Smart Building System Commissioning

Commissioning 101 – The Basics

When it comes to deploying new smart building technologies, system commissioning is by far the most overlooked construction phase. Moreover, system commissioning can pose some of the most challenging repercussions if done incorrectly. How is this possible? Well, in our experience, everyone thinks they can commission a system - it’s easy, simple as 1. 2. 3. Right?

Not so fast. Countless device installers can attest to this, I'm sure. Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of system commissioning, let’s first set the stage by explaining at a higher level what system commissioning is, exactly.

A 30,000-Foot View of Smart Building Commissioning

The term system commissioning isn’t without dispute. As those of you who live and breathe in this industry can attest, commissioning, in the traditional sense is a very different prospect from how the networked lighting control marketplace uses the term. To ensure we’re all on the same page in terms of what we mean by system commissioning, let’s discuss this a little further.

  • System Commissioning (Traditional Sense) – In the traditional sense, commissioning a project or system is the: “quality-oriented process for achieving, evaluating, and documenting that the performance of buildings, systems, and assemblies meet defined objectives and criteria…[ensuring] owners, programmers, designers, contractors, and operations and maintenance entities are fully accountable for the quality of their work.” (ASHRAE, Commissioning for Buildings and Systems).
  • System Commissioning (Smart Building Context) – While commissioning in the context of a smart building system involves evaluating and ensuring the performance of the system and quality of work performed, smart building system commissioning goes one step further to incorporate the physical act of programming and configuring system devices.

It's the inclusion of these additional programming steps that differentiate smart building system commissioning from traditional building system commissioning. Therefore, when as we use the term system commissioning, here, we refer to the extended process of device programming.

Where Does Commissioning Fit into the Deployment Process?

When deploying a smart building system – in this case, let’s use the example of an advanced networked lighting control system – there are multiple construction phases and sub-phases. Device commissioning typically comes into play a bit later in the deployment process, but this shouldn't be a hard-fast rule. This is explained further a bit later in the post.

Smart-Building-System-Deployment-Process

Smart Building Deployment Process

  • Phase I – Pre-construction
  • Phase II – Construction
    • Sub-phase-I – Network Install
    • Sub-phase-II – Lighting Fixture Install
    • Sub-phase-II – Smart Device Install
  • Phase III – Device Commissioning
  • Phase IV – System Commissioning Finalized

As indicated above there are four main phases and three sub-phases of a smart building system deployment.  Each phase plays a critical role in the final operability of the smart building system. And while Phases III and IV are displayed later in the deployment process they are, in fact, rather important throughout the entire process.

What is System Commissioning?

System commissioning is the process of configuring each individual system device to determine three specific things 1) WHERE the device is located, 2) WHEN do you want the device to do something, and 3) WHAT do you want that device to do. In its simplest form, system commissioning is the task of creating communication lines between each system device.

Smart-Building-System-Commissioning

So, that’s what system commissioning is, but how is it done, exactly? Let’s take a deeper look at the actual process of system commissioning and explore how this phase of a system deployment can present serious system operability challenges if completed incorrectly.

The Breakdown: Nuts and Bolts of Smart Building System Commissioning

The commissioning of a smart building system is broken into the following three phases:

System-Commissioning-PhasesSystem Commissioning Phases

  1. Network Configuration (i.e. standard for a wireless system)
  2. Fixture Device Configuration (i.e. internal fixture adapters and/or sensors)
  3. Controls Device Configuration (i.e. sensors/wall switches/thermostats/etc.)

Through each of these commissioning phases, it is the responsibility of the commissioning agent to integrate, configure, program, and commission each respective system device to 1) Define WHERE the device is located, 2) WHEN the device should do something, and 3) WHAT the device should do.

How’s this accomplished?

Depending on the smart building system platform (think a Daintree Networks, LG, Autani, or Enlighted systems), the commissioning process may vary. Often, though, an advanced networked lighting control system will have the same basic commissioning process no matter the platform: 1) Network configuration, 2) Fixture device configuration, and 3) Controls device configuration.

Below is an example of what the commissioning process of a single device looks like from a general perspective.

Device-Commissioning

Commissioning Hurdles – Don’t Make a Mountain Out of a Mole Hill

It may seem as though the commissioning process is a no-brainer; not so fast. While this is generally true, there are a few system commissioning hurdles to be aware of. With that said, there's really no reason to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

Let’s take a deeper look at some of these hurdles and how to overcome them.

System Commissioning Tips

  • Process, Process, Process: We cannot beat this drum enough. Having the right process from the get-go will save project stakeholders considerable time and frustration. Remember N.F.C.:
    1. Network Install and Configuration
    2. Fixture Device Install and Configuration
    3. Controls Device Install and Configuration

 

  • Parallel Commissioning: When commissioning system devices it is highly beneficial to commission devices in parallel with their installation. So, for example, let’s say the installing contractor is installing new fixture devices on Monday. If that's the case, then the commissioning of those devices should be completed on Tuesday.

