Global News & InsightsItalyOpinionPerspectivesSmart Buildings & Infrastructure
Most Popular

Building Owners and Managers Turn to Scalable Discrete Automation

Listen to this article

Chiara Ponzellini. Software Commercial Product Manager at Emerson, explains how technology is addressing the challenge of retrofitting large public buildings and cultural spaces for improved operation and security.

The security system at a renowned museum and art gallery in Italy protects a wide array of invaluable artwork and exhibits that require constant 24-hour surveillance, however, the system had become outmoded and was awkward and difficult for personnel to manage. When an alarm sounded, security professionals were often unable to find the source of the alarm quickly. Moreover, false alarms occurred frequently. The facility required a system that was more reliable, flexible and responsive, as well as easy to use by a range of personnel.

Emerson San Carlo Regional Hospital in Potenza improved operations and maintenance efficiency and reliability with a SCADA-based solution, the Movicon.NExT platform.

The Potenza Hospital is the largest unit in the San Carlo Regional Hospital, a public hospital corporation operating within the Italian National Health Service. To monitor all the electrical cabins and thermal substations of the hospital, the maintenance team had to directly intervene on-site on a daily basis. If an anomaly occurred, there would be no capability to immediately identify its origin and nature. This required checking each system individually until the problem was identified. As a result, resolution times were extended, compromising operational efficiency vital in hospital environments.

These types of challenges are very common in existing buildings, structures and campuses – driving the need for the upgrade of a single system or a few systems within a building in order to make the building more efficient, more cost-effective, and/or to satisfy tenants and building occupants. These buildings require improved automation and management and yet building owners and managers often associate building automation with “smart buildings” or monolithic platforms of hardware and software that manage every system in a structure. However, as the above examples demonstrate, for most existing buildings, structures and campuses, such a monolithic automation solution is excessive, or in the case of historical structures, even impossible.


That is why the management at the museum and the San Carlo Hospital, among many other companies and organizations, chose to call on the solutions of discrete automation hardware and software. These discrete automation solutions are founded on the latest, most flexible generations of time-honoured problem solvers like programmable logic controller (PLC) technology and HMI/SCADA-based software.

Among the benefits to users is the ability to identify and solve problems one at a time at an affordable price and without disruption to building operations, and then scale the solution if and when additional challenges arise.

Among the benefits to users is the ability to identify and solve problems one at a time at an affordable price and without disruption to building operations, and then scale the solution if and when additional challenges arise. This is possible because these discrete automation systems are based on open standards so they can integrate with existing building technologies, and at the same time, are designed to be fully integrated building management solutions that can be configured and implemented over time, creating complete floor-to-cloud solutions such as those originally proven in industrial applications.

Floor-to-cloud solutions can include sensors and devices such as those used on the plant floor level, hardware and edge solutions, and up to enterprise software solutions in the cloud. Building managers can add modern capabilities like energy monitoring and management, data analytics to improve decision-making, and visualization and implementation tools that make operation simple, affordable and efficient, all one step at a time.

Emerson The easy-to-use Movicon.NExT SCADA-based solution addressed the unique needs of the museum and gallery and improved overall security and operations management with a single control and monitoring platform.

The museum selected Movicon.NExT™ SCADA as an anti-intrusion and video surveillance system for monitoring the various halls where high-value assets like paintings, statues and works of art are located. The development of the system was performed entirely offsite and required less than a month. Installation was implemented without requiring downtime.

During operation, the information collected by the sensors and cameras is sent to the Movicon.NExT SCADA platform through a gateway that manages the conversion of the Vanderbilt encrypted protocol used by the monitoring control room into the standard Modbus TCP/IP protocol. The video surveillance system is installed throughout the building and security can view the video footage in real time. In the control room, security has the visualization of both the general map of the facility and the individual maps of the main floors in a single graphical interface. The security team particularly values the ease of use and accuracy of the system, which has improved the overall safety and security for the museum and reduced management time for personnel.

