Integration and open standards

June 2017 Integrated Solutions, Security Services & Risk Management

Building management systems have been in use for many years to control various parts of buildings and campuses. Of late, the number of electronic systems falling under the purview of building management has increased dramatically, especially with the Internet of Things (IoT) and physical security systems becoming common place in almost every location.

Apart from simply providing more electronic devices that need to be managed and controlled by building management systems (BMS), modern times have also created another headache for the BMS – cybersecurity. The last thing one wants is to have a well run and managed building that has its network hacked via the air conditioner.

Confirming the importance of the cyber threat, as if any confirmation is required given recent events, Memoori estimates that global revenues for smart building cybersecurity will reach $8.65 billion by 2021 up from $4.26 billion in 2016.

And yet, there is still more BMS users and vendors need to concern themselves with. Do we need a BMS when there are already VMS and PSIM systems providing management support; conversely, do we need VMS or PSIM when a BMS is already set up to manage various solutions from a common interface?

Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked Shaun Wilson from Schneider Electric for a brief look into the future of the BMS and if there really is a need for various platforms to manage the different components we see in businesses today.

Specialisation is key

Wilson says, “I don’t feel we will ever be at a point where one system will ever satisfy all needs or requirements in a building (especially the larger ones) as specialisation is still going to be a requirement due to the multitude of technologies available. What will change (and needs to change) is the ability for integration. With technologies like web services fast becoming popular (such as SOAP), it makes this process much easier and secure without the complexities of other middleware tools.

“The future of BMS, in my opinion, is how flexible and scalable the platform is going to be to suit all types and sizes of buildings, together with the ability for it to integrate into third-party platforms and to be able to retrieve information and data easily.”

The IoT’s impact

There is still, however, the question of today’s most popular buzzword, the IoT. How will the connection of billions of devices to the internet impact how these platforms will function? After all, these ‘things’ also need to be managed, preferably from a central platform.

The IoT will never have the control functionality of BMS, according to Wilson. He believes that the IoT will ultimately add value to many users in the visualisation and interpretation of data relating to what is important and relevant to each specific user, whether it’s the CEO or facilities manager. Accessibility of data is therefore going to be key, but more importantly, it’s the access to the right data at the right time that will deliver the most significant impact to accurate decision making and reporting.

As far as cybersecurity is concerned, he does not see the greatest threat aimed at systems like HVAC, but to more critical facilities which will have a higher level of impact (such as data centres). Cybersecurity breaches are normally instances that want high visibility results and negative impact.

Data everywhere

As already noted, when looking at the future of the BMS market, Wilson sees integration as the critical factor for the future. The ability to receive and understand data (and disperse it to relevant parties as reports or autonomous instructions and so on) is critical. This will also require the adoption of open standards to make it easier and more reliable to exchange information between different systems.

“The days of ‘traditional’ BMS systems (protocol specific, generic GUIs, simple reporting etc.) are fast approaching their sell-by date,” Wilson says. “The key going forward revolves around open protocols, simple data exchange (web services), the merger of security, fire systems, access control etc., but still maintaining the silo approach as each of those silos is going to be an area of specialisation.”

For more information, contact Shaun Wilson, Schneider Electric, +27 (0)11 254 6400,,


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