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The four Vs of big data have long been a central part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart building discussion. As the number and complexity of devices and systems within buildings increase, so does the Variety, Velocity, Volume, and Veracity of the data generated. It is these four Vs that have created the demand for “big data” strategies, which have become central to smart building development.

The four Vs are also at the center of the rapidly emerging topic of future proofing, as handling the increases of these data characteristics will be one of the biggest challenges facing our increasingly intelligent commercial buildings.

An inability to handle this challenge will limit an organization’s capacity to derive value from their data, and will likely make investments in smart technology seem insufficient or poorly managed, relative to others. Data has become so fundamental to building and business operations that a new role has emerged atop the corporate hierarchy, the Chief Data Officer (CDO). According to a NewVantage Partners study from in 2012, only 12% of surveyed firms reported the appointment of a CDO, by 2017 this number had grown to 55.9%.

“As data analytics become part of the core operations of an ever-increasing number of businesses, it seems CDOs will take more active roles in shaping new initiatives and will become common sights in executive boardrooms around the world,” predicts our new report – Future Proofing Smart Commercial Buildings. “Some firms see this CDO role as reactive to the changing regulatory environment surrounding big data, with a focus on compliance management with applicable policies, regulations, and laws, while others see the primary role of the Chief Data Officer as driving innovation, value creation from data and helping to establish a data culture across the business.

Eventually, the CDO role is likely to incorporate all those elements and grow in power within organizations as data becomes more ubiquitous and pervasive in buildings and businesses. Organizations with ambitions to thrive in this rapidly evolving data age will demand that their facilities and operations be future proofed to make the most out of the increasing amount and complexity of data. This is a formidable and multifaceted challenge.

Managing the four Vs problem is not just about upgrading big data engines and the capacity of connectivity infrastructure. Each V has its own challenges that will push almost every part of the system to its limits. We predict that there will be over 5 billion connected devices in operation in commercial buildings by 2022. Suggesting that device proliferation will rise significantly in all commercial building subsectors. The unrelenting increase in devices in all verticals is making the data problem universal.

Consider interoperability. Defined as; the ability of two or more products, programs, or systems, to exchange and interpret each other’s data. “Ability,” in this sense, can refer to both the means to interact and the quality of that interaction. Where “connectivity” allows the conversation to take place between these elements, “interoperability” ensures they speak the same language. Future proofing for broad and unknown future of interoperability will require us to become more open through collaboration, standardization, and the way we organize data itself.

“Open data, security, and communications standards are critical to improving the interoperability, flexibility, and resilience of digitally enabled building systems,” states our latest research. “The historical “walled garden” approach of siloed systems each operating based on proprietary communications protocols has, until recently acted as a major inhibitor to the adoption of smart building technology, but the market is steadily shifting, and manufacturers are now actively providing support for more open protocols,” continues the report focused on future proofing smart commercial buildings.

Interoperability became a key topic for the industry with the introduction of LonWorks and BACnet protocols in the 1990s. These open building system protocols define the arrangements under which devices and systems interact and communicate with each other. The quality of these arrangements go a long way to improving systems interoperability in terms of combatting fragmentation while reducing CAPEX, OPEX, and time to market.

In the absence of common standards, middleware platforms can be employed to provide interoperability between legacy systems and building data platforms. However, with the evolving character of data, such solutions are already being stretched to their limits.

“A lack of a common data model hinders interoperability and can also limit development of cross-domain applications. With potentially thousands of different sensors in operation in a smart building, there must be consistent data tagging related to the names, locations, and data gathered by the sensors to provide data consistency and reliability, this challenge is of course further compounded at an estate or portfolio level,” says our comprehensive report.

The solution to the growing data problem is open semantic data models and tagging. Semantic tagging adds a basic meaning to the data and the relationships that lie between them, allowing systems to better understand and use their unmanageable new levels of data.

Various bodies are working on a unified standard for semantic data modeling and in February 2018 the ASHRAE BACnet committee, Project Haystack, and the Brick initiative announced they are actively collaborating to integrate their data modeling approaches into the new proposed ASHRAE Standard 223P.

Our new report explores the challenge of Future Proofing Smart Commercial Buildings but also details the innovative solutions that are ensuring we can keep up with the ever-growing potential of data in the IoT age.