As part of the Active Building Centre Research Programme, we have a range of workstreams aiming to transform the way buildings are designed and operated.
One of our workstreams is focussed on improving how we communicate with buildings and their installed systems and equipment. The ability to connect to buildings in a secure manner is essential to realise smarter buildings which can be controlled more efficiently. This communication flow is also key for our own project, both for data collection (to validate experimental work) and to enable the implementation of innovative control methods. To this end, we have developed an Internet of Things (IoT) software stack to securely connect buildings and their devices to cloud-based applications.
The IoT stack is an open-source messaging infrastructure which can run on either, or both, the cloud and the edge, depending upon the requirements of a particular project. Our team has developed this stack to be easy to set up and maintain, scalable and multi-tenant (i.e. one instance of the software can serve multiple customers, while each tenant’s data remains isolated and invisible to others).
The stack provides connectivity between devices and cloud-based applications. It contains several components to achieve this, however at a conceptual level these can be grouped into: IoT services to translate information received from buildings systems into protocols more suited to internet transmission, and a high-performance router and scalable broker to handle the messaging.
Being open source was a key requirement for the project, as was the ability to deploy on any of the major cloud providers. Too often in buildings, owners and tenants become “locked in” to a particular system or service provider. Our ethos is to wherever possible to provide solutions which are agnostic to a particular hardware, or software ecosystem.
So what’s next? As with most software projects, there are always next steps. Ours consist of optimising persistent data storage, adding more adapters to increase messaging compatibility with even more devices, and developing applications to sit on top of the entire infrastructure for analysis and control.
The IoT stack will also be deployed by our team at The University of Sheffield, led by Prof. John Clark as part of their cyber security research investigating the threats faced by buildings, and will enable future testing of model predictive control methods in real world scenarios for the researchers at Imperial College London and Newcastle University led by Dr Eric Kerrigan.
Special thanks are due to Gary Edwards (re.je.), and Francesco Anselmo, Annalisa Romano and Rita Lavasa (Arup) who have been instrumental in the development of the IoT Stack.
Active Building Centre Research Programme IoT messaging infrastructure: