The capabilities of a building management system, or BMS, need to evolve to keep up with the demands of building owners, operators, and tenants. The traditional view of BMS technology (or ‘building automation systems’) has mostly focused on HVAC, and the controllers and on-premise software that supports the system. Any integration with other building systems – e.g. access control, fire control, lighting, etc. – has typically been ‘loosely coupled’, with data being displayed for simple context or awareness.
This narrow scope does not adequately address new building management challenges and take advantage of the newest technology advancements. A next-generation BMS takes integration much further by connecting to more systems, combining the data, and using it for analytics, AI, and digital services that make operations more proactive and predictive.
3 Reasons Why the BMS is Rapidly Evolving
Traditionally, a BMS has been used by a siloed team to do basic monitoring and control over a single building, with maintenance done on a scheduled, reactive basis. Little control has been given to tenants and occupants. This model is going away. Three main factors are driving the evolution of BMS technology toward being a smart building system integration platform.
- Efficiency and sustainability. As reported by the UN Environment Programme, “Buildings use about 40% of global energy … and they emit approximately 1/3 of GHG emissions.” There is now growing regulatory, financial, and social pressure on commercial real estate firms and building owners to reduce energy consumption. There are many strategies for this, including engaging in grid programs like time-of-day pricing. This requires responding to utility pricing signals, as well as having data inputs for occupancy, weather, and the status of controllable loads. A BMS today needs to go beyond HVAC by monitoring and controlling all powered systems in the building to fully optimize energy use throughout the entire site.
- Tenant and occupant expectations. People now want to rent from or work in efficient buildings, that can provide for their personal health and well-being. There’s a demand to make buildings not just safe, but satisfying and enjoyable for the occupants. They also want to customize their personal spaces, navigate the building, and pass through security with less hassle, etc. The BMS scope must change to encompass these new needs, delivering on comfort, health, availability, security, and interactive connectivity.
- Smart building technologies. The Internet-of-Things is making it easier for building tech providers to add controls, sensors, and IP network connectivity to more and more of their devices and systems, often wirelessly. Standard IP protocols extend the building management system to tenants, with mobile access to maintenance requests, wayfinding, room booking, and comfort control. More devices generate ‘big data’, with which analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) can make building operations more automated, efficient, reliable, and proactive. Cloud computing enables analytics and AI, with a secure means for gathering large amounts of data across many devices and sites. Scalable computer power and storage capacity make the cloud ideal for training machine learning algorithms and for 3rd party app development, enabling the evolution of smart building technologies.
3 Key Attributes of the New BMS Architecture
In the new paradigm, a BMS is the critical central intelligence hub that pulls together data from equipment, the cloud, other systems, people, real-time workflow patterns, and regulations and policies. It shares knowledge with all stakeholders and can be empowered to take independent, automated action. Achieving this requires three key attributes that will enable a future-proof architecture and software platform to which more capabilities can be added over time.
- Open integration platform. The new BMS must integrate with other building subsystems, IoT devices, sensors, business processes, databases, and apps. This includes smart building technologies from multiple vendors as they emerge. Integration involves the implementation of standard, open protocols within operations technology / OT, and information technology / IT (e.g. web services). A BMS should also support legacy systems and devices through drivers or translators. The BMS needs to bring all of this data together but also must make sense of it by giving it context. This will enable better analytics, process optimization, and AI. And with a more open, connected BMS, there is an increased need to focus on cybersecurity, so a vendor should be selected that follows the highest security practices through design, implementation, and support.
- Cloud computing. The cloud offers an unlimited repository for integrated data with secure access by partners or vendors. Visibility, alarming, and reporting across dispersed sites enables efficient management of fleets of buildings. The cloud enables analytics and AI algorithms that deliver insights and automated control. For example, a virtual ‘digital twin’ of the HVAC system can be used to identify abnormal behavior that might be leading to an eventual fault or failure. A predictive maintenance dashboard can prioritize a list of equipment issues based on risk to system availability, calculating financial impact to help justify equipment maintenance or upgrades.
- Designed for mobility. Today, employers and building owners want a deeper engagement with their ‘mobile-first’ tenants, occupants, and customers. A BMS-supported workplace mobile app can let occupants control temperature, lighting, and window shades, while offering room booking and area access control, among other functions. Mobile BMS access can give facility teams and service partners access to KPI dashboards, setpoint tuning, and remote checks on equipment health to help limit site visits. A mobile platform also helps create more efficient communication between all personas, while creating an opportunity for innovation through 3rd party app development, and supporting refinement of services over time based on the changing organization needs. Ultimately, mobile interfaces help deliver a digital transformation in buildings, making building management simpler and more proactive, while empowering occupants.