Vibrant Ecosystem Ups the Value of a Buildings IoT Platform

Four major data challenges are inherent in forging a Buildings IoT platform: aggregation, tagging, visualization and triggering the right action. The SkySpark Ecosystem, including BASSG, has solutions for each of these phases delivering a robust ‘whole product’ platform for building operational analytics.

Four major data challenges are inherent in forging a Buildings IoT platform: aggregation, tagging, visualization and triggering the right action. The SkySpark Ecosystem, including BASSG, has solutions for each of these phases delivering a robust ‘whole product’ platform for building operational analytics.

Note: At the Realcomm/IB-Con conference in San Antonio, an industry insider commented to me “BASSG has really got ‘the secret sauce’ for Buildings IoT. But, not a lot of people understand all that they do yet.”  Soon after the conference, I got a call from BASSG’s Alper Uzmezier and he filled me in. Now I concur, the gears would not turn without BASSG’s and other Value-Add Developers’ contributions to today’s building operational analytics market, specifically the SkySpark Ecosystem.  So Alper and I co-authored the following article to let more of the building automation and control community in on BASSG’s story.

Those who have studied the dynamics of technology markets over the decades know that in times of rapid technology innovation and market growth, a company with a dominant product offering does well not to attempt to meet every customer need by itself. The better long-term strategy is to develop a strong partner network to fill out solutions. This approach offers better potential for delighting customers in all vertical markets and geographies. And many companies working together to grow a market are going to have better success than one company working alone. When it comes to the emerging Buildings Internet of Things (BIoT) market, the SkySpark™ Ecosystem is proving this theory once again. SkyFoundry’s network of Value Added Distributors (VADs) and Value Added Resellers (VARs) is going a long way towards making the SkySpark Analytics-to-Action Cycle a seamless, low-friction machine.

In the tech product marketing book, Crossing the Chasm, author Geoffrey Moore explains the concept of ‘whole product’ as all the complementary software applications, devices and services needed to fill out a core product to deliver compelling value to ‘Main Street’ customers. In this case, the ‘Main Street’ customers seeking a solution are all the building systems integration professionals and facilities teams that know a lot about their buildings but less about IT—particularly best practices in coding mobile and web apps and in managing large stores of digital data. To arrive at a building operational analytics platform that fulfills their whole product needs, system integrators can customize a solution that combines complementary offerings from within the SkySpark Ecosystem.

To better understand the various needs that arise when using an analytics engine like SkySpark consider that there are at least four major data challenges to face:

  • You need to collect, or aggregate the data.
  • You need to prep the data for analysis. For building data, this phase involves a large effort to appropriately name all assets and assign metadata, or tags.
  • You need to present the data in visualizations that best match the mediums, styles and formats of the target audience.
  • And, when faults and anomalies are identified, you need that information to
    • Trigger manual action on the part of the facilities maintenance team and/or
    • Trigger changes to the automated control sequence.

A key member of the SkySpark Ecosystem, BASSG has solutions for each of these phases in the SkySpark Analytics-to-Action Cycle. When you add these applications to the SkySpark core, you get a very robust ‘whole product’ platform for building operational analytics and the Building Internet of Things. Moreover, you can further customize and build out your application stack with complementary apps from other ecosystem partners, such as those from the J2 Innovations FIN Stack suite. Today, there are multiple pathways to SkySpark success. The following paragraphs describe some of the challenges along the way and how partner apps address them.

Air Hippo for Data Aggregation

BASSG’s Air Hippo grabs trend data from an internal building automation system (BAS) archive and pushes it to a remote SkySpark server. Today, the application can be installed on any Alerton model BAS server. Support for other BAS systems are in the pipeline. Without Air Hippo, an integrator would need to move data to a Tridium JACE and then on to SkySpark.  Air Hippo gets analytics projects up and running faster and can help clinch IT approval for a remote SkySpark deployment because it doesn’t require an open virtual private network (VPN). Once installed on the BAS server, Air Hippo can begin safely pushing data to SkySpark or other analytics servers as long as ‘out data’ is permissable.  In addition to Alerton trend data, Air Hippo can source data from static .csv files and from SaaS applications that have been specifically approved and setup for sending to Air Hippo.

