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Unified BMS and security for smart buildings connected to microgrids

June 20, 2018 | By Ed Nugent

June 20, 2018 — Whether a facility or campus, smart buildings automate occupant comfort, security and energy use. When there is also renewable energy generation in the mix, both energy consumption and energy generation are dynamic.

A building management system (BMS) integrating both traditional methods with energy management enables building owners and operators to minimize expense by continuously evaluating real-time energy needs in relation to buying, selling or storing energy.

A traditional BMS controls and monitors the building automation subsystems, such as ventilation, lighting, power systems, fire detection and security. A smart building, however, implements both BMS and integrated energy monitoring and control of a local electrical system that includes multiple loads and distributed energy resources. Often referred to as a microgrid, these systems can be operated in parallel with the broader utility grid, or as an electrical island.

In today’s connected world, building cybersecurity is paramount. The operations and security managers have different objectives and constraints. Operations is focused on manageability, automation, energy efficiency, sustainability and the overall cost of building operation. A security manager’s focus is on anti-intrusion — both physical and cyber. The security manager relies on dedicated equipment and segregated networks, which may increase the infrastructure, staff and power required from the perspective of the operations manager.


A substantial effort is required to optimize, consolidate and rationalize legacy building management strategies with security requirements. We are seeing more critical sites where a facility or infrastructure has to meet higher-grade safety and security requirements. This may be due to business strategy, national security, or public health and safety reasons.

Unified access

From the perspective of building operations, a unified building management interface enables continuous monitoring and control, while a full security management interface enables supervision of both physical and cybersecurity throughout the premises and the enterprise network.

A multinational, applied R&D project has been focused on redefining the architecture for these advanced capabilities.1 The objective is prediction of net energy consumption and unified access to both building and security management systems.

The project was structured to foster cross-domain innovation between activities that are traditionally segmented. It brought together a diverse set of companies, fostering innovation by sharing horizontal expertise to create impact at the sensor, network, building management and security management level. Advanced data processing and analysis is the key capability required to meet all of the challenges described above.

The result of the research is a comprehensive Smart Building System Architecture, which is a concept innovation in and of itself. No former R&D initiative has had this ambition to integrate energy, facility, IT, security management and control systems into a comprehensive, modular system of systems (Figure 1).


Through the growing interconnection of energy, facility, information technology and security systems, smart buildings gain in efficiency,  flexibility and sustainability. Their exposure to blended cyber-physical attacks also increases.

Smart buildings are increasingly incorporating information from the emerging internet of things (IoT), which includes sensors connected to the BMS via the cloud rather than on local networks. The data coming from these devices adds valuable information, but can be difficult to manage when there is no unified view of all building information. At risk is the loss of situational awareness, which may reduce efficiency and create safety risks.

KPIs and contextual mobility

Key performance indicators (KPIs) have been developed that synthesize correlated building operations and building security events and measures. The KPIs are synthesized from four domains:

1. Energy supply and efficiency
2. Building automation
3. Information & communications technology
4. Security and safety

The KPIs allow operations and security managers to have unified access to optimize the energy supply for the building, monitor the physical and cybersecurity of the building, and monitor the IT infrastructures to obtain these two goals simultaneously.

Maximum situational awareness for operations and security personnel is augmented with contextual human machine interface (HMI); this enables personnel managing and maintaining smart buildings to have KPIs and other relevant information and necessary controls at their fingertips.2 It presents the KPIs and real-time building status in the context of the user’s job responsibilities at their current physical location.

Adaptive demand and response

Secure and effective forecasting and management of resources is the “smartness” upon which the architecture relies to perform holistic building monitoring and optimization. The focus is both real-time energy management and day-to-day building management. From the energy point of view, the aim is to ensure the building is controlled in a way that optimizes a target variable. This may mean decreasing energy consumption or reaching a given level of occupant comfort, or a combination of both.

Reaction to a cyber-physical attack

From the facility management point of view, the ability to react translates into detecting anomalies or deviations that require a response to mitigate or block. A key element of the architecture is to rely on wider information, since energy and security are considered in combination.

This requires monitoring more data, as security-related and energy-related sensing infrastructures are coupled. It enables prediction and reaction relying on common networks and sensors, and on a common database of high- level indicators. This is a major innovation of the project, since considering both energy-related and security-related data enables us to reliably build high-level indicators (e.g. the number of people in a room) that are useful for both security monitoring and energy/facility management optimization.

Event management

A special case exists where the critical facility is used for public events. This includes buildings designed for industrial/commercial or public use, such as a university campus, or those intended for temporary events, such as sports arenas and concert halls. The variability of energy consumption and security requirements require context-specific management.

The BMS must address the changing operating conditions of buildings in the context of the smart grid. This implies taking into account potential sources of local energy (e.g. co-generation, renewable energy, stored energy). Adaptive consumption patterns (using demand-side management, demand-response, direct load control, load shedding, etc.) are also considered — either inside the building or externally — by means of negotiation and contracts with other stakeholders.


Smart buildings gain efficiency, flexibility and sustainability through the growing interconnection of security systems, energy, facility, and information and communications technology. Their exposure to blended cyber-physical attacks increases as a result.

A comprehensive smart building system architecture addresses this challenge by supporting a building system that is efficient and secure by design. To achieve this, a robust BMS should include advanced capabilities for energy consumption prediction and a unified web portal, providing access to both building management and security management systems.

Key performance indicators synthesize correlated building operations and building security events and measures. Access is provided to operations and security personnel through the unified portal or delivered automatically to their mobile device based on contextual HMI. It enables them to optimize, consolidate and rationalize legacy building management strategies with physical and cybersecurity requirements.


1. “Facility using smart secured energy & information technology”, Trusted Monitoring and Intelligent Consumption Data Management for Smart Buildings Panel, Proceedings of the 2017 Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Power & Energy Society (PES) General Meeting.
2. “Systems and Methods for Location-Based Control of Equipment and Facility Resources”, US Patent Office Publication, November 14, 2007.

Ed Nugent is the COO of PcVue Inc. Through PcVue Solutions, it provides solutions that centralize supervision of disparate systems and applications, such as performance, savings, energy optimization and building maintenance. Visit www.pcvuesolutions.com.

This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Electrical Business Magazine.

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