 

  • System Design: When it comes to commissioning a smart building system, the difference between operability and system failure is a fine line. Ensuring the system design is feasible from the get-go goes a long way in determining the ease of which the system can be commissioned. If your network can’t “talk” with system devices, it’s pretty tricky to get them into the system, configured, and commissioned.

 

  • Project Roles and Responsibilities: From the outset defining project roles and responsibilities is critical. Knowing the responsibilities of team members plays a massive role in the overall flow of a project. Knowing who to go to for particular project responsibilities helps to streamline the deployment process. Thereby avoiding timely bottlenecks or miscommunication.

Still in the Weeds? Seek Help!

Still in the weeds when it comes to system commissioning? That’s OK. While it seems an easy enough process, the technical requirement, know-how, and learning-curve is steep. Don't let the technicalities get the better of you.  If you, your colleagues, installation contractors, or project managers are involved on a project with networked lighting controls and feel the water rising above your head, get some help! It’s far better to recruit some experienced help in commissioning a smart building system than going it alone. Successful smart building deployments are possible with the right help and process.


Deployment Considerations: Networked Lighting Controls

As improved lighting control systems hit the market, sifting through the bells and whistles of a possible solution is a daunting prospect. To assist in overcoming this challenge, this week’s post offers key pieces of advice when researching system options. As a result, with the right gameplan, your organization will save time, money, and frustration.

Let’s jump in.

For the longest time, I’ve argued that the advent of more affordable networked lighting control systems would become the leading force in the commercial adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT). And while both the IoT movement and networked lighting control advancements have been driven by cheaper sensor technology and higher computing power, how much has the commercial market latched on to the idea of the IoT vis-a-vis lighting control systems?

Well, the most recent Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, is especially relevant in shedding some light on this question. The latest survey indicates that large commercial buildings are most likely to use advanced lighting control strategies to improve both operations and energy efficiency. So far, so good. Why? Consequently, these advanced lighting strategies are most effective when deployed through a networked lighting control system. Or in other words, a lighting control system that utilizes the Internet of Things.

Lighting Controls

As indicated in the above graph, the most used lighting control strategies in commercial buildings revolve around a few key themes. These themes include occupancy, task tuning, and scheduling. Moreover, the specific increase in controls strategies used by commercial buildings include the following, more IoT-specific, strategies:

  • Occupancy Control
  • Plug-load Control
  • Scheduling
  • Building Automation
  • Demand-Response Lighting Control
  • Multi-level/Dimming Light Control
  • Daylight Harvesting

The interesting aspect of these results is not the fact that larger commercial buildings are more likely to use lighting control strategies, that’s a given. The bigger the commercial building, the more energy that building will use, so of course increasing energy efficiency would be of interest.  The fact that the strategies they're choosing to implement are in direct parallel with networked lighting controls – or smart building technologies fueled by the Internet of Things - is what's interesting. Not to mention, helping to back the IoT adoption vis-a-vis networked lighting controls argument.

Smart Building Design

The power of networked lighting control systems is their capacity to gather, store, and analyze data on a single platform. This data collection provides facility managers and building owners with deeper insight to facility operations. As a result, facility operation teams are empowered to drive further efficiency cost savings with actionable information. But in order to take advantage of this deeper insight, you first need to know where to start when evaluating system options. Here are some of the top system design and deployment considerations to keep in mind.

Before your organization can take advantage of this deeper insight, you first need to determine which smart building (i.e. networked lighting control) technology will best suit your specific needs.  To assist in this sometimes painstaking process, here are some of the top system design and deployment considerations to keep in mind.

Key System Research and Deployment Tips

  • Installation Challenges: Some systems may not be appropriate for particular use cases because they're difficult to deploy. Building managers should be certain that the solution they choose fits their unique use case. For example, are you controlling a single facility, multiple facilities, HVAC systems, lighting system, or a combination of all?
  • User Interface: Can the system be accessed via a Web browser? Is there a smartphone app? How do facility managers and building owners seek to use the system? Will they access data remotely, onsite, a combination of the two? Answering these questions can help determine which type of system to consider.
  • Data Collection & Reporting: As a first step in determining which type of networked building control system to consider, facility management and building owners must determine what pieces of information are important to each party and answer the following questions: Does the platform report system status? Is it possible to track custom key performance indicators (i.e. energy used, space utilization, etc.)? Does the system platform generate useful reports?
  • System Design: Depending on the system technology, deployment strategies may differ greatly based on facility environment. The deployment of a wireless system in a large open warehouse will differ greatly from a twenty-one-story building. Understanding these environmental variables is key to designing a control system that fits your specific facility's needs and delivers the meaningful insight you require.

