Energy Manager

Controls & Automation
COLUMN – In and Out of the Cloud

Should data be in or out of the cloud? The answer is yes. The cloud is a virtual conduit that can aggregate applications and analysis. We have moved from multiple independent web applications serving each building to independent single web applications serving multiple buildings.

June 13, 2011  By  Ken Sinclair

I have just returned from a successful Connectivity Week and a complete track of three separate sessions about our Buildings Data in the Cloud.

The PDFs of these presentations have been posted to provide further information. Just click on the article name. The importance and advantage of data in the cloud is now obvious. It is also important to understand the necessity to have actual input and output data that is necessary for building control grounded, as from time to time the cloud will not be present and continued control is required.

What kind of data can be valuable in the cloud?



Article – Real-time Data for Real-time Demand Management
Peter Sharer, founder & CEO, Agilewaves
Peter provides this insight:

By combining new sensor technologies for real-time energy data collection, a data store and energy diagnostics reports, these new building energy management systems BEMs now make it economical to access and manage demand in real-time – in any building. How? With visibility into the overall energy footprint via energy profiling at the source – such as a lighting or power panel, down to the individual piece of equipment – these BEMs reveal a facility’s energy profile and allow building staff to pinpoint energy-wasting systems or procedures.

Article – The Management of Building System Data (…or the absence of)
Jim Sinopoli, PE, RCDD, LEED AP Smart Buildings LLC
Jim provides this commentary:

Building system data must be viewed as an asset: it has value, is necessary for properly operating and maintaining the building and it must be managed and treated as such. The question is how do we get accurate, validated and well organized data from our building systems that can be managed on an ongoing basis? What follows are some of the issues we face in managing building systems data:

• Most building operations do not have a data management plan. What passes for the “data management plan” consists of a database associated with their Building Management System (BMS).



• Start the plan on a wide-ranging scope. Identify the data and information that different people or groups involved with the building’s performance need to perform their work. Of course much of the data will be monitoring points on building systems but some data may be needed that’s in business systems or other systems outside of facility management or even outside the organization.

• Identify where the data exists or how it will be generated and collected, how it will be accessed and estimate the scale or volume of data. Decide on a data format. Deal with the administrative aspects of the plan such as user access, dissemination of the data, how data will be integrated, how it will be archived, retention policies, how often the plan is reviewed, etc. Plan the organization of the data to assure the data is accurate and easily accessible.

• Facility managers are missing opportunities if they don’t have the analytic tools to mine, predict and correlate building data. How many building owners are “harvesting” and analyzing data for the purpose of gaining insight into their building’s performance?  Very  few. However, when you look at other organizations and businesses they “mine” data from their users and customers and analyze the data in order to predict and guide their business and business processes. Data mining has been around for a while and is used extensively in web sites, retail purchases, financing, smartphones, to name a few. Look at a retailer like Wal-Mart which knows how many rolls of paper towels are sold daily at each store location, data that is part of a process to optimize their just-in-time supply chain process. Yet, how many large building owners can even tell you how many people entered their building on a daily basis or which building space is the least energy efficient? Which is the most used space? Which is the most and least secure?

Article – Smart Building Automation ROI
John Greenwell, CEPORT, LLC
John comes with this valuable message:

In other words, people value all kinds of improvements and will respond accordingly with higher productivity. For today’s information workers, keep in mind the psychological effects of changing systems and the growing potential to integrate data from building automation and related systems with web-based employee-facing software systems on kiosks, wall mounted displays, PC’s and mobile personal devices like tablets or smart phones. Even elevators now have displays that you can use to keep your employees engaged and informed about what is going on in the smart building.

Modern building systems not only can maintain set-points for heating, cooling, and ventilation. They also can support energy conservation, security systems and emergency procedures. They can monitor locally generated independent power supplies and enable demand response. Such systems enable employees and other occupants of your facility to be more productive in the new energy paradigm.

By pulling together a holistic set of building services data, and providing easy web-based access to your employees, you can involve them, almost intuitively, in your energy efficiency or conservation programs, without interrupting the normal flow of their daily work schedules. For example, an employee who can easily glance at the clock at the end of the day, just as easily call up digital video of her path to the parking lot to ensure it is safe, then leave the office knowing that even the elevator is on its way. It’s easy to imagine similar scenarios when she arrives in the morning, or leaves her office to attend a meeting. A smart building will know her schedule, the weather forecast and the physical characteristics of the conference room. At the end of day, she will have been more productive because she could trust her smart building, integrated with access control, occupancy sensor and business data, to automatically shift her work space to unoccupied mode, securing and shutting down all power to her PC, phone, lights and related HVAC systems. While this may sound futuristic, it is not only possible today but affordable. Thanks to Moore’s Law, we are reaching a tipping point where these features are affordable even in relatively small commercial buildings.


I think as an industry, we well understand how to collect and control building information data at a building level. But as the value of moving this data offsite evolves and is demonstrated, we need to re-examine what data needs to be in the offsite cloud and what needs to be out, remaining onsite, and of course what data needs to coexist in both domains–in and out of the offsite storage and action cloud.

Ken Sinclair is the publisher of and can be reached at

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