In 1906, Honeywell introduced homeowners to one of the very first thermostats. This programmable wonder could be preset the night before to the family’s desired morning temperature. Homeowners quickly snatched up these luxurious new devices and said good riddance to the chilling task of stoking the basement furnace in the wee hours of the morning. In the 1930s, Honeywell added an electric clock to the thermostat for easier and more programming options.

The humble thermostat marked our society’s foray into environmental control and management. And, my, what a difference 90 years makes. Today, we’re on the cusp of widespread, cloud-based building management systems that will pave the way for AI applications that support every aspect of data center operations.

Building management systems (BMSs) or building automation systems (BASs) digitally monitor and control a building's mechanical, electrical, and security systems. With a BMS, building managers and security personnel have an eye on, and control over, everything from heating, cooling, and lighting to access controls and fire systems, making it easier to efficiently and effectively manage large buildings.

Following Honeywell’s revolutionary device to sync time and temperature, electronic controls flourished in the 1980s, which were more precise and responsive than the pneumatic systems that preceded them. This set the stage for digital controls and, ultimately, truly automated systems for commercial buildings.

These early systems ran from a high-powered computer that was looking at data points gathered from electrical and mechanical systems. A similar standalone system would run security cameras, automated lighting schedules, and maybe access controls depending on the use case. These hard-wired systems functioned independently.

High-powered computer systems that run BMS applications have moved into data centers. Today’s BMS systems have some level of intergration, making it possible for various data points to come into one feed, offering a single platform for monitoring.

Cloud-Based BMS

Next-generation BMS applications are becoming codified and migrating to the cloud. Smart visualization platforms and the flexibility to monitor and control operations from practically any device or location can help drastically reduce cost by staying ahead of issues and optimizing energy usage.

Specifically, with a cloud-based BMS, data center operations and management teams can expect:

  • Resilience — Both hardware and applications will be more resilient than running on a single computer somewhere in the building.
  • AI — Powerful artificial intelligence with the cloud-based BMS continuously learning and adapting over time. If the same pattern of temperature rise happens every day at the same time, the algorithm will sense and adjust for it.2
  • Time savings — You don’t have to go on-site to change settings — remotely access from an internet-connected device.
  • Multiple feeds — The cloud-based BMS will be capable of receiving data points from a host of platforms, including data from external sources, like the power company or weather data, to make your building run smarter.
  • Control multiple sites — Using a cloud-based system, you can set or change parameters once for different data centers with the same profile (occupants, geographies), and it does it automatically.
  • Proactive maintenance — With interconnected, cloud-based systems, building management systems will be able to do more condition monitoring to pinpoint potential issues before they become problems.
  • Timely updates — Cloud-based system updates are quick and easy to install and update. If there is a new feature or data analysis available, then licensed customers of the BMS will have immediate, automated updates.
  • Connectivity to occupants — BMSs can interface with occupants’ mobile devices. So, a phone or wearable device functions as the visitor’s gate card and access card.

Once data is in the cloud, a new world of possibilities opens up for data center managers. The transition from disparate systems to interconnected, cloud-based BMSs will bring big business continuity, efficiency, and sustainability benefits to data center operators ... Quite a leap forward from its humble beginnings from that first thermostat just a century ago.