Whose Data is it Anyway?

Gordon Echlin

Cloud-based Management Unlocks Your Building Services Information

Cloud-based data management unlocks your building data…or it should. One of the most enduring and frustrating experiences a property owner or facility manager can have is the simple act of trying to use the data generated by their building management or metering systems. Inadequate system interfaces, locked-in data management models, and poor data mobility can cause you to lose control of your data — with potentially disastrous results. Lack of data visibility, poor service, and inescapable costly contracts can plague you for years. To ensure this never happens, care must be taken when specifying and implementing these systems and any ongoing services attached to them.

Play Ball…Please

A basic fact of building management life is, historically, most building systems and metering platforms were not designed to play nice with 3rd-party systems or vendors. These systems are primarily on premise “silo” solutions — proprietary platforms that hang on to data solely for consumption by local facility management personnel.

Today it’s widely accepted that combining system information flows into larger “big data” pools provides more opportunity for insights that lead to better decisions with long term strategic business benefits. The pressure on building management and metering platforms to play ball is increasing — meaning a web-centric information path is a fundamental and mandatory design feature for any building going forward.

Lock ‘Em Up and Throw Away the Key

Service agreements typically associated with the provisioning and maintenance of building systems and the on-going analysis of the derived data are a common point of peril for building owners and property managers.

There are a lot of companies that offer building services with the technology infrastructure costs hidden in the price of the service itself (no money up front). It’s an enticing and potentially mutually beneficial scenario — but it’s all too easy to inadvertently give away the rights to your own data in the process.

Once a provider has a signed service agreement their goal is to keep you as a customer for as long as possible. Unfortunately retention isn’t always based on the quality of service, but rather on onerous movement fees or the ability to hold historical data hostage — making it difficult to move to another provider.

With today’s open communication protocols, there’s no reason that property managers and building owners shouldn’t be able to take full advantage of as many web services as they like — without restriction or having to choose a single provider. It’s your data after all.

Running Interference

It’s important that raw building data be available to multiple systems simultaneously. It’s not uncommon for property managers, building owners or other stake-holders to be underwhelmed by their existing service provider and their data packages. Having the opportunity to evaluate another vendor while maintaining an existing service is key to making a wise decision — both today and tomorrow.

Metering and BAS System Diagram Showing System Management , Native Data Management and Independent Data Mananagement Plan
Independent system management and data management information planes allow for the free and unobstructed flow of building services information to all stakeholders, systems, and applications.

Equally important is the ability for all stakeholders to be able to have information presented easily for consumption — on any platform or device. To accomplish this it’s critical that data generated by any system be available in its raw original form — with low to no latency so it can be processed by multiple platforms at the same time.

The free and unobstructed flow of building services information to all stakeholders, systems, and applications should be the goal of any building system (BAS or metering) — so the right information gets to the right place, at the right time.

The Best Things in Life Are Free — As a Bird

As the saying goes, the best things in life are free — and this applies to your building services data as well. To ensure your data remains in your control, follow these four recommendations:

  • Specify web-centric systems where possible. If you do your data will already be in a place where it can be readily shared with all relevant stakeholders and easily exported to other systems.
  • Make sure all of your data formats are open and that your data can be directly accessed by other systems outside of the platform that is managing it. You may want to process that data somewhere else without having to buy all new metering, networking, or other instrumentation. Your system provider should be willing to compete on a value-to-value basis — not put you in a position to completely replace a system. 
  • Don’t be surprised. It’s alright to finance your systems as long as you are aware of buyout cost and any applicable penalties. Breakup fees are fair, if they are at a fair price.
  • Ensure you maintain all rights to your information. If your data is held by a service provider, demand that it’s in a format that is easily used by other systems and that your provider is willing to relinquish the data without undue fees and disruptions.

Get Your Head in the Clouds

Imagine being able to trial a new energy management analytics service while continuing to use your current vendor. Or sending your meter reads and pulse collection information to a billing agent while also sharing it with an energy management service for ongoing monitoring.

All of this is possible today, with even more exciting opportunities on the horizon. It’s only available, however, to savvy building owners and property managers who base their building infrastructure on open protocols and a web-centric information path that supports the unobtrusive movement of their building services information.

About the Author

Gordon Echlin is Vice President Marketing and Business Development for Triacta Power Solutions LP, where he has been a management team member since 2009. Prior to Triacta, Gordon was a partner for a boutique venture capital firm, Venture Coaches from 2006 to 2009, and started a telematics company, Netistix Technologies, in 2002. Gordon is a Computer Scientist and technologist by education, and prior to Netistix worked in technical, management and sales roles in Mitel Corporation, Newbridge Corporation and several small startups, since graduating in 1982.

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