Sergey Nivens - Fotolia
As the traditional era of building control systems morphs into the new world of smart, connected buildings, partnerships between companies have become the name of the game as old-time distributors and resellers try to reinvent themselves to compete in the nascent market.
Yorkland Controls, a 45-year-old company with a history of distributing heating control products, has broadened its portfolio over the years to include new technologies and to serve emerging markets such as building automation, lighting, and security and energy services. Just as it has always helped demystify new technologies for its building contractor clients and their clients, the firm is now taking an active role introducing the concept of IoT-enabled smart building services, according to Gerry Cellucci, vice president of Yorkland Controls. In order to do so, Cellucci said Yorkland Controls has lined up a series of key partnerships in areas like data analytics and secure IoT networking to carve out an offering in the space and to help its customers establish new lines of business.
Working with IoTium, provider of a secure IoT networking platform, and SkyFoundry, maker of the SkySpark cloud-based analytics platform, Yorkland Controls assembled a system that enables its building contractor and professional engineering services customers to offer smart building services and commissioning capabilities to their own set of clients. "We engage with owners and engineers to help lay out solutions and deliver them through people that are highly trained," Cellucci explained. "This is a parallel move to educate the current systems integrators we've supported with market awareness and use cases for IoT."
A total solution
John Petzeprincipal and co-founder, SkyFoundry
Smart building services, such as commissioning and smart metering, are appealing to building owners seeking to lower costs by optimizing the performance of critical control systems or to help reduce energy costs, Cellucci said. However, most building contractors don't have the information or even operational technology expertise to sell these types of systems to their customers, let alone support them, he added.
By partnering with IoTium and SkyFoundry, Cellucci said Yorkland Controls can now assist those building contractors in selling such services by presenting a total offering. Through a mix of robust security functionality that includes containerized applications, encryption and a book-ended architecture that creates a secure tunnel between the asset and the cloud software platform, IoTium solves the very real problem of secure IoT connectivity. "We wouldn't know where to start to offer such a solution," Cellucci said, adding that the company no longer sees pushback from IT departments, which have historically been hesitant to open up a port on the corporate network to allow a building automation system to communicate with a cloud analytics platform. "The whole sales cycle went from taking a year to figure everything out to two months," he explained.
IoTium's zero-touch secure provisioning capabilities are also a boon to Yorkland Controls and its contractor customers. Instead of having to roll a truck and send a team to a physical site to upgrade a system with new capabilities, the partners can simply make changes and scale the system through the remote and secure connection, he explained. Yorkland and its partners can also engineer the building automation system piece remotely and deliver it without on-site manpower, enabling the firm to geographically expand its reach for providing services.
"The ability to provision software in the field to hundreds of thousands of devices with basically near-one-touch simplicity is a feature that our customers find attractive," said John Petze, principal and co-founder of SkyFoundry, the data analytics partner in the three-company partnership.
The SkySpark cloud-based analytics platform ingests building automation system data through the IoTium-secured connection and, using artificial intelligence capabilities, automatically finds patterns and generates insights, Petze explained. "Our focus is on automated analytics -- we apply algorithms against data to automatically generate findings," he said.
Yorkland Controls has already helped its contractor customers use the SkySpark-IoTium combination for a variety of applications, including powering a smart metering system at a hospital to help save energy costs and lower the carbon footprint, and in a predictive maintenance capacity for a commercial high-rise building, which is aiming to identify and fix potential problems with its HVAC systems prior to failure.
The IoTium platform's ability to put companies' security concerns at rest will accelerate adoption of such smart building services. "IT has been a barrier to building automation, but by bringing the IoTium solution in and showing them we can run as a secure, segregated solution, they are now quite interested," Cellucci said.