Smart Building Control System Design Considerations

Why is the design of your smart building control system important? For starters, your smart building transformation begins with the design of your system. As a result, if your initial system design is shoddy the result will be an incomplete system. At the bare minimum, your system will run at a suboptimal rate, shorting you on any projected investment returns.

Moreover, the initial system design is the template from which the installation team will take direct instruction. Therefore, if the design is missing key system components, your system installation will prove inoperable. Even worse is the fact that you’ll take a bath with additional contractor costs to re-install system devices correctly. These types of challenges are simply not worth the time, frustration, and potentially exorbitant project costs, due to something that is easily avoidable.

What steps can you take to avoid system design shortfalls?

System Design

 

Key Considerations for Effective Control System Design

To ensure your smart building control system is designed to deliver the ROI you’re seeking, here are a few additional considerations:

  1. System Goals: What goals do you want to achieve with your smart building system? And what pieces of information will you need to achieve those goals?
  2. System Characteristics: Based on your overall goals, will a Zonal controls design or a Granular controls design work best?
  3. Environmental Application: Based on your physical environment where is your system going to live? Are you implementing a system in a warehouse, office building, or retail space?
  4. Cost Restraints: What kind of cost restraints do you have when it comes to building your system? If you are on a tighter budget you may need to reassess your overall goals and system design.

Keeping these system design considerations top of mind when evaluating/implementing a new system solution, you can rest assured that your finalized system will deliver the value required to justify your organization’s investment. It is clear that the power of today’s advanced networked lighting and building control solutions are bar none. It is only through the right planning and forethought, though, that your organization can take advantage of the growing opportunity to deploy a smart building system smoothly. Therefore reaping the many energy and non-energy benefits it provides today, while laying the foundaiton for future expansion of a complete smart building infrastructure.


IoT Wars: Smart Buildings vs. Smart Homes

Waging War within the IoT

Truth be told the Internet of Things (IoT) has a dirty little secret that it’s hiding from the world. Under the cloak of darkness, there is a clandestine war brewing between IoT’s heavyweights: The consumer smart home and commercial smart buildings. Who will reign supreme?

In today’s post, we’re going to endeavor to find out. We’ll take a deeper look at the specific characteristics that make up a consumer smart home and industrial smart building, while also reviewing how each market segment impacts businesses and consumers alike.

Let’s dive in.

Consumer IoT

So before we can jump into the connected home, let’s first take a look at consumer IoT as a whole. The consumer Internet of Things – as the Computer Business Review (CBR) defines it – … "is the Internet of Things that relates to connected devices aimed at the consumer market.” OK, that’s sort of helpful. Let’s expand a bit more to provide a fuller picture of what we mean by consumer IoT.

Let’s first think about the Internet of Things in general terms – the billions of connected devices that will merge our digital and physical worlds. As the CBR puts it, consumer IoT includes the connected devices geared toward the consumer. So what do they mean, specifically? Well, consumer IoT includes the Fitbit-like wearables, “smart” coffee makers, widgets and gadgets that we’d pick up at Best Buy or on Amazon for personal convince. It is within this consumer-driven world that a smart home lives.

The Smart Home

The smart home is coming to a neighborhood near you. Maybe even your own home. Don’t think so? You might be surprised at just how connected our homes already are. What is a smart home, exactly? According to CNET, a smart home is:

A home that is equipped with network-connected products (i.e. “smart products,” connected via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or similar products) for controlling, automating, optimizing functions such as temperature, lighting, security or entertainment, either remotely by a phone, tablet, computer, or a separate system within the home itself.”

If you have recently installed a Nest thermostat or purchased the surprisingly not so smart Amazon Alexa, your home has already entered the smart home world. Congratulations, you’re an early adopter! You’re now part of what some analysts are predicting to be a smart home market value of $21 billion by 2020.

How does this smart home market prediction compare to that of industrial smart buildings?

Industrial IoT

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), or the Industrial Internet as General Electric likes to call it, is the digitization of our physical world through harnessing sensor data, machine-to-machine learning, and big data analytics. Using these three pillars the Industrial Internet of Things is slated to make offices, warehouses, manufacturing lines, and industrial plants smarter and more efficient.

Commercial Smart Buildings

Slated to morph into a $25 billion market by 2021, commercial smart buildings are certainly on the rise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again it’s not just us saying this: the like of Cisco, GE, IBM, they’re all touting the Industrial Internet of Things.

So, what makes a commercial smart building smart? Let’s find out.

