Tech Managers' Next Great Challenge

Tech Managers' Next Great Challenge

It goes by many names in the industry: smart buildings, integrated building technologies, building automation, intelligent buildings, unified automation, and whole-building integration, but in the end the goal is the same: create a unified user experience for the occupants of the building in interacting with the various and diverse technology systems. The systems involved with smart building initiatives are varied and disparate, and include audiovisual, lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), energy management, life safety and mass notification, and many more.

AV technology managers sit in a unique place in the mix of the various support groups involved with smart building management. They come from client-centric organizations and have significant experience in developing interfaces and client support procedures. This provides them with a significant advantage as more organizations embark on smart building initiatives.

It’s an Imperative

In March 2012, InfoComm announced the smart building imperative (SBI) to build on the previous work of InfoComm’s integrated building technology taskforce. The SBI is the beginning of a multi-industry initiative to promote education and define smart building systems.

There are five main focuses of the SBI. The first is development awareness and to educate InfoComm members and audiovisual industry on the opportunity that smart building presents.

The second is to develop sustainable technology environments program (STEP) evolution recommendations to enhance the newly launched rating program for sustainable technology.

The third is to develop SBI with standards and trade organizations. By recognizing that supporting smart buildings is truly a multi-industry initiative InfoComm is working with other trade organization such as BICSI (professional association supporting the information technology systems), ISA (International Society of Automation) and ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers).

The fourth is to provide STEP and smart building education and certification. This provides opportunities to AV technology managers to develop a better understanding of the multi-disciplinary nature of smart building systems as well as in the long term get certified in implementing and running smart building systems. The fifth goal is to enhance the use of the construction specifications institute’s (CSI) MasterFormat Division 25, which is dedicated to building automation.

Creating a Common Language

Also in March of this year, ISA and InfoComm began work on a new ANSI standard called ISA/INFOCOMM 111.01: Unified Automation for Buildings—Part 1: Terminology and Concepts. The goal of this standard is to develop standards and guidelines to communicate the necessary information to enable building subsystems to be managed and to interact so that an individual building, a local collection of buildings such as a campus, or a geographically diverse collection of buildings appear to a user to be a single, coordinated, cohesive building automation system.

This standard will not define how any individual building subsystem works or is automated, but rather will address how the variety of subsystems can be monitored, managed, and interact in a cohesive and unified manner to ensure the safety and security of personnel, buildings, and building automation systems, and to meet building functional and business case needs.

This standard builds on the work of ISA’s building automation systems technical interest group, and will be the first of a series of unified automation standards under the ISA 111 standards group. Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) has also shown interest in participating in development of this standard.

Developing Your Organization’s Smart Building Team

As your organization begins work on smart building initiatives, the AV technology manager is in an advantageous position to pull resources together as they are often acting as the glue person for their organization in making systems work together. Unified automation requires bring all of the various trades together such as audiovisual, energy management, HVAC, IT, lighting, and security to look at the building, campus, or facility as total system. In many organizations, AV technology managers have already worked with most of the players on other projects or through coordination efforts. It is also helpful to involve architects, engineers, planners, and facility managers in these conversations.

Where Tech Managers Can Take the Leadership Role

AV technology managers possess two key advantages in facilitating this conversation—they have experience with integrating disparate systems and technology, and they are one of the most client-facing support areas of all of the associated trades. Integrating systems to work in harmony is nothing new in the audiovisual word, however many trades are used to having closed or proprietary system. The value the AV technology manager brings to the team work on creating an integration plan so that all of the system play in harmony and the users of the system do not need to know how things interact on the backend. Additionally, AV managers often have more experience with designing success user interfaces than other trades and can provide the benefit of their experience as part of the process.

Tech Manager as Translator

AV technology managers can often act as the translator is ensuring that clients’ needs (whether stated or unstated) are incorporated into a unified system As a role familiar with client support, the AV technology manager can advocate for the users in design decision such as:

• What should the interface look like?

• How will the user interact with the system?

• What support tools will be available to the responsible staff?

• How does the users get assistance?

• What reporting is required for management to see value in the system?

When many services are integrated into a single building system, new support mechanisms may need to be created to handle the routing of user request to the appropriate support group.

Putting a Toe in the Water

The best way to get experience with smart building coordination is starting with a small pilot project. There are a lot of opportunities where you can increase the value of existing audiovisual systems while being to interact with other systems. One example of this would be interfacing existing occupancy sensors with an audiovisual control system to power down the AV system if the room hasn’t been occupied after a set period of time. Another small pilot example is interfacing with a lighting system to automatically turn off certain light fixtures adjacent to a screen or in a projection path. By working on small projects and creating relationships, you create an opportunity for greater success when your organization embarks on a new building or organization-wide initiatives.

Smart building initiatives and unified automation provide a fantastic opportunity for AV technology managers to branch out and get involved with new technology and create a better environment for their users. By taking a leadership role in your organization’s initiatives you can improve interactions with other internal groups and guarantee a pleasant user experience for your clients.

Matthew Silverman, CTS, PMP, is a Project Manager with the Division of Instructional Technology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He is an active member of InfoComm, serving on the Standards Committee and the Technology Managers Council. He is a regular panel member for the AVNation EDtech Podcast. Reach him atmatt@nextedutech.comor follow him on twitter at @msilverm.