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Building management leaps into the future

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Today, building owners and facility managers are using Building Management Systems (BMS) in ways that could only be dreamed of in the past, and the demand for the technology is poised for growth, writes NEIL CAMERON, General Manager, Johnson Controls Building Efficiency.

The global commercial BMS market is predicted to double between 2013 and 2021, according to a November 2013 report by Navigant Research, highlighting the anticipated increase of adoption of BMS technology.

It’s not surprising that the BMS has become an essential tool for many facility managers. An advanced BMS serves as the command and control centre for the facility. Information pours in from all parts of the building: settings, current readings, and alarms from occupied spaces and from inside complex equipment. An open BMS not only controls Heating Ventilation Air-Conditioning (HVAC) equipment from a variety of manufacturers, but also connects to the lighting, security, fire, and other systems, putting even more power at the fingertips of building managers.

In South Africa, there is an increase in interest in integrated, feature rich BMS, largely due to the ever-increasing cost of electricity.  Enhanced functionality with in BMS can assist companies to monitor and manage their energy consumption more effectively. Importantly, it can reduce their energy consumption. This is particularly relevant when considering that buildings use about 40% of global energy.

Today’s BMS is delivering in ways that seemed out of reach even a few short years ago. For example, in 2012, “The Future of BMS” survey from the Building Efficiency Panel, a group of more than 3,000 building owners, operators, contractors, and equipment specifiers, less than 25 percent were using such basic BMS features as energy demand limiting, which cuts back on non-essential loads to reduce building demand. Advanced features were used even less often. The issue wasn’t with BMS technology — in the same survey, 71 percent of respondents said that their BMS was keeping up with technological developments. Rather, the challenge was in taking advantage of the capabilities of the BMS. The primary users of BMS simply don’t have the time, staff, budget, and resources to become experts in the technology; their resources are focused on actually managing their facilities.

Johnson Controls has made significant technology advances and the current generation of BMS is focused on leveraging new and existing technologies to deliver a system that works the way facility owners and operators work. The BMS is now more accessible and harnesses the power of advanced analytics and data collection with a focus on more sophisticated and user-friendly interfaces and data visualisation.

We are seeing the trend of integration into more third-party systems and devices. In addition, data collection and analysis is enabling companies to make predictions and base decisions on this information, delivering additional value. We are also seeing an increase in plug and play devices, further improving interconnectivity.  This all forms part of the Machine 2 Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) movement where data is extracted and communicated via the Internet.

It is these advancements in BMS that have unleashed the insights into building performance that enable even further reductions in energy use and operational costs, while still delivering a comfortable and safe environment.

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AppDate: Shedding light in our times of darkness

SEAN BACHER’S app roundup highlights two load-shedding apps, along with South AfriCAM, NBA 2K Mobile, Virgin Mobile’s Spot 3.0 and SwiftKey.

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Load Shedding Notifier

With all the uncertainty about when South Africans will next be plunged into darkness by Eskom, the Load Shedding Notifier tries its best to keep up with Eskom’s schedule. The app is very simple to use. Download it, type an area in and click the save button. The app automatically tells you what load shedding stage Eskom is on, the times you can expect to start lighting candles and for how long to burn them.

Multiple areas can be added and one can switch between the different stages to see how each one will affect a certain area.

A grid status is also displayed, showing how strained the country’s electrical network is.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

EskomSePush Load Shedding App

EskomSePush does much the same as the Load Shedding Notifier, but allows multiple cities to be tracked. However, they may just want to rethink the name of the app if they want wider respectability.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

South AfriCAM

South AfriCAM enables users to add branded stickers and frames from popular lifestyle magazine titles to their posts, including Huisgenoot, YOU, Drum, Move!, TRUE LOVE, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. 

In the process, they can earn JETPoints for their social influence: through the app’s built-in JET8 social currency, users are rewarded for their engagement. For every in-app like, comment, and share, users earn JETPoints, which can be used to redeem products online or over the counter across more than 2 500 retail stores in South Africa. Users are additionally awarded JETPoints for cross-posting onto external social media networks.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

Click here to read about console quality graphics on a mobile phone, Virgin Money payments made easier, and an app that redesigns the keyboard.

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Drones to drive
Western Cape agritech

Aerobotics is set to change how farmers treat their crops by using drones and machine learning, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The Western Cape is poised to be a hotbed of innovation in the agritech sector, with drone piloting set to playing a major role in in the tech start-up scene.

This is the view of Tim Willis, chief operating officer of pioneering drone company Aerobotics, a Cape Town drone company recognised as a world leader in agritech.

“Drone piloting is a key skill that feeds into the value chain of the budding 4th Industrial Revolution,” said Willis. “Cape Town and the Western Cape is uniquely positioned to be the melting pot for innovation in the agritech sector, as a leading agricultural exporter and a hub for creative tech start-ups.”

He was speaking at AeroCon, a drone expo organised by Aerobotics and held in Johannesburg this week aimed at providing opportunities for drone pilots to apply their skills in South Africa, and to show how drones are being used to collect data on crops. 

The event was supported by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), Wesgro, PROMMAC, MicaSense, and Rectron, among other

“We’re starting to sign up farmers across the country,” said Willis. “It’s exciting because farmers are starting to use drone technology on their farms. When a farmer wants a drone flown, they want it flown [now] so it’s important for us to capture that data as quickly as possible to show that drones are fast and effective.”

According to aerobotics, drone technology can help farmers reduce pesticide use on their crops by up to 30%. The result is environmentally friendly farming, reducing stressed crops and a healthier harvest. 

“We use aerial imagery from drones to recreate a 3D model of every single tree on a farmer’s orchard,” said Willis. “We’ve done this for millions of trees and it starts to give the farmers metrics of what they’re doing. We provide them with the health of the trees, the height, the volume, the canopy area, which enable the farms to make decisions on what to do next.”

Click here to read more about AeroCon and what it offers to those wanting to get into the drone industry.

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