At a recent event at IBM in London, the premise was that smart buildings were becoming cognitive buildings. Are we there yet? That is a question that still has to be answered, but speaking to Stephen Hayes, managing director of Beckhoff in the UK, you can get a good idea in which direction the industry is headed.

Stephen believes that a virtuous circle can be created during the construction process between all the suppliers that ultimately means that when the building is handed over to the owner, the owner is aware of all the buildings assets. The control system can then talk to all these assets and collect data which means the FM company that is now managing the building can base all the decisions that it has to make on live data.

“We are working with companies such as IBM and are engaged in ongoing trials at their Hursley Park R&D centre, IoT headquarters in Munich and South Bank Client Centre using Beckhoff’s IoT-enabled controls and the power of IBM Watson’s Cloud-based analytics to produce smart, cognitive buildings, and have shown that real cost savings are possible,” said Stephen. “Asset management is vital, and that requires real data. This also means that the building control system has to be able to interact with all the systems in the building, whether new or legacy in order to give a full picture as to what is going on.

Fortunately, Beckhoff’s open architectureprovides the ability to do this, readily connecting to networks such as DALI, EnOcean, KNX, BACnet, Modbus, M-Bus and DMX, and aggregating all the information.
For the building owner and FM contractor, this kind of control is becoming easier with drag and drop software, and FM companies are becoming more IT savvy. This does not, however, make the process easy to integrate. “Although there are open standards for building automation, the procurement process is something of a dysfunctional one, from our point of view,” added Stephen, “often resulting in a non-cohesive, piecemeal solution At the moment the weak link is the building operator who often has very little input into the automation of the building, but in the future we may see Controls as a Service as the solution to this. If we can take away the pain and provide obvious benefits there are great opportunities for this market.”

Stephen sees analytics in buildings as a potential disruptive technology and there are lots of other technologies out there which have the ability to be game changers.
As Stephen says, there is a massive opportunity to implement integrated systems, and create large cost savings, but, “if you can’t easily connect the devices that give you data, you can’t realise the commercial and operational advantages of the cloud. However, it will require the collaboration of all parties in the building process, from architects to consultants to contractors and, most importantly, the building operator and facilities management team, to ensure a highly-visible asset information trail that creates a smart and cognitive building."

That’s the challenge ahead for smart buildings and one that Beckhoff is ready to be in control of.