IoT Lets Buildings Talk About Their Health

A new feature known as Talking Buildings, part of WiseState's Bopstem solution, allows building managers to chat with their buildings about the operations of a chiller, water heater or generator, via WhatsApp or Telegram.
Published: March 26, 2019

The Hyatt Regency London—The Churchill hotel is leveraging an Internet of Things (IoT) solution using both wireless and wired sensors to collect data about how its heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is functioning throughout the building. The system, known as Bopstem, is provided by automation and intelligence solutions firm WiseState.

Since the hotel’s pilot was launched in early 2018, the technology company has released the solution commercially to enable facility managers to view the functionality of the equipment operating its buildings. This year, the firm has taken the solution a step further, enabling users to access data by communicating with the buildings. The new feature, dubbed the Talking Building, allows managers to use mobile phones to ask questions about any part of a structure’s functions, and to then receive a response from the system in the form of written comments and graphs.

The system can share information with managers wherever they are, via either WhatsApp or Telegram.

The Hyatt Regency London—The Churchill, WiseState’s first Bopstem customer, incorporated the Talking Building feature into its system in December 2018. WiseState is an IoT technology company that develops and sells facility- and building-management solutions. It aims to address the challenges of building managers trying to monitor numerous conditions throughout one or multiple facilities.

Hotels offer a further challenge, since the operations of a building include the conditions for dozens, or even hundreds, of individual guest rooms. That means managers must keep a close eye on any potential failures before they can occur. The challenges of such managers center around “their limited resources and the need to serve different areas with very different requirements in terms of guests’ comfort,” says Jose Luis Cardenas Duenas, WiseState’s product director. At the same time, hospitality companies are under more pressure than ever to increase their energy efficiency. This means malfunctioning equipment or unnecessary power consumption must be quickly identified and remedied.

WiseState developed the Bopstem system to allow managers to not only view conditions within their buildings, but also create control strategies based on those conditions. In that way, for instance, they can set up a diagnosis indicating a potential failure of a piece of equipment, based on temperature levels or other readings culled from sensors. Managers can then receive alerts on their smartphones.

The Bopstem software gathers data from the HVAC system, as well as from the WiseState wireless sensors, which use a Wi-Fi or cellular connection to transmit data to a gateway. The gateway itself performs computing on the edge, according to Cardenas Duenas, then forwards the collected information to the WiseState server. By accomplishing the data management on the edge, the system can ensure that it will work properly even in the case of a temporary loss of Internet connection. It also reduces the amount of data that is sent from the gateway to the server.

When the technology is deployed, any sensors beyond the built-in HVAC system are attached at specific locations, such as water heaters. Those sensors capture temperature, pressure or other measurements, then forward that data to the gateway. The gateway interprets the information, offers analytics and historical data, and stores the details on a cloud-based server.

The talking building function requires the use of WhatsApp or Telegram. Managers can utilize one of these social-networking apps to ask simple questions, such as “How is chiller 3?” or “How are the speed pumps operating?” or “What is the humidity on the ground floor?” The system then responds with written explanations, which could include graphs showing the function or measurement reading of the sensors at that location.

Jose Luis Cardenas Duenas

The Talking Building solution was built by Wisestate’s technology partner, No Interface. The system includes an energy benchmark tool to create perimeters for temperature and other conditions, which was supplied by Quimera Energy Efficiency. The system can detect such conditions as temperature levels, and thus identify if a problem is imminent—for instance, a guest room becoming too warm. What’s more, it can share that information with managers wherever they are located, via either Telegram or WhatsApp. In that way, a manager need not need be signed into a server, combing through content about each area of the building.

The Talking Building feature, says Sebastià Galmes, WiseState’s product engineer, provides “an ideal solution for building mangers who are in different parts of the hotel, or another building, and need an agile and fast tool” to understand the state of the building systems and respond accordingly. In addition, the solution allows managers and engineers to request historic and analytic details, such as energy consumption and water flow, over a period of time. They can also send instructions, such as disconnecting power to a specific piece of equipment.

The software platform employs artificial intelligence to assess conditions and make prognoses. To ensure proper communication between a user and the system, the technology can identify and interpret grammar mistakes or slang. The Bopstem system’s goal, Cardenas Duenas says, is to improve energy efficiency by identifying areas in which energy consumption is high, and thereby reduce energy costs and the building’s carbon footprint.