Energy Efficiency | June 27, 2017

The Evolution of Data in Managing Building Operations

In recent years, building management systems (BMS) have become smart and as a result, the Internet of Things is a topic being discussed by facility managers with greater frequency. As the industry has expanded, people are more aware of control systems and how they function than ever before, but the idea of a BMS is not a new concept. They have gradually evolved over the last 50 plus years into the advanced systems we increasingly depend on and thanks to a variety of new technological advancements, today’s smart building technology is influencing BMS development like never before.  

Between the 1950’s and 1960’s, building controls evolved from pneumatics to electronics to open protocols like BACnet. At this time, most of the control activities in a building were done manually with limited or no integration capability. There was very limited data stored or processed outside of standard logbooks.  A building technician was primarily in control of all the building functions and had limited technology to assist him.

As computers were advancing and evolving in the 1980’s, digital controls started to become integrated into building controls and the foundation of modern building management systems were laid. This commanded better automation in building operations as well as a variety of data being stored in system archives. Unfortunately, the value of building data was not fully realized yet, and a variety of issues arose, including: integrating data from multiple systems, having access to fast and effective analytical tools, and concerns with respect to data fidelity. Despite the technological advances, this ultimately led to building managers still primarily managing buildings.

The changing building landscape, enhanced automation and control techniques, and a need for greater standardization in operations led to the next phase of BMS development. An increased portion of a building could now be managed by building management personnel, leading to increased levels of 'datafication.' Data was now recorded from multiple systems throughout the portfolio — providing simple opportunities for optimization through internal benchmarking.

The driving force of collecting and making informed decision from building data was that catalyst for developing technology that tracks and manages energy consumption in buildings. Facility managers and building management systems could now go beyond keeping a business functional and begin focusing on how to optimize its energy usage. However, there were still limitations from technical constraints around what type of data could be used and how much of it could be leveraged.

Today, we are living in the era where big data technologies enable us to capture data from different sources in diverse formats and with varying context. Data is now a driver of actions. This has introduced us to the 'Internet of Buildings.' The trends promoting growth in the BMS market are now directly linked to the IoT movement.

BMS and associated systems are not only cutting costs, but enhancing safety, security and flexibility. The future of BMS is data rich and connected.