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Advantages of decentralized intelligent room automation

Heating, cooling, ventilating and lighting buildings requires enormous energy. In addition to the construction of a building, the supply during the operating phase also causes ongoing CO2 emissions. The more carelessly energy consumption in buildings is handled, the greater the environmental impact and ecological footprint.

In order to address this situation, maximizing energy efficiency, measured in terms of the energy used and the user comfort achieved, is of crucial importance. Smart buildings start exactly where energy consumption occurs, namely in the floors and rooms of the building structure. This is where the greatest potential for savings exists during the use of the building.

Room automation, as a sub-area of building automation, addresses all relevant factors of a room. By using the latest technologies using data-based room automation systems, optimal working and living spaces are created. Buildings regulate themselves and manual intervention is usually not necessary. Depending on requirements, integrated building components for heating, cooling and ventilation systems, as well as lighting and shading systems, implement specified target sizes for rooms fully automatically. The intelligent combination of all optimizations results in maximum energy savings while at the same time providing maximum comfort.

Hierarchical control systems

In conventional building automation, the control intelligence takes place in a central control unit, the building management system (BMS). At the management level, it carries out the higher-level operation and monitoring of the technical building equipment (TGA). This includes the various automated systems for heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting with the devices at the field level of a building. The measurement, control and regulation technology (MSR) is the control center of the building technology. It is the basis for the networking of all actuators, sensors, consumers, generators and control elements. As a connecting element at the automation level, it ensures the automatic and controlled control of the control processes according to the specified settings at the management level and on the basis of the data supplied from the field level.

Intelligent components in buildings

In contrast to a central control system, similar to a totalitarian system in which all participants obediently carry out orders dependent on a decision-making body, the decentralized approach follows a different philosophy. Namely that of a democratic structure with responsible participants who make their own decisions and enjoy freedom of action within defined rules. Decentralized room automation relies on autonomous components in which the control intelligence is shifted to smart building components in order to ensure efficient and safe operation in the building. These are able to act independently and communicate with each other. They are not isolated, but part of a connected network that enables data and information to be exchanged seamlessly and decisions to be made on this basis. The “distributed intelligence” across many control units takes over the entire task processing at field level and carries out the control function independently.

Added value of a decentralized solution

A key advantage of a decentralized system is its resistance to failures. In contrast to a central control unit, which can affect the entire building automation system and affect many system participants in the event of errors. Intelligent components, on the other hand, do not have this dependency. They act autonomously and maintain their functionality continuously and reliably in the interests of security of supply.

The smart devices themselves are somewhat more expensive due to the additional control intelligence, but at the same time open up a cost shift, as less MSR technology in the form of separate actuators has to be installed in the building. This not only saves space, but also simplifies installation and maintenance. In addition, the amount of cabling is significantly reduced, which on the one hand makes it easier to achieve fire protection and on the other hand promotes the implementation of complex projects.

The commissioning of intelligent sensors and actuators at field level is significantly simplified and settings can be made directly on the building components without having to carry out complex higher-level programming services. Furthermore, the control intelligence can be perfectly coordinated with the component, so that the full potential of the building component is available through optimal behavior.

Another aspect is flexibility when it comes to expansions. Additional intelligent components can be retrofitted quickly and easily, which significantly increases the response time to local requirements. Subsequent changes in use or renovation work in buildings can be easily adapted using flexible room zoning. Existing sensors and actuators can simply be moved to new or other control zones if necessary and reconfigured on site without the entire infrastructure having to be redesigned. This is considerably more difficult to implement with control via a building management system.

Last but not least, the simple commissioning of minimally invasive and low-maintenance room automation systems also pays off in the face of increasing challenges on the labor market. Companies are facing an enormous shortage of skilled workers and increased competition for personnel resources. Solutions that require fewer trained personnel therefore have a decisive impact in terms of flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

Conclusion

Moving control intelligence into the components leads to a more flexible system architecture that enables better adaptability, robustness and self-determination. This leads to an overall more effective rollout, more efficient maintenance in operation and a more user-friendly experience.

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Andre Maas

Andre Maas

Jonas Kaufmann

Jonas Kaufmann