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Creating a Standardized Framework to Help Land Smart Building Vendors

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Intel’s newest smart office building in Petach Tikva, Israel (PTK1) uses a broad range of smart technologies from multiple vendors, including temperature and lighting controls and thousands of sensors of various types. The technologies work in concert to increase operational efficiencies, reduce maintenance tasks and costs, and provide Intel’s workforce with a user-friendly work environment that boosts collaboration and improves productivity. As described in the IT@Intel white paper, Smart Buildings at Scale, implementing technologies from a wide variety of vendors in PTK1 was challenging because the smart building industry currently lacks standardized framework for how to interface with IT infrastructure and systems.

When we began to design the PTK1 building, our plans called for integrating the various smart technologies into a single System of Systems (SoS) to maximize impact and value. Without standardization, we knew this would be a monumental task for IT. Multiple vendor building-management systems, services and capabilities, and widely varying security maturity levels contribute to a highly complex environment.  Working with each vendor in individual silos would have been time-consuming and costly. What’s more, the siloed approach would inevitably lead to security and interoperability gaps.

Our approach to solving this puzzle was to “divide and conquer.” We analyzed the different ways vendors might connect their smart technologies to the Intel network and created a set of four common categories for them. This framework helped us manage the scale and complexity of widely varying vendors, sensors, and different applications.

An Inside Look at How We Achieved Our Standardization Goal

To develop the framework for standardization, we began by assembling a central team that included me as architect, representatives from information security, a gateway engineer, a sensor engineer, and smart building engineers. We began with a problem statement: “It isn’t sustainable to individually assess vendors and how their technologies connect in our environment due to limited resources to perform an arduous assessment.”

For example, imagine that we were trying to assess a new occupancy sensor in our environment. With no framework of standardization, we would need to determine each of the connection points and whether it would be allowed to connect through the cloud. And if the vendor requested a type of connectivity that Intel does not allow, what then?

To avoid this problem, the team collaborated to map the different examples of how vendors would connect, creating a network segmentation model that adhered to Intel’s stringent information security policies. We then defined a standard, repeatable process where we could easily and securely land each vendor. Using this process, instead of Intel IT having to assess the vendor’s connectivity, we asked the vendor itself to validate how they fit within the four categories. Our model takes into account the possibility that a vendor doesn’t fit into any of the four connectivity categories. In this case, we have three options:

  • Choose not to use that vendor

  • Choose to change our architectural model to accommodate the vendor

  • Make an exception (to date, we have not used this option)

Map of how the different vendors connect Our smart building solution architecture centers around our SoS.

Types of Connectivity in the PTK1 Building

  • IoT with a security-compliant environment through an IoT gateway to the building’s SoS

  • IoT with a non-security-compliant environment through an IoT gateway to the building’s SoS

  • Vendor environment through an IoT gateway to vendor-cloud backend services

  • Vendor environment directly connected to vendor-cloud backend services

System of Systems is Key to Standardization

All our IT architecture decisions focused on standardization while addressing security and privacy concerns. Our smart building solution architecture centers around our SoS, which includes an integration broker, data console, and interfaces (such as dashboards) that handle the management of all systems, applications, digital signage, and other capabilities. Providing a common IoT platform, the SoS uses IoT gateways to connect the various subsystems. Our network segmentation model supports different technology needs while focusing on Intel policy and security measures.

Within our building, the IoT field gateways are standardized and feature Intel® technology. The standardized gateway helps ensure that vendors can land within the infrastructure. Otherwise, Intel’s engineers would need to become experts on multiple gateways.  This standardization also gives PTK1 vendor technologies the ability to work well with each other and with Intel.

The common IoT framework benefits from standardized hardware, infrastructure, protocols, APIs, and patching. It has standardized business processes, support, financials, and security policies. The common platform avoids solution silos and can be used for a wide variety of use cases, and the platform makes it possible to evaluate and integrate technologies into the architecture with incremental effort.

Read the IT@Intel White Paper, Smart Buildings at Scale, to learn more about PTK1 and for details on how standardization made it easier and more secure for our vendors to land in Intel’s environment.