“There are further opportunities in expanding the scope and aspirations of building related Big Data assets beyond the purview of just operational and energy management,” states our latest report Towards Data-Driven Buildings: Big Data For Smart Buildings 2018 to 2023. “Too often, buildings are seen as simply a cost that needs to be minimized as opposed to an asset to increase in value and a path to increase bottom-line revenue,” it continues.
More often than not, building data is not being formally linked to wider organizational data strategies. This leads to ununified platforms, where building systems data is managed on dedicated platforms that are de-coupled from wider enterprise systems. Thereby reducing the potential for integrated application development and limiting value creations around smart building development. The convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) data is now being increasingly seen as a roadblock for the progress of smart building adoption.
Intelligence firm, Gartner predicted that by 2020, 50% of OT service providers will create key partnerships with IT-centric providers for IoT offerings. Such predictions were mimicked across the sector, many observers concluding that the long-projected convergence of smart building’s IT & OT worlds had finally come to pass, but this isn’t really how it has turned out.
“A degree of convergence is occurring in terms of hardware, networks and infrastructure, but we see limited evidence of convergence when it comes to smart buildings / facilities management and IT software, platforms or data analytics,” explains our report. “Platform solutions by leading building automation firms focus on building operations, and although they have APIs and support the import of external data sources, this cannot be considered as true convergence in data terms.”
Partnering and collaboration, alongside the numerous alliances and consortia that have emerged in the Building Internet of Things (BIoT) space, are fundamental to the consolidation and evolution of the ecosystem and development of the market. “It is this engagement and entanglement between IT and OT that is defining and shaping the future of buildings in the IoT age,” we said in an article in June this year.
Despite the fact that major global technology companies like Google’s parent firm Alphabet, IBM, Siemens, Amazon, Microsoft and others, have been experimenting with various technologies, none of them can claim to have created “the” definitive platform. Convergence is not a purely technical problem, however, so solutions must look beyond just technology integration and into unifying the human aspects of these divisions.
“Numerous barriers have long existed that hinder genuine IT / OT convergence, from legacy buildings standards and a lack of systems interoperability, systems lifecycles, different skill sets and business priorities, cyber security concerns and organizational siloes,” highlights the report. “These and other challenges have resulted in strong internal resistance against bringing these two teams and infrastructures together, with mistrust coming from both sides.”
Recent studies have demonstrated that IT and OT personnel continue to be poorly aligned with one another, and they need to cross that divide for enterprise-wide IoT projects to prove viable.
According to a 451 Research survey, only one-third of OT respondents (34%) said they 'cooperate closely with IT' on IoT projects from conception to operations. While a relatively small proportion of IT respondents said they were in ‘active conflict’ with OT over IoT - responses from OT professionals showed they are four times more likely to characterize their relationship with IT in that way. “Where OT/IT conflict exists, OT feels it more sharply,” 451 research states.
Buildings, like cities and utility grids, are becoming more digital and connected, taking them deeper into the IT realm. IT companies and departments appear to be applying their data-based solutions to operational problems without significant input from OT departments, leading to IT dominating the evolution of the building. OT personnel, however, have a huge amount of experience to offer to help smooth and accelerate this evolution, and only by working together better will we achieve convergence and reach the full potential big smart building data promises.
“The adoption of increasingly open data architectures and communications protocols for smart building devices has meant Big Data platforms are increasingly being used to process data from multiple previously siloed building systems incorporating data streams related to energy, lighting, occupancy, access control, fire and safety, and so on,” our comprehensive assessment of the Market for Big Data Software, Networks and Services in Buildings suggests.
“Progress is also being made in terms of the scalability of buildings Big Data platforms with a number of emerging solutions now supporting scalable Big Data analytics for estates or portfolios of buildings, across regions or even at a national level. This scalability better services the needs of facilities managers and CRE executives, and allows for a greater degree of innovative insights from Big Data,” highlighting what is possible if these roadblocks can be overcome.
Whether these barriers for IT - OT convergence are a product of unresolved siloes or the natural delays experienced when merging two previously distinct departments, actively accelerating their co-evolution will provide a huge boost to the smart building sector. Combining IT and OT data into a unified platform, powered by real-time analytics, as well as the adoption of true data-driven corporate cultures together offer the opportunity to finally bridge this divide.