Interoperability: The Key to Smarter Buildings
Buildings are equipped with a diverse range of systems, subsystems, equipment, and sensors to monitor and control heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), energy management, lighting, water, elevators, parking systems, access control and more. When it comes to making buildings smarter, effective interoperability between these systems is critical to maximize building performance, reduce costs and achieve the health, safety and comfort levels demanded in modern, dynamic business environments.
Interoperability is a major contributor to the difference between being a smarter building versus being a smart building.
While we can connect and integrate all sorts of equipment and devices within our buildings, it does not make them interoperable.
What is Interoperability?
The concept of interoperability is simple. It is the ability for systems, devices, equipment, sensors, and applications (no matter the manufacturer) to connect, communicate, translate, and exchange data across different boundaries and stakeholders. When I am asked to give an example of interoperability, one of the best examples are: phones. It doesn’t matter what company makes the phone, whether the call is placed through a wireless or a landline connection, which carrier you have, or where you call from—you can call and connect to any phone.
This same example or logic can also be applied to the built environment. Devices and equipment communicating via open protocol with each other and exchanging data and information efficiently (regardless of manufacturer), is fundamental to our industry. It is an expectation.
Connectivity and integration are important components, but the value and outcomes derived from the interoperability of connected systems, devices, people, and things are equally crucial. Success comes to those who derive the most value from interoperability; not those who simply connect the most devices to their networks. It is the transformational value of interoperability that really matters.
Interoperability Should be an Integral Part of any Smarter Building Strategy and Design
An interoperable building system is one in which a centralized platform connects, communicates, calibrates, and enhances the control of a building’s different operational systems into a single, 2-way, cohesive network,
and programming configuration. You name it—HVAC, lighting, equipment, metering, sensors, video cameras, and mechanical systems—is all interoperable into a single, unified control and management structure. Today's system interoperability includes all the operational systems within a building, but also encompasses facility management systems, workplace applications and can even extend to utility grids.
Building system interoperability is capable of aggregating and analyzing the multiple sources of data required to oversee the function of an entire building. The operator is not limited to simply looking at data from one building system. An independent data layer is created so data can be analyzed, correlated, and useful building metrics developed and utilized.
Bringing all the building data into a unified, independent data layer and putting into practice standard methodologies and processes to better manage the data has multiple benefits. The data becomes more widely available, sharable, and accessible. There's also improvement in the data’s integrity as well as analytics and storage. Furthermore, a single, independent data layer reduces the cost and support for synchronizing separate databases. It provides a common platform for data mining, access, exchange, and archiving.
When it comes to the benefits, interoperability delivers tangible benefits for both new and existing buildings.
By linking systems together, facility managers can obtain system capabilities that the systems could not do alone.
Operational Interoperability Benefits:
- Enables Better Command and Control
- Accurate Data Insights to Make Critical Operational Decisions
- Makes Legacy Systems Part of an Integrated BAS Network (Embrace not Replace)
- Energy Management and Energy Savings
- Lower Installation Costs and Lower Failure Rates and Downtime
- Increased Equipment Lifespan
- OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness)
- Asset Protection
- Access Onsite or Remote Location Accessibility
- Enhanced Occupant Experience
- Space Utilization and Efficiency
- Increased Data Analytics and Fault Detection
- Enables Application Sharing of Data from One System to Another
- Empower Sustainability and Stewardship Goals
- Improve Productivity of Operations Staff
- Improved Response Times
- Single Data Repository
- Enhanced Troubleshooting Capabilities
Business Interoperability Benefits:
- Bridge Information Gap with the Data Insights to Make Critical Business Decisions
- Easier Data Exchange and Transfer
- Preserves Investment in Legacy Systems
- Risk Mitigation
- Best Practices for Management of a Portfolio of Facilities
- ESG (Environmental, Sustainability, Governance)
- Improved Capital Planning
- Reduction of OPEX; Lower CAPEX
- Increased Asset Value
- Property Marketability
- Operations Efficiency and Performance (Streamlined Operations/Management)
- Optimize TCO
- Enables for Smarter Buildings and Facilities
Operators and facility management personnel have a great deal of responsibility in ensuring the performance and reliability of a property’s core building operating systems. It can get tricky and complex to control the usage, performance, cost, and maintenance of multiple systems.
Bottom line, interoperability is an increasingly practical way for building owners, operators, and facility executives to achieve a range of benefits, including increased comfort, health, safety, greater energy efficiency and improved operational performance and productivity.