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Research Highlights

Developing a Community for Connected Buildings

Buildings Interoperability Landscape report addresses barriers and establishes baseline goals for advancing building connectivity

April 2016
 Developing a Community for Connected Buildings
Interoperability is enabling. Set standards will result in reduced costs for integration, operation, capital IT, installation, and upgrades. They will also provide better security management, more choice in products, and more price points and features.

Smart devices are everywhere, from the phone in your hand to the heat pump in your house to the thermostat in your office. Industry estimates show a continued increase in popularity, growing by 145 percent between 2015 and 2017. As buildings grow smarter, they can talk with their equipment, other buildings, and service providers, such as the power grid, while also becoming better connected to their occupants. But to take advantage of this increased connectivity, crucial emerging marketplace planning is needed. That effort starts with an assessment of the current landscape of smart building equipment and automation capabilities.

A recent report issued by PNNL on behalf of the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy does just that. Led by researcher Steve Widergren, the Buildings Interoperability Landscape report captures the attributes of interoperability and sets the stage for continued development going forward.

“The buildings sector is being revolutionized by connected devices and energy automation.” said Widergren. "It's vital that building operators, their communities, and technology providers understand where buildings interoperability is heading so that they can better prepare and support these fast-paced developments."

The report highlights several goals that provide a baseline for desired interoperability characteristics. They include:

  • Organization Goals – defined economic and regulatory policies, policies that are maintained and provide incentives to align business objectives
  • Information Goals – relevant information models and a common understanding of terms and relationships to support the business interactions
  • Technical Goals – defined structure and format of message exchange, consistent data transfer protocols, and communications networking
  • Configuration and Evolution Goals – agreed-to, unambiguous identification of assets and transacting parties, service discovery methods, registration directories
  • Operation and Performance Goals – quality of service specifications, defined performance and reliability expectations
  • Security and Safety Goals – defined and maintained policies, such as confidentiality and data integrity; vulnerabilities, security and privacy risk assessment and management

In building upon these goals, relevant stakeholders can become aligned through established guides and standards while addressing interoperability challenges and gaps with new standards and testing. Establishing a shared vision in the buildings community will allow for building automation ecosystems to form and flourish.

PNNL Research Team: Steve Widergren, Eric Stephan, Weimin Wang, and Chad Corbin

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Buildings-Grid Integration

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