Its 9AM on a Tuesday, and your phone rings. It is the Director of Facilities informing you that your facility has been hacked. Most of your IT systems are down; the office is in disarray. Only seconds go by and the computer in front of you goes blank – you have no way to communicate with your building. Now the hackers are in. You soon learn they gained entry through your outdated Building Management System; a system you knew you should have upgraded long ago!
Ok, ok… lets reel the imagination back in. But in all seriousness, security breaches have occurred from hacking Building Management Systems (BMS). In fact, one of Googles headquarters was hacked via their BMS system. Security has become a primary focus today, for all the major BMS developers. While security is paramount, the more common reason to upgrade your BMS is when the software is no longer supported. Thinking about the very device you are reading this on, how old is it?? If we as building owners, operators, or managers, we would not consider using antiquated technology personally, why would we permit it to exist in our buildings?
Hers is a great example; In the early 2000’s one of the most common BMS systems installed was Johnson Controls Metasys, using the N2 open protocol. If you have controllers that communicate via the N2 protocol, there are a couple of issues to be aware of; the first is these controllers are no longer being manufactured by the OEM. That means replacement parts, if found, are most likely going to be refurbished parts. The second challenge is to program these controllers, you will need access to a PC capable of running Windows XP. How long has it been since you have used a PC running Windows XP? Just for reference All Windows XP support was discontinued in 2014. Fast forward to the present day, how much has technology evolved since the days of Windows XP? Newer automation systems allow for easier interaction with your building, integrating multiple facets of your building so in addition to your buildings mechanical systems we can also integrate; lighting, security (card access) and fire annunciators. Another reason to consider an upgrade is that newer systems provide analytics about your facility, so you know how your building is being utilized at any given time. The Johnson Controls new controllers have the flexibility to be replaced using N2 and BACnet, upgrades can be phased as a budget measure. Old N2 controllers can be replaced with the new controllers using N2; but once a complete N2 bus has been upgraded it can be switched to BACnet (Current and open protocol). This feature allows facilities to manage the cost and operational impacts.
Looking into this a bit more will reveal even older systems like pneumatics. While pneumatics still have their place in a buildings, particularly when we have large valves or banks of dampers, they are loud, prone to leaks and simply do not provide the accuracy and customization, that new electric actuators can offer. These very old systems are typically not connected to the internet, so you are safe from a hack, but the overall unreliability and lack of maintenance knowledge in the field discredits the value of having one in place.
With all this in mind, you should find a controls contractor to evaluate your system. By having certified professionals perform an evaluation, you are taking the first step in finding ways to operate more efficiently and increase your security. You will most likely find that there are opportunities to save energy like tuning set points, adjusting lighting controls, or even taking care of that faulty sensor that you have been silencing for the past three months! Ultimately, saving energy means saving money. And saving money means impressing your boss to give you a raise!
Call or message Glenn at 508-735-8153 to start your BMS upgrade evaluation today.