Is it a case of technology vs the humble sensor?

October 23, 2018 by Stacey Lucas, commercial and marketing director at Sontay
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Is it a case of technology vs the humble sensor?

The world of BMS is changing at its fastest pace ever. For decades the methods used to manage a building’s ambient conditions have mainly remained the same. However, this fast-paced growth in technology has brought about major changes and is influencing what we do in the future.

Previously, a control system relied on analogue inputs and outputs to a controller to operate and manage field devices through controller IO. Now, we are starting to see more and more buildings operate using modern communication protocols such as BACnet and Modbus. These methods not only aide installation but offer greater control and visibility to a building’s performance and management. Controllers are also evolving to become far more powerful and technical than we could ever have dreamed of just a short time ago. The word convergence is frequently being used and the link between BMS and IT is becoming ever more present. It is easy to see why it is far simpler to build, extend and increase the range and capabilities of a unified, integrated system.   

In all of this, the humble sensor is still carrying the weight of providing vital data to these sophisticated systems.

Smart sensors are growing in popularity due to their installation and communication benefits. But many installations still use a humble analogue sensor and utilise devices such as a smart IO to deliver that data to the controller and in turn provide an output to sensors in the field. These frequently overlooked devices really are the backbone of any installation. If the data provided to the controller is not accurate or reliable you will not get good control in your building. Due to their low cost, sensor selection may not seem significant, but they really can be the difference between a successful installation or one that is plagued with issues for years to come.

The realm of conditions that can be monitored through sensors is vast. From ambient conditions such as Temperature, RH and Air Quality to energy saving options such as Light Level and Occupancy, there is a simple and reliable device to provide that valuable data back to a controller. Critical conditions such as water leaks or smoke in a duct can also be monitored through a traditional analogue sensor providing early warning of any issues in the system.

In this world where the demand for data is ever growing it is important to remember where this data actually comes from. Next time you are out and about look out for sensing devices. You may have never noticed them before when out shopping or while waiting at the airport, but these devices are working tirelessly whilst blending into the background. We are all used to having comfortable ambient conditions in our day to day lives and that’s all thanks to the humble sensing device.

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