Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Understanding what IoT Remote Monitoring is in a Commercial Building and how to help you make instant Decisions to prevent failures.
IoT is not new. It's been around for many years and its being widely used in other industries, but for many Facility & Building Managers, it's a new technology - especially in M&E applications and they would like to understand how they can benefit.
Manufacturers of M&E Equipment are now integrating IoT modules into their equipment, which allows them to integrate into BMS and Control systems. Thats fine for new builds and retrofits, but what about legacy buildings?
This article is designed to show how retrofitting miniature battery powered sensors into existing buildings can give Facilities Managers and Building Management Companies instant alerts/alarms to any web enabled device, and show you things that the many thousands of Buildings without a BMS can do.
For legacy buildings Its all about remotely monitoring items of M&E equipment that don't have the ability to tell anybody of their status. In other words if something goes wrong and its not being remotely monitored, it can severely impact the tenants and occupiers.
What happens if the air conditioning or heating fails to work because of an issue with the power supply or a pump fails to operate or there is a burst pipe? Most small Buildings operate on a stand alone basis that aren't connected remotely.
Remote monitoring has been around for years but has been reliant on old outdated technology and needs expensive hard-wired connections to key items of equipment and a permanent phone connection.
Iot solves that issue with special miniature battery powered sensors specifically developed to monitor things that other systems can't do. They are often small battery powered and can be fitted and connected in minutes with little or no disruption to building operations or occupants.
Buildings with BMS and Control Systems
Many Commercial Buildings have do have BMS systems and other Control systems and depending on the size and complexity of the services therein will determine the types and size of the system being used.
At a basic level, typically a BMS/Control system is simply switching the main M&E plant and equipment on/off based upon time/temperature/weather/occupancy etc.
However many buildings with a BMS/Control systems, don't have a site based PC - to access the system, aren't remotely monitored due to high monitoring costs, need a permanently connected Broadband connection and because the sites don't have a permanent site maintenance team, when things go wrong its usually the Building Occupiers that call their Building Management/Maintenance support to let them know of the issue.
Water Leaks, Air Con Refrigerant Leaks, & Indoor Air Quality/Occupancy Control
Leaks from Toilets, Sinks and Mechanical Equipment are a daily occurrence and cause extensive and expensive damage. If that happens at night or a weekend leaks can continue for hours without anyone knowing
Refrigerant gas leaks from A/C, Refrigeration or Freezer equipment also regularly occur and impact instantly on low/no cooling or heating for not only the building occupants but also in server/equipment rooms and data centres.
The cost of a refrigerant leak often goes in to the thousands, and the expense and inconvenience from a water damage claim is also substantial.
BMS and Control systems don't pick up these issues as its too expensive to install hard wired sensors, whereas special miniature battery powered IoT sensors can be installed quickly and easily. IoT systems have the ability to connect to a BMS or control system
The Low Cost of Installing an M&E IoT monitoring system.
Aside from the small size and long-life batteries and where these units can be located, is speed of installation and the low cost of the sensors, the major benefit is instant remote alerts to a mobile device and the ability to interface with a BMS or Control system.
Small Water leak sensors can be instantly located under sinks and toilets and interconnect to IoT water shut-off valves that can automatically shut the water down when a leak is detected, thereby protecting further damage to floors below.
How much do these water leak systems cost?
As an example for a 2 bath/1 kitchen property in a 100 unit apartment building with 5 sensors and 1 shut off valve per apartment equates to just £25/month per apartment on a 2-year contract including monitoring. Thats fully installed and without any upfront hardware. Full features detailed below:
The system has the following features:
Comes complete with our Mini water leak sensors.
Manual/Automatic Valve shut-off and override.
Instant Notification of a leak, and ability to remotely shut-off the valve either Automatically/Manually.
Monitor and control water use from anywhere.
Set up real-time notifications, manage unlimited users, export billing reports, give tenant access, configure leak and burst event actions.
The shut-off valve integrates with many professional water meters, both Pulse and encoded models. Using the integrated WiFi or LoRa transceiver, we can wirelessly transmit the meter data to the cloud.
We can collect meter data and control valves over standard Wi-Fi, or utilise LoRaWAN to penetrate buildings and provide long distance transmissions without the need for costly repeaters.
Its has an Open API to allow it to connect with external 3rd part control systems and BMS (Building Management Systems)
What else can be Monitored with IoT?
Space Air Temperatures
Water Tank Temperatures for Legionnaire management & Water levels
Boiler/Chiller/Hot Water Flow & Return Temperatures
Pump Vibration & Pump Flow
Air Filter Condition
Indoor Air Quality inc CO2, CO, NO2, VOC's, LUX, TeMp & Humidity through a single device
Local Occupancy A/C BMS interface/Control
Heat Interface Unit status/temperature.
Retrofit of Remote Temps in Display Fridges & Freezers
Any device with an in-built controller with output capabilities i.e. Chillers, Split A/C systems, HIU's, Remote Fridges & Freezers.
How will I be Notified of Issues?
Bespoke web based Dashboards per Customer/site and key equipment will be created which can be accessed on any web enabled device.
Individual items being monitored will have thresholds agreed which will determine the alarms needed. Additionally monitoring frequencies will be agreed.
If an item being monitored operates outside those thresholds then alarms shall be pushed through to key stakeholders via Text Message and email. In addition if required the IoT data can connect to 3rd party systems such as a BMS to provide further access and insights
IoT systems are not Low Cost Control systems, they are designed to remotely monitor important items of M&E equipment only and provide alarms that give stakeholders the instant ability to make quick decisions to mitigate failures and potential damage to not only the M&E equipment but also the inconvenience to Building occupants.
There can be substantial savings in Energy, Water Damage, Refrigerant Gas Losses and when used correctly can provide a predictive maintenance to improve reliability reduce equipment failures, by repairing issues before there is a failure.
Insurance companies are now offering discounts to Businesses where Water Leak Detection/Prevention systems are installed.
IoT where used correctly in legacy M&E systems can not only provide a low cost stand alone monitoring solution, but it has evolved to a stage where BMS Businesses now actively include local IoT battery powered sensors i.e. for local Fan Coil Air & Water Temperatures rather than the high cost of hard-wiring traditional BMS sensors.