Cisco Uses IoT-Based Systems for New Innovation Center

March 5, 2018
Though not an industrial example of an Internet of Things technology application, Cisco's use of IoT to communicate with traditional building systems using Wago's BACnet Controller provides useful insights for industry.

With the opening of its openBerlin Innovation Center, Cisco is writing a new chapter in building technology to provide the company with an idea factory and innovation platform for the Internet of Things (IoT). With a research focus on manufacturing, transportation and logistics, the purpose of the openBerlin Innovation Center is to draw in researchers, developers and representatives from leading institutions, customers and partner firms. Cisco’s initial plans include collaboration with companies like azeti, Bosch and Intel.

Networking technology partners

Cisco set the technological bar extremely high for the openBerlin Innovation Center, which is located in a former manufacturing facility that was operational until 2014. The 1,000-square-meter space, designed as an open work environment and equipped with about 100 workstations, will be outfitted with more than 10,000 sensors and high-tech communication units to detect the most detailed information about current conditions, as well as the movement of people within the building. Data collection in the center will extend from lighting and climate conditions to facial recognition.

Use of open source standards and ease of communication were of critical importance to Cisco in its selection of technologies to be used for the building. This meant that, when it came to identifying technology partners, “we needed partners who believed in our vision, were open to new concepts and could bring with them the flexibility to implement this project under time pressure,” says Mitko Vasilev, co-founder and CTO of openBerlin.

The team was given just three months to complete the design and installation of the building automation.

For the IP-based aspects of the project, Cisco turned to relayr, Berlin-based IoT experts. The system integration specialists, Hosch Gebäudeautomation (Teltow, Germany), and its technology partner, Wago (Minden, Germany), provided the designs and implemented the building technology.

Wago’s 750-831 BACnet/IP programmable fieldbus controller with Codesys forms the core of the system installed at the openBerlin Innovation Center. Serving as the link between the IP-based sensors and the conventional building technology, it handles control of room automation—for example, control of all pumps and fans for room temperature regulation—as well as the facility’s lighting technology.

No need for building management systems

The modular design of the BACnet Controller, part of the Wago-I/O-System 750, offers an extremely high level of flexibility in the compilation of the necessary I/O modules, which provides it a high degree of scalability. It also allows for the incorporation of different protocols—such as LON, KNX, MP-Bus, EnOcean and SMI—to be united into one system. For example, the meters in openBerlin’s tap electrical consumption and hot water use M-Bus, while the lights are controlled via DALI.

Wago’s controller communicates with the facility’s IoT-based control system using BACnet. There is no building management system.

The building’s multifunctional sensors, around 3,000 of which have thus far been installed, unite eight sensors in one device and transmit their data via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The data from these sensors are collected, filtered in a fog gateway located in the building, and can be accessed via the cloud using a web application. This allows users with a smartphone or tablet to individually regulate environmental conditions in the building, such as lighting scenarios that include light intensity settings and color options.

Though customizable as described above, openBerlin’s building automation is designed to automatically set lighting and the indoor climate control to optimal comfort conditions without outside intervention. This includes handling light intensity and color change according to the season or time of day, so that the best conditions exist. To create optimum indoor climate conditions, the sensors detect temperature, humidity and CO2 content, which the BACnet controller then processes. For example, if more people gather in one space, the system registers this and automatically lowers the room temperature.

“At the moment, we record 26.5 GB of data per day,” Vasilev says. “Of that, we probably use only about 5 percent.” This usage level is expected to change as the system is expanded with artificial intelligence to integrate, for example, proactive measures in building automation.

In terms of the investment cost and energy efficiency of this project, Cisco notes that, in comparison with other Cisco properties, using the IoT-based approach employed for openBerlin saved the company about 30 percent in costs. Energy savings amount to about 60 percent, due in part to the need-based temperature and lighting control.

“We are highly satisfied with the results of the project,” Vasilev says. “The IoT-based building automation, which we developed with our partners, is the most innovative and modern open-source system. At the same time, it relies on components that are available in series production.”

The openBerlin project will serve as a global model for other Cisco innovation centers and projects.

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