It's Not Just the Systems That Need to Be Integrated


The Internet of Things, the colloquial term used to describe the interconnected network of physical objects reporting their status out to interested listeners (human or machine) on the Internet, is a hot buzzword right now, right up there with big data and cloud computing.

But getting things to talk on the Internet is not as easy as it may sound. Different machines have different ways of communicating (wired, wireless) and vastly different protocols with which they operate and, ultimately, communicate.

This is something we are focused on pretty hard at SUSE, because one of the benefits integrated systems is a standard platform on which these devices can run. Standard platforms means standard communication methods.

It’s a real concern, especially for engineers who increasingly find themselves in an environment that’s demanding smart devices, smart systems, and even smart buildings to keep operating costs low by monitoring maintenance, device status, or energy usage, just to name a few.

But there’s a problem with this kind of expectation. When engineers try to create so-called smart buildings that use Internet of Things (IoT) technology to properly manage the building as a whole system, there are limitations. Anil Ahuja is a building systems designer and engineer who knows full well what these problems are from a deployment side.

“In today’s age of building information modeling (BIM) and Revit designs, the boundaries do not exist. This is why tomorrow’s [mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP)] engineer needs to be an integrated systems engineer,” Ahuja wrote in a recent article on Consulting-Specifying Engineer Magazine.

“The engineering curriculum in universities does not offer systems engineering. Energy engineering programs are rare, and only a handful of U.S. institutions provide students with a truly integrated curriculum,” he added.

It turns out that while the need for integrated systems is increasing in scenarios such as this, engineers, designers, and planners are also in need of some integration of their own. They need to integrate their skill sets so they can incorporate multiple disciplines to get all of these integrated systems working as a functioning whole.

If this isn’t a compelling argument for more standards in integrated systems and the IoT, I don’t know what else would be. If engineers are having trouble just combining their own skills and knowledges, why would you make things harder with non-standard systems that don’t work well together?

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