Demystifying the Internet of Things

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Jim Nannini  

  By Jim Nannini
  Vice President of Building Wide Systems Integration, Johnson Controls

If I asked you, "What is the IoT," how would you answer?

Your definition would likely be influenced by your experience, your role at work, and your perspective as a consumer. The Internet of Things is no longer a set of buzz words, but it's still not easy to define. The digitization of our world - both personal and business - is picking up speed, transforming and challenging the construction industry to look beyond the physical infrastructure of a building, and instead look at the purpose and vision for the building in order to drive better outcomes. The development of networked sensors, machine-to-machine communications, data analytics and real-time decision making means previously fragmented technology systems within buildings are now converging on standards-based, secured and resilient network infrastructures.

At our annual Executive Forum this year – an event designed to bring executive-level building owners, contractors and designers together to gain a better understanding of their wants and needs during a construction event - I had the opportunity to help demystify the Internet of Things for our attendees. We addressed concerns like:

  • How is technology convergence transforming my business?
  • Should I look at my business through a different lens?
  • Is my lack of connectivity affecting my ability to innovate?
  • Am I moving fast enough to stay competitive?
The building is no longer just the place where you do business, but now has become critical to how you do business.

These are all important questions to ask when assessing an organization’s IoT readiness. In our interactive session, Demystifying IoT Connectivity, we also identified some of the business challenges that can be overcome with connectivity, looked at possible barriers to technology implementation, and brainstormed solutions that can be employed to overcome barriers on the journey to produce smarter buildings. Some of our key learnings:

  • Organizations should pursue including their IoT plan as part of a company-wide digital business strategy. Business initiatives can be better supported through a more comprehensive use of technology and the integration of individual systems. However, the massive volume and constant stream of IoT data creates the need for enhanced understanding of data integration and the processes necessary to translate raw data into useful insight.
  • It’s necessary to assess the current technical capabilities of the organization measured against the vision of desired outcomes. It’s also important to consider the evolving demands and expectations of an increasingly technology savvy staff, so a good first step toward establishing an IoT strategy is to gather a cross-functional team to participate in the assessment.
  • Delivering a fully optimized building that meets energy, technology and operational objectives depends on early collaboration between the owner’s internal stakeholders and design and construction team. Data-driven decisions about connectivity and interoperability must be made at the earliest phase of the design process.
  • Smart planning benefits both CapEx and OpEx spending. Smart planning during the design and construction phase of the project can minimize the capital expense of building a smart building through more efficient building practices, ironing out integration protocols up-front, reduced re-work, and minimized waste. When smart planning aligns with the business vision for the building, operational expenses are decreased in the typical areas of energy, water and waste, but also areas like employee retention, workflow and collaboration.
  • Building owners must possess a willingness to embrace change along with the right partners. Perhaps most important, we learned that to realize the full value of the digital transformation, no one can make an impactful digital transformation on their own due to barriers like culture, missing skills or legacy infrastructure constraints.

The building is no longer just the place where you do business, but now has become critical to how you do business. Understanding and embracing technology convergence can help make how you do business, better.

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