The Movicon.NExT platform’s intuitive interface and graphic editor enable San Carlo Hospital staff to ensure systems are operating optimally. (Image courtesy of Emerson) Like the gallery management, hospital leadership at San Carlo selected the Movicon.NExT platform, but for different reasons. The hospital’s SCADA-based system serves a dual purpose: acting as a comprehensive supervision system and a tool for data analysis and recording. The Movicon™ system is used to supervise 16 thermoelectric substations and 11 medium voltage/low voltage (MV/LV) transformer substations. It tracks and logs all data concerning electrical usage and absorptions. The Movicon platform also serves as a

monitoring tool for access points across various departments. The Movicon solution ensures efficient operation 24/7/365, and dispatches alarm and event notifications to designated recipients, including maintenance personnel and on-call staff, via mobile phones, ensuring that personnel are immediately alerted to any anomalies or alarms, improving maintenance and operations.

In both applications described above, the building managers employed a discrete automation solution to solve a specific problem, replacing or adding on to other existing automation tools they were using.

In another example, a major office of the Italy National Social Security Institute was undergoing reconstruction due to earthquake damage, providing an opportunity for upgrade and improvement of the building management system.

One of the key objectives was to reduce the building’s energy consumption, a significant challenge due to the widely disparate building systems including air conditioning, lighting, photovoltaics, fire detection and more. These systems are comprised of 170 fan coils, 380 fire detection systems, over 280 lights and, combined with the central heating and photovoltaic inverter system, result in a total number of 3,200 tags being managed. This required a highly versatile system as well as an easy-to-use operator interface. This office management chose a similar Movicon SCADA-based solution. The scalability and customizability of the Movicon.NExT platform allows for the addition of other systems in the future without being restricted by different product brands and types. This flexible solution helps control programming costs and allows for easy system expansion. It is structured as a modular implementation with plugin technology to render the software architecture more open and scalable, efficiently managing all the building’s needs and reducing energy consumption.

Emerson Electronics Components. Photo/andrew Shurtleff Photography, Llc
Andrew Shurtleff Photography, LL Emerson electronics components. Photo/Andrew Shurtleff Photography, LLC

The Emerson PACSystems™ CPE200 compact PLC can provide updated building management automation capabilities. (Image courtesy of Emerson) hen selecting discrete automation solutions, users also have the option of upgrading hardware incrementally, adding new PLC technology that can bring better cybersecurity, edge capabilities, higher memory and compute power. This added power allows more tags per PLC, leading to a reduction in panels used, which in turn assures less maintenance and spare parts, and reduced space as compared to that used to house older PLCs or DDC controllers. Furthermore, edge PLCs can be used to aggregate data in the cloud from single or multiple buildings of the same owner for comparative or standalone analytics for improving building functions. To help ensure reliability, controllers can be installed in duplex or quad redundancy to provide high availability control and minimize the potential for failure of critical subsystems.

A significant issue for many facilities managers in their existing solutions is the lack of cybersecurity sufficient to protect their data and systems from today’s threats.

A significant issue for many facilities managers in their existing solutions is the lack of cybersecurity sufficient to protect their data and systems from today’s threats. Modern controllers and SCADA-based software offer high levels of cybersecurity to mitigate threats and protect against intrusion with a complete defense-in-depth strategy. Controllers should include advanced security features right from boot time to encrypted communication between trusted clients, while software platforms should meet industry cybersecurity standards, require user authentication, and offer superior data protection.

One of the key capabilities of the new systems that prompted selection is the powerful and versatile graphical interfaces provided. New platforms use vector-based graphics, animation options, customizable objects and scalable design, all allowing an immediate, comprehensive view of the entire building with all its elements on a single platform. This reduces training time and makes operation easy even for new hires and non-technical workers. The clarity of the graphics also allows rapid decision-making, which is so critical in building and campus security and systems operation.

Through the intelligent use of discrete automation tools, managers and owners can take advantage of building management functions as they need them – real-time data collection from all existing building automation systems, meters, controllers and PLCs that may be in use, advanced data security, alarm management and event historian capabilities, HTML5 web client and app for integration with web-based devices, energy management, and even the addition of leading-edge functions like augmented reality. But the key is that managers can choose exactly the functionality they need as they need it.

With controlled cost and minimal interruption, structures and campuses can be transformed into leading-edge building automation showcases, satisfying tenants, occupants, operators and managers alike.

Chiara Ponzellini

Chiara Ponzellini is Software Commercial Product Manager at Emerson.


CAMFIL HVAC Filtration Solutions

You may like

We've noticed you are using an ad blocker

Advertising helps bring you fresh independent content. Please disable the adblock plugin or settings in your web browser to access the content you are trying to reach on