The Internet of Things (IoT) is ushering in a new era of connected devices that stream real-time data, bring intelligence and enable consumers to make better decisions thereby saving money. From wireless thermostats, security systems and smart watches that sync to an app – monitoring and control of remote devices has reached the mainstream consumer market.
Enterprise IoT applications, on the other hand, are more complex. Smart building control solutions, the core application for enterprise IoT, need robust design, high availability, redundancy and architecture designed to scale in order to satisfy the high performance requirements. Unlike residential buildings, warehouses, distribution centers and manufacturing sites are characterised by large open spaces, high ceiling and 24X7 operation in harsh environment. Connecting thousands of nodes at these facilities using a consumer grade wireless technology is pushing the envelope in terms of scale. Moreover, many facilities have proprietary building management system (BMS) and each system relies on a different communication protocol (BACnet, Modbus or LonWorks) to exchange information. Integrating disparate systems, getting them to communicate using a standard protocol and providing interoperability across devices is the biggest roadblock preventing the IoT from reaching its true potential for enterprise market.
This is where the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless mesh technology makes a mark. ZigBee meets the application requirements for commercial and industrial wireless networking by offering a low cost, low power and low data rate wireless mesh technology. ZigBee delivers an optimal balance of scale, performance and reliability for an extensive range of sensing and control applications. With the new universal ZigBee 3.0, there is single open, global wireless standard for the widest range of applications including home automation, lighting, energy management, security, sensors, and health care monitoring.
Here are few applications from commercial facilities based on the ZigBee wireless sensor network:
• Connected Lighting – Wireless networked control systems bring smart lighting with control strategies such as task tuning, daylight harvesting and scheduling to deliver demand-based lighting optimized for each zone. High bay LEDs combined with ZigBee wireless controls can deliver up to 90% savings at warehouses and distribution centers. Smart parking lots can leverage wireless network to stream real-time parking space information.
• HVAC & Fan Control – Wireless offers the ability to add advanced schedule and occupancy control to HVAC, fans and mechanical loads. All areas of a warehouse do not require climate control and cooling load can be optimized based on dynamic pricing, occupancy and shift schedule.
• Demand Response – Facility managers can leverage wireless control system to automate demand response (openADR). With ZigBee sensors, the large industrial grade exhaust fans can be programmed to operate in sequence reducing the sudden surge and avoiding the peak load penalty.
• Plug Load Control – Plug-loads account for 25% of total electricity consumed in offices. Warehouse offices have hundreds of receptacles that can be powered down when not in use. ZigBee mesh network can scale to thousands of nodes covering entire facility.
• Safety & Productivity – Exhaust fans and thermal destratification fans can be remotely switched on (or off) based on demand. ZigBee motion sensors can automatically lite up the entire aisle when forklifts are moving merchandise inside warehouse or occupants are using stairway enhancing visibility and improving safety.
• Facility Reconfiguration – Increase cross-docking efficiency in a warehouse or remodel office cubicles to make way for conference room, facility reconfigurations have become the norm. ZigBee wireless control makes reconfiguration easier without changing cable or rewiring fixtures saving time and money.
• Failure Detection – Smart wireless sensors can detect luminaire failure and send alert signals. The multi-hop mesh networking eliminates single points of failure and guarantees a robust and reliable system.
As these applications illustrate, wireless building control solutions make facilities smarter, safer and more productive. The integration of software, low-cost sensors and an interoperable wireless network will accelerate the proliferation of IoT in commercial buildings. In the future, new technologies will emerge and enable a wide range of IoT applications. However, at the present time, ZigBee appears to be the ideal technology to replace wires and spur enterprise IoT revolution.