Navigant Research Blog

IoT Bridging the Gap for Intelligent Small and Medium-Sized Buildings

— October 24, 2016

Intelligent BuildingLarge building owners have been investing in intelligent building technologies and leveraging these data-driven solutions to reduce costs, improve operational and energy efficiencies, and achieve broader corporate objectives like sustainability. Small and medium building (SMB) owners, on the other hand, often struggle to maintain profits and sustain slim margins with more traditional approaches. Most of these smaller buildings lack the technology to generate the kind of data that ties energy consumption to operational and bottom-line performance. As a result, there is a lost opportunity for these business owners. The Internet of Things (IoT) concept, however, is changing the conversation around building management and delivering impressive results. There are three ways that IoT is opening new doors for SMB energy efficiency and business improvement.

#1: Secure, Scalable, and Easy to Install

IoT is a concept that spans nearly every area of the economy. It is about the connectivity of devices, data, and personalization of technology. IoT is an influential concept when considering energy management and operational efficiency in smaller facilities because it is a pathway to cost-effective technology deployment. An IoT platform for building energy management systems (BEMSs) entails sensors, gateways, and wireless communications to deliver better data to the analytics engine that in turn presents better insights and actions to customers. The significant reductions in cost from this technology approach—as compared to traditional controls and automation—make the benefits of developing intelligent buildings attainable for smaller facilities.

IoT-enabled intelligent building systems are secure, scalable, and interoperable. They assist with open communications and standards within the building space, assisting with reduced costs and improved integration possibilities. Security is becoming a high-profile aspect of intelligent building investment decisions. Solutions providers are installing network-secure IoT platforms that scale to support the same opportunities for improved efficiency and reduced costs in small and medium-sized buildings that are available in large buildings. IoT can deliver essential data, down to the asset level, to support better directives via the BEMS.

The bottom line is that IoT solutions deliver data-driven insights to SMB decision makers without significant business disruption for installation—and at a cost that is justifiable.

#2: Unifying Tool for Multiple Challenges

Energy management remains an important use case for BEMSs because the performance improvements of building systems deliver a transparent ROI through utility bill reductions.

  • Data aggregation: The promise of the intelligent building—and IoT for that matter—is the ability to have a centralized view of building operations to direct changes and make investments that drive down costs and improve experience. One of the big challenges for new customers is that their business has operated with management silos. Spreadsheets, monthly bills, and rules of thumb have often dominated the approach to energy or facilities management because the work at hand is the business happening inside the walls, not facilities optimization. IoT offers customers a new unified platform to bring data together across their silos to make better informed decisions that create efficiencies and cost savings—and even enhance sales.
  • Data presentment: Once the data is centralized, another benefit of an IoT-enabled intelligent building is the visual communications of sometimes complicated data sets. Dashboards, mobile applications, and automated alerts can give customers a quick and concise view of the performance of their facility.

#3: Clear Benefits beyond Just Energy Efficiency

The pain points that drive customers to invest in IoT solutions can vary in each situation, but there are some common themes Navigant Research has identified. It is clear the vendors that are making traction with SMB customers are pitching benefits beyond just energy efficiency.

  • Retail: The centralized data of an IoT solution can be translated into information that is critical for shop owners. Occupancy and environmental data can provide insight into the customer experience: How long do shoppers stay, what route do they travel, and how long do they wait for help? These are clearly non-energy benefits, but fundamental to retail customers’ bottom lines. While the IoT solution may help optimize the environmental conditions for energy efficiency, the cost savings on energy bills are only amplified by longer or more streamlined customer experience.
  • Small and medium-sized offices: Energy efficiency is foundational to calculating intelligent building ROI. Fewer kilowatt-hours used mean fewer dollars on that monthly utility bill. There is an important soft ROI for IoT-enabled solutions for office spaces, albeit a squishy metric of productivity. There are many use cases for intelligent lighting controls, HVAC optimization, and indoor air quality that tell the story of worker productivity. It is the simple narrative that happy employees are more productive. IoT solutions provide the data-driven insight to create the necessary environments to maximize worker satisfaction.

Join Casey Talon, principal research analyst at Navigant Research, Sunita Shenoy, director of Products at Intel, Doug Harp, COO at CANDI Controls, and Vladi Shunturov, founder and president of Lucid, on October 27 for a roundtable discussion. We’ll dive further into these ideas on how IoT can bridge the gap for intelligent buildings in SMBs. Register now.

