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FACILITY PERSPECTIVES | VOLUME 10 NUMBER 3
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Does BIM have a role in the Internet of Things?
What is the Internet of Things?
BY DON HITCHCOCK, DIRECTOR, ADVANCED SPATIAL TECHNOLOGIES
There is an increasing interest and hype around
the Internet of Things (IoT), which is now gaining
momentum across the AEC/FM industry. According
to Wikipedia, a British entrepreneur first used the phrase
‘internet of things’ in 1999 to reference a global network
of radio-frequency identification device (RFID) connected
devices. Since then, the definition of IoT has expanded
to include wi-fi enabled devices, which can be located in
many places including vehicles, buildings and the wider
environment. It now also includes different data transmission
protocols and methods, and almost anything with a built-in
sensor that communicates data externally with a network of
devices. The usefulness of these internet connected devices
is tremendous, and ranges from enhancing life safety and
security, to building automation systems (BAS) control, and
reporting. A direct result of all these disconnected IoT devices
is the huge amount of data they can transmit, and which
typically needs to be collected and analysed to truly realise
its usefulness. So, the question remains: since buildings are
where many of these devices are being installed, how does
building information modelling (BIM) play a role in the IoT?
BIM and IoT possibilities
On the surface, it’s quite easy to say yes, BIM does play a
role, but perhaps it deserves more attention as we learn to
better understand exactly how it can fit into the equation.
One issue that needs to be considered is: how do we
define BIM? I’ve heard it defined in many ways, including,
‘BIM is simply a model created in a 3D-modelling tool such
as Revit’ all the way to ‘BIM is a collaborative process
for designing, engineering, constructing and operating
facilities’. In reality, the 3D geometry itself is less important
to IoT than the data that comes from the model, such as
‘spatial’ data and ‘asset’ data, which are important to the
building life cycle. Both of these data types provide a
framework for the organisation and analysis of IoT data
in a way that is meaningful to building operations, and it
therefore provides a basis for considering BIM as a potential
component of IoT in how it relates to buildings.
Figure 1 shows how the IoT could apply to a range of
building operations. It also demonstrates the breadth of the
devices and data that can be transmitted and then used to
better understand and manage buildings.
Without some type of organising element from the standpoint
of data analytics and workflow, the information coming from
these disparate systems will be, at best, silos of information that
don’t provide value for the overall operational picture.
Collaborative systems as an IoT organiser
A collaborative data system approach to a building-centric
IoT is really the key to success for building owners and
operators who want to be able to get meaningful information
out of their building-systems data in a way that can be
analysed and actionable.
There are cloud-based applications with dashboards,
which are developed for integrating sensor-based data about
building automation and control, and, in particular, energy
and sustainability management. These approaches are good,
but I believe that they are missing an opportunity to take on
the bigger picture.
I believe that the best solution is to take a comprehensive
BIM-based building life cycle approach, using IoT in the
building industry by connecting building models to a cloud‐
based integrated workplace management system (IWMS) to
help them manage space, plan for maintenance and more.
True building life cycle integration maintains a live
integration between the building models, and the sensors and
systems throughout the life cycle, not only for individual
buildings, but for the whole building portfolio. This approach
can begin with construction when sensors and equipment are
installed, then moves into operations, and ultimately ends in
building decommissioning when a facility has come to the end
of its useful life.
Information courtesy of FM:Systems
Building Control /
One issue that
needs to be
considered is: how
do we define BIM?
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