To define a building as “smart,” we must set up “smart” methods for its management, focusing on plant engineering and energy consumption. Therefore, the BMS (Building Management System) comes to our aid: a system for remote management, supervision and control of plant engineering. Defining a building as “smart” means setting up “smart” methods for its management, with particular attention to plant engineering and energy consumption aspects.
While in a traditional or residential building, such as a condominium, for example, the management of the systems is mainly possible on board the system, in a smart building, the systems are managed in an intelligent, automated and remote way. Through a supervision, remote management and control system, it is possible to guarantee continuity of operation, energy efficiency, safety and comfort. This active-passive plant engineering supervision system type is called BMS (Building Management System).
What Is A BMS (Building Management System)
A BMS is a system which, through distributed hardware and software, allows for totally integrated plant supervision and remote management for all company systems: from the anti-intrusion system to the air conditioning system, from the transformation cabin to the single switchboard electric, independent of the manufacturer. The Facility Management Team can supervise all facilities and their critical parameters using a single platform.
How A BMS Works
The BMS hardware system collects operating data, environmental parameters, alarms and all important data from the field via a direct connection to probes and systems. For example, it could collect the thermo-hygrometric parameters detected by the ambient probes and the operating data of the climate control and primary air system.
Therefore, the BMS can provide the Facility Manager with a supervision and alarm platform for the park of probes and plants, also known as ” passive management. ” Added to this is the possibility of active management, i.e. setting parameters and system operating logic. This active/passive system is essential for intelligent remote management, giving the Facility Manager a smart tool for smart management.
The Role Of The Maintenance Provider And The Control Room
In most cases, the maintenance provider has direct access to the BMS since it must be able to intervene during the day and be available, depending on the need. This means that the provider must decide, in agreement with the Facility Manager, which notifications to receive and how to receive them to ensure the desired level of service.
This is why the maintenance provider is usually involved in defining critical alarms and has access to training with the software house to make the most of the tool. Therefore, the control room becomes a strategic point of supervision and action for the maintenance provider, who often oversees it with one or more technicians to ensure constant monitoring and immediate intervention in case of a fault/anomaly.
Cyber Security And BMS
The fact of interconnecting all the systems of a building creates, on the one hand, a wide range of possibilities, including remote management, while on the other, it risks creating vulnerabilities, i.e. weak points which could allow entry into the network of some malicious. Let’s think, for example, of buildings that are critical to the life of the occupants, such as hospitals, or of buildings that house critical production/service typologies, such as data centers.
In both cases, an attacker with access to the network could cause terrible human and economic damage. So how can we defend ourselves? A focal point is linked to the network on which the users communicate. To have a high level of security, the network must be closed and not accessible from the outside, or at most accessible via a VPN system (Virtual Private Network), i.e. via a logically reserved communication channel (VPN tunnel) which allows access controlled from outside the corporate network.
The Operating Limits Of A BMS
The most obvious limitation of a BMS is linked to the fact that it can only collect the data that the users provide it: if we want to monitor, for example, an old generator set that can only give an on/off signal at the output, then the BMS will only collect that. The BMS is a collector and processor of the data supplied to it. If more parameters are needed to monitor, we must understand if the manufacturer can enable the user to release them or if we can add sensors to integrate what already exists.
Furthermore, the BMS allows the visualization of data and the creation of automatisms, but it is not natively equipped with machine learning or cognitive computing systems: this means that it does not support human decisions through information derived from a cognitive or probabilistic calculation and that it is not able to find strong/weak correlations between inhomogeneous variables autonomously. So it is an excellent “viewer” and “automation executor,” but it cannot actively support the strategic decision process.
Protocols And BMS
A BMS system must collect information from the field independently of the user’s brand issuing the data. A standard protocol has yet to be defined for these systems, even if ModBus is one of the most used. The most important thing is to always focus on systems equipped with gateways oriented to the protocol differences present in the field.
7 Tips On Choosing The BMS
In my experience, I have installed several BMS systems, maybe twenty, and I can recommend the following points of attention when choosing, installing and using a BMS:
- Always buy the simplest system compared to your needs: too many times, I’ve seen companies buy expensive and oversized systems compared to their needs!
- Before buying the BMS system, create a specification (or even just a list) of your wishes, where you clarify and explain them so that they are very clear to the supplier. Never purchase a computer system without first learning more about your expectations and those of the company and without a technical tender specification.
- Define the company’s internal contacts to manage the BMS system and train them to autonomously manage the basic activities (e.g., modification of data sheets, set up systems, etc.). Define the contacts of the maintenance providers who will have access to the system. Keep all other employees and contractors off the software.
- Immediately define the list of parameters and critical alarms of the plant fleet and carry out an assessment of which parameters we can take from the field (and which technological appendices, if any, it is convenient for us to implement or not)
- Opt for modular systems to which we can always add further specific modules (e.g. the one for contract management or layout management)
- Suppose we are in an international context (e.g. a multinational company) before implementing any software. In that case, we must always carry out research: if some other affiliate has already implemented this type of technology, it will certainly be easier to implement it at our headquarters.
- Interoperability: I prefer high-potential software, able to interface natively as much as possible with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and EMS (Energy Management System).
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