Whether it is a manufacturing line, commercial warehouse, or corporate office building, there are three main components to a commercial smart building. The first is sensor implementation. With the rapid drop in sensor price organizations now have the capacity to place data gathering sensors throughout their entire building infrastructure (think, lighting, machines, HVAC systems, etc.). The second smart building component is data storage, and the third is data analytics. If you’re collecting trillions of bytes of data from a building’s infrastructure (vis-à-vis your thousands of newly installed sensors) you’ll need a place to store and analyze it. These are the components that are the foundation of any commercial smart building.

So who’s slated to win this battle royal between smart homes and commercial smart buildings?

Smart Buildings vs. Smart Homes: Who Wins?

If we are to only take the predicted market value of these two markets (smart homes at $21 billion and industrial smart buildings at $25 billion) it certainly seems that industrial smart buildings are favored to win the war.

The sheer number of U.S. households is a whopping 125 million versus a measly 5.6 million commercial buildings, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). While commercial buildings pale in comparison, the EIA pegs that commercial energy use represents over 53% of total US. energy usage. Therefore, the energy savings potential alone could very well sway the pendulum.

Driving the mass-market adoption of 125 million homes is a tall order. Especially when compared to the total commercial building market.  As more businesses make the move to smarter building operations free market competition soon follows. Thus, driving the greater adoption among business in an effort to gain a competitive edge.

Time will only tell how the smart home vs. smart commercial building war will play out. I certainly have my money on commercial smart buildings. And not just because I live and breath this world daily. In my humble opinion, the combining forces of higher operational investment capacity and free market competition mechanics will foster the rapid adoption of commercial smart buildings over smart homes.

Bottom-line, the next five years will reveal whether smarter commercial buildings will, in fact, lead the charge of IoT adoption.


IoT Apps? Please, explain.

What operating systems did for computers in the 70’s and 80’s, new application platforms will do for the Internet of Things. With an imminent explosion of connected devices expected how we connect, interact and communicate with these devices is the 64 million-dollar question.

Just how many connected devices and IoT applications are we talking about?

Whether we’re citing statistics from Intel, IBM, or Cisco, the fact is, the Internet of Things is going to consist of billions – if not trillions – of connected devices. The annual transmission of data from these devices is expected to surpass 2 zettabytes by 2019. That’s over 2 trillion gigabytes a year….I don’t even think there are enough iPhones in existence to hold that amount a data!

Put it another way, there’s a great Cisco infographic that explains it this way: “If the 11oz coffee on your desk equals one gigabyte, a zettabyte would have the same volume as the Great Wall of China.” Yeah, we’re talking about a lot of data coming from a lot of devices.

And IoT applications? What are they and what’s their role in this data tsunami?

Let’s take a look.

Internet of Things Applications

Decoding IoT Applications & Platforms

Just as the operating system allows for direct communication with the hardware components of computers and mobile devices, so too will IoT application platforms. Well at least in a manner of speaking. Let’s expand a little more without going too far into the weeds.

Hardware, OS, and Apps

Take the example of a computer operating system. At its core, the primary job of an OS is to handle all of the physical hardware instructions. What to do, how to do it, and when to do it. This allows an application programmer to focus their attention on writing application code and not have to worry about coding hardware functions into their applications.

So, what does this ecosystem look like?

IoT Applications

In the above diagram, we see a typical computer ecosystem. The computer is made up of a bunch of physical hardware pieces. Think, microchips, memory, processors, a screen, etc. In order to make each of these hardware pieces work in conjunction, it is the operating system that sends the instructions to each piece of hardware.

Now, a typical application will sit on top of the operating system. Here, the OS acts as an intermediary between the application and device hardware. The application itself is what the end-user sees/uses to take advantage of the hardware’s processing power. For simplicity’s sake think, Word, PowerPoint, Web Browsers, etc.. These are the end-user applications that sit on top of the computer’s operating system.

Shapes and Forms of the OS and Apps

To expand the concept a little further, let’s think about your iPad, Samsung phone, home computer, and work laptop.

Each of the devices above consist of various physical hardware pieces. The major difference is the operating system that each of them use to instruct their physical hardware pieces. In this case, your iPad would use iOS. The Samsung phone uses the Android operating system. And your home computer and work laptop could each use Mac OS or Microsoft Windows OS, respectively. Different operating systems for different hardware pieces that each run different applications.

Now what this means is for each operating system there are specific applications that were written to work on those specific operating systems. That’s why we can’t use, say the web browser Safari, on a computer running the Windows operating system. They're simply not compatible. Or the fact you can't achieve the same functionality of your iPhone Instagram application when you try to put it on your iPad.

