As many industries adopt IoT solutions for increased efficiency, reduced costs and new opportunities, the buildings industry is looking to do the same by incorporating IoT and mobile functionality into a range of facilities. As part of this, many businesses are choosing to use cloud and Internet of Things (IoT)-based technologies within their buildings, including building management systems that integrate data on physical security, HVAC and other systems into one display, and smart devices such as digital power meters, power quality meters, and smart circuit breakers.
In the future, the adoption of these technologies is predicted to increase at a rapid pace. For example, Navigant Research has predicted that the total number of smart devices in buildings will reach 4.4 billion, with the potential to reach as many as 10 billion devices as soon as 2020. However, in order to ensure that this rapid growth is sustainable, businesses must address growing concerns around IoT security and develop effective strategies to protect all building data from outside threats. How can organizations do this effectively while ensuring that they get the maximum benefit from their IoT systems?
The Opportunities Ahead
The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) estimates that with active controls and IoT-enabled technology, facilities can expect a 50 percent increase in cost efficiency, including energy, maintenance and other recurring costs. Providing facilities with IoT capabilities allows building managers to implement predictive maintenance and analytics technology, enabling facilities to save up to 20 percent per year on maintenance and energy costs. The use of IoT devices and services helps create intelligent buildings that minimize energy use, optimize the performance and lifespan of physical assets, and ensure the safety, security, and efficiency of the electrical system itself and of building tenants.
Smart devices enable facility teams to gain unparalleled access to the entire power network by measuring and collecting data, as well as providing control functions. Digital power meters, power quality meters, and smart circuit breakers can provide building managers with insight into all aspects of their electrical and utility systems. By incorporating smart devices, not only are these systems monitoring equipment performance and sharing alarms on threats to reliability or efficiency, they make it possible to measure meter energy and other parameters at each key point throughout a facility’s power network, from the main utility incomes into individual plug loads. Giving building managers this insight will reveal each instance of energy waste while also helping maintenance teams address risks before they can cause costly downtime and damage.
On top of this, IoT-enabled networks allow building managers to integrate HVAC, fire and physical security systems such as alarm systems more efficiently. However, when these various systems communicate and share data with each other through wireless networks, there is a risk that a hack or intrusion to the system could occur if the proper security precautions are not put in place.
Protecting Buildings Against Outside Threats: Practical Steps
In order to secure their buildings after implementing IoT-based systems, IT teams will need to implement IoT-based cybersecurity solutions in an effort to thwart these attacks, such as the use of authentication and encryption to protect communications between mobile devices, controllers and workstations.
Building managers are not alone in the effort to ensure that IoT-enabled systems for buildings are protected. This effort is being taken extremely seriously across the wider industry, and as IoT-connected building management systems become more popular, new standards and protocols are being implemented to ensure cybersecurity is maintained and managed across each system connected to mobile applications. For example, system manufacturers are providing security training to application developers to ensure that clients are complying with these standards. Business managers are incorporating threat modeling, secure code practices, extensive testing and more to ensure that their teams are following security regulations.
In addition, equipment manufacturers are providing partners and customers with full documentation and instructions to ensure that they are deploying their equipment efficiently, securely and effectively. Many building managers are also beginning to dedicate specific staff to cybersecurity teams to help provide installation services, maintenance and support with incidents or vulnerabilities.
As attacks become more common and sophisticated, businesses need to keep up to date with the latest solutions as hackers continue to familiarize themselves with existing security solutions and work around them. Evolving processes and procedures with changing security needs will be vital to ensuring facility success. Network managers should also plan to continually train staff to ensure cybersecurity systems and protocols continue to evolve and are continually updated and followed across the organization.
The Road Ahead
The digital transformation of multiple industries, including the facilities industry, is creating a need for the adoption of IoT and mobile technology into everyday practices for building managers. Incorporating mobile devices into daily workflows has increased productivity among facility staff by enabling remote work. It has also created a more efficient way to use building management systems that can alert staff to damaged equipment that may lead to a costly power outage, share alerts for emergencies and improve overall system efficiency through predictive maintenance capabilities. If facility managers are able to ensure that data and communications across their IoT systems are properly protected, the opportunities for organizational transformation within buildings are truly unparalleled.
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