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Next-Gen HVAC, the IoT & Making Smart Comfort Systems

The technology of managing HVAC comfort systems has gone through the typical 20-year transformation cycle that most services and technologies experience.   From pneumatic controls in the 1960’s…to digital controls in the 1980’s, which finally morphed into the modern building automation systems starting around 2001.  For at least the last decade, comfort and control systems have undergone steps to the next revolution…the Internet of Things (IoT).

 

Here are three distinct ways that the IoT is already making comfort systems better.

  1. Embedded computing and communication with edge devices are allowing more intelligence and local controls for HVAC devices and systems. Previously, due to constraints of bandwidth and computing power, all information and decision-making had to flow through hierarchical network structures, making the process less adaptable, less responsive and more complicated to manage. The components which constitute local hydronic systems, such as valves, actuators, dampers and diffusers, can now be smart and make local optimization decisions instead of relying just on command and control from higher level control networks. As more local computing is available, the comfort systems can react to changing environments more efficiently.
  2. Cloud and edge technologies, coupled with machine learning and artificial intelligence, is enabling better automation and management of comfort systems. Building automation and energy management systems have been around for some time. But now, various building technologies such as HVAC, lighting, security and more are converging. This allows new insights to be derived from a combination of different data sources. With these new capabilities, we can perform improved fault detection and diagnostics, asset management, maintenance and enterprise integration.
  3. Customers now expect customized solutions. “Off-the-peg” will simply not cut it in many areas now.  To accommodate this, comfort systems can now be more finely personalized, and occupants can interactively engage with them. This is enabled by an increased proliferation of mobile technologies and immersive experience delivery mechanisms such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and natural language capabilities. Occupants can now feel more in control of their environments, while comfort system maintenance professionals can now prioritize the most important issues to solve them faster.

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