At the recent Smart Campus Summit, we saw an exciting example of hyper-converged infrastructure in the facilities management space.  Penn State University, working with partners GrayMatter, Lenovo, Onboard Data, Tempered Networks and ACE IoT Solutions, demonstrated a managed edge compute platform that will enable the university to enhance facilities management programs in a secure and efficient manner.  

PSU is testing a new approach designed to help accelerate wide-spread adoption of data-driven facilities management technologies. The initiative includes a managed edge infrastructure deployed consists of a new edge server platform from Lenovo, Zero Trust network security provided by Tempered Networks all integrated in a secure way by the Cybersecurity team at GrayMatter. This infrastructure ensures that any technology that PSU applies to the facilities management program can be deployed efficiently and securely.

A notable element of the initiative is the deployment of the open source Eclipse VOLTTRON technology to acquire and ingest data from building automation systems (BAS), elevators and other relevant building systems across the university’s campus. Using the data acquired via the VOLTTRON platform, PSU is applying machine learning to automate point mapping with a level of accuracy that lessens significantly the level of manual labor required to prepare a building for data-driven facilities management.  

The vision behind the PSU initiative is to test and explore the extent to which new automated approaches can accelerate the deployment of the organization’s smart buildings initiative.

A central question being explored: Using new tools, can PSU collect and analyze data drawn from 600+ buildings, share the data across departments at the university and provide, for example, different dashboards for custodians, technicians in the field, faculty and other stakeholders?

According to the presenters at the Smart Campus Summit, initial results are encouraging. In the coming months, we expect to highlight the results of PSU’s initiative in greater detail.   PSU Initiative Highlights Potential Workforce Demands of the Future   The PSU initiative provides a compelling example of proactive Operations Technology (OT) management and allows a glimpse of the future of facilities management.  The initiative also raises a fundamental question: where will facilities management organizations find a workforce that is prepared to operate a modern building?

We know that the general workforce for mechanical systems in buildings is depleting rapidly.  25% of the workforce aging out in the next 5 years. Demand for workers with OT and IT experience are expected to grow rapidly in the next decade.  By 2022, the projected unfilled demand for HVACR talent will total more than 100,000 positions. See excellent background materials here. Despite efforts to bolster the low numbers in the training and certification pipeline, it remains to be seen where and how facilities management organizations will most successfully integrate of engineering, technician, and data science skill sets.

Will the HVACR, Mechanical and Controls sector be able to address the needs of 21st century buildings on their own or will we need an infusion of skills from other sectors (including IT and data science) if we are to meet organizational objectives including carbon reduction, energy sustainability and comfort?

At Penn State, they have built an entire IT/OT management team within the university’s facilities group.  At ACE IoT Solutions, we believe this is an effective and replicable model that other organizations should consider. We anticipate that effective facilities management leaders will need to build cross-functional teams, recruiting from engineering, traditional HVACR tradesmen, and data science professionals. This is one of the reasons why we have built our platform, tools and interfaces leveraging best practices from the IT and data science sectors. A critical by-product of OT technologies that use widely-adopted IT and data science tools is that more professionals can hit the ground running with their favorite tools when entering a career in smart buildings or energy efficiency.

If you have opinions or feedback on the questions posed above, we would be pleased to hear from you.  Please drop us a line at