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Using a digital building twin as a basis, Bosch is working on new IoT services in order to continuously optimize the performance of buildings – for example, in order to save energy and protect the environment.
The digital building twin helps to increase the efficiency of energy systems
The cockpit that Andreas Hartwig is demonstrating on his tablet features a straightforward and elegant design, and exhibits a tiled structure with pictograms that stand for ‘Comfort’, ‘Systems’ and ‘Energy’. “It’s not immediately apparent,” says Hartwig, who is responsible for the IoT service at Bosch, “how much technology is behind it.” The heart of the software is a digital building twin – a very powerful virtual image of a property that digitally represents and simulates all devices and processes. “There is a tremendous amount of know-how and development work involved in the application,” says Andreas Hartwig with evident pride. Large amounts of data are generated using the technologies and systems installed in buildings. “We are harnessing their potential for our customers,” as Andreas Hartwig explains. At its core, the new digital service aims to increase the efficiency of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. “We use existing sources of data from the building automation system, security technology or HVAC systems, and we collect new data on the basis of building use and operation. Then we bring it all together with information about building floors and rooms, and combine the information to form a digital building twin.”
Agile approach keeps an eye on customer needs
Hartwig is fully dedicated to digital service: “I’m the jack of all trades here and ultimately responsible for all areas – much like at a start-up.” From the product definition and sales, to team building and project implementation. He is backed by a team of developers. The advantages of the new technology are clear: commercial buildings can be made more efficient with lower emissions, and this without users having to sacrifice comfort. There are further advantages for owners and operators, including time saved for operations, the efficient use of staff in the area of facility management, and the high level of operational reliability and system availability. This enables operators to save costs and meet sustainability goals. Finally, the building sector will be making a key contribution to achieving climate protection objectives. And last but not least, everyone involved benefits from an attractive property and happy users
New opportunities for savings through intelligent use of data
The technology’s first deployment has been promising. The IoT service is currently being used at the headquarters of COBIS, an established customer in the building automation area. COBIS is the operator of the energy efficiency park in Sindelfingen and takes a proactive approach to energy efficiency – the park’s thermal requirements are covered using technologies such as geothermal cooling and a combined heat and power plant to generate heat. There is also a photovoltaic system that provides a source of electricity for adjacent businesses and electric charging stations. “The building automation solution efficiently controls and simplifies operation. However, we’d like to use data even more intelligently so that we can identify even more potential savings,” says Hartwig. By combining data from the past and using extensive real-time data capture, developers at Bosch have created a cohesive image that is constantly being updated and enhanced. What was previously just raw data has been enriched with additional information.
The use of ontologies makes it possible to understand the semantic relationships and use them to gain valuable insights. “We can see, for example, that a room might be cooled and heated simultaneously in order to keep the temperature constant. This is not deliberate, of course, but it actually happens really often,” says Har twig. He speaks from experience: Hartwig was responsible for optimizing buildings from an energy standpoint for several years. The IoT service is being developed on a continuous basis. Regular feedback from customers and communication among developers play a major role in this process. Hartwig and his team work in three-week cycles. In the meetings, the Bosch experts receive feedback from the customer – for example, about user friendliness or new insights – that flows directly into the work by the interdisciplinary development team.
Energy efficiency as a digital service for new and existing buildings
The agile software development process makes it possible to react flexibly, and deploy smaller functional software components quickly. For example, a function is in the works to identify creeping changes at an early stage using the digital twin and to carry out maintenance before a device becomes defective – in short, predictive maintenance. The digital service allows operators and facility managers to quickly ascertain the state of the technical systems, regardless of location. “What would have taken an energy engineer two weeks to do now only takes two minutes,” says Hartwig. It has now reached the point where the service provides specific recommendations for action. “This will soon give us a smart building that independently analyzes and optimizes its technical building systems in a sustainable and efficient manner without any loss of comfort.” The project at COBIS shows that building automation customers also benefit from the application. Potential shortcomings in the system technology become visible and can be rectified immediately. Overall, the in-house systems reach maturity more quickly. Incidentally, the digital service can be used irrespective of whether it is for a new building or an existing building. Many existing buildings are already equipped with a building control system. In many cases, there is also a bus system used for communication within the system technology. “We use these structures, but any other sensors necessary can still be installed later,” says Hartwig.
Other digital services are currently in development. Andreas Hartwig and his team are busy planning the next step: the aim is for the system to soon be able to automatically implement specific recommendations for action. “With the aid of artificial intelligence that is, by using simulation and modeling smart buildings might one day be able to control their technical systems autonomously,” explains Hartwig. “For example, it is possible to calculate how much solar irradiation is striking the facade using the known positions of the sun and the current cloud trajectory.”