A Fast-Moving Train: The IoT Charges Ahead

ECs need to understand the range of connectivity that supports an IoT environment, such as multiple-floor offices with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11x).

In the construction community, the internet of things (IoT) may have been a curiosity at one point. Soon, it might become the next specification. The International Data Corp. (IDC), a global advisory and market intelligence service based in Framingham, Mass., reports worldwide IoT spending will reach $772.5 billion in 2018, a 14.6 percent increase over 2017 ($674 billion). In fact, the IDC expects such spending to surpass $1 trillion in 2020.

“By 2021, more than 55 percent of spending on IoT projects will be for software and services,” said Carrie MacGillivray, vice president, IoT and mobility at the IDC. “Software creates the foundation upon which IoT applications and use cases can be realized. However, it is the services that help bring all the technology elements together to create a comprehensive solution that will benefit organizations and help them achieve a quicker time to value.”

Electrical contractors are one of those service suppliers serving as the connector of things. Beyond smart lighting, security and other controls, achieving system interoperability may become a shared responsibility for ECs. According to the IDC, IoT hardware will be the largest technology category in 2018 with $239 billion largely going toward modules and sensors, along with some spending on infrastructure and security. Cross-industry IoT spending, such as connected vehicles and smart buildings, will be nearly $92 billion in 2018 and rank among the top areas of spending throughout the IDC’s five-year forecast.

The New York office for Gensler, the global architecture, design and planning firm, is IoT-driven. Moving its location from Rockefeller Center to Midtown, Gensler’s newly renovated offices were completed in October 2016. At 120,000 square feet and five-and-a-half floors within a 42-story skyscraper, the open-office layout features workstations, collaboration areas and some private offices for its 620 staff members, all supported by an IoT architecture. The office lighting is entirely LED.

Every floor features lighting controls, audiovisual access for conference calls and presentations, and other building controls. IoT technology facilitates collaboration both on-site and remotely between staff members, clients and potential clients.

Gensler’s IoT system is supported by an array of sensors and analytics. It shares information on the movement of people to better day-to-day office planning and operation including work spaces, conference rooms and collaboration areas. A supplemental system attuned to occupant health measures and detects carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, temperature and daylight to make intelligent decisions in real time. An air-cleaning system releases positive and negative ions into the supply air ducts, removing harmful particulates and improving indoor air quality.

“We wanted our new office to be a demo space showing new ways to work and apply technology,” said Rocco Giannetti, principal and co-managing director of Gensler’s New York office. “IoT is now discussed in 100 percent of our projects. We raise the topic or clients do. Either way, we can show IoT in action within our office. You point to this sensor or that and explain what it does.”

This conference space uses the IoT for lighting, air quality, temperature and A/V control. IEEE P2413 provides an architectural framework for cross-domain IoT installations.
This conference space uses the IoT for lighting, air quality, temperature and A/V control. IEEE P2413 provides an architectural framework for cross-domain IoT installations.

A good investment

Giannetti said rehabbing an existing building and applying an IoT infrastructure has paid off for Gensler.

“I think we hit the right balance in the incorporation of technology and our return on investment,” he said. “We’re at a comfortable level of control sophistication. We use what we put in. Another benefit of IoT and our controls is the programmability and ability to update the software. Technology is running faster than any of us. We wanted to make our investment future-proof.”

Being energy-efficient, sustainable and providing employee comfort were the impetus for embracing IoT in Gensler’s largest office. Lighting helped lead the way.

“Lighting is one of the technologies that has changed and gotten better every day with LEDs, sensors and controllability,” Giannetti said. “That was the springboard into IoT for us. We wanted sensors that could respond to how space was occupied, adjust temperature and air flow as well as light levels and power. Our existing building’s infrastructure isn’t as mechanically sophisticated as a new construction project, which could tap into IoT even deeper, but we found we could do a lot with an IoT architecture in an existing space. Because lighting control technology has become more affordable, it is becoming more common place. People are adding components to that, other sensor technology. This all builds to an IoT-friendly workplace.”

Giannetti said the wealth of information the office sensors capture has provided significant amounts of data, a side benefit of the IoT installation.

“What we do with the information, such as room occupancies, space temperatures related to that, lighting levels and more, is there for us to explore,” he said. “We do want to use the data to dive deeper in how we achieve, facilitate, maybe improve the new office environment. We waited a year to get in the space, and that allowed us to plan and understand how IoT would help us achieve our goals. We keep refining. Studying the data gathered from the IoT system will be another tool not available to us before.”

