Open-access content Tuesday 4th June 2013
'Machine-to-machine' communication surely belongs in science fiction. However, as Jürgen Hase explains, buildings are increasingly able to adjust their own controls without any direct human involvement.
23 May 2013
New technologies make buildings smarter, for example, by helping to reduce energy consumption or to improve security. Machine-to-machine communication (M2M) is one such technology.
Surveys undertaken by industry analysts Pike Research and Machina Research indicate that M2M will lead to a significant increase in spending on smart building management services in the next seven years.
The focus will be on connected energy management systems and security concepts.
So, it's Friday evening, close-of-business at the office. Insurance company employees shut down their PCs and make their way home. The office lighting should be switched off, the windows closed and the thermostats turned down. That should be the case.
The reality, however, is somewhat different. Almost every evening, at least one aspect of the above is forgotten about by employees in a hurry to get home. And this is bad news for a building's energy performance.
Wouldn't it be great if the building itself knew that energy was being consumed unnecessarily and could initiate counter-measures? M2M makes precisely that possible, for instance, by enabling the window to communicate with the thermostat.
Figures compiled by Machina Research indicate a bright future for the building automation sector. Take the UK market. In 2011, around 420,000 devices were connected with each other. By 2020, this figure is predicted to reach 47.7 million and sales are set to rise accordingly. In 2011, building automation devices totalled over £20 million. By 2020, the analysts anticipate an increase to nearly £850 million.
Companies such as Deutsche Telekom believe that mobile network operators (MNOs) have an important part to play in building automation. M2M is finding its way into many areas of our everyday life and, as such, is not just a connected life enabler, but, above all, an enabler of connected work.
Energy management systems based on M2M technology contribute toward this trend. They are based on smart metering with real-time consumption measurement that enables facilities managers or housing sector enterprises to optimise their processes. This can, for example, help them to boost customer loyalty by improving quality of service.
The system usually works in the following way: consumption data is read automatically and relayed directly to the data centre by the MNO. The processed data is then relayed to the customer or energy service provider via a virtual private network. To ensure that this process runs smoothly, the digital meters are equipped with a wireless module and a built-in SIM card.
Deutsche Telekom sees energy as a growth area with great potential.
An EU directive for the internal electricity market requires member states to install smart metering systems. By 2020, around 80 per cent of households in the European Union are to be equipped with smart metering technology.
Energy efficiency M2M can help reduce energy consumption, especially in larger properties, such as office blocks, warehouses or retail premises.
As a sector, food retail consumes a lot of energy, for keeping perishables chilled or to present products better by means of sophisticated lighting concepts, for example. To reduce its energy costs to a minimum, a food retailer instructed Deutsche Telekom to install a central energy management system.
The system records the electricity consumption of not only lighting, but also ventilation and cooling. Facilities managers can see at a glance how much energy costs, and also energy consumption in individual buildings.
In breakdown situations, facilities managers also have an early warning system in place to enable timely and cost-saving counteraction. Lighting that has not been switched off, for example, or motion detectors that have failed can be identified much faster than previously. In the above case, the savings achieved had a positive effect on the four pilot stores' environmental balance sheet. Lower electricity consumption enabled the company to reduce its CO2 emissions by more than 400 tonnes.
Retail is not alone in benefiting from energy management systems. In addition to office and administrative buildings, a subsidiary of the Deutsche Post Group manages a large number of freight and letter centres, including sorting offices that are especially energy-intensive.
This led the company to order a web-based energy management system. Four pilot locations were equipped with electronically readable meters and temperature sensors. The system also provides additional information, such as the time of year and the weather outlook. Facilities managers can thereby keep track of energy-influencing factors at all times and, subsequently, identify savings potentials.
The M2M-based energy management system is now in use at more than 100 properties.
Security is another aspect of building automation. There is more connectivity between alarm systems, video monitoring and access control systems than ever before.
In the case of energy management systems, MNOs have a crucial role to play. In the future, there will be more co-operation with partners because specialised providers such as software companies often lack the resources to set up national or, indeed, international sales structures.
MNOs are now offering M2M solution providers an opportunity to join partner programmes to share and develop ideas. The mobile surveillance camera EyeSee is the result of one such co-operation. The camera, developed by Deutsche Telekom partner Jablocom, is equipped with sensors that monitor surroundings continuously.
A passive infrared sensor registers even the smallest movement by recognising human body temperature. Noise alarms also recognise the sound of breaking window panes. Also, if the camera registers changes in air flow, this might be a sign that a door or window has been opened. If the camera, which is equipped with an M2M SIM card, spots a break-in, it sounds the alarm automatically and sends a photo of the event to the facilities manager by SMS or e-mail. The advantage is that security personnel do not have to be on-site constantly or conduct any remote monitoring activity.
This M2M solution focuses on an entirely different security aspect of building automation: the smart smoke alarm. The latest generation of smoke alarms not only sound an acoustic alarm if it registers a fire, it also incorporates a security connection to an emergency service centre. M2M technology enables the system to maintain constant surveillance, even when the building is empty after the close of business, or over the weekend, for example.
M2M solutions have the potential to make it clear to us how efficient buildings really are by showing us where savings can be achieved. They offer facilities managers enormous opportunities to improve their property's ecological performance, to save costs, and to optimise building security.
Jürgen Hase is head of Deutsche Telekom's M2M competence centre