The internet of things (IoT) is becoming common parlance in technology circles. For buildings and building systems, the IoT is gaining momentum as data is collected from numerous points and fed into large repositories where it may be computed to drive decisions and provide useful information and greater enterprise intelligence than ever before.
Electrical contractors are often the first line of offense in helping organizations install IoT hardware and build their networks. Not everyone understands what the IoT can do, how it will work, and how it will operate. For the EC, familiarity can help them become a partner and trusted advisor to those who plan to adopt the IoT.
Manny Linhares, director of strategy—IoT for Legrand U.S., sees interoperability as one of the greatest challenges and one to be aware of.
“Interoperability—or ensuring that all systems and devices work seamlessly together—is an essential element to creating amazing experiences for customers and in turn, ensuring customer satisfaction,” he said. “Challenges here start with the many choices that need to be made in order to deploy the appropriate devices and solutions, such as wireless networks, application layers […] and programing of the desired integration and interaction. Another layer to this process includes setting customer expectations of the capabilities of the solutions that are being deployed.”
Jim Hunter, chief scientist and technology evangelist at Greenwave Systems, said cybersecurity is a notable factor.
“The major challenge you have with security is that not a lot of installers or companies think about it,” he said. “As a basic maxim, there is nothing that should be allowed on the internet that has default passwords or user names. That may mean more passwords in our lives, but good IoT implementations have two-factor authentication. Blockchain will be the most prominent and dominant way we move forward with security in IoT installations, as devices will be able to trust and integrate them into an ecosystem more seamlessly.”
Tyler Haak, U.S. Northeast business development manager at Schneider Electric, EcoStruxure, said hardware and software must be in concert to amass the volume of data that will be gathered. Then, all the data must be managed.
“According to a Memoori report, by 2020, nearly 30 percent of devices within buildings will be connected to the internet, generating increasingly vast amounts of data,” Haak said. “Business leaders can expect to see challenges maintaining connectivity and managing that data as they begin to integrate these devices with IoT capabilities. If building managers lack experience in managing IoT connections, these systems may experience lags in information sharing or network disruptions because of lost connections or mismanaged data. It will be important for building managers to make use of tools that are available to monitor this connectivity and ensure their systems continue to run as intended.”
Sce Pike, CEO and founder of IOTAS in Portland, Ore., said the IoT is just now moving from the early-adoption phase into the majority of households in one form or another.
“Getting consumers to understand, accept and become comfortable with the benefits of living in a smart home will likely be the final barrier to entry for mainstream adoption,” Pike said. “Once it’s ‘normal’ to interact with IoT, a connected light switch will have all the novelty of an electrified light bulb and will eventually become just as mundane. A key component of this will be a simple and standardized way to quickly provision devices for use, even without advanced knowledge of the technology.”
According to Guy Skillett, vice president, construction innovation for Rhumbix in San Francisco, the incorporation of IoT data into construction management workflows and acceptance by the craft workforce presents a social challenge.
IoT data is real-time, which forces users to consider the insights that it delivers and take immediate action. This is counter to much construction reporting, which tends to be reactive in nature.
“Real-time analysis is powerful, but construction teams, already severely time-constrained, will have to find ways of leveraging this data without compromising other responsibilities,” he said. “Also, IoT data that is intended to measure elements of craft labor performance, including wearables and [real-time location systems] for location and movement, will have to accept and engage with the technology. How the technology is deployed, how unions and labor organizations perceive the value or intrusiveness of the technology, and what trade-offs are needed to obtain acceptance across the industry are all questions that remain unanswered.”
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ROMEO is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, Va. He focuses on business and technology topics. Find him at www.JimRomeo.net.