Scale the Smart Technology Barriers

April 19, 2017

How to conquer common smart building hurdles.

Outfitting a building with smart tech can give FMs unparalleled control over energy use, but common barriers to implementation can put the brakes on upgrade plans. However, a few changes in building management and the way smart devices are created and marketed could make a big difference in proliferation, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The organization has identified four of the most common hurdles to implementing smart devices for HVAC, lighting, plug loads, window shading, automated system optimization, operation and analysis, and distributed energy sources. They include:

1) The Learning Curve
Some people are simply not aware that such technologies exist, ACEEE says, while people who have a passing familiarity may have never used them and could believe the technology is too complex. New installations of smart technology may feel too difficult to use. “Most operators have little to no experience analyzing large amounts of building performance data and they may not like realizing that they have been operating their buildings inefficiently for years,” adds ACEEE.

A greater commitment from manufacturers or trade associations to provide training could assist with greater understanding and awareness. To maximize the effectiveness of an existing smart technology installation, reach out to your vendor to see what kind of training or documentation they can provide.

2) Costs and the Replacement Cycle
“It is all too common for building systems to undergo upgrades only at the point of failure,” ACEEE notes. Lack of funding impacts all sorts of building upgrades, not just smart technology, but the upfront costs of retrofitting some smart tech almost certainly impacts the feasibility of more timely upgrades.

The lack of tax incentives to defray the investment also discourages building owners and FMs from considering new technologies, ACEEE says: “Without incentives, many building owners will require more evidence that smart buildings are worth the high costs, especially in underrepresented applications such as small- and medium-sized buildings and class B commercial real estate.”

3) Proprietary Technology
Not all smart devices are interoperable with each other, and even the use of open communications protocols like BACnet and Lonworks can’t solve the whole problem because no single standard protocol exists to connect all devices.

Efforts to address interconnectivity issues are beginning to emerge – for example, the Open Connectivity Foundation’s work with IoT standards and Project Haystack’s efforts to develop a common list of equipment naming conventions – but there is still much progress to be made on this front.

4) Cybersecurity Concerns
Building owners are often wary about the security of Internet-connected management devices, and for good reason. As buildings become more interconnected, the number of security breaches has increased, including the late 2016 cyberattack that temporarily disabled popular services like Twitter, Spotify and PayPal due in part to an IoT security breach. It’s vital that the IT and operational technology industries create strategies to mitigate cybersecurity threats, ACEEE stresses.

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