Skip to main content


Mind the Gap! Unify Building Automation with IoT

building automation

Reducing energy costs and keeping occupants comfortable and productive are the driving forces behind early adoption of building automation systems. Automation typically saves $0.20 to $0.40 per square foot in utility costs per year. For an average-size building of 75,000 square feet, that means a savings of $15,000 to $30,000 annually!

Automation doesn’t just save money. It allows owners to have better control over the indoor environment, creating a healthier, more pleasant atmosphere for workers and customers.

Lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC systems) are key to the overall comfort and experience of building occupants. If the HVAC system fails, it can result in a loss of productivity and even revenue. A 94% increase in air quality can result in a 40% increase in employee-reported productivity.

But building automation systems (BAS) have limitations. Automation began as an industrial solution, and legacy systems still in use were designed for full-time, on-site facility engineers. These systems lack the ability to stream and store the vast amount of data needed to analyze trends across a portfolio of buildings. As a result, ongoing system problems can go undetected.

Luckily, industrial IoT and cloud technologies are now being applied to buildings and the equipment that help keep them running. New solutions and connected devices enable facility managers to gain deeper insight into building HVAC systems. They can monitor equipment functions, energy efficiency goals, keeping occupants comfortable, and much more.

Cloud-based building management provides solutions that deliver three key business benefits: reduced costs, better productivity, and enhanced security.

Connecting the Unconnected

But even with the digital transformation of building systems, they remain siloed. HVAC, power, lighting, security, and other systems are typically scattered among various, incompatible platforms, protocols, and management tools. It’s time-consuming and costly to gain insights, optimize energy use, and monitor equipment health within one building, let alone across many.

Riptide IO, a cloud-based building management solution provider, developed the Riptide Enterprise Portfolio Management solution to address building HVAC challenges. The system, built on Intel® technology, integrates IoT data from individual automation systems within a building or in multiple buildings. This enables managers to see real-time results and manage settings from a centralized location.

“We think of a building automation as a single system, but actually it’s a collection of industry subsystems,” explains Marti Ogram, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Riptide. “Electric power, HVAC, refrigeration, and lighting are provided by separate vendors, and each has its own industry standards and protocols. We unify all those protocols and bring them together in a single environment.”

That means building managers can set predefined schedules for temperature, lighting, and ventilation on one platform. They have real-time visibility and control over equipment and energy use for all systems and every building.

Riptide collects data via smart sensors across a building or portfolio of buildings’ control systems, regardless of the vendor. Data can be processed via an on-site gateway that gives managers swift control over their lighting and temperature settings. It also ensures that managers stay in control if a connection to the cloud is lost.

A full set of data from IIoT sensors is sent securely to the cloud, where it is analyzed. These analytics help spot brewing problems, provide notifications to service technicians, and gather insights about equipment and energy trends.

Cloud computing and high-performance Intel processors allow Riptide to analyze and relay information quickly. “Old legacy systems suffer from using a client server architecture. We need cloud computing power to do the heavy lifting for data analytics and machine learning,” Ogram says.

An equipment management solution like Riptide’s also allows for easy expansion as new sensors—or new buildings—are added to a portfolio. Because they’re no longer confined to the capacity of an on-premises server, building owners can collect far more information than they did in the past.

Preventing Breakdowns

In addition to adding capacity and speed, cloud-based analytics enables building owners to prevent equipment breakdowns by finding problems early.

For example, when an air conditioning compressor starts to fail, it expends additional energy to keep going. An owner who isn’t aware of the problem receives a higher electric bill without knowing why. Finally, one hot day, the compressor shuts down completely, leaving occupants sweltering while the building manager urgently arranges for repair.

With Riptide’s system, data analysis can uncover the incipient malfunction and send an app alert to a service technician. This helps the technician learn more about the problem before going on-site to look at the equipment.

A technician might learn a compressor is 10 years old and has received three work orders in that time span by viewing the analytics. As a result, the technician would bring a new unit to the building instead of wasting time and money by tinkering with the old one. The problem would be solved on the first visit, before a breakdown occurred.

Pinpointing Trends

Big data also gives building owners new insights about their energy use. They can slice and dice the data however they want, benchmarking equipment performance against industry standards, checking occupants’ compliance with set points, measuring energy use at different times of the day, or comparing one building’s performance to another’s.

Managers at Nordstrom use Riptide’s analytics to manage their controls systems and eliminate unnecessary lighting across 300 stores. The premium retailer chain’s biggest maintenance budget item is HVAC repair. And by using the Riptide solution to verify fixes went right the first time, they saw a 25% reduction costs.

Examining big data trends allows building owners to estimate future energy consumption and anticipate equipment repairs. This helps them create more accurate operating budgets. They also gain a better understanding of how occupants or customers use their systems. And that knowledge leads them to make better-informed decisions about controls and future equipment purchases.

The more information sensors collect, the more helpful they can be. Riptide is working with Intel to apply machine learning techniques to analyze the vast troves of data they have collected. Over time, the insights it provides will predict equipment failures and self-adjust building systems based on weather and occupancy.


This article was edited by Christina Cardoza, Associate Editorial Director for

This article was originally published on December 19th, 2018.