There are many differences between a solution using an Internet of Things approach, and the same solution using an Industrial approach using Internet of Things techniques. We have found this real life experience in a customer that wasn’t sure if he needed one or the other, but he indeed required a Building Energy Management System, that somehow will be part of the Smart City revolution.

Building Energy Management System (aka BEMS) is one of the Smart City applications that can be obtained by combining Machine to Machine communications, short range communications, energy sensors, actuators and automations, that will end in algorithms and tools designed to reduce energy consumption in a whole building, and will translate in carbon footprint reduction and monthly costs reduction.

Gartner defines an Smart City as an urbanized area where multiple sectors cooperate to achieve sustainable outcomes through the analysis of contextual real time information shared among sector specific information and operational technology systems. Following this definition, Building Energy Management System will be part of the 1.6 million things related with Smart Homes and Smart Commercial Buildings. It is obviously a very interesting opportunity to focus our strength on delivering a the adequate solution depending on where we want to position.

In the case we are dealing with, we are focusing to an office building, seven stories high, open offices, meeting rooms, central heating, central A/C and regular data center. The possibilities for reducing energy in this kind of building, specially if its an old building that wasn’t optimised for energy consumption, are finite but fruitful. Depending on the approach it will result in monthly bill reduction.

In a Smart City, where the buildings are smart homes were built without having this into consideration, the saving options are wide open. Architects didn’t think on this. It may be in newer buildings, that were designed with more energy-saving awareness. But let’s face it, most of the buildings in modern and antique cities, were built many years ago.

Let’s check how the two approaches are different from each other, and then conclude.

IoT approach

An Internet of Things solution will look at the points where users are using the energy, look for inefficiencies, and apply techniques to reduce consumption. Some example to illustrate are the meeting room that should turn off lights when no one is using it, A/C switch off when windows are open, presence lights in common zones that will light up only when someone is passing by.

The solution will result in three or four sensors with short range communication per room: A/C controller, presence sensor, light switch and window detector. These will require of several gateways along each level to create the inside communication network, and finally a router or gateway to the BEMS service. There are many providers, mainly in the form of startups, like Neurio, Smarthome Select, Woven and many others, that are betting hard for this market.

In our IoT solution design this results in more or less 200 devices to be installed and configured in the building.

IIoT approach

An industrial approach will first look to the energy supply of the building in order to understand the way this energy is distributed through the building and how it’s being used. This analysis will help determine the possible flaws in consumption (like bad usage or bad energy quality) and will help setting the strategy and design of the components that will reduce energy.

In this case our IIOT solution will include energy analysers for the energy distribution nodes, industrial sensors and automators programmed specifically for needs of the building, RF communications, and 3G gateway to the BEMS system. When looking for this kind of materials, we will look at well know, long-stablished manufacturers like Siemens, Homewell, Schenider…

A proper solution using this IIoT approach will easily save 10% of the consumption after 6 months of the first delivery, which, in a big building with many MWatts can make a huge difference. Of course, this will be different depending on the building and it features, but we have seen savings of up to 30% when combining different techniques.

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Common issues

Both solutions will share the BEMS service, that will have a typical IoT architecture, receiving data from the sensors though the gateways up to the middleware, database and management system. The Building Energy Management System will take cara of showing the history, thresholds, alarms, advices, and any other information that the vertical is producing with the things’ information.

The advantage

Our experience can be resumen in the following bullet-points:

  • The Industrial Internet of Things solution will look more expensive given that it will use expensive industrial devices, but in the long run the regular IoT solution will require more installations along the building, increasing the TCO.
  •  The IIoT will save big amounts of energy after a proper analysis of the situation, while the IoT will save small amounts in multiple places.
  • Given the cost of energy, and considering the penalties set in the energy contracts, IIoT will have a 1 year ROI, while IoT will have a 5 year ROI (1).

Basically, Internet of Things focused to consumers will help for user awareness and for technifying a building, but the focus should be in the big consumers within the buildings and a proper analysis of the characteristics of the usage: It is not the same a single home than a full office building.

Of course, making a small deployments in a large number of houses make it easy to reach big -size solution. As an example, Gartner’s report includes a forecast of 570 million Smart LED units rolled out worldwide. Being LED will save energy; being Smart will help save a bit of energy; and being so massive will save a huge amount of energy. This is where IoT will win in the battle of energy savers between IoT and IIoT. Now the deal is how to make it attractive to each end user that will have to make the investment.

We would like to hear your opinions about all this.

  • Did you ever calculate what savings you would get in a meeting room considering the current cost of energy
  • Did you compare the savings with the cost of the solution?
  • Did your company calculate how much they would save only by having efficient energy policies? Eg. Employee awareness, machinery efficiency…
  • Do you know of other manufacturers and solutions focused on Building Energy Management System?

(1) For these calculations we have estimated 0,1€/KWh, light points consuming 800W, IoT sensors with a price in the range of 120€ and IIoT devices in the range of 600€.

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