Smart commercial buildings are an emerging trend, but what is the role of the security integrator in these types of projects?
Written by Karyn Hodgson
With a “green” design that produces more energy than it consumes, Ethernet-connected lighting, total building integration down to the towel dispensers, and a hoteling app that assigns workspaces on an as-needed basis, the Edge Building in Amsterdam is widely touted as “the smartest building in the world.” Security features include a license plate recognition camera that recognizes the employee and opens the gate, and a robot that patrols the hallways at night.
But while much has been written about this fascinating space, buildings such as this are famous because they are rare. In fact, most buildings are still “dumb.” But buildings such as the Edge are the dream, with their cost-savings for owners and convenience for users. This is an early trend, but one that is likely to take off as technology trends such as IoT, the cloud, PoE and wireless make it more attainable than ever before.
“Smart buildings have certainly crossed the chasm into the mainstream,” says Brian Eckert, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Kastle Systems, Falls Church, Va. “Initiatives like the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED and the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings are driving the trend towards more efficient spaces across the board.”
The market is still in its infancy, though, says Ashish Malpani, director embedded solutions product marketing, HID Global, Austin, Texas. “The market for smart buildings is expected to reach the tens of billions of dollars in the next few years. However, much of the market is still in its early stages. Current efforts are only focused on energy, lighting and security systems for the most part, and solutions rely on interconnecting these systems along with IoT deployments.”
At that, security is the relative newcomer to the party. Traditionally proprietary, many buildings of a size to consider a smart building approach today are dealing with legacy systems that may need to be upgraded before being added to the building automation backbone that controls their lighting and HVAC systems, for example.
Most buildings today have many of the technologies in place necessary to be smart — but they are siloed, or just “somewhat smart,” says Ron Zimmer, president and CEO, Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA), Ottawa, Ontario. “Most buildings are dumb buildings, but increasingly we are seeing more integration.”
Bill Bozeman, president and CEO, PSA Security Network, Westminster, Colo., sees smart buildings as still a ways off. “The hype is the smart building where everything all talks to each other with intelligence. It sounds incredibly good, but at this point in time, the majority of the higher-end security integrators actually are not even in the life safety or pro-AV business [much less building controls].”
But those very large companies that are doing it all agree: Security not only has a major and growing role in smart buildings, but most integrators that work in the commercial building space will at some point be faced with a customer that wants to work toward this goal.
“It is more of the promise at this point, but there is no question that this is where the market is going,” says Alessandro Araldi, vice president of global product management, Honeywell Security and Fire, Melville, N.Y. “It is not a question of if, but when we will see markets adopting smart building technologies and whenwe will be able to fulfill that vision or promise.”
Jason Ouellette, product general manager for access control, Johnson Controls, Westford, Mass., says the channel needs to adapt and change in order to make the promise a reality. “Part of the challenge is the fact that it doesn’t all happen through the same channels. In my opinion, we’re still in the emerging stages because of that, but the channel will grow or go through partnership levels to be able to get there.”
One integrator that stepped up to the plate early on was Dale Klein, CEO, Parallel Technologies, Minneapolis. “I bought a structured cabling company in 2005 as the foundation company to prepare for intelligent buildings.” Though Klein acknowledges that it is taking longer than he thought it would, he sees it as the way forward. “What I have learned is there is a future definition of intelligent buildings and we are just at the basic level right now.”
The advent of IP and networking has really brought security systems to the forefront of what is needed for a truly smart building.
“With network video now the norm, physical security systems have an opportunity to be more integrated,” says Steven Anson, vice president of marketing, vertical market solutions, Anixter Inc., Glenview, Ill. “There is a desire today to be more efficient. Customers ask, ‘How can I leverage these resources?’ ‘Why can’t my building be more automated?’ ‘Why can’t I see actionable intelligence?’”
Matt Powers, vice president of technology support services for Anixter, calls security systems “the best kept secret in a smart building” due to the information they house. “What better information is there?” However, he points to some challenges.
“Security has historically been one of those things that are later down the road,” Powers says. “I think it is becoming more of a technology that is thought about up front but not from the standpoint of how to leverage the information within the systems.”
And that is the crux of the issue. “Historically security has been isolated or siloed from this from a mass market perspective,” says Steven Turney, security program manager, Schneider Electric, Dallas. “I have been here for 22 years and we have always done [smart buildings] as far as bringing the power, lighting and climate together. But even amongst ourselves security was somewhat isolated from the rest of the technologies in the building.”
This “legacy mindset” still exists, but is quickly changing, he adds. “Customers are more open to it and in some markets demanding and requiring it, making the pure security side of the industry have to step up.”
Consultant Shaun Klann, senior vice president, Intelligent Buildings, Charlotte, N.C., is seeing this as well. “One of the more modern trends we are seeing is a heightened focus on what we call use cases, or occupant experiences — what an employee or visitor would expect out of the building. In order to enable these use cases, data from security systems is becoming highly valuable and we are seeing the need to capture that data becoming quintessential.”
He also points to the desire of building owners and managers to “right-size” their portfolios and maximize efficiency as a driver. “One way of doing that is by looking at security data like video and access control and doing more with that security information.”
