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Sponsored: How to Better Manage Buildings and Energy with Cloud-Based Applications

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Organizations in all sectors – from education and government to healthcare, hospitality, retail and industry – are increasingly recognizing that the performance of their buildings has a direct relationship with their overall operational performance. Meeting the business goals of today and tomorrow requires making your facilities more sustainable, efficient, resilient and people-centric.

The digitization of electrical distribution and HVAC infrastructure gave facility teams the data, information and control to achieve these results. But you may not have the necessary budget for energy and power management (EPMS) and building management software (BMS) and hardware, or the people and expertise to take full advantage of them. This can be particularly difficult if your team manages a large portfolio of buildings. Fortunately, a new generation of cloud-based EPMS and BMS applications can help you meet this challenge.

Digitize your buildings

EPMS and BMS applications transform “big data” from networked IoT-enabled devices into actionable information for better-informed decisions, more responsive installation teams, and more efficient automated actions. These and other applications are also increasingly integrated, allowing you to achieve a range of business goals, such as the ability to:

  • Manage energy more efficiently to improve efficiency, reduce costs and comply with new standards.
  • Use predictive maintenance to reduce costs and get the most out of your equipment.
  • Adapt the workplace changing needs, based on actual usage and workforce.
  • Improve building health with space management based on real-time occupancy data and HVAC control based on temperature, humidity and air quality data.
  • Increase resilience by getting early warning of risks for power distribution and HVAC, isolating root causes faster, and more.
  • Use mobile access to personnel to perform construction operations remotely, while improving efficiency and collaboration.

However, you may continue to face a workforce challenge as experienced people retire or your workforce is reduced. Your facility manager(s) may also be overworked with an increasing number of responsibilities, including workplace safety. If you can hire new people, the new generation of less experienced professionals will expect access to digital diagnostic tools. Finally, at a time when your organization is trying to find ways to reduce operational costs, the purchase and maintenance of EPMS and BMS systems at each site (including the necessary IT support) may simply not be affordable. You need a way to overcome these resource and budget constraints.

Take advantage of the cloud

Traditional on-premises EPMS and BMS are highly connected systems, with many types of devices and equipment sending data to a central data server and software. For example, IoT compatible smart meters, circuit breakers, and other energy assets connect to a power management application that provides facility-wide monitoring, analytics, and alarming. Sensors, meters, controls and BMS systems connect to automation servers running automated control logic, logging and alarms. These, in turn, connect to a corporate server that aggregates data and provides centralized configuration, control, and monitoring.

Cloud-hosted applications are becoming more common every day, from banking to e-commerce. Recent advancements in the reliability of internet and cloud servers have made this possible. This now extends to energy and building management functions.

Although time-critical and time-sensitive EPMS and BMS functionality should remain on-site to ensure the best reliability and responsiveness (eg. electrical protection, high-speed data collection, building control), less time-critical or non-critical EPMS and BMS functionality can be elevated to the cloud. This can include alarm management and analysis for non-critical sites, global BMS monitoring (e.g. holiday schedules, global setpoints, etc.), and cloud-based data storage for simplify engagement with contracted services. For these functions, data is uploaded and shared through cyber-secure gateways.

Reduce costs while increasing resiliency

Cloud-hosted EPMS and BMS means there is no need to host a computer, server and software on-site. Cloud-hosted services are typically purchased on a monthly subscription basis, including the gateway, which means the solutions become an OpEx cost instead of CapEx. With this model, you avoid the cost of onsite IT support. And being cloud-based, all apps are automatically updated and upgraded by the provider. These platforms are usually very modular, which makes it easy to add features or services.

A facility’s EPMS and BMS data is also safer in the cloud, thanks to best-in-class cybersecurity from leading cloud providers. Your data will be offsite and automatically backed up, maximizing resiliency. And you don’t have to worry about owning an aging computer that needs replacing or software that hasn’t been updated with the latest cybersecurity patch. The secure cloud connection is constantly monitored for threats, with fully managed virus protection.

Extend reach to every stakeholder and every building

With cloud-based applications, data access is simplified, as there is no need for IT-supported VPN connections to on-premises servers. IoT architectures also make it easy to use mobile technologies, including 4G and 5G today, and low-power WAN technologies tomorrow.

A cloud platform offers much greater flexibility in terms of scalability. New construction sites can be added quickly and easily, creating a single enterprise-wide repository of data with easy access to multiple facility views, building-to-building, performance comparisons, and more. Additionally, a cloud-based solution provides easier centralized user management, including role-based access rights for C-level management, facility personnel, and contractors.

Connect to expert services

Once EPMS and BMS data and functionality is in the cloud, this opens the door to Advisory Services which you can take advantage of when your internal resources are stretched. The services combine cloud-based analysis tools with expert teams experienced in power and building management. It can help you offload some responsibilities, with flexible services that can meet your needs and grow with you.

For example, a team of advisors can assist with preventative maintenance by helping coordinate schedules and contractors for equipment maintenance or go beyond by using advanced analytics to support predictive maintenance based on data. state that reduces costs and predicts breakdowns to avoid downtime. 24/7 remote monitoring helps identify risks and find opportunities to further reduce costs. Detailed audits and reports will include all relevant key performance indicators that help flag and isolate equipment degradation, and support consultation on improvements and upgrades.

Engaging expert advisory services can be more cost effective than employing on-site staff for specialized tasks. The service provider complements your existing facility team, without the long-term commitment of having a permanent employee.

To learn more about this topic, see our whitepaper “Doing more with less: moving energy and building management to the cloud.”

Schneider Electric offers a range of cloud-based solutions EcoStruxure Power and EcoStruxure Building particularly powerful applications and consulting services for companies that own or manage large portfolios of small and medium-sized installations.

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