September RACA Interview with Mike Marston, Co-Owner of EasyIO Holdings Pte Ltd.

MikeMarston What trends can be picked up on the global BMS market? What’s new?

IT is changing the BMS world, for the better. More and more IP based Controllers are now being connected to the IT Infrastructure in a Building, as the barrier of RS 485 twisted pair cable being cheaper, seems to be finally changing. IT professionals know that so much more can be achieved through Ethernet cable and IT infrastructure, such as, fast online programming, real time, and with the old ways of compile, download and ‘pray’!

Another change is the use of Embedded Linux Platforms in DDC Controllers, changing the rules and lowering costs. Even some companies and customers are deploying Raspberry PI’s to collect data, thereby, opening new access to enable low cost metering solutions, and eventually, we can get closer and closer to true Smart-grid control. This cannot happen without IT and IP based ‘Edge Devices’ (such as embedded Linux devices) and Power Companies with their huge databases (and maybe Google, IBM etc.) to simply and cheaply address the millions of consumers connected to any energy grid. There is a race on now, to the management smaller buildings, and this is where most energy is consumed. This could be a big growth area for BMS companies.

BACnet continues to take a strong foothold in most BMS systems, but care needs to be taken to avoid connected over the internet with security and BACnet authentication. BACnet is great but can be vulnerable if not protected in the IT infrastructure. BACnet, in our view, has won the race over Lon Works, to become the defacto open standard, in BMS.

However, one cannot forget Web Services, and other emerging open protocols, which are more secure and flexible and more understood by non BMS professionals, who need to deal with BMS integrations and our Energy data. Web services can be as simple as http requesting from a centralized database Server, to pinpoint and automatically retrieve exact data that is required for centralized cloud/enterprise Billing Systems.

What are the challenges impeding the growth of the BMS market?

BMS will continue to grow as the industry embraces IT, and as BMS adapts to IT requirements and the changing world pf how people get, use and deal with data, and this is not forgetting big data, which is another challenge.

Growth will only be impeded if the BMS industry changes, and forgets its obsession with solely just BACnet, as there are other important game changing trends that need to be embraced, and implemented. This is the M2M Energy Services and Data businesses, as many new service provide are springing up to manage big data from Billing systems, Meters, Building Performance data and so on. Also, analytics will be a key are of growth and implementation in the Building Management of Buildings. Analytics requires a different approach; it requires real time data, in a very open web services (XML, http, SOAP) type of data environment. BACnet is not the answer to this, although it does serve us well in the integration of DDC Controllers, some Meters, some VFD’s, Chillers etc.

Another consideration affecting growth is how to address the remote Buildings Fixed IP address issue. Is it really needed? – not if you consider ‘Push Data’, which allows a BMS to send its data to the Cloud of the Enterprise System using Web Services without the need for a fixed IP address at the remote site. Some BMS companies are already implementing this but others will need to follow.

What are common mistakes made when installing/maintaining a BMS?

When installing there needs to a be a mutual expectation of performance, after the systems is commissioned, witnessed and handed over. These can then be monitored, tested and analysed thereafter, just like we would do with any other valuable Building asset.

When designing and installing a BMS there needs to be a mutual expectation of performance, after the system is commissioned, witnessed and handed over. These can then be monitored, tested and analysed thereafter, just like we would do with any other valuable Building asset. There also needs to be a set operation budget for ongoing maintenance. BMS’s do need maintenance such as calibration, tuning and replacement of Sensors and Actuators. A good example is on/off valves often used in Hotel Room, yet we spend $30 on a cheap on/off Valve and it fails and is jammed in the 100% open position, for years to come. This is where maintenance and performance analytics should be budgeted in the operational plan for a building. Unfortunately, not all customers in Hotel, or office Tenants complain or give feedback, they simply just take their business elsewhere.

When choosing a BMS for your building, what process should you go through to pick a brand?

Consider brands that have good local support in all major cities throughout the country. Look on the internet, look at industry awards, talk with friends, peers, competitors, end users, and in fact talk with everyone. Don’t always just pick the biggest name; look at the companies that are making positives changes, offering excellent value, and with a proven track record in achieving what they say that they will.

Have an open mind, and test the brand’s knowledge and reputation. The internet can be a good tool for this, but word of mouth and past experience would be a good parallel approach.

BAS vs BMS vs M2M – does industry fully understand the difference and what are the implications of this?

I think that they are all the same thing now, and more so, as we move forward into the future. I don’t feel that BAS cannot survive or grow in isolation of M2M. It is now a fully integrated solution that requires a multitude of features, skills and capabilities. BMS is the same as BMS with more emphasis on the Management of Facilities.

BMS and BAS are about buildings while M2M (machine to machine) is about how we can get devices intelligent, small and low cost enough so that they can actually talk to each other and act on their own. It’s a little bit like people, in a way, if we encourage people to talk to each other, work together and share things they are able to make decisions themselves and do not need to go to a supervisor to make things work.

So what we do with M2M is that we go from device to device, and from a cluster of devices, we go directly to the End Devices. But ultimately it will be merged and integrated with BAS and BMS somewhere in the overall architecture.

Where are BMS heading? Where will we be in 5 to 10 years?

The future looks good for BMS but it will change at a faster pace than it has done over the last 20 years. In fact, there has been little change in BMS over the last 20 years, except for buzz words and the introduction of BACnet. Next, will be far more integration with M2M and IT, and there will be an overall morphing of traditional BMS and new web based enterprises such as Google, IBMS, Nest, Intel, CISCO, combining Energy Management on a mass scale for both commercial and residential buildings. It won’t be just the Sky Scrapers getting BMS/BAS/M2M, it will every building, big and small.

In fact, for us to manage energy effectively, we need large scale deployment to match supply and demand, from the Power Station, to the home, to the office, to the retails stores, etc. It will cover everything, and it will be available at affordable prices thanks to lower cost M2M and embedded Linux DDC Controllers (probably called End Devices, eventually!).

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