Technical Article

The Continuous Advancements of AI in Building Automation Systems

April 14, 2021 by Muhammad Asim Niazi

Learn about the brief history of AI in building automation systems and how industry leaders continue to integrate AI into their existing systems.

Before integrating AI in the industrial sector, building automation systems (BAS) depended on manual assistance to run these systems. This capability of self-learning with AI has enabled building automation system companies to develop more intelligent thinking and generate results. AI has turned buildings into self-adaptive tools capable of predicting their requirements and their own goals.

Today's advancements in AI results from countless hours of thought process, research, and experiments that started with the vision of designing buildings more efficiently.


A Brief History of AI in Building Automation Systems and Building Automation Controls

One of the first breakthroughs of AI in building automation came from the invention of an electrically operated thermostat by Johnson Controls. Although it was not fully automated and network controlled, it was different from many existing control technologies that were purely pneumatic. 


The first electrically operated thermostat from Johnson Controls. Image used courtesy of Johnson Controls


The invention of an electrically controlled thermostat paved the way for digital computers and AI in building automation systems. Another significant contribution to the development of AI in building automation was the internet.

When the internet started integrating into building operations, it opened the door for engineers to utilize existing concepts such as HTML as a documentation medium, HVAC control over the internet medium, and BACNet as a communication protocol.


Benefits of AI in Building Automation Systems 

Since the electrically controlled thermostat and integration of the internet into these systems, building automation and building controls has come a long way. Below are some of the benefits and advantages of implementing AI into a BAS.


siemens building automation platform

The interface of Siemens building automation platform, Desigo. Image used courtesy of Siemens


Accurate and Timely Data

AI enables the building automation system to collect relevant data and avoid unnecessary data. This data collection aims for all the data to become aligned and reach a combined decision. This may benefit all concerned parties of the buildings, such as the internal environment, occupants, and physical equipment. 


Efficient Energy Management

One advantage of AI in present-day building automation systems is that it can make installed systems and equipment more energy efficient. AI is trained to learn energy requirements such as electricity, temperature requirements from past data, and behavior. Depending on past experiences, AI can predict the optimum use of power when required and doesn't require input from humans.


Moving Beyond Human Capabilities

AI in building automation systems deals with more than controlling the environment. With the help of AI and building controls, these systems can now control parameters beyond human capabilities. Some of the parameters include:

  • Heating ventilation and air conditioning
  • Lighting control feature
  • Electric power
  • Monitoring of energy data such as natural gas, water, and utility systems
  • Safety and security systems


The Future of AI in Building Automation Systems

AI may continue to revolutionize building control management, and BAS will work with humans in all control aspects. The following are some of the ways automation and AI capabilities may expand.

building automation diagram

A diagram showing some of the general processes and protocols used in a building automation system. Image used and modified courtesy of ABB


User-Friendly Systems

The goal of AI is to make the BAS more user-friendly. The user interface will need to be custom for the individuals and departments compared to the present systems. This will enable the filtering of unnecessary and irrelevant data, resulting in more focused interaction and increased productivity.


Smart Devices 

AI will make intelligent devices such as mobile devices and smartwatches capable of interacting with the building automation systems. Not only will these devices facilitate the BAS operation, but AI will also provide security so the resources are not miss-used.


Honeywell's LCBS Connect smart devices designed for HVAC and building control. Screenshot used and modified courtesy of Honeywell 


Building automation systems are used in environments where the needs often change due to different processes and product requirements. AI is likely on the fast track to making this process easy and accommodates most situations of the system.