Before IoT Apps, We Need IoT Platforms

Just as with our computer example we can’t have an IoT application without first having an IoT platform (i.e. operating system) for it to live on. A little different from a computer operating system, an IoT platform is more like a repository for IoT applications to dump their data.  We could, I guess technically, make the same comparison in our computer example in that the end-user applications  “live” on top of the computer operating system. And without the computer operating system, we computer applications would be useless as is.

Because the Internet of Things is far more focused on the digitization of our physical world, the IoT platform is geared to housing and analyzing these quadrillions of bytes of data. Versus being solely focused on sending instructions to physical hardware, like in our computer example. But the general context of computer OS and applications fits an IoT world.

So, who are the IoT platform players?

IoT Leaders

IoT Application Platform Leaders

Here is where things get interesting. The players in the IoT platform game is incredibly wide-ranging. Some of the largest tech giants are in the mix, of course. What’s surprising – or maybe not that surprising – is the inclusion of some industrial giants. A group that's historically less thought of as tech innovators.

In fact, some research firms – namely Gartner and IoT Analytics – estimate there are hundreds of IoT platform development companies in the market as of the end of last year. We’ll jump into those a little later. For now, we’ll focus our attention on what I think are the largest players. Those with the most extensive IoT platforms today for some pretty comprehensive data analytics.

These IoT platform leaders include:

  • General Electric’s Predix Platform
  • Microsoft’s Azure Platform
  • IBM’s Watson Platform
  • Amazon’s AWS Platform
  • Cisco’s Jasper Control Center Platform

Each of these IoT application platforms house some incredible promise. With hundreds of industry clients and partners already working with many of these platforms, the advent of more IoT applications is soon to follow.

For example, let’s take a look at GE’s Predix platform. According to GE, Predix is the operating system for the Industrial Internet.

By connecting industrial equipment, analyzing data, and delivering real-time insights, Predix-based apps are unleashing new levels of performance."

Through the use of GE’s Internet of Things platform businesses now have a “home” to place industrial IoT applications. Let's look at an example. In this case, an example could include GE’s purchase of advanced lighting and building control manufacturer Daintree Networks. Daintree’s building automation solutions, once stand-alone web-based software, will now be transformed into an IoT application that lives on the Pridix operating system.

Who Else is Leading the IoT Platform & Application Game?

According to IoT Analytics, a market research firm, the top twenty IoT companies vary across multiple markets. In total, IoT Analytics estimates there are over 400 IoT platform companies in the market as of 2016.

Here are the top twenty as ranked by IoT Analytics:

  1. IBM – Software
  2. Google – Various
  3. Intel – Semiconductor
  4. Microsoft – Software
  5. Cisco – Hardware
  6. Apple – Consumer Products
  7. SAP – Software
  8. Oracle – Software
  9. Samsung – Consumer Products
  10. HP – Software
  11. Ericsson – M2M
  12. Amazon – Software
  13. GE – Industrial Equipment
  14. Qualcomm – Semiconductor
  15. AT&T – M2M
  16. Orange – M2M
  17. Blackberry – Software
  18. Facebook – Software
  19. Dell – Hardware
  20. Verizon – M2M

Match or Clash: Is my business ready for the IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to revolutionize the business world and our personal lives in the coming years. At least this is what the IT gurus and talking heads tout daily. The real question is whether or not the IoT is a good match for your business. Should you play into the hype and promise of the IoT? And if so, where should you focus your attention? Moreover, how do you best plan and implement an IoT strategy?

As a business leader, these are the questions that need answering. Especially if your organization is considering investing capital in the Internet of Things. Which according to a survey conducted by Wired , 96% of senior business leaders polled plan to use the IoT in the next three years. Let’s dig into these murky waters and see if we can shed some light on how businesses can best approach the IoT, today. In real terms, with real results.

Understanding the Many Aspects of the IoT

Before diving into whether your business is ready for the IoT or not, let’s first gain a better understanding of the existing offerings and capabilities of the IoT. If we break out the current offerings and capabilities of the IoT, as exist today, there are really two major markets:

Consumer IoT
Commercial IoT

And within each of the industry markets, we’ll find multiple market segments with varying product offerings for each.

What’s the Consumer IoT All About?

When it comes to the consumer Internet of Things, think tech gadgets. The wearable athletic bracelet that tracks your every movement, sleep patterns, and general health. Or the wildly hyped consumer appliances that automatically order your groceries when they’re running low. These modern Jetsonesque products are targeted to making our daily lives as consumers more connected and efficient. Who loves grocery shopping anyway? (Well, side note, I do, but that’s beside the point).

These modern Jetsonesque products are targeted to making our daily lives as consumers more connected and efficient. Who loves grocery shopping, anyway? (Well, side note, I do, but that’s beside the point).

