The Internet of Buildings – BMS in the real world

21 Nov 11:00 by Source:


Note – this article, by SCS Group’s BMS Manager Mike Jackson was first published by

In 2009, Kevin Ashton first coined the phrase ‘the internet of things’, which referred to a vision of the future where our domestic lives would intersect with connected technology. The internet would one day be not solely about information, but also solid, real things; with the likes of Google Glass, smart home appliances, 3D printers and Amazon-created flying drones, it seems that vision may be well on its way to reality sooner than many had expected.

This vision segues rather elegantly with our industry. The field of BMS is ever-expanding as people become more comfortable with the notion of interconnected services and also as technology speeds up to make integration more of a value proposition.

BMS – building management systems – are fundamentally used to control varying aspects of a building’s automated processes from one controlling system. For example heating, smoke control, fire alarms, comfort ventilation, security monitoring and access control can all be run through the same control mechanisms, with obvious cost savings in terms of hardware, software, installation and operational understanding/maintenance.

Furthermore, monitoring systems for the likes of energy usage can make for ever more efficient buildings, especially as such monitoring increases in resolution. It’s one thing to know how much energy the building uses, but what if we knew how much over the course of a day, or which floors use most? Simple enough, and with BMS a feedback response can be initiated – why heat an unoccupied floor overnight?

The next step is monitoring interconnected individual rooms, corridors or appliances to see how they work together, over time or at a given instance, for insightful data gathering – the true internet of buildings. But that’s when we hit something of a brick wall – if you collate data on that scale you end up with, surprise surprise, an unwieldy shed-load of data and no way to really monitor or act upon it.

In addition, we like to think of the internet as this wonderful convenience but security is a real concern – with everything from the NSA to PlayStation proving that online data might not be as secure as we imagine it’s important to realise that as the internet starts to take physical form, so security issues manifest in more tangible ways too.

That’s why I’m an advocate of intelligent buildings as far as it’s practical, and as far as they serve us human beings and not the other way around. Modern BMS is something we’re seeing specified more and more, and the right approach is to consider what technology is cost effective and what technology will really help the building owner and other stakeholders going forward.

In Songdo, South Korea, they’re building a so-called ‘smart city’ of interconnected buildings, appliances and services, and I’m intrigued to know how that turns out. As data management gets cleverer so our business’ attitude will adapt with it, but for now we’re keeping our BMS feet firmly on the ground.