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Why Smart Facilities Need Cloud-Connected HVAC Systems

By Construction Tech Review | Thursday, January 16, 2020

Two ways connectivity through the cloud will help machine learning can be more efficient that can make the facilities smart.

FREMONT, CA: Facilities have evolved only to an extent where the operators can collect, analyze, and learn from the massive amount of information that is available from building systems and equipment. HVAC data is the primary step because the system accounts for almost 44 percent consumption of energy in the commercial buildings. The data is also required by many manufacturers to maintain the comfort of the occupant and even product quality. However, this also connects the HVAC system to the cloud-based center, which is an essential factor for creating a smart facility.

Moreover, just optimizing an HVAC system can provide substantial savings by decreasing the use of energy. But if there is no continuous monitoring, the result will start degrading almost after a year or so. The two-way data flow among the facility’s HVAC equipment and building automation system (BAS) and a provider’s network operation center will help in providing real-time monitoring, maintenance, analysis, and also fine-tuning of the HVAC systems. This is one of the best processes in which efficiency can be maintained with an upgrade of HVAC and t gain information about the performance of the facility.

Unconnected Systems Lose their Edge

The result might remain constant without cloud connectivity in the first year after being optimized. By the second year, it is natural for the equipment to age, and the facility team might have also changed the settings in the BAS, which causes savings to fall off. By the third year without cloud connectivity, the site can also lose most of their original carbon and cost savings due to the natural system performance degradation and operational overrides. The cloud connection provides an external brain, and without it, falloff will go unnoticed for a long time, costing the facilities a considerable amount of money.

Establishment of a two-way connection among an optimization provider and an HVAC plant can be complicated, but with time it is getting easier. Several tools like chillers, variable frequency drives (VFDs), pumps, and even smart actuators are designed in such a manner that it can connect with the control software and upload data in the cloud, helping to monitor and optimize system continuously. The manager of a facility can also collect and share the BAS and environmental management system (EMS) data that will reveal the area where most of the energy is consumed. The technology will also help to determine whether the equipment is working appropriately and efficiently, and even if the HVAC system is controlled effectively by the automation sequence.

Furthermore, the optimization provider can also watch whether any component is failing or not, along with mechanical drift, changes in ambient conditions, and any other fluctuations in the HVAC system. In response to these issues, the provider will get access to the installed optimization solution, can make use of the data to troubleshoot the equipment, improve sequencing, and also adapt set points for meeting the environmental parameters as they change. It can also install software updates that will increase its efficiencies or reliability.

Security and Product Quality is the Priority

It might raise network security concerns for a building or a facility IT team if they connect a Connecting a BAS and EMS to an optimization provider’s data center. The facilities that have stricter environmental necessities like hospitals, labs, pharmaceutical manufacturing plants make sure there is the proper temperature, and the humidity is in control.

The initial step is to apply tough security separations among the networks that are being used for BAS sensors and monitoring and also the ones that are used for business transactions. This also makes sure that the intellectual property, financial information, and other data regarding businesses stay siloed from operational data.

The security-conscious optimization supplier will have to work with the facility’s IT team for the establishment of a site-to-site virtual private network (VPN) tunnel among single points. It is a safe, private connection that links designated devices, which offer secure encryption along with private keys and access controls. The unique key will only provide access to the optimization engineers to gain insights about operational data for energy management and optimization services.

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