While the consumer IOT market is growing year over year, many analysts are calling for a stall in the market. Mainly due to the interoperability of products. Meaning your Whirlpool fridge can’t technically talk to your Phillips Hue lightbulbs, and neither can talk with the living room television. Here’s a great Forbes article of this impending market stall in the consumer IoT market by Mike Farley, CEO of smart location company Tile.

Consumer IoT Wearables

Consumer IoT Market Segments

When we think about the varied products of the consumer market it doesn’t take long for a throbbing headache to follow. The vast array of products is simply mind boggling – from consumer staples, technology, and luxury items. In short, the main consumer IoT markets are:

  1. Appliances (think, connected washers and refrigerators)
  2. Electronics (think, connected wearables, cameras, etc.)
  3. Home Goods (think, connected light bulbs, shades, etc.)

Understanding the Power of the Commercial IoT

In terms of commercial IoT – or what GE dubs the Industrial Internet – here is where we see the most promise and utility of the Internet of Things. We’re talking about connected machines, building systems, and the like. These “smart” factories and buildings are where the rubber meets the road in terms of productivity, cost savings, and overall return on investment.

In fact, a report released by CSG International stated that 94% of businesses polled have already seen a return on their investments in the Internet of Things.

What’s more amazing is the fact that when we talk about advanced building control systems, coupled with high-efficiency building equipment, organizations can see an ROI of less than a year in some cases.

That’s huge. Far more bang for the buck.

How does the IoT fit into the traditional industrial markets? Let’s take a look.

Commercial IoT Market Segments

The commercial IoT market is primarily broken into four industrial segments. These industrial segments are expressed as:

  1. Enterprise (think, connected building infrastructure)
  2. Healthcare (think, connected hospital and doctor office medical records)
  3. Analytics (think, general big data analysis)
  4. Industrial and Software (think, manufacturing line/production efficiency)

Is my business even ready for the IoT?

So, is your business ready to dive into the Internet of Things? And if so, where should you focus your attention? Let’s start with where you should/could best focus your attention.

As we’ve laid out thus far, the two main markets for the IoT today really reside in the consumer and commercial spaces. While the consumer market is poised for future growth, the current return on investment of “smart” consumer products is yet to be seen at scale. Think, connected egg crate - not a high ROI there.

On the other hand, there are plenty of use cases for the utility of commercial IoT. This is especially true when you consider the return on investment of smarter, more efficient, connected building systems and manufacturing processes.

Getting Business Ready for the Internet of Things

Without the gamble of whether a new connected product will deliver the ROI your organization seeks, exploring the commercial Internet of Things could make far more sense. Here are a few steps to get your business ready.

Steps to ready your business for the commercial IoT:

  1. Building System Analysis: To see if your organization's facility is a candidate for improved efficiency, conducting a comprehensive building analysis is a good first step. Working with your facility’s manager take an in-depth look at your current lighting, HVAC, and control systems and document areas for efficiency improvements.
  2. Manufacturing System Analysis: Just as in step one, if your business is in the business of manufacturing products, conducting an in-depth manufacturing system analysis is a good first step in identifying areas you could explore how the Internet of Things (or Machine to Machine communication) could improve efficiency.
  3. Education: This step really goes without saying, and if you’re reading this post you’re already out there brushing up on the IoT and how it can work with (or against) your business. Knowing what area of the IoT to research further is a big help in starting this process. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time reading about how to make a “connected widget" that nobody really wants.

Business Planning for Internet of Things

Time to Dip Your Toes: Approaching the Internet-of-Things

So, you’ve conducted some in-depth analysis of your organization’s systems and you’re now ready to jump into the IoT.

Great!

Where do you go from here? That depends on the type of commercial Internet of Things market segment you choose to explore further. If you’re looking to take advantage of some low hanging fruit we’d recommend starting with a building control management solution. This gives you the opportunity to not only increase building efficiency (think, LED Lighting), it’ll give you the opportunity to expand your comfort level and lay the foundation to build upon in the future.

Start small. Approaching the commercial IoT through an advanced building control management solution can be completed in phases over time. Approaching commercial IoT in phases will also give you the flexibility you need to ensure your business is achieving the return on its investments over time.

 


Pushing the Reality of the Internet of Things (IoT)

You can hear the trumpets sounding the arrival of the Internet of Things (IoT) daily. They’re honestly easy to hear. Everyone from your proverbial IT geeks to business behemoths like Microsoft, Cisco, and GE are pushing the promise of the IoT.

But with all of the hype and promise abound, what is the reality of the IoT?  How much of this tech movement really matters to ordinary businesses? Should businesses really pay attention to all of this market chatter? Let's find out.

Through our discussion today, we’ll help to better define the nuances of the IoT and shed light on its utility today.

