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March 29, 2023

Technical Monitoring and the Problem with Data Collection


Magdalena Sturm

Technical Monitoring as a Service Offering

Construction and building monitoring is increasingly becoming an urgently needed transparency tool. From the planning and implementation phase to the final operation, there are countless examples in technical building equipment where the actual operation of the plant technology behaves unexpectedly. At present, it is still far too often the case that the planning target and the actual operation differ greatly. This is reason enough for many engineering companies to include technical monitoring in their own service portfolio and to accompany the operator in the sense of transparent quality management until successful operation. For engineering companies, this range of services offers the opportunity to generate additional added value while at the same time ensuring the quality of the services provided by the installer.

Technical Monitoring Problems

In an exchange with various engineering firms, we have identified key problems facing providers of technical monitoring.

  • Low storage capacity in older systems

Older, non-networked plant systems sometimes have the problem that the outdated internal storage capacities are not designed to provide large amounts of technical data over a long period of time. With technical building systems often becoming increasingly complex, technical monitoring then reaches its limits because there is simply not enough data available.

  • Data is vulnerable

Data protection is a relevant factor in technical monitoring, because it basically exposes building operations completely. The increasing networking of building technology results in a high flow of data, which must be transmitted via secure systems. Whether the exchange of data via e-mail is an appropriate means here remains to be doubted.

  • CSV files make data import difficult

In classic technical monitoring, the data of the individual plants is prepared as CSV files. These have to be transferred individually into the systems, either manually or complex import functions have to be programmed. Often, however, this is complicated by a different data basis with different information on building, period, trade.

  • Dependence on the installer

It is not uncommon for access to the data of the individual trades to also depend on the respective installer, for example the building automation company. Agreements and meetings are necessary, which can delay the process or whose solutions can lead to sensitive additional costs.

  • Problems are recognized too late

The consideration of only one data set at a time as well as the manual evaluation of the collected system data can lead to problems or malfunctions during system operation not being detected at all or only very late. Early intervention would be necessary here to be able to react quickly and prevent high costs.

  • Frequent property visits

This is an aspect that is particularly necessary in older existing buildings: Due to outdated building technology and a lack of networking, it is regularly necessary to travel to the object as part of technical monitoring. This means that the necessary data must be extracted on site and can only then be analyzed manually. These trips to the object cost time, budget and not infrequently also nerves, if the data acquisition does not run as planned.

The problems listed here, which can be associated with professional technical monitoring, only give a rough overview and serve to give an impression of what engineering companies have to deal with here. But now let's get to the positive aspect: There are possibilities and measures that can quickly and easily ensure that these problems are prevented. Today we would like to present a few of them.

EXCURSUS: Why technical monitoring is still so important

Any engineering firm that includes technical monitoring in its service portfolio is aware of the goals and advantages that go hand in hand with it. In concrete terms, it is about creating the greatest possible transparency about the actual operation of a building, a property or entire quarters. In particular, documented system conditions, external influences or even malfunctions can be identified in this way. In return, the commissioning owners hope for optimized and demand-oriented system operation, greater cost-effectiveness, more energy efficiency and, ultimately, high-quality documentation.

Technical Monitoring

Digitized Data Acquisition - TMon can be This Simple

One thing is certain: technical monitoring is necessary for efficient plant operation and engineering companies can and want to offer this service. But there is one major problem that has clearly emerged in the course of this article: As an engineering firm, how do I get all the important data?

The laborious, manual collection and evaluation of data is not a good solution. That much should be clear to anyone pursuing such an approach. But as already indicated, it is much easier nowadays with digital means. So what does it take to make technical monitoring easier and more efficient for engineers?

Digital twin:

A digital twin represents a real object in the digital world. The Digital Twin of a building digitally represents the building in the form of data and algorithms. This concept helps to digitally retrieve a data-based concept of the building.

Plug-and-play data provision:

In order to replace the laborious manual data collection with CSV files, two things are important: first, networking and merging all data into a large data lake, and second, access to this collected data in order to be able to operate technical monitoring. This can now be organized in a very simple plug-and-play manner. All that is needed is a small industrial PC and an Internet connection. In just a few steps, everything is installed and the data is securely available on the network. For retrieval, there are digital solutions such as cloud platforms that also make the data viewable via a web front end.

Remote data access:

In order to avoid having to travel back to the property on a regular basis, there needs to be a way to gain direct remote access to the building data. This can be made possible via this web-based frontend. All data is mirrored in it, historical data can be displayed and visualized in time series. This view no longer requires a project manager to travel to the construction site or the building. There is also no longer any dependency on the operator or builder. Once initialized, remote access saves a lot of resources.

Visual mapping of the BMS:

Using digital means, a visual mapping of relevant aspects of the BMS can be created and fed with the building data. For example, it is visible at a glance whether a plant is running or not. Problems in plant operation are detected and can thus be rectified directly.

Long-term monitoring:

Remote data collection for technical monitoring thus enables fast, simple and risk-free project completion. But even after that, the support can continue. By working with digital means, engineering firms can also cross-sell further to their clients without much effort. Regular analysis of the building data can then be conveniently carried out via the platform without having to take further cost-intensive measures to do so.

Software Solution for Technical Monitoring

The explanations have shown that technical monitoring is already more digital and easier with various measures. In any case, it is important to be able to classify the relevance of the topic. Digitization in the monitoring process offers considerable added value for engineering companies

  • Simple data availability
  • Less staff required
  • Lower travel costs
  • Faster to successful project completion

This requires acceptance in the industry, as well as a little know-how in dealing with software solutions, data security and digitization processes. But the output can be enormous in individual cases. This approach is definitely worth considering.