Integrating Building Automation Technologies with Smart Cities
An Assessment Study of past, Current and Future Interroperable Technologies
Georgios Lilis, Gilbert Conus, Nastaran Asadi and Maher Kayal
Electronics Laboratory,
Ecole Polytechnique F
erale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
Smart Cities, Cloud Computing, Smart Environments, Smart Buildings, Smart Grid, Internet of Things, Web
of Things, IPv6.
Future smart cities would integrate a wide range of mostly heterogeneous systems and ICT is an essential asset
in the coordination of those. The smart buildings, a major smart cities research and development domain,
should advance beyond the complex automation tools and the anticipated energy and comfort envelope. The
universal convergence to technologies that would enable the seamless integration with the anticipated smart
cities urban environment should be highlighted. Although it is a concept widely accepted for current and
future developing standards, it is much less communicated across scientific fields as for example the urban
development and building automation. Even worse its necessity, in the latter, is frequently challenged. This
paper firstly will try to address the market and scientific criticism towards a fully web-services enabled building
in a fair and transparent approach. Secondly it proposes a system as an interoperability layer able to build
advanced managements schemes by integrating the assets of current automation and monitoring systems to
the Internet backbone.
The population growth creates immerse problems in
terms of energy management and sustainability poli-
cies, rising infrastructure cost, transportation con-
gestion, micro climate changes, natural hazards and
emergency situations handling (Kelly, 2010). Besides
the technical and physical challenges, there are soci-
ological, organizational and political as well (Dawes
et al., 2009). These issues triggered a global move
towards an holistic approach to ensure livable condi-
tions and continued development in the governance
sphere of the current and the future cities. In this
context the smart city concept was introduced as an
innovative ecosystem having the potential to address
the increasing problems of urban environment. It will
empower the participation of city’s administration,
citizens, businesses and other stakeholders in the ef-
fort to transform the cities under a common strategy.
One of the main targets for the smart cities trans-
formation is the building sector in the frame of sus-
tainability and energy efficiency. Nowadays the build-
ing has evolved from the essential structure providing
the human shelter to a very complex construction in-
This research has been funded by, a program
of the Swiss Confederation, evaluated by SNSF.
corporating many scientific fields. However it has not
advanced as much in terms of thermal and electrical
energy efficiency. On the contrary, the primary energy
consumption of the building sector by 2009 in United
States, has increased by 48% compared to 1980 (En-
ergy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, 2007). Con-
sidering that, building innovations become the prime
objective towards the influential sustainable urban fu-
ture. It is apparent that to harness this potential the
building sector of smart cities should undergo fun-
damental transformation in terms of integrated tech-
In the context of this potential, big market share
holders, mainly in the building automation and en-
ergy, were quick to fill the gap and grasp the opportu-
nity for enforcing their own standards. Together with
the sometimes vague definitions of the smart build-
ing management, it permitted also the modest market
holders and start ups to offer their own innovating so-
lutions. This trend was more than welcome and in
fact was stimulated by the authorities since it offered
business opportunities for powerful innovation to be
introduced. In spite of that, as more and more parties
entered with their own protocols, it started to become
a babel tower where hardly any integration between
manufacturers’ solutions was possible.
The ones commonly found in computer and em-
Lilis G., Conus G., Asadi N. and Kayal M..
Integrating Building Automation Technologies with Smart Cities - An Assessment Study of past, Current and Future Interroperable Technologies.
DOI: 10.5220/0005478803700375
In Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Smart Cities and Green ICT Systems (SMARTGREENS-2015), pages 370-375
ISBN: 978-989-758-105-2
2015 SCITEPRESS (Science and Technology Publications, Lda.)
Table 1: Major open Building Automation Standards.
Standard Name Domain of functionality
BACnet Management & Automation
LonWorks Automation & Field
KNX Automation & Field
ModBus Automation
M-Bus Field
DALI Field
bedded networks are good candidates for meeting
both public and private needs. They provide the re-
quired interoperability that would catalyze the trans-
formation of the smart buildings. Additionally,
the ICT, bulletproofed in the competitive IT mar-
ket, offered the required security and authentication
schemes. Despite the above and the strong academic
support, not every stakeholder of the smart building
industry is convinced for the need of ICT based on
web services.
The Internet enabled devices are now more than
ever in the spotlight of both the IT as well as the smart
grid research groups. However their purpose and us-
ability is frequently challenged by the current mature
building automation standards. Literature search did
not yield any satisfactory and independent research
on the advantages and drawbacks of each technology
camp. Instead, there is an abundance of advocates and
literature for each one individually.
We strongly believe that for the future smart cities
all possibilities should be taken into consideration
before crossing one out. Therefore this paper at-
tempts firstly to examine the advantages claimed by
the legacy building automation standards and high-
light or refute accordingly. Subsequently it brings out
the unique features offered by web technologies for
a feasible rapid progressing towards smart cities and
suggests a platform to gradually integrate them with
the automation systems currently used.
This section illustrates the major claims made by
the current building automation specialists and ma-
jor market share holders who meet the fully web en-
abled building with skepticism. Table 1 highlights
the current major standards prevailing in building au-
tomation and management with their major domain of
functionality (Kastner et al., 2005).
2.1 IoT as a Market Trend
The skeptics were quick to consider the IoT yet an-
other Internet bubble like the Dot Com that should
not base the building and energy management upon.
They state that not enough comprehensive research
has been conducted on the profitability of the intel-
ligent buildings using the IoT. On the contrary, the re-
search work and industrial reviews which have been
conducted on the longterm investment evaluation and
life cycle analysis, are for the traditional building au-
tomation system (BAS) standards (Wong et al., 2005).
This inhibits at the moment the interest of industrial
and other large scale projects where the cost benefits
are not easily estimated, thus limiting the potential to
residential applications or laboratory test-benches.
It is true that the IoT are over marketed nowadays.
In fact many products are named IoT when in fact are
just Internet connected devices without any of the fun-
damentals an IoT ecosystem should have. The major
concern is the lack of clear added value for the con-
sumer in question and in fact they are usually consid-
ered as a lifestyle gadget. However this does not mean
that is all of a bubble. On the contrary, the global in-
terest lead many advocates to believe that it could take
years, but it will eventually introduce the innovating
concepts that would revolutionize our regards of the
buildings and their energy use. Besides, as IoT for in-
telligent buildings gets refined in the context of smart
grid’s standardization, the investment assessment by
research groups and firms will be quick to arrive.
Legacy building automation specialists claim in
addition, that there is not a clear approach and model-
ing for utilizing this enormous data brought by the ex-
tensive connectivity of large number of devices. Thus
concluding that IoT is becoming more of a burden that
an opportunity.
This cannot be further from the truth. The re-
search in computer science is towards the creation
of extensive models for semantically representation
of the data originating from the excessive number of
end devices, profiling the building occupants (Dong
and Andrews, 2009) and even predicting the future
behavior. In market terms, this paves the way for
new business models based entirely on the building’s
sensors data analytics. An ambitious proposal could
be for example the behavioral analysis of the occu-
pant or retrofitting recommendations in order to limit
the energy loses. Another possible scenario could
be the comparison between different departments of
an industry and identification of their energy wasting
points together with the recommended, appropriate
action. Both of the above are read-only (data-mining)
without any automation. Taking into account the pos-
sibility of distributed small actuators the potential sce-
narios increase further in scale and magnitude.
In the end the ”IoT potential” will be demon-
strated by the risk-taking companies that are willing
to develop innovative new products and services for
the public.
2.2 Interoperability Challenges
One can not expect a single manufacturer to provide
continued product development indefinitely, so the
only possible way to assure the market is the exis-
tence of compatible products from multiple manufac-
turers. The current building automation players claim
that the inconsistency issues of the past has been re-
solved; guaranteeing the current designs sustainabil-
ity. BACnet association for example claims more than
800 unique vendors use the standard with an increas-
ing trend and most importantly the vendors are not
locally isolated but global as well. The same be-
lief is observable on the LonWorks standard group,
claiming a 4000 product range and their devotion to
the open standards. This abundance of vendors com-
peting for the market share(supporting the same stan-
dard) has additionally the capacity to drive the prices
In fact, literature even demonstrates designs for
multi-protocol devices (Granzer et al., 2008), elim-
inating the need of specialized gateways for inter-
protocol communication; thus increasing the poten-
tial product range available for each one. Research
groups simultaneously built on that for delivering
not only IP enabled building automation but also a
glimpse of the web services; significantly questioning
the IoT and WoT investment necessity in an intelli-
gent building (Wang et al., 2004).
However the interoperability in current standards
comes at an evident cost. The fact that the major au-
tomation standards are open, does not imply they are
for free. For example Echelon
, who governs Lon-
Works standard, charges a fee for every device us-
ing their Neuron Chip. The BACnet international on
the contrary does not charge a fee, unless of course
you require a certification of compatibility. Same
case with the KNX standard where no per device fee
is required, however the only available configuration
tool(ETS4) requires a license. All these initial fees for
the smaller vendors can seem a costly exercise. Un-
fortunately this becomes even more prominent when
vendors produce a base product built with proprietary
protocols and change extra for the inclusion of a stan-
dard interface. According to (McMillan, 2010) this is
due to the fact that many vendor use add-on transla-
tion interfaces instead of directly build-in ones.
