A sense of intelligence in buildings and beyond

The sky still appears to be the limit as sensors lie at the heart of intelligence, and buildings may be just the beginning.

From the February, 2015 Issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine

The sky still appears to be the limit as sensors lie at the heart of intelligence, and buildings may be just the beginning.

By Patrick McLaughlin

At the beginning of this year, CommScope's (www.commscope.com) executive vice president of enterprise solutions, Kevin St. Cyr, authored an article on enterprise trends for the year 2015. Some parts of that article have been used in publications around the globe; you'll likely find St. Cyr's comments in several media outlets. With CommScope's permission, we're using some of them here as well.

The article's introduction echoes what many may have felt when we turned the calendars yet again on January 1: "It's hard to fathom that 2015 is already upon us," St. Cyr mused before immediately adding, "but what many people do not realize is that it also signals the midway point of the decade … 2015 will mean that we are going to be as close to 2020 as we are to 2010." With that perspective in mind, he pontificated on some of the key trends that he believes will influence enterprise networks this year.

"The Internet of Things is upon us," St. Cyr declared. "Infrastructure providers play an increasingly critical role in enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). Whether providing wired or wireless connectivity to devices, or software-based solutions coupled with connectivity, providers play an increasingly important role. The IoT is evolving to meet the customers' needs for better data in real-time."

He also turned his attention to data centers, detailing his views on data center infrastructure including Om3 and Om4 fiber as well as Category 8 copper cabling--as well as the growing presence of modular data centers within that industry's landscape. An additional data center technology he discussed was DCIM--data center infrastructure management. He foresees a better overall understanding of DCIM within the market this year. Specifically, he noted, "The market has been slower to implement DCIM solutions but we are seeing that customers have a better understanding of the value in DCIM to optimize data center performance over time. A DCIM solution enables organizations to monitor power and understand and plan asset refreshes and replacement.

"I think DCIM software providers are trying to help the customer see an ROI sooner than later," St. Cyr said. "Solutions providers need to engage customers on the front end to understand their problems and choose a solution that will solve those problems. So when the ‘go-live' takes place, the user is prepared for what they will see and how to work with it. The go-live needs to be favorable and if the planning isn't carefully thought through and executed, the result won't be optimal. Look for DCIM solutions providers to place more emphasis on striving to make the user experience more beneficial."

Sensors, lighting and more

Another trend he discussed--not the final item on St. Cyr's list but the one we'll use as a springboard in this article--is the importance of sensor networks in the building. "As buildings become more intelligent, we see the use of sensors coming into play," he explained. "A sensor-based network, like the kind used with intelligent lighting solutions, is powered through structured cabling and plays an important role in making buildings increasingly intelligent. The sensors collect data that help facilities managers make better decisions on space utilization and energy usage, as well as provide a security feature through motion and thermal tracking."

St. Cyr mentioning intelligent lighting solutions is a reference to CommScope's Redwood Systems intelligent lighting technologies; CommScope acquired Redwood in 2013. Sensors are a primary enabling technology within the Redwood system. They measure and report light level, power consumption of fixtures, room temperature and motion data. This information allows the lighting system to be "intelligent," providing building operators with capabilities such as Web-based control, integration with heating/air-conditioning systems, temperature heat maps, occupancy reports, room scheduling and others.

Standards, forecasts

In many ways an intelligent lighting system is the closest thing much of the cabling industry has seen to an incarnation of intelligent buildings, building automation systems, or any similarly described system. The scarcity of these systems, however, is not a result of lack of preparation for them by the cabling industry as a whole. The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA; www.tiaonline.org) is on the verge of publishing the third version of a building automation/intelligent building cabling standard, which will be ANSI/TIA-862-B. In summer 2012 the TIA kicked off the effort to revise the 862 standard from its "A" version to its "B" version. As we reported at that time, the task group charged with the initial revision efforts took on the initiative to revise not just the standard's content, but also its title. Specifically, the group included the term "intelligent building" into the standard title, in place of the previous term "building automation."

