019. From 2018 to 2023, the research firm also estimated that the worldwide number of IoT-connected devices would increase to 43 billion (a threefold multiplication over just a 5-year span).

This expansion has not gone unnoticed in the world of building management, where smart building IoT solutions have proliferated. The compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.1% in the global smart building market showcases a rapidly expanding industry. The high rate of adoption of smart technologies in the U.S. has solidified its place at the leading edge of that growth. 

What is the Building IoT (BIoT)?

From IoT building automation to smart security systems and AI-powered building analytics platforms, the Building IoT (BIoT) can encompass wide-ranging solutions. Sensors and intelligent, connected devices can nowadays be found in virtually all building systems of a fully enabled smart building, including:

  • HVAC/Mechanical
  • Lighting
  • Security
  • Power & Energy
  • Plumbing/Water
  • Technology (telephone, AV, clocks, internet)

By embedding smart building IoT sensors and other internet-connected devices into various systems, building managers gain the benefit of cloud-based access and control over all building data and processes while also gathering real-time data on performance, equipment statuses, energy usage, and efficiency.

This data is essential for the optimized management of modern buildings. It empowers preventative maintenance, improves occupant comfort, and ultimately saves costs and resources for an eco-friendly built environment.

However, we’ve only scratched the surface of the capabilities of these rapidly advancing technologies. Building IoT devices and overall smart building trends continue to reveal new possibilities for remote access, streamlined operations, and improved sustainability.

Examples of Building IoT Devices

IoT devices can either be integrated directly into a piece of equipment or an appliance (like we see with smart, cloud-connected refrigerators in residential settings), or they can be separate sensors or controllers that are installed on normally “dumb” equipment or building components (such as an HVAC ventilation shaft) to make them smart.

A few examples of smart, internet-connected Building IoT devices could include:

  • Intelligent lighting/occupancy systems
  • Automatic door controls
  • Sensors in security cameras and alarm systems
  • Fire detection & sprinkler systems
  • Power load/rail switching sensors
  • Smart thermostats and air quality sensors
  • Equipment status sensors (transducers, switches, etc.)
  • Open-protocol equipment that integrates easily with automation systems (e.g. BACnet devices)

These devices make building automation systems more powerful and add nuanced control, data collection, and hands-off reactivity to previously manual functions.

Common Building IoT Applications

The BIoT devices and sensors used in building automation and control systems can empower numerous smart applications. For example, some use cases include:

  • Climate control (temperature, humidity, airflow/ventilation)
  • Detecting CO, CO2, VOCs, and particulate matter levels in the air
  • Precisely metering electrical or water usage
  • Fire/smoke detection
  • HVAC setpoint scheduling
  • Optimizing lighting energy efficiency
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Monitoring structural health

More broadly, the BIoT is enabling modern smart buildings to achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency in all building systems by optimizing the controls of lighting, HVAC, and energy systems in response to occupancy, seasonal conditions, and real-time needs. The benefits of deploying smart BIoT solutions for such purposes can be extensive, including:

  • Enhanced Energy Efficiency — Careful monitoring and data tracking of various systems, on its own, can inform strategic decisions about control and schedules. With smart devices, optimal decisions can become automatic. Insights into space usage and energy consumption can lead to more efficient operations and reduced costs.

    • Reduced Environmental Impact — It’s easier to run a sustainable operation with clear identification of inefficiencies in lighting, power, water, and ventilation. BIoT devices help to adjust and turn off systems that are not currently needed to reduce waste and environmental impact.

    • Improved Occupant Safety — These devices can provide responsive alerts and control over safety, security, and fire detection systems, including air quality monitoring and detection of harmful gasses or high CO2 levels.

  • More Comfort and Productivity — An ideal indoor environment helps occupant wellbeing and can provide notable productivity gains while encouraging work within the office for hybrid roles.

  • Predictive Maintenance — The more connected the various systems and devices are within your building systems, the easier it is to identify potential problems early (often before a real problem arises). This cuts downtime and reduces maintenance costs.

Cloud-Based Remote Access & IoT Building Management

One of key opportunities provided by the BIoT is the potential for remote operational control of building systems. However, buildings often have hundreds or even thousands of devices, perhaps even with separate building management systems. To fully achieve the potential of BIoT, you need a system to detect every device and pull them all together into a common platform.

A cloud-based management platform like ODIN can connect every BACnet device in your building one, unified system that’s accessible from anywhere, at any time, on any device. ODIN can put your building in your pocket — or your entire portfolio of buildings — with an intuitive app that works on smartphones and tablets just as well as personal computers.

This makes it possible to implement remote monitoring, where personnel are not required to be on-site in order to keep an eye on equipment statuses, setpoints, schedules, or trends in building energy usage. Managers and technicians can access all relevant data or controls from anywhere with an internet connection to respond to urgent calls or investigate automated alerts about potential problems. This sort of real-time visibility into the performance of all building systems not only reduces delays, but helps to mitigate maintenance risks and improve occupant comfort and satisfaction.

Finally, ODIN can collect all relevant data from various sensors and systems and send it into your preferred building analytics software via its open API. This makes it easier to implement smart, data-based automation strategies and plan for the future. All in all, the BIoT and the platforms that maximize its capabilities support a more efficient and sustainable built environment. 

If you’re interested in learning more about ODIN and how it empowers your building’s BACnet building IoT devices, connect with our team.

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