 

OSIsoft Wants Its PI Database to Sit at the Heart of IIoT

— October 21, 2016

AnalyticsAt OSIsoft’s EMEA Users Conference, the company set out a clear vision for its PI database: to remain resolutely an infrastructure provider and build out its significant number of partnerships. However, the majority of time was dedicated to its customers’ experiences delivering value from their operational data in innovative ways.

OSIsoft Wants to Position PI at the Heart of IIoT

The utility industry will recognize PI as the most widely used SCADA historian. Yet, PI’s scope extends well beyond utilities; it has a strong presence in many industries, including oil & gas, power generation, manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals. The conference had strong representation from across its core verticals, achieving a record attendance of 1,200 people—3 times the number that attended just 2 years ago.

This remarkable growth is indicative of the increasing value of operational data. A decade ago, PI was used to store data from operational control systems, and few people outside of this domain would access this data. Today, OSIsoft wants to position its database at the heart of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). With a strong focus on digital transformation and IT/OT convergence, the Users Conference focused on ways OSIsoft, its customers, and its partners are helping customers deliver value by using operational data in new ways. A large part of this drive is to provide access to PI data to more users, but in a controlled and measured manner.

OSIsoft Must Work Hard to Raise PI’s Profile within Its Clients’ Organizations

This can be a challenge in many organizations, where PI is often not known beyond the departments that currently use it. IIoT, Industry 4.0, and big data create a huge growth opportunity for OSIsoft, but it must work hard to win this new business. The hype surrounding IIoT and big data is driven by myriad cloud-based IoT platform providers promoting the use of relational databases or Hadoop. OSIsoft warns against the proliferation of cloud-based data services, as these lead to the creation of yet more data siloes—the enemy of any large-scale data discovery project that integrates data from multiple sources.

Although OSIsoft has demonstrated success with its product, the company has to make itself heard through the noise of the big data hype machine. And while it is a profitable business, its marketing resources are limited. As a result, OSIsoft is using its biggest group of supporters to help emphasize the message that PI is a critical tool in IIoT data analytics. Many of OSIsoft’s users are also cheerleaders for the product. The Users Conference was full of customers discussing how other users can gain more value out of their PI licenses.

OSIsoft’s Partners Will Be Critical to Its Future Success

OSIsoft has another ace up its sleeve: a long list of partners that are also targeting the IIoT space. This list includes some impressive names: Esri, SAP, Qualcomm, SAS, IBM, Honeywell, Microsoft, and Cisco.

These vendors recognize PI’s strength and want to ensure that their products integrate seamlessly with PI. In the world of IoT, everyone wants to be OSIsoft’s friend—which is unsurprising, given OSIsoft is a monopoly in many industries. However, it is not just OSIsoft’s market penetration that makes it an attractive partner.

From its earliest days, OSIsoft has resisted the temptation to expand beyond its core business. It is resolutely an infrastructure business. While it has augmented the core PI database with various tools—notifications of anomalous events, data visualization, and integration tools—these are not applications. This means that OSIsoft has no competing products with anyone keen to connect their devices or integrate their applications. In the past, I have been critical of this approach, but my stance is weakening. As the IIoT world develops, OSIsoft’s agnosticism toward applications makes more and more sense: it can partner with a whole raft of vendors and consolidate its position as a market-leading repository for operational data.

 

Flexible Modules and Building Integration Drive the Specialized Solar PV Market

— October 20, 2016

Rooftop SolarAs global adoption of solar power has rapidly increased over the years, competition among solar product manufacturers and developers alike has become intense. As with all matured and competitive markets, the winning technology for the low-hanging fruit—in this case, ground-mounted traditional applications—has been picked. Crystalline silicon (c-Si)-based modules are expected to take the lion’s share of this market.

This means that solar projects suited for traditional products can be quickly signed and completed. But this has left a significant portion of the potential market unserved due to challenging building architecture or unique project locations such as highway luminaires, tents, awnings, or off-grid buildings that can’t bear the weight of a traditional solar panel.

New solutions addressing this area continue to come to market. Both building-integrated PV (BIPV) and flexible solar modules are helping to serve the needs of untapped consumers. This increase in manufacturing for both flexible panels and BIPV is expected to be in addition to the $40 billion global advanced c-Si solar module market by 2025, as forecast in Navigant Research’s recently published Next-Generation Solar PV report.

With such high stakes and attractive opportunities, new products are being launched and partnerships formed. Outlined below are three recent developments in the PV space regarding new flexible panel and BIPV product offerings or partnerships.