Giannetti anticipates the elusive goal of integrated design in the building community may get a helping hand with IoT-centric spaces. Though his firm turns to the EC for power and communications standards knowledge, he sees a day where his design team may need to get up to speed as well.

“IoT architecture isn’t an out-of-the-box kind of installation,” he said. “An electrical contractor has to work hand in hand with the mechanical team, the architect with both. I see the interconnectivity of an IoT-driven space bringing the trades together. It’s just enviable as designed spaces do more. The sophistication of the install will tap everyone’s expertise.”

Gensler used  all LEDs in its New York space  to facilitate an IoT office architecture.
Gensler used all LEDs in its New York space to facilitate an IoT office architecture.

Addressing a need

To help all parties work better within an IoT world, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is developing the IEEE P2413, Standard for an Architectural Framework for the Internet of Things. Work was initiated in 2014.

Oleg Logvinov, president and CEO of IoTecha in Piscataway, N.J., also is the current chair for the IEEE Internet of Things Architecture Working Group. Currently composed of representatives from 27 diverse companies such as Cisco Systems, Honeywell International, Schneider Electric, and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the group has provided input for IEEE P2413 and IoT installations.

“IoT is everywhere,” Logvinov said. “I see massive adoption and deployment. In buildings, you need smart lighting and occupancy sensors communicating to building management controls based on algorithms, including building operations such as HVAC systems and security. IEEE P2413 addresses an overarching system architecture as all of these need to work together.”

A global standard, IEEE P2413 is in the comment stage. Logvinov cited valuable contributions including from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., a global information and communications technology company based in China. That firm submitted a proposal that encompasses device management, connection management, application enablement of IoT platforms and big data analysis for a smart city structure. Input from Japan’s Industrial Value Chain Initiative (IVI) promoting smart manufacturing for connected industries is helping broaden the standard to a number of sectors looking to apply the IoT. The IEEE’s existing P42010 has also been helpful as it further defines IoT architecture through systems and software engineering.

“This is an architectural framework standard born out of necessity to address the design of IoT systems that are impacted by the complexity of cross-domain interaction,” Logvinov said. “It is a complicated world. Designing an IoT system can involve a lot of moving parts with a variety of vendors. Without a framework, it is impossible to bring this all together coherently and effectively. The standard will help everyone from designers and architects to end-users.”

Because ECs connect things, it is important to recognize the range of connectivity that may support a project’s IT environment. ECs that helped install home automation may have dealt with ZigBee (IEEE 802.15.4). Offices with multiple floors might have adopted Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11x). For contractors serving utilities, they may have had to understand IEEE 1901, IEEE 1901.1 (PLC IoT) and IEEE 1901.2, which transform any power line into a communication cable. With adoption and publication expected in the first quarter of 2018, IEEE P2413 will be an overarching standard for contractors to study.

“Depending on what markets contractors serve, they could be working with any number of IoT protocols as they affect smart grid, home or office smart installations, or the industrial workplace,” Logvinov said. “IoT also crosses a broad range of data rates from less than 1 kilobit [kbps] for environmental sensors and lighting control, to more than 100 kbps for industrial-control applications, to even higher rates in video-monitoring apps.”

When asked if power over ethernet (PoE) is its own growth area within IoT, Logvinov said “absolutely.”

“The proliferation of the LED lighting is accelerating,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for both power and communication to a node(s).”

Logvinov is particularly excited by the idea of load balancing among many electric vehicle charging stations and the concept of the grid integration. For offices, the parking lot could be an extension of its IoT environment, adding sustainability and service to employees, customers and the electric utility. Logvinov’s firm, IoTecha, focuses on the role the IoT can play in the future of transportation electrification and power grid modernization.

The IoT looks like a train that most ECs will need to catch. To learn more, Logvinov suggests the IEEE’s Internet of Things (iot.ieee.org) and the bestseller “Building the Internet of Things: Implement New Business Models, Disrupt Competitors, Transform Your Industry” by Maciej Kranz.

About the Author

Jeff Gavin

Freelance Writer

Jeff Gavin, Gavo Communications, is a LEED Green Associate providing marketing services for the energy, construction, and urban planning industries. He can be reached at gavo7@comcast.net.

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