By GREG TURNER, Vice President, Honeywell Building Solutions

Traditionally, predicting how an organization’s operating costs will change week to week or even month to month has been difficult because of a variety of fluctuating factors. While recent periods of low wage growth and stable energy costs have helped to ease the management burden, these trends aren’t likely to last forever. Thus, as we start 2017, it’s a good time for facility managers and organizational leaders to take stock of ways to better manage variability using the wealth of data available from building systems.

While the notion of smart buildings isn’t new, the possibilities of what they can achieve is ever-expanding. The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT)—which centers on the fundamental notion of connectivity between everything, from infrastructure to devices—is helping to fuel the advancement of smart buildings, allowing facility managers to access actionable information to optimize how a facility is operated and better forecast and manage issues such as cost fluctuations.

IoT-enabled connectivity is the base platform to make this possible, but deep insight gained from analytics related to repairs, operations, space usage, occupancy levels, and energy costs is key. Such insight can drive automated actions to solve real business problems. None of us has time to look through mountains of data every day or week. Now, because of this connectivity, we can expect building systems to detect and report variations and, in many cases, even take actions to resolve potential issues, whether it is changing an operating sequence because of a mechanical issue, shedding load to meet a demand target, or creating a work order for a contractor.

Better Focus With Predictive Maintenance

New cloud-based technologies such as predictive maintenance are emerging, thanks to the connectivity enabled by smart buildings. These solutions help organizations focus maintenance activities where they can best impact overall building performance. Combining the connectivity of a smart building with automation and data analytics turns buildings into more productive organizational assets while helping to save time and money.

For example, a facility manager follows a traditional maintenance schedule for all of a building’s chillers for two to three months. With predictive analytics, the system forecasts the number of run hours before a chiller’s performance degrades and the chiller requires maintenance. That forecast is constantly evaluated so that maintenance work is scheduled at the optimum time to maximize asset life, reliability, and energy efficiency while keeping labor costs down.

Optimizing Performance With Data Analytics

Most buildings already generate incredible amounts of data that can lead to critical insights that benefit an organization. That data, however, frequently is not organized in a way that allows for easy analysis. Cloud services are emerging as a way to help manage and organize data, and a data framework can lend itself to intelligent analytics that improve decision making. For example, a large campus recently tapped into the actual performance of 220 chillers across a broad range of conditions, rather than rely on traditional age-based models to create a capital-replacement master plan.

Connectivity enables a building’s performance data and analytics to be delivered directly to a facility manager’s mobile device. As a result, facility managers can receive timely notifications of possible issues, along with real-time data to assess issue impact, allowing them to take immediate action, no matter where they are located.

An organization’s ability to forecast needs, quantify business impacts, prioritize actions, and respond swiftly will be critical when energy costs rise and wages grow again. Smart buildings enable an organization to capture and act on valuable insights that can identify problems before they start impacting the bottom line and reveal opportunities to optimize overall operations. We can’t always know when changing factors will impact operating costs, but making investments for smarter buildings now will ensure we are ready whenever they do.