BMS: The Problem as We See It

 

In many respects, modern Building Management Systems are powerful monitoring tools. Water, HVAC, even security and air pressure: all but invisible utilities whose use can be visualized through these integrated systems. And where there is visualization, there is control. Where there is control, costs and expenses can be minimized.     

The scope of visualization afforded by these Building Management Systems depends on the utility, and is usually consistent with the type of information being processed. Security must be monitored at a level of windows and doors; learning that an office had been compromised only paints a partial picture, but knowing the access point at which the breach occurred gives information crucial to formulating both short-term and long-term responses. Along the same lines, any HVAC system worth its wiring relies on integrated floor and vent plans, as well as temperature readouts at a number of locations at the floor- and room-levels.

Why then, is that not the case for energy distribution? Time and time again, as Building Management Systems grew in sophistication to match the needs of consumers, honing to the various levels of the systems they support, electrical power was left out of the discussion.

Imagine a building whose thermostat ran off a single thermometer in the basement. Now understand that this is exactly what “contemporary” energy management systems offer.

Niche and underdeveloped, Energy Management Systems are a mostly ignored aspect of the greater BMS domain. Where all other utilities can be monitored at the level in which they operate, BMS’s give energy information at the level of the facility. The facility! Ignoring for a moment that managers and administrators should be able to control power distribution at the circuit level, the idea that more discrete readouts are unattainable is ludicrous.

For a long time, the physicality of our energy grid was primarily at fault. The nature of electrical wiring made gauging usage at anywhere above a totally aggregate level an impossible task. An outlet in one room ran from the same wires, under the same fuses as an outlet one room over.

But to this day, Energy Management Systems are older and more computationally antiquated than the systems they support. And while such a standard of practice is acceptable if the technology that can bring it up to speed doesn’t exist, the tech is here, and the discrepancy is too great for administrative and industrial managers to ignore. We have the capacity to monitor from every outlet. We have the capacity to track usage against occupancy, to construct environments that anticipate where power will be needed down to a single flashing LED. With all this available, the blame lies squarely on the vendors of these outmoded systems, and their unwillingness to innovate for the sake of their clients.

Systemic waste occurs at the behavioral level. Every outlet a person cannot reach because it’s behind a piece of machinery, every device a person forgets or neglects or isn’t enough aware of represents a point of expense that is unrepresented and therefore impossible to be addressed. There are myths that perpetuate this stagnant culture of energy management, myths that hold that vampire load is minimal or nonexistent, or that unplugging a device harms its function. Urban legends bordering on misinformation, and yet they influence policy.

But imagine a system that brings you usage from every outlet, that knows for itself what circuits can be disconnected without any risk to the surrounding network of connected devices. Imagine a system that does it for you, that is more than a graphical interface, that allows control where control is desperately needed. Human behavioral waste could be addressed. It could be eliminated.

Imagine automation at the device level, constructing a behavioral environment whose foundation is the very flow of electricity and people through a facility. Imagine an integrated software core that uses machine learning against real-time occupancy data to predict and automate consumption. Does your system do this? Why not? It should; the technology exists, and it is up to you to demand it.

The Sapient Team is committed to showing you that a BMS could and should be doing more. The inertia of these structures can be huge and overwhelming. The structure of Energy Management Systems is rooted on the scale of entire buildings, and on some level, it is natural for vendors to avoid upgrading. For a long time, there was no incentive, no market-driven reason to usher in a new mode of energy distribution. Now there is.

Evolve or die. The old BMS model is wasteful, costly, and obsolete, and the vendors of these systems must be held accountable for failing to change.