The world is changing around us, in every aspect and every corner of society, of technology, and of the way we live our lives, in fast and irreversible ways. Buildings – the way we use them, what they do for us and our relationship to them – are no exception to this. Recent technology advancements, coupled with the right connectivity and integrations, enable buildings to be substantial contributors to organisational missions.
Honeywell Building Solutions is at the forefront of this movement, pioneering new technology to improve its clients’ experience and interactions with the buildings in which they spend their lives. The Fortune 500 company has developed its building management system and a new application, the Vector Occupant app, both of which are changing the role that buildings play in everyday life.
John Rajchert, the president of Honeywell Building Solutions, says, “I’m really excited about building technology at the moment. This is more than a trend, and it’s certainly not just a small step forward. We’re rethinking the way in which we serve people who use buildings and pivoting to a far more user-friendly, more user-experience focused approach, which is resulting in cost savings, improvements in energy and, most importantly, an improvement in the user experience that we haven’t seen before.”
Honeywell’s Vector Occupant app is new smart building software that combines the convenience of today’s mobile devices with Internet of Things (IoT) concepts and connected building features to give users more control over their comfort levels and the ability to securely move about the workplace.
The app is designed to enrich the lives of tenants in the buildings in which they work every day, and illustrates what is possible when the right intelligent building technology is in place.
The Vector Occupant app is downloaded onto users’ smartphones and bestows an ease of access, control and communication never seen before. It provides digital identification and integrates with core building functions, including access and temperature comfort control, to enhance building occupants’ experience. Facility managers benefit from immediate insight into where and how comfortable occupants are, so they can make adjustments quickly and easily. The digital identification and access control capabilities make it easier to manage occupant credentials, eliminating the need to keep track of and reissue misplaced access cards. From optimising the flow of people through a facility to automatically adjusting lighting and temperatures for occupancy levels, smart buildings are driving smart outcomes.
Typically, a building’s sensors – be it temperature, humidity, occupancy or security – are connected to controllers in plant rooms or risers in buildings and wired to access control programs, where all servicing happens locally. This information is then collected and presented to the building manager.
Honeywell’s building management system, the Enterprise Building Integrator (EBI), is a very powerful platform that serves as a collection point for this data and an integrator of these technologies. Rajchert notes, “The IoT is allowing the industry to do a significantly better job of serving these buildings.”
It does this mainly in two ways, he claims. The first is through the cloud, which allows Honeywell to take a building’s hardware (that is, its controllers) and put them into the cloud rather than the building. Rajchert points out, “In doing so, you remove a lot of hardware, and the ability to process it in the cloud means it reaches a balance point where it’s both economical and practical.”
The second advantage is the ubiquity of communications – the ability to connect wirelessly. Rather than having to connect every wire and sensor within the building, Honeywell now has the ability to connect and use those sensors wirelessly, provided they have a suitable power supply (like a battery). Rajchert says, “This allows us to connect easily and to do the processing within the cloud. And that is revolutionising the way in which companies such as Honeywell are going to be able to provide controls and automation in buildings. Less wire and less hardware, but more processing and more connectivity. They’re becoming more reliable and communicating more, so we’re able to put more sensors into a building and we can provide more monitoring and more connection than before.”
The Vector Occupant app allows smart devices to function as a building’s access controller, essentially replacing card readers and access cards with a user’s personal device. Bluetooth technology means that future releases of the app will be able to completely do away with existing infrastructure and, as Rajchert explains, “We’ve been able to turn what was a lot of wire and a lot of hardware into software and provide the same level of functionality.”
The Vector Occupant app actually provides a great level of control to the user, where everything can be done automatically. Having piloted the app in various buildings, Rajchert explains that the feedback from facility managers indicated that they do not want to lose complete control of their facility. Ultimately they are responsible for the building and there needs to be a certain level of authority. However, they do want access to the feedback from the users of the facility so that they can improve the users’ direct relationship with the building.
Honeywell’s Vector Occupant app provides more than a simplified method of managing buildings. It not only makes the manager’s role easier, but it also allows the users themselves to have a direct relationship with the facilities they use, rather than having to channel every possible issue through the building manager. As Rajchert says, “This is a big breakthrough in the demonstration of the Internet of Things.
“I see that this is the tip of the iceberg, not just for Honeywell, but for the whole industry,” he concludes. “We are committed to leveraging our engineering capability to lead the change in the industry, using our brand strength and our installed base to pioneer this and deliver value to our customers and stakeholders.
“I’d simply say that this really is a very exciting time in building automation and technology in general. We’re at the beginning of a new era.”
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