All in all it is apparent that integration of differ-
ent, and even of the same standard devices by various
vendors are not always straight forward. There is high
discrepancy between the interoperability that are sup-
posed to bring and the actual one.
2.3 Building Automation Performance
Legacy automation systems advocates strongly em-
phasize the verified and targeted performance of their
own ecosystems. Furthermore, they do have plenty
of enterprise costumers which prefer the certified de-
vices and value the deliberately slow process with
which these standards evolve and get refined. Quite
often as well is valued more in the B2B relations the
after sales service in which legacy building automa-
tion vendors generally excel, compared to the equiva-
lent newcomers of web enabled products.
As these systems are more mature, it is expected
to have been installed and evaluated in multiple
premises. Throughout the years as well many re-
search groups used them to measure the performance
of the automation and the energy management (Kim
et al., 2000; Park and Hong, 2009). In addition, re-
search groups develop expansions based exclusively
on those standards. For example a prediction model
based solely on BACnet generated data (Pang et al.,
2012) or a BACnet based data acquisition framework
(Li and Neill, 2011). Those scientific outcomes in-
crease the impact factor and credibility of those stan-
dards to the corporate world.
Although the analysis of IoT as building automa-
tion tool falls short at the moment, this should not
be deterministic for the future of the technology. As
more work is conducted on their communication per-
formance and capabilities, the more they will find
their way into the demanding market of building man-
Ultimately the way to bridge efficiently the multiple
stakeholders and entities in a smart city without many
intermediate proxies is by utilizing the Internet back-
bone and the developments in the embedded electron-
ics. Without doubt the open systems and standards
found their way in the building management but the
future of the market goes beyond that. As the industry
matures, the target will be not only the IoT but sooner
or latter the embedded web services for the building
management, sometimes referred as Web of Things
(WoT). Building automation specialized standards are
best for applications spatially constrained in building.
IoT facilitate the communication between the devices
and across different buildings. Internet protocol how-
ever does not imply the same language of meaningful
Figure 1: Implemented integration platform.
data exchange and it is where web services and WoT
on that regard, are relevant.
The great difference between WoT and IoT is not
only the existence of hundreds of micro devices with
Internet connectivity, but also the semantics that ex-
tend the former (Guinard et al., 2011). In simple
terms this means that no more BACnet thermostat,
KNX thermostat or even IoT thermostat, there is only
room temperature.
3.1 Numerous New Possibilities
A web enabled building can leverage the benefits of
the abundance of end devices. Bottom up problem ap-
proach can achieve unprecedented energy efficiency
thanks to high granularity in monitoring (Dawood
et al., 2012) and control of individual loads. The
holistic, aggregated, large scale energy management
can also be an added asset.
Furthermore the ecosystem of devices and their
web enabled interface libraries will enable creative
application to materialize. Literature already includes
scenarios where human capital get engaged in a con-
tinuous sharing, increased awareness over their en-
ergy use and carbon footprint (Manzoor et al., 2013;
Diamantaki et al., 2013; Charitos et al., 2014). The
web technologies are the catalyst for these where hu-
mans, their personal devices and their activities get
integrated in this ecosystem with the ultimate target a
greener future with higher living standards.
Web of Things builds upon the advantages of
IoT and IT in general and they are not expected to
face protocol incompatibility issues. Additionally
the web and communication technologies used, have
been field tested for many years in the IT market in
terms of security, reliability and scalability. Late stud-
ies scrutinizes the IT technologies for use in the con-
text of IoT, as for example in the domain of security.
(Riahi et al., 2014; Veijalainen et al., 2012)
Apart from new civil and social opportunities and
ease of adaptation, the plethora of generated data will
create new business models. Those would specialize
in data analytics (Leminen et al., 2012) which in turn
will drive the WoT and building management market
further. This development will not only revitalize the
slowing augmenting building automation business, it
will likewise encourage and fortify the opportunity
for new enterprises to enter this competitive market.
Ultimately the demand may create a separate mar-
ket with its own properties. A not so far fetched ex-
pectation can be a marketplace with applications for
portable devices focusing on living quarters. Already
major IT companies offer initial frameworks for smart
homes. Furthermore, nobody can deny the boom to
the wearable and health related applications the IoT
already brought (Futuresource Consulting, 2014).
