Siemens Smart Infrastructure Breaks Building Data Out of Silos on AWS
In 2018, there were eight billion devices connected to the internet; by 2030, there will be about one trillion, according to a report by the World Economic Forum. These connected devices include components of the systems that buildings use for vital functions like fire prevention, security and access, HVAC, lighting, and power. A typical smart office building has about 60 types of sensors generating more than 500 MB of data a day—a volume projected to double every two years.
At Siemens Smart Infrastructure, which focuses on connecting energy systems, buildings, and industry, the Trends and Industry Affairs (TIA) unit saw opportunity in the prospect of increasingly sophisticated sensors generating more and more building data. “We knew that the majority of this building data was trapped in silos and going unused, leaving a lot of value unrealized,” says Peter Loeffler, vice president of TIA. “For example, if an HVAC system could use an access-control system's data, it could automatically increase the air conditioning as a conference room fills up, and then turn it down again after the meeting is over.”
The problem, according to Loeffler: “Achieving even this simple-sounding integration required time-consuming and labor-intensive custom programming that usually couldn’t be reused at other buildings.”
As Loeffler and his team analyzed this challenge, they saw the need for a solution that could ingest all of a building’s data and make it available on one intuitive platform. So, with Amazon Web Services (AWS) tools and assistance from AWS Professional Services, they built one.
The resulting platform, called Building Twin from Siemens, can ingest information about any building's construction (materials, dimensions, locations of conduits and sensors) and performance (occupancy, movement, temperatures, humidity, electricity use), and then create a machine-readable representation—or “digital twin”—of the building.
Because Building Twin from Siemens presents building data as logical information, agnostic of source system or sensor type, both technical and non-technical employees can use it as the basis for business applications that then have broad reusability. The Building Twin development project followed the team’s first collaboration with AWS Professional Services, the creation of an access-control solution that uses mobile phones as credentials and took only four months to build.
"By using AWS, we were ready to hand off both projects for formal product development in less than a year," says Loeffler. "We decided to slow down so as not to overload our R&D pipeline.”
One of the biggest benefits of running on AWS is the ability to democratize data so that anyone with a good idea can build new customer value, regardless of their level of technical knowledge."
Vice President of Trends and Industry Affairs, Siemens Smart Infrastructure
Buildings of the Future on AWS
Like most companies embracing the cloud, Siemens wants to encourage a culture of experimentation to help discover new business opportunities and realize untapped customer value. The global enterprise is decentralizing and cultivating the use of startup-like working methods. Through its Digital Expertise Centre, the company's Cloud Center of Excellence, Siemens is providing preconfigured templates that make it easy to launch and test ideas in new AWS accounts while remaining inside the company's security and governance guardrails.
TIA projects like the mobile-phone-based access-control solution and Building Twin offer powerful examples of the possibilities of this approach. "One of our missions at TIA is to originate, prototype, and test new building technologies ideas before handing them over to product managers," says Loeffler. "A big focus for us is thinking about how digitization and automation will affect both existing buildings and buildings of the future."
AWS has an important role to play in that future, as the Building Twin from Siemens project demonstrates. To model the complex object dependencies in building-generated datasets, TIA decided to use graph databases and selected Amazon Neptune as its graph database engine. The platform also uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for web-scale cloud computing that can be integrated with almost any other AWS service; AWS Lambda for executing code in response to triggers such as changes in data and shifts in system state; and Amazon AppStream 2.0 for application streaming.
TIA found AWS Professional Services consultants to be valuable partners. "We really want to understand how our solutions work and how to overcome the core challenges we encounter," says Loeffler. "AWS Professional Services consultants don’t just fix a problem for you, they tell you how to fix it and help you work through it yourself."
Democratized Data and New Customer Value
With the new Building Twin from Siemens platform, TIA satisfied customer demand for simpler building applications. "Customers increasingly expect that there should be a single app that can control and show insights into all of a building's systems," says Loeffler. "With Building Twin from Siemens running on AWS, our customers will be able to control all their building systems through one interface."
Building Twin also solves an internal challenge for Siemens Smart Infrastructure. "We had bottlenecks at the engineering and commissioning phases of the building lifecycle," says Loeffler. "By using Building Twin to automate parts of the engineering and commissioning processes, our engineers have capacity to take on even more customers."
Because Building Twin abstracts the complexities of building systems and presents building-generated data as logical information, the platform makes it easier for nontechnical employees to find new value in that data without needing knowledge of the underlying systems. "The ease of ingesting and modeling data with AWS enables many more employees to create new business apps without needing to understand how to connect with access control stations, Bluetooth transmitters, motion detectors, and other data sources," says Loeffler. “One of the biggest benefits of running on AWS is the ability to democratize data so that anyone with a good idea can build new customer value, regardless of their level of technical knowledge."
To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/iot.
Siemens Smart Infrastructure is a Siemens business that works with partners and customers to intelligently connect energy systems, buildings, and industry. The company provides physical products and systems, cloud-based digital offerings, and value-added services.
Benefits of AWS
- Brought 2 projects to market in less than 1 year
- Enables customers to control all their building systems through a single interface
- Automation speeds engineering and commissioning of new buildings
- Engineers have more capacity to onboard new customers
- Democratized data enables nontechnical employees to build customer value
AWS Services Used
AWS Professional Services
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Amazon Neptune is a fast, reliable, fully managed graph database service that makes it easy to build and run applications that work with highly connected datasets.
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Amazon AppStream 2.0
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