The TIA's TR-42.1 Subcommittee has made significant progress on the standard in the two year-plus since the revision process began. According to minutes from the subcommittee's meeting in October 2014, it resolved ballot comments to the standard, while noting that the final TIA-862-B specification will not be published until two other TIA documents--568-0.D and 569-D--are published. As of October, TIA-862-B was being issued for an industry (ANSI) ballot.

Research and analyst firm Frost & Sullivan (www.frost.com) published a report in mid-2014 sizing up the global market for building automation (BA) systems and technologies. When announcing that report the company said, "Building owners across the globe are increasingly adopting BA systems to tackle rising energy costs. As buildings account for nearly one-third of the global energy use, and are the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, the need for BA systems will only grow. Opportunities for manufacturers will be particularly promising in the stabilizing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, Germany and the United States due to high infrastructure spending."

The firm's analysis determined the market's total revenues in 2013 were $5.78 billion, and would reach $7.28 billion in 2018. "The data center and hospitality application segments will experience rapid growth, owing to growing Internet penetration in emerging nations and the expansion of the tourism market," Frost & Sullivan said.

Balaji Anand Sangar, a Frost & Sullivan analyst who worked on the report, commented, "Government regulations and policies designed to improve energy efficiency in buildings are driving the market for BA systems, especially in North America, Europe and parts of Asia-Pacific. Market participants realize that BA systems are essential to achieve energy efficiency targets dictated by government regulations and are offering reliable solutions at competitive prices." The firm added, however, that "insufficient clarity on the benefits of BA systems is discouraging building owners from considering these solutions during the budgeting and bidding stages." If that assessment sounds familiar, it was about one page ago that CommScope's Kevin St. Cyr said pretty much the same thing about DCIM.

Frost & Sullivan's Sangar concluded, "Intelligent building control systems, fault detection, predictive diagnostics, big data analytics, and remote correction on the cloud will shape the market over the next few years. Further, open connectivity and interoperability of BA systems will enable the automation of a much broader Internet of devices and take the global BA market to greater heights."

Going city-wide

A separate study from Frost & Sullivan, published earlier in 2014, took an even-higher-level view at the possibilities of system intelligence. The report was titled "The Role of ICT [Information and Communications Technologies] in Building Smart Cities," and as its name indicates, it addresses not intelligent buildings but intelligent municipalities. Frost & Sullivan announced the study in May 2014 and in doing so stated, "Smart city projects launched across the globe are driving the creation of new sources and types of data as well as enabling technologies and ways of consuming data. These factors are boosting the prospects of ICT providers that offer big data analytics software, open data platforms, cloud computing, and broadband connectivity services."

The study looks at intelligent energy, transportation and water segments. Analyst Ewa Tajer observed, "Smart transportation is receiving the most attention in cities across the globe and hence opening up the maximum opportunities for ICT providers. ICT providers should particularly tap the large European cities, where numerous tenders for intelligent transportation systems are being used and novel functionalities are expected to be introduced to reduce traffic congestion, noise and pollution."

The smart energy segment is also boosting demand for ICT, according to Frost & Sullivan. "In fact," the firm said, "the smart energy market value is likely to exceed the smart transportation market value by 15 to 20 percent in 2020." The smart water segment offers fewer opportunities, the analysis showed, "due to lack of proper standards, poor regulatory support, and inadequate project financing extended by authorities in most countries."

"ICT providers, acting as trusted advisors, should work with city stakeholders to help create a robust smart city vision and implementation plan that will ensure a key role for them in regions looking to build a more-sustainable future," Tajer concluded--while noting that ICT providers face the challenges of fragmented project implementation resulting from poor cross-sector coordination among stakeholders.

Whether the venue is a conference room, a building, a campus or a city, the idea of system intelligence holds significant promise, as it has for some time. Obstacles do exist, and as CommScope's Kevin St. Cyr points out, we are as close to 2020 as we are to 20

Patrick McLaughlin is our chief editor.

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