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Standards for Commercial Building IoT Networking Take Hold

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Paul Korzeniowski's picture
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  • Jan 5, 2021

Zigbee is a possible network transport for Internet of Thing (IoT) products, like smart meters and device sensors. Since 2002, the Zigbee Alliance has been developing standards, so different products interoperate. They are now extending that work from home systems, such as smart thermostats, to commercial buildings. As a result, energy producers gain more visibility into  device energy use, proactively plan usage patterns, encourage companies to conserve during peak usage periods, and manage their expenses more efficiently. 

Leading vendors, like Amazon Web Services, Apple Inc., and Google Inc., support Zigbee Alliance’s Connected Home over IP Project (CHIP). The group developed specifications for areas, like lighting, safety and security, and window coverings/shades. Similar specification are needed for commercial buildings, such as multi-tenant residential buildings, offices, hotels, supermarkets, warehouses, and shopping malls

Landlords are investing in intelligent building technology. The Zigbee Alliance expects that the installed base of connected IoT devices will increase from 1.7 billion in 2020 to nearly 3 billion by 2025.

Putting the Building Blocks in Place

Collecting information from sensors requires that they work with a common network protocol. To date, most solutions relied on proprietary network protocols. Zigbee standards are based on the IP network foundation, which has garnered traction in many market sectors. In the long term, the project is designed to drive development of a vendor device catalogue that commercial solutions providers tap into.

They then can build applications that collect and correlate energy usage information. Next, facilities managers established parameters and lower energy consumption and costs. Alerts from such systems prevent downtime and improve product performance, like an HVAC.

New Challenges Arise

While the work has potential, it also faces challenges. First, the standards are in a fledgling state and represent a long term development rather than a short term fix. The specifications have to be hashed out, compliance testing tools developed, and then the standards incorporated into sensors and energy monitoring applications.  

Energy company personnel are not familiar with such product. In many cases, utility employees are much more comfortable with the proprietary solutions used with the current grid. So, energy companies will need to put training program in place and overcome any institutional inertia present as they migrate from the old to the new.

Recent IoT advancements pushed intelligence out to more grid end points. New network, system, and software infrastructure is being put into place, so energy companies gain more visibility into commercial system usage. This area has tremendous potential but also poses organizational challenges to utilities. So, they must balance the conflicting business drivers carefully.


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