Wireless Control Systems for Smart Buildings Will Reach 57.4 Million in Annual Node Shipments by 2023, Forecasts Navigant Research

BOULDER, Colo., Aug 06, 2014 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- As building automation and information technology converge, wireless technology is providing a range of potential benefits for commercial building owners and managers. While building automation and controls have been used for decades, wireless communication systems are becoming the catalyst for enabling more granular control over building systems, without many of the design and labor challenges involved with running traditional cabling to support communications and/or power. According to a new report from Navigant Research, shipments of wireless control nodes for commercial buildings will grow from 12.9 million in 2014 to 57.4 million by 2023.

“The cost of wireless radios has come down enough that wireless versions of some products are being offered at the same price as wired versions,” says Benjamin Freas, research analyst with Navigant Research. “As a result, wireless deployments, which were previously limited to retrofits of existing buildings, now make sense in an increasing number and variety of projects, including new construction.”

A key driver for wireless deployments, according to the report, is intelligent lighting systems. The controllability of LED lighting and the... CONTINUED HERE >

The Hidden Power of the 'D' Factor

What are we really aiming at in facilities?


Iterative Intelligence - back in the late 80's thru early 90's I did an extensive study on PID control. The study was NOT centered on building control systems, but instead focused on the application of the PID (Proportional-Integral-Derivative) formula to the human model, i.e., self-adaptive, self-corrective control. 

Even today, most building control programmers still only use PI, because the 'D' aspect is considered to be a bit too exotic, an unnecessary complication, an exercise in overkill. Yet, the 'D' is what finally removes the oscillation caused by the constant presence of bias and the constant - and in particular, the initial introduction of error. Without the 'D', there is still a great deal of unnecessary initial overshoot and droop around the initial approach to setpoint, and around significant changes to setpoint.

We typically measure human behavior against a set of variables, versus facility behavior which generally has a set of fixed setpoints. At first glance, it appears that applying PID to fixed setpoints is a much easier exercise than applying PID against variable setpoints. And, in a certain sense, it is. Or is it? What is the goal here? Too have 'good enough' control or to have superlative control?

When we accept P or PI as being good enough in a facility, then we accept P or PI as being good enough within ourselves. And when we accept P or PI as being good enough within ourselves, we are stating - unequivocally - that drift, bias and error are acceptable, especially 'initial' error. As a result, our approach to Smart Buildings has initial error built in, from the beginning. And we operates as if that's okay.

In human studies, the 'D' factor was very hard to master. It's elusive because we each have our own blind spots, spots that we often refuse to acknowledge exist. Our unacknowledged 'error'. 

 In my opinion, Smart Buildings will never be smart enough unless we start factoring in that we also need Smart People. In the case of the building experience, that means things like COBie Lite, oBIX, seamless/fast/accurate ways to get to data, powerful integration tools, and cloud-based software that 'just works'. Today's Smart Buildings are P or PI at best - because of initial error, including the relatively blind acceptance that initial error is not really even there.


Companies and investors typically shun the so-called 'soft' aspects that are staring them in the face (and mirror) both inside and outside of facilities everyday: human behavior. But Steve Jobs didn't. He built amazingly designed interfaces that automatically compensated for certain biases and errors that we all have. He changed the world by brilliantly and somewhat subtly introducing a form of PID control to particular forms of iterative human behavior. The D-effect spread into everything, almost overnight. It was a viral improvement. We were being self-corrected, and didn't even realize it. Who hasn't searched for the best app, and then searched again and again to find an even better one?

It's hidden in the power of the 'D'.

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COBie Lite & Tiny BIM


The use of Building Information Models (BIM) has transformed the way that buildings are designed and constructed. Those projects that commit fully to their use deliver higher quality buildings at a lower price. Finith Jernigan has written on how using even incomplete or partial BIM can provide worthwhile results, an approach he describes in his well-regarded book “Big BIM, Little BIM.” While traditional of Big BIM requires a strong commitment and organizational change, Little BIM requires a smaller commitment, and can offer an organization just starting to consider the use of BIM advantages in planning, design, and in operations.

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oBIX - getting buildings to share and talk


What is oBIX?

oBIX (Open Building Information eXchange) is an industry-wide initiative to define XML- and Web services-based mechanisms for building control systems. oBIX will instrument the control systems for the enterprise.

 Why is oBIX important?

When control systems are instrumented using an IT standard like Web services, the largest asset of the enterprise--its facilities--are enabled to be fully available to business management.

How does oBIX relate to control protocols such as LONMARK and BACnet?

