Rise of the Machines

Smart buildings 2-450x300Building owners are reaping the benefits from new advances in machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and technologies. These advances offer greater situational awareness, demand response and operational efficiency over a unified IP network. The tools available within the audiovisual (AV) and information and communications technologies (ICT) industries are mature enough to contribute to managing these systems, increasing efficiencies alongside traditional building systems.

With today’s systems, owners can now expect a 15-20 percent improvement in energy efficiency within the first year, with a typical payback of one to two years on the initial investment. These systems help owners with their corporate social responsibility reporting process (something increasingly necessary for shareholder approval) by automatically calculating carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions along with power, water and HVAC use reductions.

Incorporating today’s smart systems into building projects provides added benefits above and beyond energy efficiency, including reducing risk, better capital planning, and improved operational performance to both corporate and not-for-profit owners.

So where do we fit in? AV pros are familiar with controls and power management from a systems standpoint, and we play nicely with others (and have for years). Many competitive building systems rely heavily on sensors and monitors — both wired and wireless — that report back to a centralized control center. From there, the facilities manager can utilize the data to implement demand response and calibrate on-site maintenance schedules — all on separate networks. Tying these together and adding in technology systems, such as conference room AV, classroom systems and smart control systems, help extend the available opportunities for further reduction in demand.

The falling costs of data transmission makes it even easier for building owners to manage the vast amount of data now generated by these systems and funneled into the control center. What has made this even more efficient has been the rise of the cloud and the expansive, cost-efficient, high-capacity computing power it offers that wasn’t available to previous generations of building management systems. In addition to cloud networks, open-data communication protocols such as BACnet and LonTalk, as well as open-source Internet protocols, have made interoperability paramount. It so happens the AV industry has years of experience in managing multiple protocols and networks, making us key players in this game.

With all of this data, new and powerful analytical software has been developed to decipher and present it in neat and functional dashboards, complete with intricate algorithms for interpreting data in order to make necessary corrections or maintenance decisions. The AV industry has been creating dashboards to help manage complex audiovisual systems for quite some time, including the ability to remotely manage and correct problems on the fly for everything from a single corporate boardroom to a complete college campus. Such smart technology allows technical, in-the-weeds staff to better manage issues as they arise and even head off issues before they become a problem.

All of these building technologies work together to provide what has become known as “continual commissioning” — consistently and continually monitoring and correcting the various systems within a building. This is what is exciting about today’s technology; it truly makes buildings and building owners smart, while helping to reduce waste and increase operational efficiencies.

According to a 2012 IDC Energy Insights report, projected growth in this market will increase from the current $5.5 billion to $18.1 billion by 2017. “While businesses across the economy continue to focus on bottom-line rebounds following the ‘great recession,’ building owners are expanding their interest and financial commitment to energy efficiency as a means of achieving wide-reaching corporate objectives,” said Casey Talon senior research analyst, IDC Energy Insights. “Smart building solutions are valuable technologies for deploying energy management strategies that generate operational efficiencies, cost containment, and sustainability benefits that appeal to key stakeholders across chain of command in building management.”

The AV and ICT industries, as key contributors of knowledge and technology, are critical to the success of modern building management. Are you in the game and what contributions are you making to smart building solutions?

About Raymond Kent

Raymond Kent is Managing Principal of Sustainable Technologies Group LLC , which provides consulting services in audiovisual, acoustics, lighting, theater technical, IT and intelligent building technology for the performing and cultural arts, healthcare, higher education and corporate markets. He is involved with the InfoComm Green AV Task Force and is co-author of the Sustainable Technology Environments Program (STEP™) rating system. Raymond currently is Co-Chair of the STEP Foundation’s Technical Task Force and serves as the InfoComm liaison to the United States Institute for Theater Technology (USITT).

One Response to “Rise of the Machines”

  1. Great article Raymond. Is the projected growth mostly in new construction or will it likely affect renovations and retrofits too? This is yet another sign that software development, digital networks, and network security are great places to be in the AV industry.