Watson makes building management as a service possible

Building management as a service

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting represent the largest energy costs for businesses and are prime targets for suppliers of Smart Building systems. Vendors claim that understanding detailed energy usage patterns while being able to control and manage consumption based on that information will quickly deliver bottom line results.

Building management as a service

PhotonStar, a leading British designer and manufacturer of intelligent lighting solutions, uses the cloud-based IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) Platform to help deliver an affordable, integrated building management system that can be retrofitted to almost any building to reduce operational costs and increase service levels for building owners and tenants.

The company’s new product, halcyon cloudBMS, is based on PhotonStar’s next-generation wireless lighting control system, halcyonPRO2. With a halcyonPRO2 platform in each building and configurable cloud-based analytics, cloudBMS delivers an extremely capable, multi-site building-management-as-a-service (BMaaS) solution. The low cost of entry and monthly subscription approach enables owners of small- to medium-sized businesses to reduce energy and operating costs and discover new insights into their operations.

Getting started with building management services

PhotoStar CEO James MacKenzie

PhotoStar CEO James MacKenzie

PhotonStar CEO James McKenzie said that, historically, PhotonStar was in the LED lighting business. Around 2008, the company began adding microprocessors to its products to help with circadian lighting systems that dynamically change spectral content throughout the day to mimic the light of the sun.

The company has a patented color-mix technology called ChromaWhite that allows it to manage spectral content via multiple LED channels efficiently.

The initial push to expand beyond lighting came from customers. “They started saying, ‘It’s all very well having smart lights, this is great and saves us energy, but all these other environmental factors need controlling, too,’ ” McKenzie said.

Emergency lighting in the UK, for example, must be tested once each month. PhotonStar’s lighting customers in large installations already had onsite staff, but those with many remote locations had to send out a facilities person to each location on a monthly basis just to turn a key and test the system.

If you’ve got a large building, you usually can afford to have a facilities person on-site all the time, so that doesn’t really cost anything. The expensive situation is where you’ve got lots of remote sites. A typical, 350-site retail outlet would require 4,200 emergency lighting tests per year. With Halcyon, the test is conducted monthly and reported via cloud and email, ensuring safety compliance at the lowest cost.

Nobody needs to visit, and the cost savings give a payback in less than one year.

Cost savings of intelligent control

Intelligent control has been shown to deliver 50 percent energy savings in wired control buildings. But 80 percent of the building stock in the developed world already exists, and businesses can’t afford to add that wired infrastructure to existing buildings.

PhotonStar started looking at the broader challenge of facilities management in existing buildings. The company has control functions over lighting, ventilation and air-conditioning, as well as emergency lighting, which costs people money.

One good way to do this cost-effectively is to start with the halcyonPRO2. It’s based on industry-standard ARM technology and wireless protocols such as WiFi and 6LowPAN because it’s so cheap and flexible. So how is that expanded to help manage energy in buildings?

This all sounds quite ambitious, but IoT technology is very cost-effective. Only one’s imagination limits what can be done.

Intelligent business management with cloud

PhotonStar started down that path in 2014 and started expanding halcyon into these other areas. By 2015, it was effectively a building management system by itself, but facilities managers with multiple sites have to make all the really important decisions centrally.

For example, in retail outlets or large offices, managers must aggregate globally the control functions and dashboard them, manage them and examine them. And then, of course, ultimately businesses should intelligently manage all their buildings.

PhotonStar’s leaders realized the company needed to connect the system to the cloud if it wanted to be able to deliver an effective service across multiple locations. And that’s when the company’s cloudBMS was born, building on the Halcyon wireless control system.

PhotonStar built its cloudBMS product and service on top of the IBM Watson IoT platform.

A version of this story originally appeared on the Watson Internet of Things blog.

IBM clients are poised for success using the IBM Cloud as their foundation.

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