Building Automation Systems Analytics |

Building Automation Systems Analytics

November 022012
Building Automation Systems Analytics
November 2012
By Bill Lydon, Editor
Analytic computing methods are increasingly being applied in business and technology with software emerging in the automation industry giving users actionable insights and understanding of performance based on data and statistical methods. I recently spoke with John Petze, Partner at SkyFoundry about their analytic software. SkyFoundry was founded in 2009 by Brian Frank. Both Frank and Petze were previously with Tridium. Brian Frank was co-founder and chief architect of the Tridium’s Niagara Framework and John Petze was Tridium CEO. 
SkyFoundry’s stated mission is to provide software solutions for the age of “The Internet of Things,” focusing on building automation, facility management, energy management, utility data analytics, remote device & equipment monitoring, and asset management. The company’s SkySpark software allows domain experts to capture their knowledge in rules that automatically run against collected data. Employing “semantic tagging,” pattern recognition, functional rules processing and other techniques, SkySpark’s analytics engine provides the ability to automatically identify issues worthy of attention. The resulting information provides users with performance data about their building systems.
John Petze noted that with the large amount of information available from systems today there is a wealth of data that has not been leveraged. Petze said, “[There’s] just too much data, and the equipment systems are too complex.” Buildings are all different with unique dynamics and there are fewer people available today with the knowledge of systems that can manually run them efficiently. Petze says the challenge is transforming data into what matter to the user. This may be totally different things depending on the user. For example, a retailer may want to relate sales to store environmental conditions whereas a hospital has other priorities. SkyFoundry software is freeform and configured to analyze any type of system, based on the owner’s needs, as opposed to predefined analytics that limit applications to narrow pieces of equipment.
Petze explained that SkyFoundry software does pattern recognition, detecting patterns that represent issues in the data based on rules created for the application. SkyFoundry software can work with a wide range of data sources across silos of information to do higher levels of analysis. He stressed that data comes from multiple sources, beyond sensors and control systems, and highlighted the need for analytic solutions that operate above the control system. These date links can be to automation systems, smart meters, SQL databases, imports of historical data, Excel files, or a web service feed from a utility. Users define rules that run against the data and when the software finds a rule that is a match, it generates what SkyFoundry terms a “Spark” - an issue that has been identified or a fault that is graphically displayed with related information. This analysis is done outside of the control system so that the control system in not disturbed or altered. Petze offered these possible examples of rules:
  • Simultaneous heating and cooling across groups of units.
  • Energy use deviation from benchmarks.
  • Heating or cooling performance degradation.
  • Economizers open when heating or cooling.
  • Overridden setpoints, not changing with schedules.
The software automatically scans the data and automatically generates views on issues detected based on these rules.
I asked Petze what type of person is needed to create the rules. He explained that the people who understand building systems write the rules based on their knowledge to capture and systemize their knowledge. “It is kind of like an ERP, you can buy the software but it is not going to do anything until you hire someone to implement it,” said Petze. He characterizes SkyFoundry’s offering as business intelligence software for the physical world of building, energy and equipment data.   Examples illustrated that the rules are entered in a textual language unique to SkyFoundry. SkyFoundry has a library of fundamental analytic functions that users combine together for applications.  
About 30 companies currently use SkyFoundry software.
Thoughts & Observations
The notion of using computer systems to create “smart buildings” has been around since the 1980’s and with this type of analytic software the industry is closing in on this goal.
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