Smart buildings demand smart control solutions: The definition of a smart building is “one which provides a productive and cost-effective environment through optimisation of four basic elements: structure, systems, services and management, and the interrelationship between them.”

Unfortunately, all too often, control systems are designed and installed in isolation to provide dedicated functions or services, such as lighting, heating or ventilation, eliminating any hope of interaction between these sub-systems or communication with legacy equipment.
However, the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) has facilitated the connection of these disparate devices and systems, allowing them to exchange data using open, non-vendor specific protocols, creating interoperability by making data instantly visible between sub-systems as well as the users and other software applications.
Beckhoff believes that only when all building services are considered as a whole, and those interrelationships are managed holistically, can a truly intelligent building be created.
IoT is defined as “a collection of services & devices that communicate using the internet to enhance functionality and increase automation”. This increase in automation, when applied to building controls, results in an environment that is healthier and more comfortable for the occupiers (which has been proven to dramatically increase productivity), has greater energy efficiency (in some case reducing energy bills by more than 30%), and a space which is more flexible and optimised for ever-changing occupancy patterns.
Beckhoff’s PC- and Ethernet-based control platform can be used to create a building-wide automation solution or converge existing systems and expand them to optimise energy usage, ensure occupier comfort and wellbeing, and provide IoT connectivity of all assets for today’s cutting-edge smart buildings.
Beckhoff’s TF6720 IoT Data Agent software allows data from any device connected to a Beckhoff controller to be made available instantly to Cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud and Amazon AWS.
Because so many devices such as sensors, actuators, operator interfaces and light fittings are connected to the controller using open standards such as BACnet, Modbus, DALI or KNX, a far greater amount of operational data is available and can be collected, resulting in detailed insights into the way in which a building is ‘working’ and how its assets are performing. Furthermore, cognitive computing platforms can also use this data to optimise operations, predict problems and automate facilities management processes. Being Internet-based means that these interconnections and information are not restricted to a single building or location; IoT opens up the World!
Traditional standalone sensors don’t need to be left out of this scenario either; Beckhoff’s EK9160 IoT coupler allows such devices to become internet “things”, contributing their data to the wider enterprise and making it available to decision-making processes within, and between, other systems. To make things easy, the EK9160 requires no programming, simply transmitting digital or analogue I/O values to Cloud services, including timestamps.
Visualisation and operator interfacing is key to ensuring that a building is running smoothly and optimally. Beckhoff’s new cost-effective HTML5-based TwinCAT HMI software provides multi-client, multi-server, multi-runtime web-based visualisation, from a local display panel through to mobile devices and tablets, eliminating the need for expensive dedicated operator stations. Programming is unnecessary as configuration is handled with ease using a graphical editor, with no restrictions on number of points or ‘tags’ or ongoing annual fees.
Joining Beckhoff at the Smart Buildings Show (stand E1) will be solutions partner, iaconnects Ltd, who will be showcasing their MobiusGateway, a device which allows connectivity and control of wired and wireless devices to be provisioned via a 3G/4G managed mobile data service. The gateway has an onboard CPU and uses MobiusFlow configuration software, allowing logic control and connectivity to other devices and protocols. The MobiusGateway also has an EnOcean transceiver and ethernet connectivity allowing the direct connection of either EnOcean sensors/actuators or any other controller via the ethernet port to the Cloud.
To support the hardware, iaconnects has developed a state-of-the-art drag-and-drop configuration tool that can be used for simple one room deployments as well as complex control systems. The intuitive user interface is simple to use and takes advantage of the IBM Node-RED flow-based programming environment, adding to the IoT-friendly nature of the product. Using the power of the Cloud and the Edge on an open platform, iaconnects aims to give the traditionally siloed worlds of lighting control, HVAC, asset monitoring and analytics a brand new look.

See Beckhoff on stand E1 at the Smart Buildings Show, 7-8 November 2018, The Barbican Centre, London.

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