How data push buildings to further intelligence
Source: William Pao, a&s International
The concept of smart buildings and building automation has become more and more common. Nearly all modern new buildings are equipped with building automation systems that optimize the building’s efficiency and energy consumption. Central to these systems are data generated by edge devices that make the building more intelligent than ever.
That’s the point raised by Don Kasper, VP of Operations at Ecorithm
, which develops True Analytics, a cloud-based automated fault detection and diagnostic software. “We collect data from building systems and run our highly specialized analytics to identify opportunities to improve operation and reduce maintenance costs. The software is used by engineers, operators, and service providers to maintain building systems and other equipment in a cost-effective, sustainable, and efficient way,” he said.
According to Kasper, their solution is unique in that it handles two difficult tasks. “First, it efficiently handles large amounts of data. We’ve built our software platform in a way that allows us to ingest data from a variety of sources, including building management systems, web APIs, and our own hardware solutions. Secondly, it identifies subtle patterns of behavior in very complex, dynamic systems. We use spectral analysis, machine-learning, and other advanced data science to allow the computation of fast, accurate fault diagnostics. Our software focuses on accuracy by identifying real, root causes of non-optimal operation and eliminates false alarms,” he said.
Another feature that sets their solution apart is its adaptability to different use cases. “Depending on the hardware, software, and communication protocols used in that building management system, we can apply different hardware and software configurations to collect data. If the native system has the capability to trend data and export it in a flat file, then we can implement a simple Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) configuration on our web-based server that ingests data directly from the native system or an API. Alternatively, we can install our own hardware solution onsite that connects to the building system network in order to collect device data directly and export it directly to our web-server,” Kasper said. “Our hardware solutions read data directly from a building system network using open protocols such as BACnet and then export via a secure VPN connection.”
Drivers for future growth
Kasper cited two driver that he believes would propel the growth of their solution: modernization of building systems and technological appetite. “In 2017, most larger commercial buildings have implemented building management systems for control, which is great; however, there are still a significant number of buildings that have outdated networks for collecting data and/or use proprietary communication protocols that require the installation of expensive drivers in order to trend and export data. These remaining systems need to be modernized with network upgrades and open protocols in order to allow more smart building technologies such as Ecorithm. The irony is that many building owners and operators believe that using older and less technology makes them more secure, but modernizing their systems can ultimately enhance their protection,” he said. “For technological appetite, we see a surge in interest for new technology from an eager millennial workforce. We believe that for any technology to be successful at a client project, the operations team has to recognize the need for a new technology and drive interest in the technological solution.”
He mentioned that his company also places a strong emphasis on network security. “We work hard to ensure the security of our software and hardware solutions beginning with our employees who use VPN connections, encrypted hardware and simple solutions like complex passwords with two-factor authentication. Our software platform is built securely on Amazon’s AWS cloud with special attention paid to our database designs. For our web application, we only provide access to verified and authorized users. Lastly, any transfer of data from project sites is encrypted and sent one-way from site to server using a VPN tunnel. In the smart buildings and Internet of Things (IoT) industry, there are always new security challenges and we are continuously implementing new security protections as the field evolves,” Kasper said.