Looking Ahead: Evolution of the End Node
Sunday, September 30, 2007 at 10:37AM
Toby Considine in Re-thinking things

So how will building systems fit together in the future? I have some pretty solid ideas about what it will look like, but it is hard to project the time sequence, or the time scale. Here’s what I see.

Embedded building systems become visible and controllable. Current integrated systems are “dis-integrated”. Systems that now are only accessible for the whole building will be accessible floor by floor, and perhaps mapped to tenants. Building systems will become as recognizable, to your computer, as networked printers are today. Like printers, they will not share their inner workings, but they may tell you “filter needs changing” in the same way newer printers inform you that toner needs replacing.

Systems, suites, and circuits will be able to report their current energy “burn rate”. Live pricing from the building service entrance, the electric meter, will be available to all systems. Each system and each suite will know and be able to report what they are costing per minute or per hour right NOW.

As the systems become better factored, and sub-metering is added to each floor and perhaps to every breaker, all electrical usage will be verifiable rather than calculated. As building systems become abstracted to the business services they support, their function and performance will be visible and understandable to the owner or the tenant. This will not happen overnight, energy intensive areas like the data center lead the way.

Customer centered areas get better understood as system sensors become visible to sales and customer relationship software. Door sensors (the little black mats going into a store) expose live foot traffic and occupancy to the enterprise. Comfort metrics drawn off the environmental controls are evaluated directly against customer traffic.

Special purpose spaces will have their own metrics. The conference room scheduled for tomorrow’s meeting will receive the invitation directly from the corporate calendar. The room’s support systems will review the attendance and make appropriate decisions about room cooling and humidity control. The room will read its own electric meters before and after the event and transmit usage and cost information directly to the corporate accounting or tenant management system.

Other special spaces will have their own needs. Medical clinic space, for example, will be driven by its own unique needs. Special purpose systems might include medical gas distribution or high energy diagnostic equipment. Patient scheduling for the use of such equipment will acquire components tied to time of day and energy pricing. Building system integrator niches will exist for each specialty business need.

Each of these changes will be compelling. The forces of inertia that today tell us “You can’t get there from here” will last only until we all ask “What took that so long?”

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (http://www.newdaedalus.com/).
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