The Internet of Things (IoT), defined broadly as “a network of everyday items with embedded computers that can connect directly or indirectly to the internet,” promises to rapidly change the landscape of how we design and operate our buildings. Successful integration of the IoT can aid in the creation of an intelligent building – one that is able to constantly monitor conditions, analyze data, and make changes to optimize facility performance for both the occupants and for the owners.
The projected growth rate of the IoT varies considerably. Some have predicted that about 20 billion devices will be connected by 2020 while other experts forecast the number closer to 50 billion. Some forecasts even project that as many as 100+ billion connected devices will be in place by 2020. Whether the actual number of connected IoT devices by 2020 is at the low or high end of the forecast, it is clear that annual spending in the IoT market is increasing substantially. The International Data Corporation (IDC) calculating that the worldwide market for IoT solutions will reach $7.1 trillion in four years.
Despite the enthusiasm for IoT, a recent survey released by Cisco Systems found that only 26% of percent of companies have had IoT initiatives that they considered a complete success. The survey was conducted across a range of industries — manufacturing, local government, retail/hospitality/sports, energy (utilities/oil & gas/mining), transportation, and health care. Of the 1,845 leaders surveyed, 60 percent said their IoT initiatives stalled at the proof of concept phase.
Our customers are seeking to leverage the Internet of Things to create Intelligent Buildings and we are seeing them face the same challenges detailed in Cisco’s survey, like complexity in integration and lack of internal expertise. If you are considering an Intelligent Building initiative to leverage the Internet of Things, we recommend you consider these key points before getting started:
Cross-Functional Project Team
Facilities and Engineering teams inside an organization typically drive decisions on building systems and design. While that does not need to change, a successful implementation of intelligent IoT-based systems requires a robust, reliable network. Companies need to include both facilities and IT/network personnel in the design process. It seems unnatural for some organizations to have IT leaders evaluate lighting or HVAC systems, but the ability of those systems to integrate with your network is a key factor in determining if an IoT project will be successful. There is currently no industry standard for the configuration of IoT devices; organizations need to evaluate those devices for functionality, value, and their ability to be supported by the corporate network. That evaluation requires a cross functional project team.
Ask More of Manufacturers on Interoperability
Innovations are happening in the Internet of Things space every day. In our experience, many initiatives are being stalled because of interoperability. As an example, customers are identifying smart lighting systems that they want to integrate with building HVAC devices such that the occupancy sensor in the light triggers the HVAC supply to ramp up to meet setpoint in an office. Integrations like these are possible today but they are not seamless; customers are forced to do a lot of custom programming in a Building Management System instead of controlling and managing these devices over the network (with PoE or wireless systems). Positive change in our industry will come from customers demanding more of manufacturers – to make systems that leverage standard network protocols for communication. Identify manufacturers that have both great products and a willingness to work collaboratively with you to create a solution that work for your organization.
Check your Telecommunications Rooms (TRs)
The impact that an Internet of Things or Intelligent Building project will have on a network, particularly the pathways and spaces that support it, will be significant. Designing an Intelligent Building that leverages IoT devices cannot be done with undersized TRs and telecommunications pathways. Intelligent Buildings require more density of cabling, which requires more space, power, and cooling in your TRs. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your existing infrastructure can handle an IoT implementation; carefully evaluate what you have prior to finalizing your project design and budget.
In Cisco’s survey, 60% of respondents expressed that IoT initiatives “often look good on paper but prove much more difficult than anyone expected.” The study further found that the most successful organizations engage the IoT partner ecosystem at every stage. The reality is that IoT and Intelligent Building projects are complex. Your team members that already have facility, employee, budget, (and more) responsibilities and they can benefit from supplementing internal expertise with a partner that understands facility and technology systems. Engaging a partner to support you can help you ask the right questions, vet out interoperability challenges, and create a successful project plan.
The potential security issues surrounding IoT devices have been widely reported. Although it is something that everyone on your team is likely aware of, when an Intelligent Building project is initiated the focus tends to be placed on system functionality and design. Security is a topic that has to be raised early in the vendor evaluation process and the right representatives from your organization need to be part of the project team.
Creating and Intelligent Building by leveraging IoT devices may be challenging, but it’s worth it. In Cisco’s survey, 73% of participants are using the data generated from their IoT project in a way that improves their business. The participants listed improved customer satisfaction, operational efficiencies, and improved product/service quality as the top 3 benefits they are receiving. In addition, 39% found improved profitability as an unexpected benefit.