Digital Systems Blog

IoT Unites Operational and Information Technology Teams

osram-dam-9715347_Human_handsIoT is changing the way we do business and how we think about and use technology. Operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) teams have traditionally been separate and siloed organizations. However, the lines between the two seemingly disparate organizations and their respective responsibilities are blurring. According to Navigant Research, the convergence of these two units is the foundation of the digital transformation of facilities into smart buildings. Alignment between the two is crucial.  

In the past, OT and IT have had different technologies and infrastructure responsibilities, so they tend to look at the benefits of IoT through different lenses and with different objectives.  OT teams focus on business operations and challenges and the hardware and software systems that monitor and control equipment and processes. They look at how lighting and IoT can automate or streamline some tasks, save energy and operating costs, or create building space that pleases occupants. The IT department focuses on the infrastructure and technologies used (the network, cloud, connectivity) that enable or support these business operations and are concerned about interoperability, security and similar issues.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences and how they are now coming together.

  • Operational Technology (OT) has been associated with manufacturing and industrial control systems, but building automation systems also rely on OT to support efficiencies, energy management and other similar functions. Solutions are purchased by the operations team generally to solve a particular business problem. For example, facility managers, as part of the operational team, select, purchase and manage commercial lighting systems to maintain occupant comfort levels, provide appropriate light levels for specific tasks, and minimize energy usage (and the related costs). 
  • Information Technology (IT) encompasses the network, data infrastructure, cloud, and enterprise applications such as ERP, CRM, and Business Intelligence applications. IT teams select, implement, and manage these assets. The digital revolution has required that IT evolve from a support role to one of leadership. Years ago, an IT department had little to no involvement or influence in the selection, purchase or management of a lighting system. Things have changed.

The Anatomy of an IoT Solution

At a basic level, every IoT solution includes both operational and information technologies and requires stakeholders from these different teams, with different priorities and charters, to work together on a common solution. Here’s how we see the breakdown of the key components of an IoT solution and why the lines between IT and OT are converging:

UI/Dashboard (OT)

  • Primary user interface that provides an easy way to understand complex data.
  • Displays key performance indicators such as efficiencies/inefficiencies and other metrics in a graphical or user-friendly way.
  • Offers insight about the space itself and its usage to guide future decisions.

Smart Building IoT Applications (OT)

  • Software applications that increase efficiency, improve health and safety, create better experiences, and more.
  • Commercial real estate can leverage smart building applications including smart lighting, space optimization, conference room rationalization, wayfinding and asset tracking.

API (Application Programming Interface) (IT)

  • Enables third-party software developers to access and utilize data stored in the cloud platform from the data network.

Cloud Platform (IT)

  • Exchanges, stores and manages data used for analytics and insights.

Network Manager/Gateway (IT)

  • Aggregates data across the network and is the connection point that enables data to move between the cloud and the connected network of sensors and IoT devices.
  • Processes data and transfers/receives data of value to/from the cloud.

Sensors / IoT Devices (OT)

  • Monitors environmental and operational conditions (light, air quality, occupancy, temperature, and more).
  • Operates as a standalone device or is embedded in a device.
  • Accepts communications across a connected network.

Connected Lighting as an IoT platform

There are a variety of use cases with any one IoT application vastly different from the next. Using a smart lighting system as an IoT platform has one consistent and unique benefit across multiple Smart Building IoT use cases:

Lighting system data is simply more granular than other methods of data acquisition within a building because lighting is ubiquitous.

Lighting system data delivers unprecedented transparency and control into the operations and usage of a building. Fixture-integrated sensors in luminaires collect data (occupancy, air quality, daylight levels, temperature) from their surrounding environment. Each sensor in each luminaire becomes a node on the lighting system network, which is a type of wireless sensor network (WSN). The high density of luminaires with integrated wireless sensors provides highly accurate information that opens up the possibility of exciting new smart building applications beyond illumination such as space optimization, wayfinding or asset tracking. These applications are typically available to a facility manager or building owner through a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business model.

IoT as a Catalyst of Change

Business leaders and technology planners view the IoT as a catalyst for change. IoT initiatives present a perfect opportunity to unite siloed but parallel technology projects within IT as well as the line-of-business. By unifying OT and IT solutions around common building blocks, disparate systems are able to connect and share data, eliminating redundancies. Cross-functional teams need to align on each new project.

By converging OT and IT implementations, enterprises can:

  • Improve decision making by leveraging OT data in multiple applications.
  • Lower operating expenses (OpEx) by minimizing organizational and technological overhead.
  • Reduce risks by improving overall system reliability, availability, and security.

 

Connected Lighting Meets IoT

 

Topics: Connected Lighting & IoT