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What’s next for MQTT | The Gateway to Smart Building Enablement

2 Aug 2019

BACnet and MQTT part 2

Continuing from part 1 of BACnet & MQTT – The Gateway to Smart Building Enablement, part 2 details future development of BACnet and MQTT tech enabling Smart Building transformations.

What’s next for MQTT in Smart Buildings?

As of recently in April, 2019: MQTT V5.0 was released. The main improvements being in error reporting, outage notifications, session and message expiry options, message properties and shared subscription capabilities. These improvements are small steps towards a more reliable and secure model.

Encryption security

Just as many other technologies seem to always lack in security; password, access and encryption protocols need to advance quicker. Although encryption is not the most ideal option because that would exponentially increase message file sizes, add processing-time and power-drain less capable devices, consequently defeating MQTT’s lightweight purpose. Thus, we will need to continue innovating new ways to secure MQTT networks considering commercial buildings where many different people come in and out frequently.

Similarly, to the initial stage in acceptance of HTTPS, a simple starting-point to improve MQTT security would be to separate non-contentious publications. Without requiring the full weight and protective-assurance of heavyweight encryption, and only applying layers of encryption where truly necessary an accommodating middle ground could be reached. The middle ground would be to obscure less-contentious data e.g. at the very least facilitating a lighter level of cipher (but less-secure than heavyweight encryption), or only encrypt the select items of contention meanwhile leaving the rest of the message in plain-text.

Data analysis and applications

Analysis of all the data collected by IoT sensors is invaluable. MQTT can enable all stakeholders – landlord, building managers, occupiers and visitors and (in-house or contracted) data-analysts the ability to view such BMS data more easily. Reporting and comparison on occupiers’ usage of utilities and equipment could allow landlords in the long-run to offer usage-based rent prices – namely ‘good-tenant incentives’, thereby encouraging communities to counter their energy consumption. Increased and constant awareness of usage levels will ideally promote the reduction in wastage and change behaviour for the betterment of a sustainable environment globally.

Here to stay for the future of IoT

As you may know, technology will continue to demand and bring about innovations for Smart Buildings. BACnet is an ISO global standard protocol, the national standard in over 30 countries including America and Japan, and is also a European-wide standard. We can see it staying around in the long-term and the use of MQTT converters/publishers to become normalised in many instances and bring customised value to its many different stakeholders. Back in 2016, the global IoT market was valued at about $847 billion and it’s recently been projected to increase more than 21% over the next several years. It all adds up to substantial long-term investment, demand and growth of the IoT industry MQTT is an important part of.

An emergency toilet situation

Let’s turn some attention to the less ‘smart’ part of any building, the restrooms. There is plenty of potential to improve these waste management systems (- yes, toilet-automation/smart-toilets is a thing!).

Imagine, at your very busy shared office building there are toilet traffic jams. Luckily, your modernised smart building has IoT motion detectors that can sense when a person is inside a toilet stall. Your smart building also has its own IoT mobile app allowing you to subscribe to receive a notification on your smartphone that a toilet is available, saving you time from walking all the way there only to be frustrated.

Now think of some more practical IoT sensors that could be installed in soap and toilet paper dispensers. Cleaners could then more efficiently resupply those items by knowing the footfall and supply levels. Then you won’t be stuck in a toilet stall lacking toilet paper after having waited in a long queue again!

Implications of BACnet and MQTT in smart buildings

One issue to overcome is: who should own the IoT connections? In the practical sense, the landlord would be expected to take ownership of the network structure to ensure it functions properly. Although, in consideration of utility rights, occupants usually have the right to choose their provider i.e. changing electric energy suppliers. If an occupier went ahead and changed a router with a new ISP, then re-configuration for all IoT devices would be required. The dilemma may call for new contractual agreements and possibly a service cost to occupiers. Else, the landlord or estate managers could provide the framework to providers, but we’d like to think that the communal-spirit of the Internet will also apply to the ongoing momentum carrying MQTT upon its IoT-supportive journey and peers of a comparable standing would continue providing support.

Finally, we cannot ignore the great amounts of data being stored in the cloud. BACnet and MQTT open up great new business opportunities in the IoT world, but also pose some vulnerabilities in privacy, safety and reliability. Whilst 5G may be the answer to improving bandwidth connection and speed reliability for IoT, it is yet to advance in privacy and security measures. We can expect these factors to be key drivers in maturing the smart building industry.

Welcome to a smarter future

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