In the end, this competition and industrial devel-
opment will return as socio-economic benefits to the
society of the smart cities.
The future building management designers should
shift from bringing new connectivity protocols, to en-
riching the palette of the semantic web services. Until
that point, intermediate technologies should be con-
sidered in order to facilitate the transition, with im-
merse priority the reusability in a fully web enabled
building. It would be therefore a merit if a system
could combine both the legacy and the modern stan-
dard and slowly phase out the former in favor of the
latter. The proposed and implemented integration ar-
chitecture in Figure 1 is decomposed in 4 hierarchi-
cally distinct elements. Above the schematic, are vis-
ible the major challenges this work has faced.
The first pillar is the Endpoint Nodes consisting
of actuators, sensors and other control devices of vari-
ous manufacturers and protocols. Purpose of these are
to provide the low latency interface to human activi-
ties and their impact on consumption, as well as the
means of actuation inside the control and optimization
loops. Besides the endpoints originating from the in-
dustry as for example are the Z-Wave nodes, this pil-
lar also includes endpoints entirely developed in the
electronics laboratory for the purpose of the build-
ing management. First technology is the distributed
controlling modules which communicate through the
power lines, without any additional wiring infrastruc-
ture. They are able to measure the individual power
consumption as well as to offer means of actuation
over the devices with the dimming and relay switch-
ing. The second custom made endpoint is an IP en-
abled solar energy harvesting multifunction environ-
mental sensor.
The second pillar handles the data collection, in-
terconnection and wrapping of the endpoints. It is
consisted of a highly efficient ARM
unit, local flash storage, as well as the required hard-
ware interfaces in one embedded electronics board
developed in the laboratory. Low complexity consol-
idation and data mining algorithms are running in or-
der to facilitate efficiently the available capacity in the
form of a Round Robin Database (Oetiker, 2014). The
key to address real time metering and control lies to
these Network Embedded Electronics. The added
benefit of this pillar is the transparent mapping of the
multi-protocol 1
pillar’s addressing space to IPv6
addresses. At this point, the combination of the two
lower levels is visible to the upper ones as Internet
enabled devices or as commonly refereed, IoT.
The core of the system is the Centralized
Management Server. It implements an open source,
dynamic, RESTful web server. Purpose of it is to
interconnect the building with the smart cities and
smart grid stakeholders. It communicates with the
embedded electronics in high speed LAN using se-
cured TCP/IP links thanks to 2
pillar. It provides a
custom application programming interface (API) for
direct metering and actuation as well as all the tools
for implementing the optimization models. It is ap-
parent therefore that the IoT of the previous level
are now becoming WoT with easily accessible func-
tions and data analytics engine. The amount of gener-
ated data augments exponentially at this pillar due the
pyramidal structure of the architecture. It is therefore
a considerable challenge the storing and retrieving of
them in the reasonable time required by the applica-
At the last pillar, as a proof of concept, various
high level applications have been designed. The range
includes custom user CO
profiles based on user lo-
calization and loads ownership, load type recognition,
thermal and lighting models designed for
the building behavior prediction. All of them are fea-
sible due to the introduction of universal web services
that each application can leverage. The focus there-
fore is swifted to the creative idea from the burden
of communications and synchronization of numerous
The implementation and the benchmarking of the
proposed platform is accomplished in a university
building of
Ecole Polytechnique F
erale de Lau-
sanne and is used as a case study for the evaluation of
hardware/software interconnection and performance
analysis. Currently the aforementioned system is be-
ing assessed in terms of latency and bandwidth con-
straints, self energy use and long term reliability. Af-
ter completion of those, the presented system would
be a feasible intermediate solution that will not de-
ter enterprises and consumers from investing in WoT
technologies if they already are in possession of cur-
rent building automation systems, ultimately keeping
the best of each sector.
No future smart cities can be imagined without in-
telligent buildings. Legacy building automation sys-
tems served the purpose very reliably in the previ-
ous decades. It is now the time to pass the baton to
the web enabled devices which have the potential to
bring the deal breaking innovation that would essen-
tially catalyze the smart cities entrance to urban life.
During the transition time, hybrid integrating plat-
forms like the proposed, could be used to coordinate
the fundamentally different systems until the univer-
sal acceptance of Internet connected devices in all
the hierarchical levels of the smart cities governance.
With this adaptation layer, the building stakeholders
get decoupled from the underlying platform and its re-
fining steps towards the WoT with returns in reduced
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