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6 ways M2M technology makes buildings smarter

<p>Machine-to-machine technologies can rapidly&nbsp;improve energy use within buildings and pile on added savings.</p>

Smart cards revolutionized payment systems decades ago. Now, emerging machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies are doing the same for smart buildings and their owners.

Key advances in smart building technology are ushering in a new era of building energy efficiency and carbon footprint reduction. And those same technologies are yielding rapid returns on investment for building owners within one to two years.

Today’s M2M building management technologies can be used to perform real-time remote monitoring, commissioning and control of entire portfolios of buildings, processes that were not possible as little as five years ago. With today's advanced technology, owners can expect energy efficiency to improve 15 to 20 percent in the first year, even at buildings with strong energy management programs already in place. In addition, smart building systems automatically can calculate carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, thereby streamlining the corporate social responsibility reporting process.

M2M innovation at P&G

Procter & Gamble (P&G) recently demonstrated the efficiency of smart building management technology with its year-long pilot of IntelliCommand, the Jones Lang LaSalle smart building solution powered by Pacific Controls technology. In addition to achieving an average combined savings of 10 percent across the pilot property portfolio, which included office, laboratory and distribution space, P&G uncovered new ways to improve energy efficiency. 

For example, IntelliCommand allowed P&G to quickly pinpoint and address a programming error in the building automation system that had caused a variable fan to malfunction. Elsewhere, IntelliCommand’s data analytics showed that a cooling system was working harder than necessary to compensate for higher temperatures created by malfunctioning air handlers. This small temperature anomaly represented significant energy waste, but could be detected only by IntelliCommand’s data sensors connected to the building’s automated systems -- not by human capabilities.

Six top M2M smart building technologies

The promise of smart building management technology extends far beyond energy reduction, however, offering a wide range of benefits that may change the way we work and live in the future. Corporate and investor owners alike are installing smart building solutions across their corporate real estate portfolios, not only for the sake of energy efficiency, but also to reduce risk, improve operational performance and enable better capital planning. The top six technologies contributing most to making buildings smarter include:

  1. Wireless meters and sensors. Affordable wireless sensors and meters can be used to monitor automated building equipment and relay data to a centralized remote command center. 
  2. Internet and cloud computing. The advent of the Internet and decreasing costs of data transmission makes it financially feasible to transmit data from millions of building data points to the command center. The relatively affordable high-capacity computing power of the cloud allows for cost-efficient data analysis to an extent not possible in previous eras.
  3. Open data communication protocols. New software applications solve the “Tower of Babel” problem created in buildings containing multiple automated systems, each operated by proprietary controls. Today, systems such as IntelliCommand are made possible because of interoperable data protocols, such as ASHRAE’s open-source BACnet, Echelon’s LonTalk and other systems.
  4. Powerful analytics software. The best new-generation smart solutions provide numerous dashboards, algorithms and other tools for interpreting building data, identifying anomalous data, pinpointing causes and even addressing some issues remotely.
  5. Remote centralized control. Secure Internet technologies can be used to protect data transmissions from hundreds of buildings in a company’s portfolio to the central command center, staffed around-the-clock by facilities professionals.
  6. Integrated work-order management. Today’s building management systems can be integrated with a work-order system to streamline communications with on-the-ground facilities staff when human attention is required.

Combined, these technologies can provide data collection, analysis and adjustment in a process known as “continual commissioning,” in which a facility’s systems are constantly monitored and adjusted for ongoing performance improvements. By performing commissioning on a continuous basis, as opposed to every five years as with traditional systems of the past, a smart building system ensures optimal efficiency at all times, eliminating waste much more effectively than with manual commissioning.

The future of M2M technology

Companies worldwide invested $5.5 billion in intelligent building systems in 2012, and the number is expected to rise to $18.1 billion by 2017, a 27.1 percent compound annual growth rate, according to IDC Energy Insights. The promise of even more potential cost savings from operating smart buildings in the context of smart grids is providing additional incentive for the adoption of smart building systems. As more cities and countries around the world invest in smart grid technology that interacts with smart buildings, the financial arguments will become even stronger than they are today.

Image credit: CC license by paul bica/Flickr

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