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Why smart buildings need smart networks

Chris Dyke

Chris Dyke

Sales Director UK & Ireland at Allied Telesis
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Smart Building PoE

Chris Dyke, Sales Director UK & Ireland at Allied Telesis, explains why it’s not enough to just install smart building tech, and why they need a truly smart network backbone.

Modern buildings can, and arguably should, work hard. They are like living, breathing entities that, through their lighting, heating and ventilation, surveillance, and security (and much more) can provide enhanced satisfaction for occupants as well as improve the reduction of greenhouse emissions. 

According to Gartner, IoT expenditures in smart buildings are expected to reach $108 Billion by 2030, so it’s evident that the need for energy-efficient facilities with advanced systems for security, lighting, fire, plumbing, heat, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), and more, is growing. But it is crucial that all the various elements of building must work well together to ensure that the people within remain safe, comfortable, and productive.

Building management system

In many buildings, facilities managers are not able to efficiently access all the systems from one device or location, which impacts their ability to maintain the facility at expected performance levels. To overcome this, the smartest buildings run a centralised building management system (BMS) which is an ecosystem of multiple components that collect and process information about the building and its various systems. Managers use the information from the BMS to assess the building’s performance and make decisions to optimise its environment for occupants.

The smartest buildings also need the smartest networks, capable of running IT and OT technologies over a single converged IP network. It is this BMS and converged network that makes a building smart, interlinking facilities management and property management so that these previously disjointed systems are connected and can be centrally managed and optimised, enabling instant notifications about issues which reduce downtime.

Safe and secure

When OT equipment relies on IT, there is a danger that the increased attack surface will expose both networks to security breaches. However, because IT is experienced in keeping its network safe, there is increased security in running both over a converged network, which can become a ‘self-defending network’ capable of protecting itself from internal and external threats – ideal for the safety and integrity of the smart building. Furthermore, a BMS can integrate with a building’s security system to identify threats and automate threat responses. These may come from a human intruder, or they may have natural origins, such as floods or fires

Cybersecurity threats can be more challenging to detect, but they too can damage the BMS and compromise the safety of the building and its occupants. The best converged IP networks for smart buildings also enable a network security system that watches for unusual activity, such as repeated failed user logins, user logins at unusual terminals or devices, unusual user movements, data leaks, and unusual network activity. AMF-Sec can isolate the resources in real-time, giving IT or management time to investigate and remediate.

Smart benefits

A BMS enables facilities managers to manage the underlying infrastructure and connected systems better. An automated, responsive BMS can change the environmental conditions inside the building based on occupancy levels, ensuring all systems run at their optimum, dynamically adjusted levels. The goal is to reduce the building’s overall energy use, lowering energy bills and reducing its carbon footprint and environmental impact. It can also review real-time alerts related to indoor pollutants and ventilation levels and make corrections to ensure a comfortable environment – no wonder tenants are willing to pay 20% more on average to live in a smart building and energy efficient buildings sell for 17% more than standard building stock, generate 35% more rental income, and have 18% higher occupancy rates.

A single converged IP network that is well protected and accessible to all building and business systems also allows for better use of resources as it can enable connectivity for workers, but it can also connect the sensors and other devices that provide data for the BMS itself. In this way, the converged network utilises the same equipment for more than one purpose, increasing ROI and reducing operational costs. Automation can also be applied to the data network to reduce time, cost, and the risk of human errors during maintenance, upgrades, and other regular tasks. Network devices can also automatically power down to reduce energy consumption or increase performance if occupancy levels are high.

An expert’s view

ONNEC is a pioneer in smart building integration, its Technical Director, John Dente, considers that “the benefits of data flowing across a converged network are that it can easily be presented to a single pane of glass dashboard, allowing intelligent rule-based changes to a building’s settings as well as allowing predictive maintenance decisions to be made from real-world live data. This has a major benefit in smart enabled buildings as integrations between systems are predominately made at the network level.”

Today’s buildings and their occupants have many needs, including more efficient energy management, low power consumption, and increased safety and security. A converged data network that delivers a wealth of information reliably from the many end devices and systems to the BMS is essential for optimal building performance. Partner with a specialist that has extensive experience in the BMS technologies, systems, and protocols that transform buildings into healthy environments for all occupants.

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