While many debate the strengths and weaknesses of LONMARK and BACnet, it is clear that neither one was designed for the Internet. Both appeared on the scene in the early to mid 90's when the significance of the Internet to buildings was not as profound as it is today. oBIX is working with both LONMARK and BACnet groups to enable oBIX to be THE vehicle that can take their systems to the TCP/IP layer in a consistent manner, a vehicle that can also be integrated with legacy/proprietary systems as well as future "native" TCP/IP control systems.


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vTests™ - Cloud-Based Testing on the iPad

Editable PDF, rendered in full-editable mode.

Editable PDF, rendered in full-editable mode.


When the iPad 1 first came out, we were early adopters. We tried to convince ourselves that the iPad was made for field testing. But the truth was not so comfortable. In the beginning it was really awkward to use an iPad. Sometimes our test forms looked like a bomb had gone off. And sometimes it was taking longer to use the iPad. Other people reported the same thing. We backed away, and used Mac Airs - until recently.


Commissioning tests have typically been written in MS Word or MS Excel. Sometimes they are converted to PDFs. Any combination of these methods has, in our experience, yielded mixed results when using an iPad.

To overcome past problems, Virtual Commissioning is now moving away from using Word and Excel as the basis of our test forms. Instead, we are producing fully editable PDFs, optimized - from the ground up - for iPad (tablet). This also means we are not using any of our existing Word or Excel documents or former PDF files. Instead, we've built a whole new set of forms, using editable PDFs. Fields are very easy to change, and test results are surprisingly easy to enter. Utilizing voice integration compatibility, field personnel can now speak instead of typing - a real time saver. And that's the point - to save time.

But to make all this happen required a shift in how we used, coordinated and managed our testing documents. We already knew that it wasn't as simple as converting a Word doc to a PDF. That's what a lot of us did when the iPad came out - to very mixed reviews. But now that PDF software and PDF apps have advanced, it's become a whole new game.


If you decide to enter the world of editable PDFs - in order to make your test writing and field testing faster and easier - that's a good thing. But there's a significant learning curve and investment. Some of the considerations needed to pull this off include:

  • Hosting on cloud based servers - are they reliable? Secure? 
  • Test forms that are fast and easy to use - otherwise, why go to all the trouble? 
  • Automatic 'Save', and 'Save As' capability - not so easy to do 
  • Integration with Dropbox (or Google Drive, Box, etc.)  
  • Optimizing your forms  - iPad (tablet) optimization requires careful form design 
  • Ability to accept 'real' signatures, printed signatures or certified signatures 
  • Ability to perform testing without an internet connection 
  • Automatic sync with a cloud server, once a wireless connection is available 
  • A method of preserving the original (blank) test forms, while creating executed (filled out) forms 
  • Easy method of navigating test folders and files 
  • Strong search functionality 
  • Ability to both edit AND mark-up or annotate documents - on the fly 
  • Ability to integrate the test form's data fields with a database 
  • Preserving backup or mirror copies Intelligent file structure and test organization 
  • Ability to input data using your hand, a stylus, a keyboard or your voice 
  • A seamless method to scroll through documents 
  • Ability to create a 'flat' document, that can no longer be edited or changed  
  • Research, test and select iPad (tablet) PDF apps with robust capability
  • Ability to be easily attached or included in a Cx Final Report
Editable PDF - flattened file, which does not allow edit functionality to be visible. 

Editable PDF - flattened file, which does not allow edit functionality to be visible. 

We also had to go through an extended vetting process to determine which PDF software and app(s) would meet our needs. Our list of needs included the ability to both fill in and save editable PDFs.

Keep in mind that the iPad saves locally on the iPad itself. You can overcome that by sending files to yourself through email, but if your project has a hundred test forms to fill out, then a hundred or more emails can be a real pain to coordinate. Why take on a lot of extra work - which defeats the purpose of using an iPad? What you really need is a way to save back to a hosted server. In our case, we didn't want an awkward Save As function. We wanted to pull our PDF off of a cloud-based server, and then have a real-time file overwrite doing an automatic save of the original PDF back on the server.

To make all this happen, we made a decision which has meant a significant time investment - creating an entirely new, built-from-scratch test library, fully optimized for iPad. That's every single checklists, PFT, script, FTP and IST you have ever written, modified or created. Throw them out., and start over. Has it been worth it? So far, yes. 

Our new test forms, which we call vTests, are super fast and super easy to use. The time we spend both writing the tests and entering data in the field has fallen measurably. Form entry is no longer drudgery - it's nearly effortless. vTests actually makes testing fun - because it takes the focus off of the paperwork and puts it where it belongs: on the testing and analysis of systems.

* vTests have been developed by our sister software firm, biix, Inc.