Is the Internet of Things (IoT) just an overhyped technology vision or can it practically improve businesses today? Can bringing IoT into a facility help it run more efficiently and reliably? What other positive business outcomes can IoT enable? Is it cybersecure? And, who is needed to help successfully deploy a Facility IoT strategy within an organization?
As a leading provider in the Energy IoT space, we get these questions a lot. Last week, in collaboration with Dell and Facility Executive, we put together a webinar to answer those questions and paint a clear picture of what IoT can do within your facility today. The complete one-hour webinar “Can IoT Live Up to the Hype Within Your Facility?” is available for audio playback and the presentation slides are available for download. This blog covers some of the highlights.
IoT is About Connecting the Energy Things that Power Your Facility
IoT is very much available right now — it includes many consumer devices. Internet-connected smart devices and equipment are everywhere, from Nest thermostats to mobile phones and fitness trackers. But what about today’s commercial and industrial facilities? There is no doubt today’s facility is much smarter than in the past. Modern equipment installed in commercial and industrial facilities was designed with integrated intelligence and communication protocols not available in the equipment installed decades ago — from building control systems to lighting and better fire/safety equipment, you most likely are already reaping some of the benefits from a smarter building.
But while a great improvement, these systems are still siloed, or disconnected. They tend to speak separately, and often in different languages, which means they can’t talk to each other. To tap into the true IoT and bring all of its benefits to facilities, we must achieve four things:
- All Energy Things™ — must be connected and centrally controlled. Any device that switches, generates, stores, measures or consumes energy should be connected into your buildings’ IoT platform.
- The data from all things must be able to be shared across systems and facilities.
- Data must be capable of being shared outside of single sites, for campus and portfolio Centralized Facilities Management; and
- The security problems plaguing smart buildings must be fixed, and vulnerabilities must be addressed.
IoT is designed to bridge gaps between smart devices and create a truly connected, secure environment. While a smart thermostat may deliver significant productivity improvements to a home, commercial and industrial facilities are vastly more complex, making similar improvements harder to achieve. Instead of point solutions, like a single smart thermostat, IoT solutions are platforms that can connect, monitor, and operate dozens of connected devices at once. We like to say any “energy thing” that switches, generates, stores, measures or consumes energy should be connected into your buildings’ IoT platform.
Finally — and this is probably the hardest part — IoT connectivity starts locally, but must scale globally. That means all sites across an entire organization can be easily connected into a “system of systems” that works for hundreds of sites in any time zone, across wide geographical areas. When this kind of global connectedness is achieved, data is easily reconciled, managed and displayed to make sense to the facility manager at an HQ in a different country and time zone from a local site. Data is accurate, meaningful and easy to predict; managers can identify trends, score buildings on energy performance or report on significant events as they are happening, which drives efficiencies and operational savings.
Smart, responsive, and globally connected Energy IoT solutions make it easier for companies to add new energy assets, including on-site renewable energy sources, to their facilities. IoT takes much of the guesswork out of integrating renewables into existing energy systems and locks in the benefits of the added flexibility, lower energy costs, and greater independence that they provide. The end result is not only good for business, it’s good for the environment, the community and customers. Today, 58 of the world’s most recognizable brands including Walmart, Nike and Intel have pledged to run their businesses on 100% renewable energy.
Global Trends Growing Energy IoT’s Value
How we generate, distribute, value, buy and sell energy is changing. From expanding renewable energy resources to the intensifying need for more flexible, modernized electrical grids, energy systems are becoming more complex. For businesses and facility managers, the most important energy trends are onsite energy generation (Distributed Energy Resources). Today, about 55 percent of commercial and industrial facilities report generating power onsite at their facilities and behind-the-meter generation has seen a 400 percent increase in recent years.
With energy systems in flux, the need to closely monitor energy use and energy system performance has never been greater. For example, if an industrial facility is subject to dynamic electricity pricing —prices that change throughout the day based on demand — it has much to gain by closely watching how much electricity from the grid it is using at a given time. Connected energy systems can also automate usage changes to avoid peak demand charges that are applied to many commercial and industrial facilities. More specifically, Energy IoT can cut costs by boosting the energy efficiency of everyday operations. These potential benefits are well known in business circles: 79 percent of organizations believe that energy management goals will give them a competitive advantage. However, fewer than five percent of those surveyed said they actually had real-time access to the energy data that would be needed to successfully deploy energy management programs.
Energy IoT Means Security
Today, no large company or major brand can afford to ignore the threat of a cybersecurity breach. Some recent high-profile cyberattacks on U.S. companies occurred by gaining access to the building control systems as their entry point, and cybercriminals are smarter and more sophisticated than they’ve ever been. Unified control of facility systems through IoT can greatly enhance security and prevent current and future security breaches. And with energy systems at risk as well as data systems, the importance of that enhanced security can’t be underestimated.
Blue Pillar: At the Intersection of IT and OT through Partnerships with Microsoft and Dell
Blue Pillar’s Aurora platform is the only IoT solution to connect all “energy things,” regardless of make or brand, and offers the advantage of fast and affordable installation. Because energy powers nearly everything in the modern world, the platform has been applied to a number of different industries and facility projects.
We believe IoT is well beyond the hype phase because we see IT and OT converging behind-the-meter within our customers’ facilities who have deployed Aurora®. Thanks to market-leading technology companies like Dell and Microsoft, who Blue Pillar partners with to deliver our Aurora Energy Network of Things™ platform, facility executives can rely on mature solutions backed by decades of proven experience. By working together to deliver a proven solution, facilities executives can apply IoT to achieve greater energy efficiency, reliability, independence, and security.