SoloPower Systems

SoloPower Systems recently announced a product release on the CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) thin-film front. The company, which also produces flexible panels, has developed a packaged offering aimed at developing countries for off-grid applications. The package includes a panel, battery, connectors, a charger, and LED lights. In addition, the company recently began providing a financing option similar to a pay-as-you-go structure.

MiaSolé

MiaSolé, a subsidiary of Hanergy, recently released a new line of “flexible, thin, ultra-light, high efficiency, shatterproof CIGS modules” known as the Flex series. The company claims its new offering will open new solar markets and enable panel manufacturers to integrate solar on locations that have not previously been serviced.

The Flex series panels are approximately 17% efficient, much higher than previous flexible solar technologies. Furthermore, the components that house the panels are 4 times lighter than traditional rigid solar panels and are only 2.5 millimeters thick. With these characteristics, Flex panels can be designed to fit numerous non-traditional configurations and can be integrated into a BIPV design.

MiaSolé has also announced a new sales channel partnership with Inovateus Solar, the first major distributor of Flex series products. Inovateus provides design and installation work for BIPV products in the commercial roofing space.

Solaria

Panel producer Solaria recently announced that it is entering into a partnership to manufacture semi-transparent BIPV solutions with NSG Group, one of the world’s largest glass producers. The first of these new products will be launched in Europe, followed by distribution in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Although the economics are still challenging, these products are intended for customers that are looking for benefits other than ROI. The products in this arena can’t compete on economics alone; however, they are very suitable for projects where traditional panels are ruled out due to wind, weight, or other considerations.

Final Thoughts

As general solar power policies and building regulations related to PV continue to flourish at a rapid pace, so too will the growth of more specialized flexible and BIPV products. Meanwhile, the growth of traditional PV is simultaneously driving these specialized markets. Finally, increasing acceptance within the architectural community is also contributing to growth; aesthetic value will become more attractive once the overall cost of solar becomes a smaller fraction of the cost of a new building. Ultimately, these factors will ensure that the flexible module and BIPV markets will have an increasingly larger role within the overall PV industry during the years to come.

 

IoT Standards Groups Merge, Paving Way for Increased Device and System Interoperability

— October 18, 2016

AnalyticsOne of the key barriers hampering wider adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies is now on course to come down. Two leading IoT standards groups, Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) and AllSeen Alliance, have merged, setting up the next steps toward standardization.

The two organizations issued similar statements about their plans on October 10, saying the combined groups will now operate under the Open Connectivity Foundation name. For now, though, work will continue in parallel for both the open-source OCF IoTivity project and AllSeen Alliance’s AllJoyn software framework. Eventually the two efforts will merge into a single IoTivity standard.

By joining forces, the enhanced OCF is on track to make interoperability among IoT devices and systems more seamless and secure for all stakeholders, including developers, hardware vendors, and end users. This means a smart thermostat should be able to work well and securely with a smart plug, a smart appliance, or a connected door lock.

Other Standards Being Developed

There are other industry players also working on standards, meaning a true standard is still elusive and the market is still fragmented. For example, Thread Group, backed originally by Google, is another entity working to create IoT interoperability standards. Google engineers are also developing a communications language for devices called Weave, a part of the company’s Brillo project, which aims to create an embedded OS for devices.

Nonetheless, the OCF and Thread Group should be credited for working toward a more harmonious market. Last July, OCF and Thread said they plan to cooperate even though they have different aims: Thread is developing a low-power mesh network layer, while OCF is focusing on an application layer that would run on top of the network. OCF is also working in partnership with two other groups, the Industrial Internet Consortium and the European IoT EEBus initiative. In addition, Thread Group has agreed to work with the ZigBee Alliance on a program to ensure interoperability.

A Market in Flux

The trend is moving toward IoT standards, but right now the market is in flux, and the uncertainty has a dampening effect on adoption. While the merger of OCF and AllSeen is a significant step forward, more work is needed among many technologies or groups in this space, like the LoRa Alliance, narrowband Long-Term Evolution (NB-LTE), 5G, and the IEEE 802.11ah Wi-Fi standard. Bottom line: The IoT interoperability game is more of a marathon than a sprint, with many players vying for attention and market-mind share. The process could take 5 years or more before things settle down. Navigant Research’s recently launched IoT research service focuses on the IoT trend from an energy perspective and will continue to track changes in the interoperability issues of the market.

 

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