Jim DeStefano, national sales manager for security, Siemens Industry Inc., Building Technologies Division, Buffalo Grove, Ill., agrees. “I don’t think you can have a smart building without security. For everything from knowing when I walk in the building to turning on the lights, access control comes into play,” he says.Araldi, however, says video is “the ‘killer app’ of smart buildings. You can use that information to solve a whole bunch of different problems that are more business problems. I don’t think you can say the same thing for HVAC.”
Data today has become very important agrees Powers. “If you look at the security industry, we have gone through the IT/OT convergence and done a great job in the industry of migrating customers over to a pure IP network. The subsystems have migrated but that data is still siloed and for the security integrator, the key is how do you create an integrated security framework that allows that customer to benefit from that data? That is the key to the kingdom.”
Smart buildings need to meet the expectations of the occupant and technologies must work together flawlessly to provide a personalized experience, says Jody Ross, vice president global sales and business development for AMAG Technology Inc., Torrance, Calif. “The potential for security systems to make a big difference is there, particularly with the emerging mobile technologies. Streamlining operational efficiencies, such as room scheduling, HVAC usage and monitoring parking systems will continue to gain momentum as well. Building managers and tenants need to easily manage all functions from a mobile device.”
Right now security is still mostly focused at the perimeter, Malpani says. But that will continue to change as more of these systems get connected.
Becoming the ‘Master Integrator’
There is a conception that security integrators need to be very large and multi-disciplinary to play in the smart building world. That is still largely true for the biggest projects such as the Edge (which Schneider Electric was involved in). But as this trend becomes more widespread, more and more integrators will need to figure out how to become a “master integrator” themselves.
What is a master integrator? “There are different types of integrators such as IT, AV and security integrators, as well as HVAC, wireless and middleware integrators,” Anson explains. “The concept of a master integrator is relatively new terminology.” Right now there are just a handful of companies that can provide all of those disciplines, he says, but that is beginning to change.
The master integrator needs to bridge both the operational and the information side of the building, Klann explains. “There are multiple different systems and the more sophisticated the use is, the more sophisticated the integrator needs to be.”
However, there is such a thing as “a little bit smart,” and the road to becoming the master integrator can be long, with many opportunities along the way.
There are things happening today making this easier for integrators, such as more open protocols, and initiatives such as PSIA’s PLAI (physical security interoperability alliance) agent, says David Bunzel, executive director, PSIA. “One of the challenges we have and one of the more vexing issues for industries like security, which is late to the consolidation party, is that means you get companies with different PAC systems and the integrator has to figure out how to make it all work and make it easy.” That is one of the things PLAI has addressed, allowing companies to seamlessly synchronize privileges. “Security was the initial thing, but now we have the interfaces to accommodate hoteling, locker management, elevators, conference rooms and print stations,” he explains.
Some manufacturers are also getting on board the BACnet or Modbus, two popular backend protocols that help facilitate the smart building. “I absolutely think you can be a little bit smart,” says Chris Sincock, vice president security business, DAQ Electronics, Piscataway, N.J. “Yes, there will be opportunities to apply technology that is prevalent in security into building automation. For the small to medium-sized integrator that wants to get involved there are some things they can do right away.”
He suggests looking at BACnet-based non-security things such as lighting control or thermostats, especially ones that can be programmed simply without getting into all the controls.”
If this concept seems familiar, it is happening now in a big way on the residential side, with connected and smart homes. In fact, for the dealers who play in that space, if they are not looking at expanding into these areas, they may be in trouble in the near future.
The prediction on the commercial building side is not nearly that fast or that dire, but it is an opportunity that experts say integrators shouldn’t ignore.
“Looking at the smart home there are a lot of small dealers that are already doing some of this stuff where they are integrating temperature controls and video and garage doors,” says Amy Huizenga, director of marketing for global security solutions for Anixter. “On the smart building side, I would say that it is definitely within [the integrator’s] reach,” she adds.
“You don’t have to be a top-tier systems integrator to be a part of a project that is going to deliver a smart building; you just have to be more open in your mindset of how you work,” Turney says.
“This will be a massive systems integrator play — bigger than the security integrator or even building automation,” Klein says. But it requires different skillsets. (See “Partner to Play” on page 58.)
As an example, Klein says that his company began focusing on data centers, which has put them well on the path to becoming that master integrator. “We believe our vision is right but our timing was off, which is why we built out our data center group. People were willing to invest in that. And we built up a lot of skills in understanding electrical, mechanical and HVAC that will translate well to smart buildings.”
Araldi, too, agrees that there are many integrators that are well positioned to start doing at least parts of smart buildings. “As we meet integrators we hear over and over how much they are investing in IT. They all see that solution as important and a lot of them are hiring those people and building that expertise in-house. For all those reasons we absolutely believe they can play there.”
However, he agrees that ultimately, the goal will be to add or acquire all the skills needed to be the master integrator. “Now you have HVAC, fire, lighting and security and somebody in that value chain will have to play the role of the super integrator across the different systems. The security integrator is probably better positioned than others.”
No matter how you do it, Araldi has this advice: “Get on board. The train is slowly leaving the station and this is one of those things that once it has left it will be more difficult to hop on. That train has been trying to leave and hasn’t fully yet, but it feels like it is really starting to happen and the technology is coming together.”
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