Building owners and facilities managers look to the cloud for insight

November 8, 2018
Richard Theron

There’s an old saying that, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” It has less to do with the actual impact of the sun’s rays on bacteria, and more to do with the impact that transparency can have on any number of things, from politicians to employee behavior. 

The saying has survived the test of time because it’s true. The more transparency you have into something’s inner workings, what’s really going on, the easier it is to identify malicious behavior, locate problems, and take steps to correct issues. 

Imagine that you’re an owner of multiple buildings or developments. Let’s say they’re shopping malls. Or a number of those mixed-use communities that are all of the rage these days among millennials looking to live near-ish to cities. Or multiple co-working spaces located in various urban environments across the globe. How do you know what’s happening in your buildings, developments, and co-working offices that could be costing you money? 

How do you know if energy is being wasted? Or if the heat and lights are turned on and turned up in the dead of night when nobody is around? Or if the mechanical equipment is being abused, overworked, or not being maintained? 

Without transparency into what’s happening in your buildings, developments, or offices, you can’t identify tenant and facility management behaviors that could be costing you money. It’s impossible to compare usage from facility to facility to identify outliers. You simply have to sit back month after month, collect and pay bills without really knowing what’s impacting the numbers on the page and how you can change them. 

The transparency needed to root out these issues is available, thanks to OEMs that have embraced the cloud. 

Cloud means more transparency

By cloud-enabling today’s advanced equipment, OEMs that manufacture that equipment are creating a pathway for building and property owners and facilities managers with multiple, disparate locations to get the transparency they need to better manage their properties. 

Using cloud solutions and gateways that are readily available on the market today, these OEMs can enable the building owners to see the data generated by all of their equipment across all of their disparate properties in a single dashboard. The analytics can be easily displayed, analyzed, and compared to identify which properties are outliers, and then take steps to correct them. 

By comparing electricity, heating, and cooling usage, building owners can establish benchmarks and averages. From there, properties and buildings that are below the averages can be analyzed for systems and practices that could be rolled out across the organization to make everyone better. Those that are above the benchmarks can be given plans and incentives to get their usage numbers down to,  or below,  benchmarks. 

Let’s think about how this could play out in the real world. 

Co-working case study shows the capabilities of the cloud

Let’s say you own one of those trendy co-working companies. You know, one of the companies that has a floor or two in a handful of buildings in each major city on most continents. 

You’re not an IT person. You’re also not a facilities manager or an expert in industrial/commercial equipment. You don’t know what BACnet is, and you don’t care to find out. But you do have a handful of offices that are racking up massive electricity bills, and a few that are calling for HVAC maintenance and service really frequently and costing you a fortune. 

By utilizing a cloud gateway to gather and harvest the usage data from all of your equipment across all of your properties, you can now get usage statistics and data to a single dashboard or pane of glass where it can be visualized, compared, and analyzed. 

When referencing your dashboard, you find that the co-working offices on Wall Street in New York City, and the offices in Northern Virginia, right outside of Washington, D.C., are burning through more energy than most of the other facilities that the company operates. 

You also notice that San Francisco is one of the lowest users of energy across the entire company. You now have the power and insight necessary to reach out to the individuals operating the San Francisco offices to identify what they’re doing right. You can then pass those best practices off to the Northern Virginia and Wall Street offices to help them improve while giving them goals and deadlines to meet. 

Today’s modern commercial and industrial equipment is generating a mountain of data thanks in large part to OEMs cloud-enabling their products. If building owners and managers embraced the same cloud gateways and technologies to harvest the usage data from their own equipment, they’d have the transparency they need to find problems, fix them and increase the profitability of their operations.   

Richard Theron
Richard Theron is the product line manager for FieldServer at MSA, where he works intimately with companies in the building automation, industrial automation, energy management and life safety markets to help them cloud-enable their equipment.

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