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20th April 2018

Building Management Systems (BMS) combine energy saving control techniques with communication and information systems that allow active management of the building services. However, for all the sophistication, advanced feature-sets and benefits that these control systems bring to their occupants, they are dependant for their success upon the humble sensor.


Room temperature and humidity sensing and transmitting products began in conjunction with the development and proliferation of centralised building management systems in the 1980’s. They are the eyes and ears of the BMS, relaying vital information in an accurate and reliable way.  


Over the years sensors have developed and improved dramatically not only in their technological capabilities but also in their design. Today, the importance of aesthetics and increased functionality have been key drivers in helping us re-evaluate the way that we look at sensors.


Up until now, sensors located in the space have been selected with little or no regard to design aesthetics. The latest devices available on the market offer an opportunity for specifiers not simply to satisfy the functional demands of their client but also the impact of the sensor on the interior space, and the look and feel of these devices. Room sensors are now being specially designed with a low profile and curved fascia to ensure that they can blend stylishly and seamlessly into a room’s design scheme whilst still helping to deliver greater energy efficiency, cost savings and carbon reductions in new build and retrofit building applications. The bland and, frankly, cheap-looking design of the ordinary room sensor need no longer be a barrier nor an unwanted intrusion into the design scheme of the upmarket commercial office building.  


The cost of sensors also remains an issue but it is important not to just go for the cheapest option. Different price-points often reflect a differential in quality. Choosing the lowest cost sensor brings with it the increased risk of compromising on long-term measurement reliability and performance stability.  Device failure can lead to the time and cost of unnecessary call out and product replacement issues, alongside the unwanted cost of reputational damage to the specifying contractor and consultant.


Increasingly popular wireless sensor technology is having a fundamental impact in transforming how we think about the cost of sensor installation. By eliminating the need for structural cabling during sensor installation, wireless devices such as our SonNet family can greatly reduce engineering time and installed project cost. This enables faster and easier installation on new buildings and also opens up the opportunity for control specialists to retrofit energy efficient HVAC controls into existing commercial and public buildings.


The growth in IoT compatible devices is also playing a vital role in improving functionality. Sensors are inherently smart, measuring, analysing and evaluating a variety of building performance data and making this information available to the control system. If all the data they collect is read and acted upon, we can improve energy management, facilitate better maintenance and repair regimes, and help end-users improve how they utilise their buildings.


To make the system as smart as possible you need connected devices and we are seeing a high number of devices and control systems using the internet protocol alongside traditional protocols for communication, such as BACnet and Modbus.


Today’s sensing devices are providing much better aesthetics and greater functionality for a relatively low total installed cost. These devices are capable of providing a better picture of the true building conditions over a long term in smaller, more pleasing to the eye packages. The result is the creation of a broader market opportunity for control systems specifiers and installers and, ultimately, the potential for more energy efficient buildings and reduced carbon emissions for all.