The Internet of Things Revolution

It’s here they say, the Internet of Things. And with billions of connected devices already flooding our daily lives, it's really not much of a surprise to hear. In fact, by 2025 researchers predict there will be over 100 billion IoT devices connected to networks.

Now, whether it's 10 million or 100 billion the fact is there will be more connected devices tomorrow than today.  The real question is, just how far are these connected devices going to go? And moreover, what will their impact be on our personal lives and business operations?

By the sounds of the hype surrounding connected consumer goods, you'd think we're on the cusp of a technology revolution. But in all honesty, I'm just not convinced that the fact my "connected" toothbrush can tell my coffee maker to make coffee justifies a tech revolution. Do you? I mean, cool, my coffee will be ready by the time I'm out of the bathroom, but not earth-shattering.

So where is the true “power” of the IoT? Where is this all-out technological revolution going to come from? And more importantly, how will it impact businesses, people, and profit?

Let’s see if we can find some answers.

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 was originally coined by the high-tech government policies of Germany in the early 2000's. What is it, exactly? Well, today’s Industry 4.0 seeks to make industrial manufacturing smarter, faster, and more efficient. This is accomplished by connecting the various parts, pieces, and machines of manufacturing. Here, we're talking machines, workflows, and processes using embedded sensors to streamline operations and self-learn.

Sound familiar? Sure does to me…hmm.."Internet of Things,” anyone?

What originally started as genuine German engineering prowess, the global marketplace is catching up. Industrial manufacturing behemoth General Electric is jumping on the bandwagon too.  Where the Germans call for more integrated machines, GE is calling for smarter factories on the whole. Factories that can self-learn, provide predictive analytics, and are powered by the Industrial Internet.

Industrial Internet, you ask? This is GE's handy marketing phrase for what the Germans call Industry 4.0. They are virtually one in the same.

Industrial Internet of Things

Start matching dollars to these technology terms and it's apparent this isn't some tech fad. GE estimates that the Industrial Internet will add a whopping $10–15 trillion in global GDP. Yes, trillion with a “T”. Moreover, Intel projects over $41 trillion will be spent on infrastructure upgrades to service the Internet of Things.

That's some serious money we're talking about.

With smarter factories, manufacturing lines, and facility operations, what's the outcome? Well, the hope is to achieve a higher return on investment and lower production cost by slashing overall operating costs. The benefit? Lower priced consumer goods.

That sounds all fine and dandy from a business perspective. What about our the direct personal impact of the IoT?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Often used interchangeably with Industry 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is wholly different. The concept of Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet deal exclusively with the interconnectedness of manufacturing and business operations. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, has a more direct focus on our individual lives.

What do we mean by this? Let’s take a deeper look.

What is the 4th Industrial Revolution?

As Charles Schwab, founder of the Global Economic Forum puts it:

“The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

Wait. What? The blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres? Did we hear that right?

Yes. We did. And we don’t have to look far to find examples of this blurring of digital and biological lines. Whether we’re talking about wearable/embedded gadgets or gene editing (think, Ginkgo Bioworks), the Fourth Industrial Revolution is closer than you think.

4th Industrial Revolution

Impacts of the 4th Industrial Revolution

The interconnectedness of devices, things, machines, and humans is, of course, the core of the Internet of Things. But it’s the advances in Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, Machine Learning, and Robotics that are ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Moreover, this advance in technology is occurring at a faster clip than any other industrial revolution in history.

And the direct human effects of this Fourth Industrial Revolution? To...Be...Determined.

As Professor Schwab puts it:

“In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.”

Where do the IoT and IIoT go from here?

The advancements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are yet to be seen at full scale. I mean, the likelihood of Ginko Bioworks growing organic iPhones through organism engineering is incredibly remote to date. On the other hand, interconnected facilities, machines, parts, and pieces, tell a different story.

As sensor prices continue to come down, while increasing in their capabilities, the use of physical building infrastructures as a platform for the IIoT is more reality than a pipe dream. We’re not the only ones who think so. Consider the moves made by Microsoft, GE, Cisco, and LG. They're all investing heavily in the Industrial Internet of Things. Not to mention the fact that 96% of senior business leaders polled by Wired say they plan to use the IoT in the next three years.

Bottom-line, the Internet of Things is here. And while there are aspects that are still more blue-sky thinking than reality, there’s plenty going on in the market right now for businesses to benefit today. How? A good first step is to take a deeper look at the promise and tangible benefits of the IIoT. Smarter buildings, streamline manufacturing, and better logistics can be measured in real dollars and cents.  Do you want more bang for the buck? The Industrial Internet of Things is the place to look.

