Communication technology is core to enable a building’s devices to “talk” with one another. The Internet of Things (IoT) is not a new concept for constructing and maintaining smart buildings, however the technologies employed to connect meters, sensors and other building devices continue to advance and evolve.
Finding a suitable communications protocol that meets your project requirements takes careful consideration, as new technologies challenge and disrupt proprietary methods of connectivity. This is especially true as the installed base of IoT technology that offers enhanced efficiency, environmental performance, productivity, profitability as well as those that facilitate a healthy indoor climate for occupants, continues to grow. A smart building requires robust connectivity in order to accommodate a growing number of devices added to its network.
Installed base of smart building devices to reach 3 billion by 2025
According to its latest assessment, independent analyst & smart building research company, Memoori Research, reveals that the number of connected devices in operation in the commercial smart buildings vertical is to grow from 1.7 billion in 2020 to just under 3 billion by 2025.
Furthermore, despite having shown a decline in revenues in 2020, it expects that the building IoT market will grow by 11.5% between 2020 and 2025.
One of the most popular protocols for the Internet of Things (IoT) systems, is MQTT, or Message Queuing Telemetry Transport. This is due to its nature as a light-weight protocol suited to low powered, resource-constrained devices typically deployed in smart buildings. Readings from MQTT compatible meters and sensors, are sent from one point to another, in small packets, using less data and thus less energy than some other protocols, helping to conserve battery life.
Integrating varied data sources into smart building networks
Furthermore, MQTT is an open protocol, allowing multiple devices from different manufacturers to communicate—another advantage when deploying a range of devices monitoring for example, occupancy; air quality; electricity, water and gas consumption; temperature etc. Conversely, closed protocols, require you to buy all your components from one specific manufacturer to enable them to talk to each other.
“The building IoT market will grow by 11.5% between 2020 and 2025”
– Memoori Research
MQTT delivers information in real time, delivering information where it is needed, as fast as possible. If your MQTT devices are connected to a cloud analytics platform, like Wattics, the platform sends a facility manager an smart alert in real-time for example, indicating that the AHU consumption of his building’s HVAC has exceeded a stipulated threshold, or that air quality levels are approaching an unacceptable level. Another example could be an occupancy sensor that sends information to an MQTT broker. The broker then publishes this ‘information’ received by the facility’s building management system (BMS), which subsequently turns off the lights where there is no-one present, based on the system’s commands.
Zoomed in view of notification on the Wattics dashboard
Source: Wattics dashboard
Notification generated as AHU consumption exceeds expected patterns
Source: Wattics dashboard
MQTT has been adopted by some of the largest companies worldwide including IBM Watson, Azure and Cisco. Today, Wattics energy management software has launched its very own MQTT broker, making it possible to connect a wider array of smart building sensors, meters and control systems to the Wattics energy analytics platform. Through the new MQTT broker, getting an holistic overview of your facilities’ energy and environmental performance has been made even simpler.
What is MQTT and what’s in it for me?
MQTT is an extremely lightweight messaging protocol conceived for the IoT world which comprises a variety of devices attending the needs of different industries. These devices can have different capabilities and more importantly limitations such as being battery powered, having limited processing power and/or requiring minimal network bandwidth.
Here’s how the data transfer goes:
Meters/Sensors (a.k.a. clients) in the field publish messages to a MQTT broker. Each message specifies a topic. The broker’s job is to deliver all the messages from a specific topic to all the device(s) which are subscribed to this particular topic.
For more information on the technical specifications of the MQTT protocol, visit: https://mqtt.org/
The Wattics twist:
The Wattics MQTT broker will receive messages (usually in JSON format) from your MQTT devices. It will decode them and extract the valuable bits. Then it will populate your data points on your Wattics energy management dashboard with these new readings. That’s it!
Can I connect any MQTT device to my Wattics dashboard?
Yes you can. There’s some work to be done though. MQTT is being used to serve many different purposes across many different industries. For this reason the protocol doesn’t define a specific message structure/format. This means that some device-specific code will need to be added to our broker to make it compatible with any new device. Nothing major though! We would just need to develop a translator (parser) to read your specific device message (subject to custom development fee).
Let’s cover some basic requirements that your device needs to meet (and some others which are nice-to-have):
- Authentication in the form of a username and password (required)
- Topic must indicate device type (required)
- Unique device identifier which can be extracted from the Topic, from the Client ID included in the message or from the JSON (required)
- Ideally a Timestamp must be included in each message. Alternatively the time when the message reached our servers can be used.
- Quality of Service (QoS) equal to 1 or 2. This will ensure that no messages are lost.
How do I make my MQTT device compatible with the Wattics MQTT broker?
If your device meets the hard requirements above (and hopefully a few more), then let’s talk! All we need is a sample message from your device. We’ll explain to you how to obtain this. Then we’ll do a quick assessment of the code that needs to be implemented and get back to you with the estimation when you can get your device online on your Wattics dashboard.
Currently supported MQTT devices include (but are not limited to) the Tongdy Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Monitor.
Talk to us about connecting your MQTT device to Wattics, using the form below.