Smart Buildings

Technology Alliances Tackle Thorny Issue of Interoperability in Smart Buildings

This article was written by Daphne Tomlinson, Senior Research Associate at Memoori. “Currently, there is no automation technology available that covers all of the use-cases required to fully automate a commercial building.” That is the conclusion of IP Building and Lighting Standards (IP-BLiS), the latest initiative announced in June 2020 to promote a secure multi-standard IP-based IoT solution as a backbone in building automation to replace the inefficient, still-widespread use of siloed solutions. This approach to remove connectivity barriers and provide true smart buildings is to converge lighting control and building management systems with IT networks into a secure all-IP-based configuration. With this convergence comes true IP networking making data of the various building automation application protocols accessible via an IP address (instead of an application protocol specific address). The move to IP eliminates the need for hardware-based gateways and enables gateways between the systems to be pure software solutions since all devices communicate over […]

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This article was written by Daphne Tomlinson, Senior Research Associate at Memoori.

“Currently, there is no automation technology available that covers all of the use-cases required to fully automate a commercial building.” That is the conclusion of IP Building and Lighting Standards (IP-BLiS), the latest initiative announced in June 2020 to promote a secure multi-standard IP-based IoT solution as a backbone in building automation to replace the inefficient, still-widespread use of siloed solutions.

This approach to remove connectivity barriers and provide true smart buildings is to converge lighting control and building management systems with IT networks into a secure all-IP-based configuration. With this convergence comes true IP networking making data of the various building automation application protocols accessible via an IP address (instead of an application protocol specific address). The move to IP eliminates the need for hardware-based gateways and enables gateways between the systems to be pure software solutions since all devices communicate over a secure IP connection. This convergence also means that different physical IP layers can be used leading to integration of wired and wireless connectivity options to reduce installation costs.

Memoori has commented extensively on open data standards and interoperability, most recently in its report on Future Proofing Smart Commercial Buildings. 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.

From elevators and energy management, to lighting, water supply and air conditioning, to access control and surveillance systems: there are countless application scenarios for technologies in smart buildings. For the different domains such as building access, energy, lighting, etc, some individual building systems still use a wide variety of proprietary solutions that often require separate hardware-based gateways and infrastructures. This fragmentation results in higher costs for planning, installation, maintenance and administration of smart building projects. In addition, synergistic opportunities over the long-term remain unused.

Our recent joint White Paper with Locatee, entitled “Navigating the Complex Smart Building Landscape”, which was intended to help Corporate Real Estate and Facilities Management professionals navigate their path through the respective use cases towards a strategy for “smartening” their building portfolios, identified 49 use cases which illustrate the diverse set of applications which can be found in Smart Buildings.

IP-BLiS alliance members include BACnet International, The KNX Association, Open Connectivity Foundation, Thread Group and the Zigbee Alliance. These five organizations have been making progress with various initiatives to expand their memberships across the various domains of smart buildings and to address standards for IP-based IoT solutions for their respective interests.

BACnet was recently able to attract KONE, a global leader in the elevator and escalator industry, which became the first elevator and escalator manufacturing company to support BACnet International. The company joined more than 125 leading building automation suppliers supporting promotion of BACnet as a communications protocol to help manage smart buildings.

The Connected Home over IP project initiated by the Zigbee Alliance aims to develop and promote the adoption of a new, royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products for consumers, with security as a fundamental design tenet. Many of the major smart home device manufacturers are members of the organization. Zigbee Alliance board member companies include IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, Somfy, Tuya and Wulian.

KNX Association, the creator and owner of the KNX standard with 495 members has recently created KNX IP Secure to cover open data communication for building automation and building management via KNXnet/IP.

Thread Group is focused on making Thread the foundation for the Internet of Things in homes and commercial buildings. Built on open standards, Thread is a low power wireless networking protocol that enables direct, secure and scalable connectivity between IoT devices, mobile devices, and the Internet. Thread is backed by companies including Apple, Arm, Google/Nest, Lutron, Nordic Semiconductors, NXP Semiconductors, OSRAM, Qualcomm, Siemens, Silicon Labs, Somfy and Yale Security.

The Thread Group and the DiiA, the global DALI alliance of companies from the lighting and sensor industries, have recently announced a collaboration to implement the DALI lighting-control application on top of Thread’s low-power, secure and self-healing wireless mesh network. The goal is to offer a certification program to ensure interoperability and enable IoT developers to more quickly bring their lighting and sensor products to market.

While these individual initiatives have undoubtedly supported open protocols and IP-based connectivity, it is only by working together that interoperability will be truly advanced with a commonly agreed standards framework.

Memoori believes that fruitful collaboration between these five organizations is crucial to drive the long overdue convergence of open standards across the various domains enabling smart commercial buildings.

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