 


The ABC and XYZ of the IoT

The Internet of Things, or the IoT, is but the latest tech buzzword to hit the market. This time at lightning speed. Tech conferences from around the world are talking about it. Tech behemoths, like Intel, are talking about it. Even what have been historically considered industrial manufacturers, such as General Electric, are chatting about the IoT. Is your business?

If not, you soon will be. There is simply no doubt about it. Like it or not, the IoT wave is coming to an organization near you – in some way, shape, or form, that is.
So what is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT): 101

There are plenty of folks, some technology veterans, that will say the IoT is nothing new and that it has been around since the beginning days of the Internet. And when we think about the concept of the Internet in its most general form, they have a point. I mean, the entire purpose of the internet is to connect computers, people, and places.

Whether you buy into the historical premise of the Internet of Things being a decades-old truth, or the latest advancement in technology capabilities – that include more advanced sensors, computing power, and deep analytics – today’s Internet of Things boils down to a single sentence:

The IoT is the convergence of the physical and digital worlds.

What does this mean to the average business? And why should a business care? Well, let’s take a deeper look at what this means, exactly, and how it impacts (or better yet, empowers) organizations.

The A,B,C, of the IoT

Taking a deeper dive into what we mean by the “convergence of the physical and digital world,” here are some practical A, B, C’s to first work with.

Augment

the capabilities of today’s more advanced, low-powered, sensors are providing the augmenting power needed to gain greater insight to the physical world – thereby expanding our general understanding of what’s happening.

Let’s put this into a more concrete context.

Say we have a warehouse – or even an office building for that matter – that historically has keep great track of their overall energy bills by implementing an automated record keeping system that digitized their monthly electrical bills and provided them with automated reports detailing how much money they spent on energy each month.
This is great. They are at least gaining some insight to how their facility is using energy, but it’s still a reactionary process. They can’t make changes until they see the past month’s utility bill. This is where the augmenting power of the IoT comes in.

Using embedded sensors (i.e. think new LED lighting fixtures that each house a multi-sensor), the facility fundamentally expands their insight – and that’s just lighting.

Baseline

The augmenting power of today’s Internet of Things-enabled devices (ie. Again, think sensors), facilities, companies, and people now have the insight from the physical world that they need to use the digital world to baseline data. This could be energy use, machine functionality, manufacturing line productivity, the list goes on and on.

Using the same example above we see that by augmenting the physical structure of the facility with digital enhancements – such as embedded lighting sensors – facility management now have the capability and capacity to collect and analyze data to baseline detailed energy usages with far more specifically – versus simply looking at their monthly utility bill to see how much energy they used.

This can now identify potential maintenance issues, profit from efficiency opportunities, and better plan operational budgets – all because their physical world has been augmented with digital data.

Correct

What’s meant by correct?

Well, seeing how the IoT allows for the augmentation (or expansion) of the physical world through sensory technology, and by using that insight and data we can now baseline virtually anything (production flow, energy, space utilization, etc.), the third prong to the benefits of the IoT is the actionable power of our insight. Through rigorous analytics we businesses can make highly informed decisions regarding their business operations, products, and people – making correction where needed. These could be correction to production processes, product development, manufacturing productivity, energy usages, better space utilization for office spaces, etc.

The X,Y,Z, of the IoT

We understand the hype that the ABC’s of the IoT provide, but what are the XYZ’s of the IoT? Where does the Internet of Things go from here?

The power of augmenting our physical world through digital means – which in the process expands our general operational knowledge and business insight – is undeniable. The question that remains is just how far will the Internet of Things go? And when will we see mainstream adoption of the IoT?

Well, here are some quick answers to these two important questions.

Answer #1

How far will the Internet of Things go?

The limitations of the Internet of Things, right now, seems to be interoperability. What’s meant by this? If we look at the IoT from a higher level (a 30,000ft view if you will), we can see challenges in communication between systems.

Let’s look at an example. Say we have our office/warehouse as in our earlier example, and say they’ve now migrated all their lighting fixtures to high-efficiency LED lighting with embedded sensors to capture operational data. Then let’s say next year they install a product tracking solution to provide deeper insight to their warehouse logistics. The question is: Will these two system communicate together on a single platform, or will they be siloed?

Couple this with the advent of a manufacturing line, consumer products, and we can start to see a very muddy picture indeed.

Interoperability. This will be one of the greatest limitation to the IoT at present.

Answer #2

When will we see mass adoption of the Internet of Things?

It may be some time before we see the true mass adoption of the IoT – especially when we consider the consumer side of the market as with the personal computer in the early 80’s.

What we can say for certain is that the Industrial Internet of Things is poised to make massive moves in 2017. Between smart building controls, lighting, machine, HVAC, and production line advancements, the commercial mass adoption of the IoT (or Industrial Internet of Things) is a lot closer than many may think.