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2021's IoT Explosion [Nexus newsletter #105]

2021's IoT Explosion [Nexus newsletter #105]

Here’s where we headed between now and 2022:

  1. “Green” → ESG (and the carbon flywheel)
  2. Reporting → Retrofits
  3. Last Week: “You can’t build the app store before you build the iPhone”
  4. Today: Moving interoperability up the stack and the true value of the Independent Data Layer
  5. Advanced Supervisory Control for small buildings and the emergence of the grid integration platform primer
  6. Look around: workforce issues are everywhere

We’re onto 2021 trend #4: The IoT Explosion (and what it means)

The ‘IoT for buildings’ concept has been around a long time. To me, 2021 felt like the first year that, underneath all the marketing fluff, it became more than just a buzzword. ‘IoT for buildings’ finally went beyond connecting the building automation system (BAS) to the cloud.

This trend obviously started before this year, but it’s moving exponentially faster now and the implications are becoming more clear. In our Foundations course, we even created a new lesson to cover the IoT explosion and divided it into five mini-explosions. Let’s walk through them.

Device Trend #1: Fully IP and Packaged Controls

Before, if you wanted to add connectivity and intelligence to a device, you would connect it to the BAS (or lighting control system or access control system, etc). Now, devices are IP network-ready and intelligent out of the box.

The example I like to use here is the Belimo Energy Valve. Whereas you used to simply connect a valve to the BMS, now it connects to the cloud and comes with analytics, control sequence optimization, software updates, and remote support.

👉 Go deeper: Rob Huntington and I discussed this trend on Nexus podcast episode 52

Device Trend #2: One-way IoT sensors stacks

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There’s a true explosion in stand-alone, one-way communicating, IoT sensor stacks. Moore’s Law has made sensors and gateways super inexpensive and we’ve seen a lot of new players enter the market. Examples include IAQ, occupancy counting, kitchen equipment monitoring, submeters everywhere, leak detection systems, seismic detection, and trash compactors. Some of these (e.g. plug load controls) are two-way communicating, but that’s rare today.

👉 Go deeper: All types of data are great, but occupancy data changes the game.

Device Trend #3: Distributed Energy Resources (DER)

Next is the proliferation of local distributed energy resources connected to the building network (or sometimes not). These architectures are similar to the above IoT stacks, where vendors connect data to their cloud and want to provide a user interface and visualization from there. We’re talking solar, batteries, and electric vehicle charging stations.

👉 Go deeper: James McGinniss and I explored this trend on episode 64 of the Nexus podcast.

Device Trend #4: Occupant engagement/experiences

Our next trend is using connected devices to engage occupants. The commercial office industry changed rapidly in 2021… a reduction of office space combined with the need to motivate employees back to the office is creating a very competitive landscape. IoT devices are targeted at providing a better experience for the office tenant. But this trend goes beyond offices.

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Examples include IAQ data being displayed on a kiosk, room booking, point of sale devices in the cafe or kitchen, connected appliances, lobby directories, fitness equipment, etc.

👉 Go deeper: Jacinda Lofland and I explored this trend on episode 60 of the Nexus podcast.

Device Trend #5: External building systems and data sources

Our final trend: connected systems outside the four walls of the building. You’re going to recognize how these typically are architected: similar to in-building IoT stacks. Devices at the edge, some sort of gateway, and a server somewhere, either locally or in the cloud. Examples include Digital Signage, Irrigation Control, Parking Access Control & Revenue, Parking Lot Charging Stations, etc.

Okay, so what do all these new devices mean? There are several implications for the future of our industry:

  • The more and more devices we add to the building, the more building the foundation first makes sense.
  • After a long history of siloed building systems, we’re now creating new high tech silos. More often than not, new IoT device manufacturers take an API-second approach.
  • These collective decisions are simply moving our historical interoperability issues up the stack to the API. It’s as if we haven’t learned any history lessons.
  • As a remedy to that, the API-first independent data layer has never been more important.

What do all these devices mean for your work? Get in touch and let us know.

—James

P.S. Nexus Pro members are discussing these trends in our members-only chatroom and if you want to learn your industry history, jump on the waitlist for our Nexus Foundations course.