In 2017, global building automation equipment revenue totaled $5.4 billion, growing 3.8 percent from the previous year. This figure includes the sales of sensors, controllers, actuators, and gateways that are utilized in building automation systems that monitor and regulate the climate in commercial buildings. These devices collectively ensure that heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are managed properly through automated control of HVAC equipment to ensure building climates remain within acceptable ranges.
The data compiled by a broad array of sensors is fueling a shift toward advanced analytics in building automation software. Sensors comprised over half of all building automation hardware units sold in 2017, and over 1.5 million more sensors will be installed in building automation systems in 2018 compared to those sold in 2016. Sensors in these systems are also diversifying beyond conventional types that measure temperature and humidity. Occupancy sensors, air quality sensors, and multi-function sensors are among the fastest growing sensor types in building automation systems.
As more sensors compile greater amounts of data, it is becoming more challenging for facility managers to analyze and interpret the available information. Innovations with advanced analytics in building automation software have addressed this concern, with artificial intelligence now diagnosing maintenance issues, monitoring system performance, altering variables, and optimizing building functionality. For example, advanced analytics could alter an HVAC system’s energy consumption depending on factors such as the time of day or occupancy levels within particular rooms or zones of the building.
In past years, analytics in building automation software could aggregate data and pinpoint system irregularities, but operational decisions were still made by facility managers, integrators, and other stakeholders. As analytics in these systems become more complex, predictive, and proactive, the systems will begin to act more independently. The framework of analytics in software will gradually shift from identifying and presenting the raw data made available through sensors to an emphasis upon resolving issues through actionable intelligence. Human input will increasingly play a secondary role, with facility managers able to monitor systems and override commands when necessary.
These developments with building automation software will prove beneficial to overtaxed facility managers and will ensure that software will be the fastest growing product type in building automation systems for the foreseeable future. Decreasing production costs and increasing competition will drive down selling prices for hardware, but new product offerings with enhanced features and functionality will keep software prices stable. Consumer demand for superior dashboarding and data visualization interface software will also drive software sales as customers seek opportunities to customize their view of building operations. In addition, an ongoing trend toward mobility will impact the role of software in building automation solutions as customers will seek options that leverage the cloud to ensure that operational data can be accessed from offsite personal computers, tablets, and mobile devices.
The industry’s trend towards advanced analytics is also impacting building management system (BMS) platforms, which rest above building automation software in system architecture. These BMS platforms are capable of integrating various building domains (such as lighting, access control, and video surveillance) and will play an integral role in a market transition to ‘smart buildings.’ In larger commercial buildings, building automation systems are often the backbone upon which smart building architectures can be built. As the market for smart building products is still in its infancy, companies are still experimenting with different approaches to BMS platforms that rely upon possibilities like managerial controllers, IoT gateways, edge devices attached to equipment, mobile applications, and hosted services available through the cloud. Like building automation software, BMS platforms are slowly beginning to transition from a reactive role in system maintenance and diagnostics to asserting more proactive command and control functionality in managing various domains.
While advanced analytics through building automation software can improve the efficiency of HVAC systems in commercial buildings, advanced analytics in BMS platforms can have an even more profound impact on building operations. For example, if an employee decides to enter a smart office building early in the morning to prepare a presentation, the BMS platform would command multiple domains to react the moment the employee scanned his or her badge to enter the building. Once the access control system confirms the employee’s identity, the BMS platform can coordinate other systems so that the lights turn on in the employee’s workspace, the HVAC system begins to operate in that space and treat the space as occupied, and an elevator is summoned to the floor where the employee is present.
As the trend toward advanced analytics becomes more prominent in both building automation solutions and in BMS platforms, the competitive landscape of these industries will be transformed. The integral role of software and IT infrastructures to support these analytics will encourage IT companies like Dell, Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco to become more active in this space, where they will act as both partners alongside and competitors against conventional operational technology (OT) manufacturers like Siemens, Honeywell, and Schneider Electric. Relatively new market entrants like SkyFoundry and CopperTree will compete with established brands by offering more enhanced and sophisticated BMS products. Companies with a strong background in developing equipment for smart homes may disrupt the commercial market by building up their product lines with new offerings for small and mid-sized commercial buildings. Amazon, for instance, has recently announced its entry into the smart buildings market with a new line of Alexa for Business smart speakers. These market entrants do not currently represent a major threat to industry stalwarts like Honeywell and Johnson Controls, but many stakeholders are anxiously anticipating a new software product to become an ‘industry standard’ and reshape that portion of the building automation and smart buildings markets.