Smart Campuses Part 2: Where to Start

19th May 2016

Two Tips for Begginning Your Journey

Struggling to know where to start in the technology maze that is smart buildings? Part 2 of this blog series will offer two short, practical recommendations for consideration on your journey towards a smart campus. Buildings use 40 percent of energy globally. When buildings run more efficiently, the energy and cost savings have a significant impact. The questions should be when and how do we start making our buildings run more efficiently?

1. Analyse the Now, and Establish a Benchmark

Our suggested situational analysis has two objectives here:

  1. How is my building/estate performing now, and what are our pain points? Base this count around energy usage, energy cost and the number of work orders across your estate.
  2. What data am I using to make decisions about my buildings performance? How accurate and useful is that data, and is this data allowing me to prioritise actions to ensure our buildings are running as efficiently as possible?

Pull together as much data as possible on your buildings’ performance and try to identify trends, pain points and opportunities. If this data sits in spreadsheets, so be it. A lot of our customers with huge estate portfolios are still making significant savings by visualising spreadsheet data with a view to automate in the future (more on this in part 3). Try and establish what you do know (and can quantify with accurate data), and what you don’t know. Benchmark your current data and use this as your baseline going forward.

2. The Internet of Things (IoT) is Here: Worry about Protocols, Not Hardware.

Our next piece of advice is pretty straightforward. Choose technology (whether hardware, automation equipment or software systems) that uses open protocols.

Our old equipment is functional, so what’s the big deal with ‘open protocols’? Well, the IoT revolution is here, and it is incredibly important that we ‘future-proof’ our buildings in order to remain competitive and meet the current demands and future needs of our occupants. I argued in part 1 of this series that, in order to be truly smart, a building must be able to demonstrate levels of prediction. To have any chance of achieving that, or even older definitions such as ‘intelligent buildings’, equipment (sensors, lights, chillers boilers, air handlers etc.) must be able to talk. It is true of buildings, as well as of business, that, without communication, very little can actually be achieved.

As a software company, we know from first hand that a lot of legacy equipment is not built to share data. Instead, some hardware suppliers use proprietary (exclusive) protocols (communication languages) that prevent technology from controlling, visualising and adding additional intelligence to your equipment. The danger is that investments without open protocols could become obsolete and tie you down to specific vendors, which no building operator wants!

So what open protocols should you look for?

There are dozens of protocols that have been developed for building automation. BACnet and Modbus are probably the most popular here in the UK, but this is really specific to different geographical regions. Australia, for example, uses Clipsal C-Bus. There are, however, non-building automation based protocols which you should also be aware of, especially with the Internet of Things (IoT): SNMP, RESTful and MQTT, to name a few.

I’ve put together a non-comprehensive list of some open protocols to look out for:

  1. BACnet
  2. LonWorks
  3. Modbus
  4. M-bus
  5. OPC
  6. W3C
  7. SNMP
  8. RESTful
  9. MQTT
  10. KNX
  11. Dali
  12. Clipsal

Ensure that your supplier can support one, or preferably multiple, of the above protocols.

Part 3 of this blog series will introduce you to the ICONICS smart buildings software suite.


See Our Other Smart Building Blog Articles:

Smart Campuses Part 1: What is a Smart Building?

Smart Campuses Part 3: How Iconics Technology Can Help


Written by
Sam Walton

Sam Walton