- Winston Churchill
When you scrutinize the data points in a building the vast majority, maybe 70-90 percent, are related to the building management system (BMS). BMS systems are the mainstay of everyday building management, primarily for engineers and technicians as they drill down and analyze the specifics of a particular piece of equipment.
Over the years the major manufacturers have made some modest improvements to their BMS, but it's fair to say advancements in BMS have lagged considerably in comparison to other technologies.
Your computer software, cell phones and computers have all evolved faster than BMS systems, and it's safe to say that no building managers have ever stood in line at the doors of BMS manufacturers to get the latest release of a BMS.
Given that major BMS manufacturers are automation companies and not technology companies, the lag in BMS systems may be understandable.
For the major manufacturers, BMS sales are also a small part of their overall revenue and possibly even a modest portion of any sale of their building automation systems (BAS). But what may be insignificant for manufacturers is actually the central tool for building owners to manage their building's optimal performance.
The marketplace and client needs for BMS systems are changing significantly as buildings and building management are becoming more complex. The pressures are coming from the need for greater visibility and transparency in energy consumption, the introduction of new technologies and the evolving skill sets and knowledge required of facility personnel.
For example, many other parties in an organization, aside from the facility engineers and technicians, now want access to the energy data that is partly generated in the BMS. Building managers are looking for more sophisticated applications to help in analyzing and managing systems and demand platforms that can handle broader integration of other building systems. BMS manufacturers are also facing the retooling of their platforms to communicate and interact with the smart grid.
The response to these emerging marketplace needs has so far come from medium-sized and startup companies with enterprise Integrated Building Management Systems (IBMS) and not from the traditional BMS manufacturers.
That's to be expected. The smaller companies don't have the bureaucracies that bigger companies do, resulting in smaller companies being agile enough to act quickly without the bureaucratic "processes" hindering innovation and the time to bring a product to market.
One of the primary enablers of newer IBMS systems have been the ability to access the BMS or controller data points via open protocols and standardized IT databases such SQL or databases that can be accessed via OPC applications. Once the IBMS vendors can access the BMS data and use the data in their own applications most of the user tools or applications of the BMS systems are not needed and could essentially be idled.
BMS manufacturers could ignore the trends and changing marketplace and essentially cede the future to the IBMS vendors or "step up their game" and offer the innovations building owners are looking for.
If one was to make out the near-term "To Do" list for the major BMS manufacturers the list would look something like this:
1. Deal With BMS And Controller Security
Years ago BAS systems were a series of interconnected serial networks. As those networks evolved they started to provide web access and direct connection to IT networks via controllers and the BMS that essentially exposed the BMS and BAS controllers to the security threats of IT networks and the Internet. Overall, the security vulnerabilities of BMS systems have not been adequately addressed.
You may ask "What's the threat?" or "What mischief or damage can hacking into a BMS or BAS controllers result in?" Imagine someone remotely setting off the fire alarm, opening doors, turning off the HVAC controls, accessing a video surveillance camera or turning off all the lights in a building. All of these are possible life-safety or major business disruption issues.