Anthony Dann, intelligent buildings solution consultant, Trend Control Systems Ltd looks at life after Windows 10.

In 2025, Windows 10 will reach the end of its lifecycle and will no longer be supported[i]. As the Windows 10 sunset approaches, organisations are presented with a timely opportunity to reassess their operating systems (OSs). Transitioning to a newer OS is necessary for maintaining smooth-running building operations and security, given the end of support means no more updates or patches, leaving systems vulnerable to evolving cyber threats.

Considering Internet of Things (IoT) malware attacks increased by 37 percent globally in 2023, with over 77.9 million attacks occurring in the first half of the year alone[ii], it is evident that IoT devices and operational technology (OT) are growing targets for hackers. As such, with the upcoming sunset of Windows 10, facilities managers must seize this opportunity to ensure they’re not caught unaware with unsupported building control systems vulnerable to infiltration.

The pitfalls of outdated systems

Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS), estate supervisors and other control systems are far from set-and-forget types of solutions. Yet one aspect of managing these systems that is regularly overlooked is the need for continuous OS and firmware updates, which are required to maintain the highest level of performance and security. This is particularly problematic for large estates, where control systems are often upgraded or installed individually, resulting in systems of various ages operating together.

Continuing to run on an outdated OS, like Windows 10, post-2025 poses significant risks, including data loss and vulnerabilities that may expose a BMS or supervisor to cyberattacks. These attacks can have severe consequences for organisations and may disrupt essential services, compromise safety measures, and cause financial losses.

For instance, in commercial office spaces, OT cybersecurity attacks could compromise building automation systems, leading to disruptions in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting, or even access controls. Malicious actors could manipulate smart building technologies, causing safety concerns and operational inefficiencies, especially if unauthorised personnel gain access to the building. In these cases, operations cease, and entire systems can come to a standstill.[iii]

Additionally, legacy systems may hinder performance and limit software compatibility, impeding overall efficiency. Outdated systems often lack compatibility with modern technologies, limiting their ability to integrate with newer, more efficient solutions. This can result in inefficiencies in energy management, HVAC controls, and other essential functions.

The inefficiencies are compounded by system providers eventually ending support for legacy systems, which can cause myriad issues if a fault occurs that a facility manager can’t resolve. The lack of support and maintenance for legacy systems can lead to increased unplanned downtime and higher repair costs. In the case of Windows 10, many manufacturers of control systems will cease support for products running that OS ahead of the sunset. For example, Trend Controls will be unable to offer support for its 963-supervisor system after the end of 2024, giving facilities and estate managers a buffer period for upgrades ahead of the official Windows 10 sunset.

Nonetheless, the transition, although essential, may come with an array of challenges such as compatibility issues with existing software, necessitating thorough planning and execution to ensure a seamless migration for sustained operational resilience. As such, facilities managers should consider upgrading their systems well in advance.

Strategic planning: building tomorrow today

Facilities managers play a pivotal role in ensuring consistent operation of buildings, and strategic planning is vital when upgrading an outdated OS. First and foremost, it is important for facilities managers to gain a comprehensive understanding of a building’s existing infrastructure. Conducting thorough assessments to identify vulnerabilities, dependencies, and areas for improvement is also of utmost importance. This well-planned groundwork allows for a tailored approach, enabling system upgrades to align with the unique needs and goals of a facility.

Integration is another key aspect of the planning process. Prioritising seamless communication between various building systems, such as HVAC, lighting, and security, facilitates optimal operational efficiency. For example, if a new supervisor system doesn’t integrate effortlessly with the existing security system, the lack of integration can lead to inefficiencies and potential safety risks. As such, integration between various smart building solutions is a necessary step to achieve holistic and synchronised operation.

Lastly, planning ahead involves considering the long-term impacts of the new upgrade. Facilities managers must anticipate future technological advancements and design systems that can accommodate evolving requirements. This proactive approach helps extend the lifespan of the newly implemented technology and reduces the frequency of upgrades and minimises disruptions in the future.

Securing an efficient future

As major OSs like Windows 10 approach their sunset, facilities managers face a critical task of strategic planning for smooth transitions. Planning is essential to make sure that new upgrades align with the latest technology and integrate with existing building systems and devices.

By taking a proactive approach, facilities managers can utilise the full potential of technology to manage a building’s security and efficiency.

[i] Microsoft, Windows 10 Home and Pro, Accessed: January 22nd 2024

[ii] Astra, 160 Cybersecurity statistics 2024, Published: January 16th 2024, Accessed: January 22nd 2024

[iii][iii] ISA Global Security Alliance, “Cybersecurity and Safety: Increasing Risks and Escalating Impacts”, Accessed January 25th, 2024