AirHippo_screen2

Project Builder Plus for Tagging

Project Haystack is an open-source effort to standardize naming conventions and taxonomies for all the smart devices, building equipment and energy systems targeting the buildings industry. By working together toward easier and more cost-effective information interchange, Haystack Community members hope that the industry as a whole will be able to derive greater value from buildings’ operational data.  BASSG’s Project Builder Plus is essentially an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Haystack app development. While familiar to those well-versed in IT and programming conventions, the concept of a desktop IDE is new to the average building system integrator. The fact that integrators are becoming app developers and need IDE’s is just one more way IT and building automation worlds are converging. Use cases for Project Builder Plus include:

  • Importing a Tridium JACE file that specifies Obix points and doing a mass edit to add Haystack tags
  • Doing a mass edit to automatically map Obix points to specific equipment like an AHU
  • Manipulating an imported JACE data file – summing, subtracting or otherwise operating on data – prior to being pushed out to SkySpark.
  • Project Builder Plus can export files in .ZINC format—the most efficient file format for communicating with the HTTP protocol.

PB_Plus_screenVisualytik  – Graphical Way to Define SkySpark Visualizations

The SkySpark facility for creating visualizations is called Folio.  Folio has a layer called AXON that interrogates records to create bar charts and line charts. Programming instructions for AXON is a matter of writing line code. Visualytik is an HTML5 alternative to AXON, making it easy for non-programmers to accomplish the same thing using a drag-and- drop interface.  SkySpark visualizations defined in BASSG’s Visualytik will present correctly at different screen sizes. In other words, Visualytik is a short-cut to creating responsive, mobile-ready SkySpark interface designs.

Visualaytik_screen

EnergyDVR for Dashboard Visualizations

EnergyDVR is a graphical environment for building dashboards with 3D graphics. It is unique in its ability to grab data from SkySpark within the Tridum BMS interface. In effect, it straddles both the SkySpark and Tridium trend logs and can play back a complete view of the portion of the building environment of interest at any particular point in time. Weekly, monthly, yearly roll-ups of trend data are easily presented. The graphical interface is designed for visualizing per Floor Plan, Plant, Air Handling Units (AHUs), Variable Air Volumes (VAVs) and more.

EnergyDVR_screen

SparkO for Action Involving Manual Follow-Up

BASSG’s Sparko is a CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) for SkySpark. When issues and anomalies detected during analytical runs warrant follow-up by maintenance staff, Sparko manages the ticketing. In the SkySpark environment such calls for action are termed ‘Sparks.’  One of the largest drawbacks of early-generation automated fault detection & diagnostics (FDD) programs was too many false alarms; the algorithms were not tuned to what was actually important. Sparko is designed to cut down on the extra noise of ignorable ‘Sparks.’  When there is an issue like “AHU1 Damper Stuck Open,” Sparko will create only 1 ticket, though there will be many Sparks because a new one will be created at every interval.  All additional Sparks go into the ticket as appended ticket entries. If there are no appended entries, Sparko can be instructed to not issue a ticket for that Spark. Users of this CMMS are better able to track who did what when. Another refinement Sparko offers is that you can map specific SkySpark rules to members or departments of internal O&M or to external team members like your automation contractor or MEP engineer. Basically, it gives you the flexibility to get corrective action in motion sooner.

Sparko_screen

bLine for Setting Up 2-Way Communication with Automation Programming

In the SkySpark analytics-to-action cycle, Sparks can also trigger automated responses. For some commonly found and well understood faults – like wrong set points and scheduling errors – the platform can be extended beyond finding faults to automatically correcting them. The bLine block programming environment available within the FIN™ Stack BAS Solution from J2 Innovations eases Spark-to-DDC parameter-change programming. Users can move between block programming and line programming to compile instructions for the back-and-forth communication required to have Sparks trigger changes in control sequences, for example a DDC parameter change for not just a single AHU, but all AHUs of a tagged type everywhere.

Summary

Strategic use of the BASSG applications described above, as well as those from other partners, can speed you along toward success with SkySpark analytics projects. By addressing the typical challenges encountered in the data aggregation, tagging, visualization and follow-through, they can help you over the hurdles and lower the cost of implementation. BASSG is an intelligent building solutions company with more than 15 years of experience and more than 200+ clients and full-time programmers on staff that know the languages and protocols of the Buildlings IoT. You can learn more at http://bassg.com/.

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