The time gap between adoption of consumer technology and the use of that technology in industry is tightening. The recent generation of building management systems operators increasingly savvy, and expect their experience to mimic the interfaces and functions they are able to use outside the office. Here are some of the top trends that more end-users and Facility Managers expect in their building automation systems.
One Interface Connecting Multiple Systems
Anyone with a crowded home screen on their mobile device can tell you that applications are great, but not always scalable. Facility managers aren’t looking for an experience that forces them to use different interfaces and apps for different systems. It’s important to build SCADA and HMI applications with the intent to bring as much as possible under one interface. Including HVAC, lighting, and energy management within one cohesive application is important to making sure everything functions well in coordination. This also provides context that can be useful in facility management. For example, if a building’s solar panels are producing energy efficiently, that energy can be used to boost cooling during peak daylight hours.
Energy metering offers huge benefits to facilities that are willing to make use of the data provided. By monitoring energy use it’s possible to know very quickly if changes to lighting or cooling schedules save money. In additions it’s possible to view trends over time to gauge the efficiency of systems or schedule routine maintenance. Facilities that produce their own power can also use energy management systems to meter energy use by building or location.
Smart devices no longer need to rely on middleware. Software like InduSoft IoTView is increasingly embedded right into controllers to offer enhanced functionality. Building automation systems can now easily shift into the cloud, and these smart devices can layer information with multiple systems within the same facility. These smart devices also add quite a bit of value to building automation systems at a very low cost.
Applications that can be easily customized to reflect the specific needs of the users are becoming the norm. Being able to offer systems that can be configured at runtime allows systems integrators to develop systems that can be perfected on-site or remotely after install.
It’s impossible to overstate how important remote connectivity is to users today, especially in Facilities Management, where technical staff and operators may need to move across a large campus during the day. The ability to check in on system efficiency or adjust settings from anywhere using a smartphone or dedicated tablet can make the difference between a functional system and a restrictive one. Being able to see and acknowledge alarms, access schematics or floorplans, or adjust lights or heating while far from the command center can vastly improve the efficiency of multiple systems.
Data Analysis at a Glance
As the amount of data collected grows exponentially it’s up to Building Management System engineers to find ways to make data actionable. This may include creating dashboards for quick analysis of contextual information, such as energy use or amount of staff in the facility, or it may include trend displays that warn operators when systems are losing efficiency and need repairs or maintenance.
Cybersecurity threats pose a significant concern for building automation systems, especially in heavily regulated industries like food and beverage and pharmaceutical.
Breaches in building management systems have been gateways to accessing other corporate networks, and lapses in building security can allow hackers to access unauthorized sections of the facility or make changes to system settings that can hurt productivity. Cybersecurity should play a serious role in any building management system.