Archive for the ‘ERP (enterprise resource planning)’ Category

Smart Buildings, Intelligent Enterprise – IIT

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

How smart are your buildings?

Smart enough to assist you in making critical business decisions at the enterprise level?

The world of building control automation has certainly come a long way in recent years. During the past several years, building control automation has been a key component in helping you manage lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), safety and security, and access control in your facilities. The development of open communication standards like BACnet and LonWorks, and the advent of Web-based technology most recently has taken this investment a step further, allowing data drawn from these disparate systems to be consolidated and accessible from any Internet connection.

Without a doubt, this has laid the groundwork for developing what the industry has termed smart buildings. But in order to truly leverage the advantages produced by smart buildings, the next step needs to be taken in the form of making this data an active part of your business enterprise.

Many believe this step involves the convergence of building control automation with enterprise IT (information technology) systems. The idea is taking data mined from your smart building portfolio and integrating it with such systems as accounting, or ERP (enterprise resource planning), or business intelligence applications. For example, perhaps your enterprise accounting application could tap into realtime figures from an energy management system in your buildings, allowing you to see the true cost impact of energy expenses across your entire business.

The possibilities are many, as this data can assist in developing and benchmarking sustainability initiatives within facilities, comparing and contrasting design and construction methods employed, or even helping negotiate with energy suppliers on rates (per the example above).

The convergence of building automation with enterprise IT is an objective that will continue to substantiate your investment in building control automation for years to come. In a recently published reports, analysts describe this process as using the networking and computing infrastructure of your enterprise as an integral part of your building control automation infrastructure.

As opposed to the typical model of having the components of building control being entirely self-contained, integrating them with enterprise IT allows field devices to be networked on the same Ethernet or IP (Internet protocol) backbone as your IT systems and hardware. In the same manner, software used to manage building control would operate on the same computing platform as key enterprise applications.

This, holds numerous benefits, namely in the form of cost reduction. By re-using existing networking and computing resources owners reduce the need for multiple technology infrastructures—one at the enterprise level and one at the building control level. This subsequently leads to a reduction in staff required to manage multiple infrastructures.

By in large, though, this pure level of integration between building automation and IT is not occurring with great regularity. This is due in large part to the lack of alignment between facilities management and corporate IT groups within many large corporate owner organizations.

While many corporate owners have yet to achieve this pure integration, they are turning towards third-party services that facilitate communication between their building automation level and their enterprise level.

Current Options
Ron Zimmer, president and CEO, CABA (Continental Automated Buildings Assn.), www.caba.org, Ottawa, Ont., sees a myriad of factors impeding widespread convergence of IT and building control automation. In particular, is the fact many owner/operators do not see the full lifecycle value of mining data tapped from building control systems.

Yet the biggest deterrent he sees is the fact many owners/operators do not possess the in-house expertise to review the data and make the best decisions. In most cases, the person at the building control level does not have access to enterprise data and/or does not possess the authority to make a decision with regards to that level. This has created an opportunity for third-party companies to provide a bit of assistance.

Davmark provides a service to owners in which the company connects to existing building automation systems—primarily energy management—and, using BACnet as an information model, mines data over a WAN (wide area network) to a large database. Within that database Davmark runs a series of algorithms, based on mechanical, electrical, and energy consuming systems, in order to show owners savings on energy, maintenance, operations, regulatory issues, and comfort in what it calls an ongoing commissioning fashion. The company says it can connect with building control systems from all the leading providers.

“By connecting to these systems and running this fault diagnostic detection and optimization technology, we can find basically 15% or more in hard energy savings,” says David Slade, Director of Davmark Group. “That 15% is 15% of the HVAC energy-spend for the building. We can save that money without capital investment.”

Many top universities, including Harvard, Yale, University of Michigan, University of Florida, and Michigan State, as users of similar systems. In addition, this technology is in use at many prominent government buildings and life science facilities across the country.

“Our original vision was to have the system bring the information up to the enterprise, but what we found was that most customers cannot execute on that data,” says David. “Instead it’s a process where our own energy and mechanical engineers look at data and compare it to enterprise data in order to make recommendations to the owner on certain issues.”

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC), www.northcarolina.edu, Chapel Hill, N.C., made a similar investment during 2006 using the EnNET framework from GridLogix, www.gridlogix.com, St. Louis, Mo., and installation services from Cyrus Technologies Inc., www.cyrustechnologies.com, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. According to GridLogix, UNC required all control systems used within its 140 buildings on campus be integrated with its existing IT network. All disparate building control systems were to be consolidated into a single Web-based user interface with the inherent data communicated to the enterprise.

According to GridLogix, this technology, which leverages XML (extensible markup language) and Web services, aligns directly with converging automation and IT. Property managers are able to connect accounting systems to building management systems to determine energy consumption and develop procedures for cost allocation and control. Building owners can connect asset management systems to building management systems in order to automatically generate work orders, and perform dispatching activities, among other tasks.

Laying the Groundwork
Enterprise processes information and technology can certainly envision the benefit of integrating building control automation with corporate IT systems.

“Davmark don’t really see it being used in the accounting system. More likely for us would be to use (building control data) in some sort of data warehouse or business intelligence system so that analytics could be performed on the data for various uses,” says David Slade. “I can see that sort of data being useful in a variety of ways; trending, future design, sustainability initiatives (LEED / BREEAM), etc.”

Achieving that level of integration would weigh heavily on how the automation systems are set up. Ton says, “Depending upon the database structures used in the building monitoring systems I could see it being ODBC connections, or if need be some sort of XML integration using middleware or other integration tools.”

Davmark are still in the primary stages of developing its core building automation strategy it offers. Engaged in the development, construction, acquisition, management, and ownership of commercial real estate which can be adopted for any large project in such sectors as healthcare, retail, office, and industrial.

Given this growing nationwide presence, David recently implemented technology that allows it to tap into building information from many disparate systems across its multiple locations. Technology, integrates building control systems across multiple properties and makes key data available via the Web.

David says one of the goals is to develop a set of standards, not only for building controls, but also for the technology within the building from an IT perspective. This includes the type of connectivity each building requires, how data is being tied together, and how that same data is brought back to central spot. These standards in place will make the process described earlier by Ton more realistic, as the enterprise systems would be drawing on accurate and consistent data.

“From the property management perspective, our value to the organization is to be able to develop benchmarks in how we do what we do, (examine) our operating costs locally, regionally, and nationally and be able to translate that into usable data,”

“As we develop properties, we can take that information and get it into the hands of our leasing and development clients, so that as we structure deals, not only for development of properties, but also for the leasing of properties, they will have some good solid market info when it comes to operating expenses and cost to do business.”

This technology integration will play a major role as the company continues to successfully develop, build, lease, and operate facilities.

“A lot of times IT gets tucked into the backoffice supporting the accounting system, but this is a prime opportunity for IT to jump in and be a part of the business.”

“This is where the business of development and construction meets up with IT and where the two technologies start to come together.”  •