How Retrofitting a Smart Home taught me the value of a System of Systems approach to Infrastructure Management
About 18 months ago, my wife and I decided to take the plunge into the world of Home Automation. We installed smart thermostats, automated door locks, a video doorbell, smart bulbs and switches for the lights and ceiling fans, motion sensors, contact sensors on the doors and windows, an automatic garage door opener, power monitors for major appliances, and several Amazon Echo devices.
When we were done, we could open an app on one of our phones and change the setpoints on our air conditioning unit. Another app would allow us to view in real-time if someone was on our front porch and speak to them through our doorbell if we were not home. A third app was required to remotely turn lights on and off. A fourth app showed us the power our clothes dryer was consuming and would pop-up a notification when it finished so we could fold the laundry before it became wrinkled.
Our home had a cool factor, but my wife and I agreed – this wasn’t exactly what we had envisioned when we set out to upgrade our 20-year old house to a Smart Home. Two things were lacking:
- The ability of the various smart systems installed to share information with one another and react to information across sub-system boundaries
- A user interface that could both display information from disparate applications and allow us to interact with entire home through a single pane of glass on our phones, tablets, and computers, as well as through voice commands
After jumping into home automation online communities and discovering others who shared a similar disappointment with their implementations, I learned of a couple of software applications I could add to my smart home ecosystem that were agnostic to which smart devices and sub-systems I was using. This additional software would sit on top my implementation, integrating the various sub-systems together and giving me both a rules-engine for implementing highly sophisticated logic for automated controls and a single-user interface where my wife and I could see everything going on in our home. With these upgrades, we were finally able to realize our Smart Home vision.
Although I did not realize it at the time, this effort to make the various sub-systems of our smart home ecosystem add up to greater than the sum of its parts was a perfect example of a System of Systems approach to solving challenges. By taking the various sub-systems and integrating them together, I developed a more complex implementation that built on the individual capabilities of the various smart home devices, but extended the capacity of the resulting amalgam to provide greater value than the siloed sub-systems could provide on their own.
We see these same challenges in a variety of Infrastructure situations. Whether you are looking at city operations, transportation systems like airports and railways, data centers, or building, facility and campus management challenges, you often find the same situation – a number of existing operational technology systems with purpose-built software designed for a specific function. But in order to unleash the true capability of the infrastructure, these disparate systems must be integrated to share information and provide the operations management personnel a holistic view of how the infrastructure is operating.
For example, a city that has integrated it’s water management, maintenance operations, traffic management, and utility customer database through a system of system approaches could react to a water main burst at a critical intersection by automatically dispatching work crews, sending detour notices to traffic information signs, updating WAZE and other traffic apps with closed roads notifications, and sending text alerts to only the impacted water customers letting them know that repairs are underway and giving them an estimated time of service resumption. These ideas may sound fantastical, but in reality, many cities are already started on that digital transformation journey.
Similarly, airport operators can benefit from a system of system approach by integrating information from not only their airside operational systems such as air traffic, baggage handling, and emergency services, with their landside operations such as parking, ground transportation, security, and retail. By leveraging information from all of these systems, operators can keep incoming travelers aware of any delays, route them to preferred parking areas and expedited ground transportation options, direct them to the shortest security lines, provide detailed information on retail & dining availability, and even confirm to passengers when their baggage is on board the plane or a retrieval carousel. These types of innovations have the opportunity to delight travelers who have come to expect inefficiency, delays, and poor customer service in their travel experiences.
Data Center and other Building and Campus managers can also leverage the System of Systems approach to greatly enhance the multi-tenant experience. Being able to integrate electrical, heating/cooling, security, lighting and other environmental systems, access controls, fire and safety systems, etc. allows customized access control, use reporting and billing, energy efficiency, load balancing, bottleneck avoidance, and realtime user alerts for any service interruptions.
Many of AVEVA’s customers are turning to System Platform powered by Wonderware to help implement a hardware and software agnostic System of Systems approach to solving their most challenging infrastructure needs.
Doing so provides a centralised infrastructure that supports operations and customer information systems across the entire value chain. Combining information technology and operational technology, and having a system that communicates effectively means:
- Reduced total cost of ownership through better system integration and by leveraging investments already made in systems and applications
- Increased asset utilisation and availability of assets with minimal downtime y Improved predictability of asset maintenance
- Enhanced customer experience through digitalisation of processes, information and communication
- Lower implementation costs with a hardware-agnostic, unified platform
To learn more about these challenges and how operators in the city, data centers, transportation, and facility/campus management sectors are using a System of Systems approach, please read our recent whitepaper Staying ahead of the game: Transforming the Infrastructure value chain.
W. Jarrett Campbell, Ph.D., is the Global Industry Marketing Leader for Smart Infrastructure at AVEVA where he is responsible for helping practitioners understand the value of AVEVA's engineering and industrial software solutions for the Smart Cities, Water and Wastewater, Data Centres, Transportation and Smart Airports, and Building, Facility, and Campus Management markets. Jarrett holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and completed his undergraduate studies at Georgia Tech. He has 20+ years of experience in applying and marketing industrial automation and software in the Semiconductor, Machinery, Oil & Gas, Chemicals, and Power Industries and holds over a dozen patents in the manufacturing and industrial automation fields. Dr. Campbell was recognized as a Certified Strategic Alliance Professional by the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals and has collaborated in the Smart Infrastructure market with companies like Microsoft, Cisco, and IBM. In his spare time, Jarrett's hobbies include Home Automation, Cycling, Soccer, and Pop Culture.