Today’s complex buildings requires countless disparate systems and devices to regulate their functions and environments. Many of these systems operate in silos yet are still interdependent in many ways. With the Internet of Things (IoT) as the heart of smart building management, personnel tasked with monitoring, adjusting, and intervening in those functions when necessary have a holistic view into building operations. Industrial tablets become a vital link to overcoming the greater challenge of interpreting data from many building automation systems in real-time.

With the help of the IoT, buildings have the potential to house truly interoperable systems rather than silos of electrical, mechanical, and electro-mechanical systems and platforms. Sensors gather continuous data feedback on operational parameters across these systems.

Controllers, gateways, sensors, and cloud platforms can then deliver valuable information that enables building management teams to increase energy efficiency, quickly address failures, and preemptively address imminent problems. Together, this increases comfort and reliability and helps cut costs. By communicating with each other, these systems:

  • Help monitor themselves
  • Act when necessary through automatic regulation of defined operational parameters
  • Provide operational performance data to drive analytics

This collectively allows facility managers to intelligently optimize performance and create smarter buildings.

While data centers and central maintenance offices provide networked facilities for efficiently managing an array of facilities remotely, in-building operations demand operator access to information. A tablet provides a platform that can communicate via network to management facilities for historic data, instructions, and spare parts databases, while simultaneously communicating directly with in-building infrastructure.

It is tempting to use a commercial Android tablet for industrial operations, given their widespread availability and use. However, the environments, operational use cases, and connectivity requirements required of industrial use often cause commercial Android tablets to fail in these types of missions.

Industrial tablets, on the other hand, can provide the connectivity, features, and ability to withstand those environment variables while providing a reliable operational experience. Rugged packaging provides protection against drops, impact, moisture, fluids, and more, while the electronics is designed for use across wide temperature ranges – often -30°C to 65°C or more. Commercial tablets are more typically rated between 0°C and 45°C. Industrial tablets can also implement custom wired and wireless interfaces to HVAC and other industrial equipment. Wireless connections to equipment networked with ZigBee, Sigfox, and Lora can be made directly from the tablet.

Just as custom devices increasingly drive industry 4.0, they will also play a growing role in smart building management.

Another challenge is how building automation systems produce an enormous amount of data that can’t be fully grasped or acted upon by building management staff. Using sophisticated analytics programs via an industrial Android tablet connected to the cloud can provide the transparency for those vital adjustments. Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms can further support optimization through building self-diagnosis.

According to a Facility Executive article, 75%of a building’s lifetime cost is spent on operations and maintenance. Controlling and reducing those costs while maintaining occupant comfort and usability are the dual operational drivers that facility managers must grapple with daily.

This has given rise to building energy management systems (BEMS) that connect HVAC, lighting, and plant room equipment into a central platform for buildings energy consumption management. The BEMS enable real-time performance data integration for analysis that helps facility managers proactively identify problems before they occur to drive efficiency.

Smart buildings leverage the IoT and BEMS to connect various systems and devices to a centralized open IP technology backbone to:

  • Integrate sensor-generated data from all devices
  • Present that data to analytics applications
  • Deliver the analyzed data to a user interface display on an industrial Android tablet for real-time decisions

Tablets then become a critical link to these automation systems while providing a holistic view of building performance. This helps facility managers make strategic decisions supporting optimum building operation.

The good news is that these systems can be implemented in many legacy buildings with siloed systems over time just as they are incorporated into new buildings.

Sensor integration is enabled via .industrial grade computers and IoT network gateway devices that deliver the connectivity, computing power, and physical characteristics for use in existing and planned smart building management. This answers the two pressing challenges building managers will have today and tomorrow:

  • The increasing need for better energy management
  • Managing sophisticated systems to respond to changing building environment needs

Computing devices with the right form factors and features such as rugged tablets will be a vital link in these building infrastructure ecosystems. That’s because they can continually adapt to their role in delivering a holistic management and monitoring nexus point.