Smart building management goes mobile

19 September 2013 | Michele Bedford Thistle, Business Manager, Government, National Security, and International Organizations, Worldwide Public Sector

We’ve been talking quite a bit here lately about smart buildings, and how streams of data from building monitoring systems can save impressive amounts of money. I wrote about it in a recent post, and you may have read about it in 88 acres, a fascinating blueprint for cities of the future that’s in place today on our Redmond campus.

What’s really exciting is seeing the convergence of smart building technology and mobility. This is where things get interesting for city operations departments. Suddenly the concept of a centralized control room is so 2012. Now building engineers, operations managers, maintenance crews, field technicians—basically anyone with a smart phone—can diagnose costly problems and start fixing them immediately, from anywhere, anytime.

Here are three examples of how mobile apps and smart-building technology can save you time, money, and headaches.

1. Analyze this

A new Windows 8 app, MobileHMI from longtime Microsoft partner Iconics, pulls data from building management systems, equipment control panels, utility billing systems, and other sources. Load the app on a Windows 8 tablet, phone, or laptop and you can view and analyze operations data anywhere.

The app’s built-in analytics tell you how your systems are running, and the Windows 8 touch UI makes it easy to navigate data streams across devices. So management, engineering, and maintenance crews who need to keep building systems running efficiently can do their work across devices, moving from desktop to tablet to phone and back. For example, they might evaluate 100 faults on a PC, prioritize the faults and trigger a work order from the field using their tablet, and get status alerts on their phone.

2. An ounce of prevention

Mobile smart building apps are ideal for conditional (or condition-based) maintenance, a concept that’s well known in the private sector but may be new to city operations centers. Every car owner knows how it works: a “check engine” light warns you of an impending failure before things get really expensive. Just as importantly, it helps you avoid doing repairs that aren’t needed.

When we’re talking about the scale of municipal buildings with expensive mechanical and HVAC systems, condition-based maintenance becomes a vital cost-saver, allowing you to address building problems precisely when they need to be addressed. Smart building technology makes it possible, mobile apps make it practical.

3. Pinpoint diagnostics

Sensors, meters, and monitors can alert you to the location of something as simple as a damper that’s stuck open, or warn of a more serious situation like an overheating a/c unit. Mobile apps like MobileHMI let field technicians scan a QR tag with their smart phones so they correctly identify the equipment they need to work on.

Imagine you’re standing on a rooftop of a large municipal building with multiple roof-top HVAC systems that look essentially the same. Identifying the specific unit that’s failing isn’t always easy. The QR tag makes it as simple as a snap, identifying the equipment, its corresponding maintenance history, the current work order, and more.

For city managers who may have millions of square feet of office space and other facilities under their jurisdiction, this is all good news. Mobility is a game-changer that allows operations staff—and the buildings they’re responsible for—to operate at peak efficiency and save a lot of money along the way.

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Michele Bedford Thistle
Business Manager, Government, National Security, and International Organizations, Worldwide Public Sector

About the Author

Michele Bedford Thistle | Business Manager, Government, National Security, and International Organizations, Worldwide Public Sector

Michele is focused on sharing stories from government customers creating real impact for citizens, employees, economies, and students. She joined the worldwide team from Microsoft Canada, where she was also marketing lead for several technology start-ups.