The Internet of Things continues to impact traditional industries in bold and transformative ways. This use case identifies ways in which the IoT is delivering cost efficiencies and energy management solutions to universities and colleges. At a time when college tuition is rising to ridiculous levels, reducing energy consumption to control costs is a smart fiscally-responsible initiative.

Universities are tackling the IoT initiatives in different manners yet most are focused on energy management, and predictive maintenance. Below is a breakdown of a few specific use-cases.

Energy Management Use-Case 1

Challenge: an HVAC controller malfunctions and dumps too much cold air into a dorm or classroom. The HVAC system adapts by reheating the extra cold air to maintain the desired comfort level, wasting energy and money in the process.

Solution: Combine low-cost digital sensors (in this case, a network of room sensors) with analytics software (with an algorithm designed to spot HVAC breakdowns) in on-premise systems or cloud services designed for Big Data.  Other architectures may implement onsite gateways that, among other duties, filter raw data streams to keep extraneous information from clogging LANs and analytics engines.

Project outcome: these data-driven energy management activities are estimated to have yielded about $200,000 in cost-avoidance savings in one year.

Energy Management Use-Case 2

Challenge: automating energy management with multiple data streams

Solution:  energy-related IoT systems that mix building sensory data with third-party weather data to help facilities staff manage energy consumption based on prevailing environmental conditions.

Project outcome: early stages of concept with integrating third-party data

Energy Management Use-Case 3

Challenge: increase efficicncies with staying updated on energy consumption, create alerts for HVAC defections and identifying recommissioning targets

Solution: develop an environmental fault detection and diagnostics system that uses thousands of IoT sensors to monitor a campus’s HVAC and computerized maintenance management systems. An electronic dashboard displays summary data, including updated insights about energy consumption and alerts when HVAC performance dips. Multiple databases support the platform, including those running Microsoft SQL and the open-source MariaDB technology.

Teams are also considering cloud-based machine learning applications like those in Microsoft Azure that may help systems learn how to reduce the time needed to identify HVAC faults. These systems can also support an ongoing building recommissioning project. to prioritize which facilities to schedule for energy efficiency reconditioning.

Project outcome: an estimated $5 in future energy savings for every dollar invested.

Collaboration Between IT and OT is Crucial for Success

However, fundamental to these gains is a collaboration among multiple teams. In particualr, IT and Operations have to work together to make these opportunities work successfully. As an article by stated,

“The rewards of IoT can be significant, but Chuck Benson, assistant director for IT, facilities services, at the University of Washington, says stakeholders may need to align their priorities. “There needs to be a lot of coordination to get these departments to work together closely,” he says. In particular, IT and operations staff tend to approach such projects in unique ways. “These professionals even see time differently: IT people are patching and changing systems on a daily and weekly basis. OT people think in terms of buildings that last decades,” Benson says. “It takes work, and regular meetings that start early in the process, to bring these two groups together.”



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