The Internet of Things (IoT) is the confluence of everyday objects and the internet in which these devices have network connectivity and can send and receive data. Of all the various business units, facility management has the potential to be transformed more than any other by the rise of the Internet of Things. It is such a complex field involving numerous systems (both technological and human-powered) working in concert to control a wide range of variables that adding elements of automation and inter-connectivity can have a dramatic effect on the efficiency and performance of critical facility infrastructure. As the IoT continues to proliferate, there will be even more solutions coming to the market for facility managers who are looking to streamline operations and control costs, especially around their critical infrastructure.
Integration of Facilities and IT
From the inception of the data center, IT has had a growing demand on an organization’s facility management. While facilities and IT departments have often remained stoutly segregated, increased demands in cooling, space and power have forced more integration than we’ve ever seen before. Traditional facility equipment often has a longer life cycle than IT equipment as well. Generators may have a life cycle of 30 years, and buildings may be quite old. However, IT has an equipment refresh rate that can be just a few years or sometimes even mere months. Budgets, spending and maintenance often look quite different from one department to another.
Today, most critical power systems allow for integration into the most advanced building automation or data center infrastructure management platforms (DCIM). Constant monitoring of critical equipment allows for a more proactive approach to critical infrastructure. This also allows the organization to track trends in their facility and creates metrics to allow an organization to budget and properly understand costs.
For example, a UPS system will store event logs and track system issues or component failures. A smart facility can easily set up alerts to any of their automation systems or even smart devices. They can also watch trends and start to predict failures before costly downtime takes place.
Introducing elements of automation into facility management processes allows companies to operate with increased precision and maximize their resources. When it comes to concepts such as space management, lighting control or power consumption, humans simply can’t efficiently use resources without the help of automated systems.
Smart buildings are creating new possibilities for more efficient asset management techniques, especially in companies where precise and varied environmental conditions are required. The worldwide market for automated HVAC control systems was over $26 billion in 2013, and the market is expected to grow at nearly 6% through 2018. More facility equipment is online and connected than ever before. Smart organizations properly utilize monitoring resources on their building, UPS systems, generators, batteries as well as other environmental monitoring in order to not only manage their critical systems but also to pinpoint potential failures before a major incident.
Oversized legacy UPS and generator systems can have a significant impact on an organization’s use of energy. Take a UPS system as an example. A UPS system that is only operating at 20% of capacity can easily result in thousands of dollars in utility spend a month. A system that trends load percentages can help a facility manager understand when it is better to replace a UPS system than maintain. In addition, faulty fans or failed batteries can wreak havoc on UPS efficiency. Having a system that automatically alerts facility managers upon failure results in less down time and reduced energy usage.
Monitoring your HVAC equipment can have a similar impact. Reduced efficiency in your CRAC or HVAC could significantly increase your operational spend and increase your risk of downtime or failure.
The IoT opens countless new doors for facility managers to enhance operations through the use of data sharing. Every connected system can monitor, store and communicate multitudes of data points that are in constant flux, allowing managers to compare performance results and exceed benchmarks. The key in all of this? Understanding equipment capabilities and technology and then figuring out how to make it all make sense.