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5 Synergies between Building IoT and CMMS that Lead to a Greener Tomorrow

By Keith Craig | September 10, 2018

Not only do commercial buildings consume two-thirds of all electrical energy in the U.S. each year, but collectively they top transportation as the biggest user of all energy in America.

This unquenchable thirst for power – electric, gas, coal, solar – makes Facilities a justifiable target for getting greener. And throughout the past decade a conscientious effort to collectively reduce energy demands of and use by commercial properties has given rise to innovations known as the Building Internet of Things (BIoT).

BIoT -- everything from software platforms to space-age glazing -- take advantage of facilities’ data that are funneled into databases from various sources, such as building automation systems, sensors, human occupants, and even weather conditions.

BIoT begins the moment a smart sensor registers facility performance statistics through a common Internet Protocol network. This raw data then goes to cloud-based analytics and diagnostics software applications, which then return input to the sensor. With this feedback, the sensor alters infrastructure operations without human intervention.

Automatically, the system begins taking measures to improve occupant experience, sharpen staff efficiency, and/or reduce energy consumption. This is the primary advantage of “Smart Buildings.”

But then, this sobering fact remains: 30 percent of energy in buildings is wasted, except when facilities managers use data to make smart decisions and facilities’ energy use drops 17 percent.

It stands to reason then, that synergies between BIoT, CMMS and facilities management can make - and keep - a facility green (both in terms of carbon footprint and bottom line.) The following five synergies illuminate the sustainability potential of combining BIoT with CMMS.

SaaS CMMS conserves resources

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) affords a dual green benefit. By outsourcing hardware to a cloud host, a company significantly reduces its capital expense for computer hardware. As the maxim goes, if you can get the milk whenever you want it, why buy the cow? Historically, a facility manager bought a CMMS, installed it on premise, owned it, and ran it until it was obsolete – or useless.

“In a (SaaS) model, the theory is there is no upfront cost,” says Vladi Shunturov, cofounder and CEO of Lucid. “You should just pay a subscription fee.”

While adopting a subscription-based CMMS in the cloud stipulates ongoing monthly expense, over the long haul, it shouldn’t exceed the capital outlay for an entire – and expanding – on-premise server cluster.

As for the carbon-footprint of SaaS, the need to house a cluster of computers in a hermetically sealed chamber somewhere on premise is eliminated along with energy demand for computer functions, air conditioning and lighting. Also, the datacenter of any SaaS - with its economies of scale and cutting-edge hardware deployment - can more efficiently house, run and maintain operational hardware, further reducing the carbon footprint. Subscribing to a service-model CMMS to manage BIoT data saves money – and energy.

Greater access to data streamlines and steers operations

The surging wave of BIoT data funneled from ever more sensors (“things”) will combine with machine learning and predictive analytics to unlock significant value by which to fine tune operations.

Shared data can assist with routine and predictive maintenance. Once a device is online, BIoT sensors can proactively report an imminent problem that could take a device offline, which extends process time, delays production and consumes more resources. BIoT sensors can also be configured to proactively take a device offline for routine maintenance. These “heads up” notifications can improve a system’s lifecycle, streamline production, and lead to operational efficiencies.

Not to mention - this data can create accountability among a maintenance team. It leverages work, disclosing what was done by whom, on what equipment and when. It also indicates what measures have been taken within a facility to perpetuate sustainability.

“IoT begins turning data into knowledge,” says Jack McGowan, principal at The McGowan Group. “Buildings become self-aware and tell us when we are off track.”

Data makes machines smarter to their own upkeep and streamlines maintenance team performance, both of which in turn consume fewer resources. That’s sustainability.

Network throughput reduces energy need and increases productivity

The anatomy of any BIoT system starts with the sensors (nerves) that are connected through a Building Automation System (backbone), a platform through which:

  • Sensors can communicate with each other, the BAS itself, and even a user
  • Building operations can be controlled
  • The sensors can control the BAS.

These networks communicate not only in the closed system of a single facility, but also with external systems. Data coordinated between buildings and communicated to maintenance teams result in better operational efficiencies. In fact, a recent McKinsey report on BIoT estimates that connectivity can decrease energy use in buildings by 20 percent while leading to a similar percentage increase in maintenance team productivity.

BIoT will allow the next generation of buildings to be self-aware and capable of reacting in real time without human intervention. Buildings will conserve resources, immediately shutting down when occupants leave the premises or triggering devices to run at times when energy rates are lower. From sensor, to BAS, to CMMS, BIoT tries to make the most efficient use of energy and deliver a facility that boosts the productivity of its occupants.

“With IoT,” says Antonio D. Wright, director of technology solutions at McGuire Engineers, “smart building systems utilize real-time data received from sensory devices to initiate system operations and satisfy peak performance requirements or meet comfort criteria for occupants.”

New software optimizes resource allocation and facility operations

Whether cloud-based SaaS or on-premise, BIoT (and BAS) platforms address multiple purposes. Some software serves as a digital facility manager, wielding a degree of control over devices (along with data visualization). Other applications are designed to crunch numbers to provide better visibility of key performance criteria. Still other programs act as sensor network and data repository.

An example of the first type is software that performs zone-by-zone dynamic adjustments of heating/cooling set points. The second software type might handle Big Data analytics and render it in chart and graph form. Tracking data from sensors and enabling communication between devices would contribute to efficient operations.

These software types would be integrated with a favored CMMS software for comprehensive monitoring and proactive upkeep. Combined with the advent and adoption of machine learning and AI in the next generation of BIoT, this software synergy will only sharpen CMMS capabilities: operations will be more finely tuned, worker productivity boosted, and resources best allocated.

BIoT + CMMS = Optimized environmental performance by Buildings

The paramount advantage of Smart Buildings is that they consume less energy. Using less energy means greener outcomes.

BIoT devices monitor energy use in smart buildings and record operations data. Cooling and heating schedules? Lighting use? Production line performance? Aggregating energy use data and then analyzing it can disclose trends from which strategic energy- and cost-saving decisions can be made.

“Think of (BIoT) as a gateway to the building’s fitness awareness,” McGowan advises.

Results from a 2016 energy efficiency study conducted by the Preservation Green Lab and a host of other organizations suggest that small commercial structures could cut energy use anywhere from 27% to 59% through the deployment of smart building technologies.

The convergence of CMMS and BIoT under facilities management reinforces what Michael Knapp, Ph.D. and CEO of GreenRiver Software calls the Data Stack Model:

Collected Data help facility managers determine operational Variables, which help them set Indicators from which Goals are devised that steer sustainability Strategies.

For the rest of us, the ascendance of BIoT and its convergence with CMMS promise to deliver steady sustainability that meets today’s business needs (without risking those of the future) and tomorrow’s environment.

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Topics: cmms cmms software Preventive Maintenance facilities maintenance work order management Preventive Maintenance Plan equipment preventive maintenance CMMS features cmms pricing ROI building maintenance software


Keith Craig

Keith Craig

Keith Craig is Better Buys’ Content Marketing Manager. He has more than a decade of experience using, researching and writing about business software and hardware. He can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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