One of the most frequently asked questions for the Switch team is: “How is the Switch Platform different from a BMS?” The short answer is that the Switch Platform tends to complement a BMS by enhancing its functionality through operational analysis and control. The longer answer is far more interesting however.
What is a building management system (BMS) and what are their limits?
A Building Management System, or Building Automation System (BAS), uses a building network and the microprocessors within building devices and systems, integrating HVAC, lighting, security systems and much more in virtually every major building in the world. The BMS represents a massive leap forward in building technology, making every digital device in a commercial portfolio potentially visible and controllable from a remote location.
Unfortunately however, BMSs are commonly miscalibrated, causing huge inefficiencies. Technology Infrastructure estimates that a poorly calibrated BMS can create an additional 20% in energy usage alone, amounting to 8% of the total energy used in the U.S.
Building systems generate massive amounts of data and a BMS will typically present these in a complex, impractical way. This is because many buildings have a large number of proprietary interfaces, making it difficult for building managers to gather and analyze building performance data to make strategic decisions. Worse still, facilities managers often have no way of knowing comprehensively which devices are connected to their building networks without a time-consuming and costly one-off network audit.
A typical BMS also can’t integrate work orders, communicate building issues and their solutions to internal and external stakeholders, or apply data analytics and cloud technology to a high volume of IoT devices and mechanical systems. BMSs often tend to lack scalability; proprietary devices and firmware mean that building owners can be limited to doing business with a small set of vendors.
How does a smart building platform complement a BMS?
The Switch Platform is a software layer that connects to building systems, devices, third party systems and IoT edge devices for improved asset management across a portfolio. The Switch Platform combines high quality data to create a single source of truth, aggregating valuable data into one easy-to-understand dashboard that provides full visibility into operational performance to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
Switch Automation’s architecture links building devices, OEM systems and utility or other data sources to the cloud. The Platform is ‘hardware agnostic,’ meaning it is scalable, integrating numerous BMS vendors as well as Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to provide a consistent view across all systems. Switch IoT appliances, file import wizards and a Switch API all enable existing and new sources of data to be rapidly collected and analyzed.
Where there is no BMS, for example in a retail branch or smaller building, the Switch Platform has the hardware and software capabilities to serve as a fully functioning BMS (though we primarily are used as a software layer that combines with a pre-existing BMS). The Switch Platform may be controlled from a web browser and automation logic can be configured in the cloud, then stored and executed on the appliance. While BMS solutions typically support only one or two of the following capabilities, Switch does them all to deliver a comprehensive solution:
- Data ingestion using embedded appliances APIs and a flat file mapping and import tool.
- Data management including historical files, live device integration, APIs, historians and tagging.
- Built-in user interface displaying charts, graphical analysis and dashboards.
- Logical analytics supporting fault detection, diagnostics and alerts.
- Control, enabling decisions to be pushed back to building systems.
Switch Dx³ scans and identifies connected building systems at regular, scheduled intervals, displaying device firmware versions, integration ports and protocols and identifies potential network security threats. This first step establishes smart building readiness and provides a solid foundation for building performance benchmarking and optimization.
Chat with an engineer to see how the Switch Platform can build on your BMS functionality for true smart building analytics, reporting and control.