Article by Rob Price, Network & Connectivity BU Director, Logicalis UKI
The concept of connecting all a buildings’ various systems to a common network is not new. I personally remember talking about Cisco Connected Real estate (CCRE) at least 15 years ago. At the time, it was possible to connect various systems such as lighting, HVAC, physical security, etc. to a common IP backbone, but the solutions were fragmented, and the designers of those buildings as well as the teams operating those systems had not yet fully embraced the idea of interconnecting all of them to a common backbone.
In recent years, this has changed, the idea of a smart building is now accepted, as is the concept of connecting all the building systems to a common, IP based backbone. There are several key reasons as well as multiple systems involved in the process of creating a smart building and we will examine some of these in the remainder of this Blog.
Imagine booking a room and having the environmental levels (lighting, heating, etc.) automatically set to your personal preferences. What about interactive maps to show you exactly where you are in a building or on a campus with real time wayfinding to your destination. How about being able to quickly locate friends, colleagues, or assets anywhere in a building or on a campus. All these things are achievable in a properly designed smart building / campus.
Physical security is of paramount importance to most organisations.
Here again, we can enhance the capabilities of the physical security infrastructure as part of a smart building / campus. Legacy CCTV systems often have cameras physically cabled back to a control centre. If you want to see what a camera is seeing, you go to the control room. If we put the cameras onto the IP network, we immediately remove that constraint. Now a security guard can view any camera from anywhere via a standard mobile device, thus identifying potential issues much more quickly.
Using modern wireless technologies, we can equip valuable assets with smart wireless tags. We can then set up “geo fences” in our building and send an immediate alert if the asset moves outside of the area defined by the geo fence. Standardised badge access across multiple buildings, even if they are geographically separated becomes easy. Physical access control (door locks, turnstiles, etc) can all be integrated. We often hear that cyber security systems will be more effective if they interact with one another. Why not apply the same philosophy to physical security systems as well.
Mechanical and Electrical Systems
Systems such as lighting and Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) can be connected to the IP network, enabling much more granular levels of control. As stated above, we can personalise the environmental conditions of a room based upon the preferences of whomever is currently using it. Additionally, we can use occupancy sensors to determine whether a room is in use. If it isn’t why not turn off the lights and shut down the HVAC system to save energy.
Sustainability has become a critical issue for businesses across the globe, and the IT industry is no exception.
With increasing awareness of environmental impact, organisations are now looking to adopt sustainable IT practices that minimise their negative impact on the environment. Sustainable IT aims to reduce the environmental footprint of all areas of IT operations, from the purchasing, usage, and disposal of IT assets to the energy consumption of IT equipment. Whilst it is well understood that IT itself can and does consume a lot of energy, it is perhaps less well understood that IT can be used as a highly effective vehicle to reduce energy consumption in other areas. As mentioned above, we can use the IT network in a smart building to detect things like occupancy, and to shut down rooms, areas, or even entire buildings when they are not in use.
By using IT to drive down greenhouse gas emissions, organisations can make their business more sustainable, and as new environmental legislation comes in, businesses will hear more about scope 3 emissions and the need to reduce them and require metrics to demonstrate reduction plans.
It goes without saying that if you are going to connect multiple, previously unconnected systems to your corporate network, you need to make sure that that network is fit for purpose. A modern IT infrastructure needs to be Agile, Secure and Observable.
- Agility (operational simplicity) is increasingly being delivered via “Software Defined” technologies. These technologies simplify day to day operational tasks associated with running an IT infrastructure, and in doing so, help to free up time for the IT department to focus more on IT delivered business outcomes.
- Security is an absolute must. As the organisational reliance on digitally driven outcomes increases, so does the need to ensure that the IT infrastructure is always there to support them. Cyber-attacks are becoming scarily frequent and as a result of this embedding highly robust, multi layered security into that IT infrastructure is no longer optional.
- Observability is another highly important attribute of a modern IT infrastructure. If we accept the premise that digitisation is at the core of most organisations' strategies, knowing what is going on that infrastructure is vital. Is the path between user and application working optimally. Have we allocated enough compute, memory, and storage resources to our key applications, or indeed, have we allocated too many resources thus creating wasteful inefficiencies. Are the Applications themselves running efficiently. We need to be able to monitor all these things and quickly detect and remediate issues as the arise.
Contact us today if you have any questions or would like to discuss how to measure and reduce the environmental impact of your technology, data security, or the Cisco Refresh program.
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