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Benefits and Loopholes in Building Automation Control Systems

October 22, 2018


The world has come to a point where automation is not a fancy word anymore. Often, automation can bring visuals of robots in your mind. However, look around, and you will find plenty of automatic devices that you use every single day. In fact, many of the things your smartphone does are automatic as well. For example, once you have the Wi-Fi option on, it connects to an available network automatically. A simple example like this shows how beneficial automation can be. Apply the same concept to buildings, and the benefits increase by manifolds.

Building Automation Control Systems

Before getting into the benefits, let’s take get an overview of what building automation means. There are thousands and millions of things happening inside a building at any given moment. Surveillance, heating, air conditioning, laundry, water pumping, lighting, etc. are some examples. When you automate these processes and centralize their control, a building automation control system takes birth.

The Many Benefits of Building Automation Control Systems

Efficient Use of Energy

The most significant benefit of building automation is that it allows you to use energy efficiently. Building automation will achieve that through device-to-device communication. That’s what gives rise to Internet of Things. The devices in use will instantly communicate with each other to take control of processes to increase energy efficiency.

While it might seem on the surface that industrial use of energy should be higher, that’s not the case. The use of energy in commercial and residential buildings outdoes its usage in industries. In 2014, commercial usage made up 32.6% of all the energy in use in the US whereas residential usage made up 33.9% of it. Industrial consumption was at 24.1%, which is quite small compared to the residential and commercial percentages.

According to the statistics from 2013, residential and commercial consumption of electricity results in losses of 46% and 52.1% energy respectively. With building automation, you can reduce those losses significantly.

The Light Impact on the Environment

One of the concerns of the modern world is sustainability and efficient use of energy. Burning the resources of the world inefficiently can soon turn this beautiful planet into an undesirable shape. Building automation is the perfect solution to energy efficiency. Take the example of phantom loads i.e. devices that use electricity when connected to a power outlet even when you have turned them off. A recent study shows that just in the US, 7% of electricity gets used by phantom loads.

Building automation can take care of such issues for you. It can automatically cut power to appliances when no one is using them, eventually saving significant amounts of energy annually. Moreover, building automation takes care of your plumbing needs as well. By reducing water wastage, you can contribute to making this world more sustainable. 

The amazing thing is that these appliances will upload this data into the cloud through internet connectivity. The companies can then innovate software and hardware based on this big data to read certain patterns and trends. Based on these trends, the automated system can notify you of any imminent hazards.

The Peace of Mind

Managing a building and providing a quality lifestyle to the residents is a challenging task. When it comes to large buildings, something can go wrong almost every day. Building automation gives you the peace of mind of tracking everything from anywhere. You instantly get a notification when something goes wrong. You can fix many of the problems before they turn into a nightmare.

In fact, machine learning can come at play in these scenarios. If certain issues are fixable without human involvement, the system can take the decision on its own to fix it.

Improving Lives of Appliances

What adds to the costs of living of residents in buildings is the inefficiency of their appliances. Just because your AC has cooled your room, it does not matter it is performing at its optimum efficiency. Inefficient appliances don’t last long before maintenance and repair expenses arise. The residents must buy new appliances much more often than they should because of this issue. By using various energy-saving techniques, residents in the US can save up to 50% of wasted energy on just air conditioning.

Yet again, big data will play a huge role in improving the lives of your appliances. How would a machine know when it is performing at its peak efficiency or not? The big data will help. Machines will know from tons of data that their performance stats don’t match optimum performances figures. As a result, they can notify you of any maintenance and repair works. They can even inform you of the component that’s causing inefficiency in the system so you can search for a quick fix.

Improved Security

Building automation improves your security significantly. First, it can connect to your security alarms to notify you of any plumbing, electric or fire hazards. In addition to that, you can access your home surveillance system from anywhere at any given time. You can lock and unlock the doors when you want. In fact, you can program your doors to lock and unlock at specific times. By keeping certain lights on or controlling the window blinds, you can send an impression that someone’s in the house even when there isn’t.

According to a University of North Carolina report, nearly 60% of burglars would not target a home with a security system. The university based its report on the responses from the convicted burglars.

Building Automation Controllers The era of productivity and pizzaz

Loopholes in Building Automation Control Systems

Increased Use of Facilities

Of course, when an automated system will keep everything in optimal condition, it will encourage people to use facilities even more. For example, they will use air conditioning even more under the impression that their savings on energy efficiency will cancel out the increased costs. This increased use will eventually cancel out the energy savings from efficient use of electrical appliances.

The Inefficiency of Automation System

It requires quite a bit of research from building owners to find the best system that meets their specific needs. They will have to make sure not to pay for things they don’t need or will never use. If you are a building owner who is considering a building automation control system, you should do much research beforehand. Keep in mind that your upfront costs of installing these systems are quite high. You don’t want to end up spending $200k for a system when you could meet your needs within $100k.

The Increased Costs of Maintenance

A building automation control system is a combination of software and hardware. You must take care of its maintenance and upgrade it for it to keep working efficiently. For this, you will require professional assistance. These professionals can be costly, and specific upgrades can be even costlier.

Additionally, when every device will be a part of a network and uploading data, the cloud services will have to expand and scale. What this means is more datacenters, more heat dissemination, more power consumption, etc.

The Increased Security Concerns

Building automation system is a perfect example of the internet of things in action. However, there is still a long way to go to secure IoT devices. The world is still looking for standards to simplify IoT and reduce incompatibilities between software and hardware makers. The existing systems can be potential entry points for cyber criminals.

Concluding Thoughts

The concept of automation has been around for a long time. However, just like any other technology, automation is going through its evolution too. You cannot claim that automation has reached its prime or no further improvements are necessary. In fact, this is only the beginning. Early adoption might not sound very appealing to you, but it will benefit you in more ways than you realize in the end. Gradually we are realizing that building automation is only a small element in the bigger design. As the various components of the different systems interact with each and with external systems, the time is not too far for buildings to interact with each other as well as other systems on the cloud. This will pave way for the connected smart cities of the future.

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