IoT vs BAS


Comparing BAS and IoT is like comparing whether you prefer a cup of coffee with milk or any other drink with milk and sugar and cookies and anything else you like on the side. This may be a strange analogy, but by the end of this article, it will make sense.

To get to what we need to understand: what is better technology, we need to define Building Automation System (BAS) and Internet of Things (IoT).


First, we’ll start with Building Automation System.

BAS systems may also be referred to as BMS, EMS, BEMS, or BACS. Either way, they all operate with similar functions. The BAS system (as defined by ASHRAE) is a computerized system that connects and automates the functions of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, lighting systems, and in some cases, fire and security systems within a building.

In its earliest form, the BAS system was used to help reduce operating time and costs of HVAC and lighting systems by placing the equipment on a time-of-use schedule. It then developed into a system providing improved indoor comfort, air quality, and lighting demand along with increasing energy efficiency expectations, operational data logging and alert functions of all related equipment.

The BMS system grew “smarter” by gathering more in-depth data on real-time operating conditions. Now the operating parameters can be adjusted to improve occupancy space conditions while maximizing equipment operating conditions to reduce operating costs and provide alerts.

In simple terms, a BAS system consists of; input devices (sensors), output devices (actuators), network architecture (communication protocol requirements) and a user interface to provide a visual representation of the data collected from a limited number of components or equipment that may or may not be integrated.

For the most part, BAS systems in North America use the BACnet protocol as outlined by ASHRAE Standard 135. Within the BAS networks, other protocols such as Lon Works and Modbus may also be found. Many systems are mostly part of a centralized and local area network. In addition, there may be manufacturer-specific equipment with proprietary requirements, limiting their ability to communicate easily with other building devices and the network.


As we move on to IoT – Internet of Things, the definition is much broader as it is a dynamic global network infrastructure of physical and virtual objects with unique and specific identities, consisting of software, sensors, actuators, electronic and network connectivity to facilitate intelligent applications to monitor, receive, collect, process, store, exchange data between devices and analyze while having the ability to make a decision to perform a function in direct response to the information obtained.

IoT allows us to access any physical device in a digital manner where information can be transmitted via a vast number of mediums depending on availability, range requirements, desired protocol, power requirements, type availability, and allows accessibility from any location at any time. 

An IoT system can connect to any device that can provide information across various protocols and, in turn, provide a controlled output to any device that uses the data from that input. In reality, IoT is limitless and diverges in its’ present form from a BAS system that may be limited to temperature, humidity, air quality and lumens working within a single and fixed protocol.

Devices used may include PCs, smartphones, tablets, and desktops where the dashboard can be housed, permitting information to be remotely displayed, allowing for monitoring, control, information collection, and communication between all devices where the network can make use of the internet, ethernet, wireless systems or hard wiring as is best for the application and device needs and requirements.

Simple and inexpensive sensors (input devices) allow for continuous, non-stop collection of data, allowing for the component or device or system to provide improved energy efficiencies while reducing the chances of a catastrophic failure and providing quick and accurate identification of the area of concern. This reduces operating costs under normal operating conditions but also provides various levels of alert codes that will indicate a possible fault or failure, from excess use of energy to providing an appropriate response/action to control the system in a manner that will either provide a desirable outcome or prevent an undesirable and unwanted result.

What is the difference between BAS and IoT?

The divergence from a BAS system occurs as the IoT allows us to connect, monitor and control any device even beyond HVAC, lighting, fire, and security. And include energy use, water management, appliances, entertainment devices, and third-party device integration capability. By using a variety of protocols, added features and benefits can be included or added over time that have automated billing of resources used, self-diagnostics for decision making regarding energy efficiency use, operation parameters and planned or preventative maintenance and the prevention of catastrophic failures and damage.

Due to the potential of IoT, it is possible for anything and everything and anyone to be connected to the internet, where data is monitored, collected, stored, analyzed, and utilized as necessary, providing a direct lead into machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) capabilities. The future abilities of an IoT system will become increasingly omnipresent in everyday life – including the growth and expansion of “interacting” with people – a futuristic look at what IoT may have in store for us all will be interesting!

The protocols presently being used include and may not be limited to; 

AMQP (Advanced Message Queuing Protocol), Bluetooth, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), Cellular, CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol), DDS (Data Distribution Service), LoRa and LoRaWAN, LWM2M (Lightweight M2M), MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport), Wi-Fi, XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol), Zigbee, Z-Wave.

With all the possible communication protocols, presently, there is no single protocol that is the best nor is preferred for a particular application (in our opinion).

It must be determined which protocol is best based on the particular application, expertise, costs, power requirements, size and scope of the project, data required, output decision making, data transfer and the list goes on. The most critical part of any protocol relies heavily on the expertise at hand, especially regarding the security of the system.

With all the potential that internet-based systems offer, appropriate steps must be taken to ensure that security best practices and standards are installed from the beginning and constantly monitored, strengthened, and updated as necessary. We can only do this using highly skilled individuals with all the essential upfront resources to prevent system “infiltrations” and “attacks.”

Some of the organizations that have standards in place with respect to IoT are IEEE, ISO/IEC, NIST, along with others both nationally and internationally.

Statistically speaking, IoT continues to grow from $35 billion in 2017 to $82 billion in 2022 while saving an estimated 30% to 50% in energy within associated infrastructures using various IoT platforms.

With IoT still in a growth mode, it is being adopted by more and more devices providing added features and benefits to any infrastructure. As the cost of the technology continues to become more affordable, and installation requirements are easier and quicker to do with devices that are “ready – out of the box,” IoT can be incorporated into any new and existing infrastructure.

IoT can maximize the efficiency of a building and its eco-friendliness since it can control any device inside and outside the BAS system. In turn, it will reduce the carbon footprint via electricity, water, waste, and fossil fuel management

Connected Water Management System for Buildings 

In the case of water management, a BAS system usually is only connected to the mechanical room. With the use of IoT, water management can be connected to such a granular level that the system is aware of a toilet leak in the guest bathroom in Suite 501 on the 5th floor of Building 6 of the mid-town complex.

The wastage of small amounts of water per toilet, sink, riser, pump flange, and heat exchanger gasket adds to vast losses of this resource. When looking at a water leak, one must consider water supply source limitations, water treatment needs, water quality assurance, water delivery and distribution network and the associated energy needs for all of these items. Then one must look at the geographical situation, which may be based on where the water source is located, what the population needs are, how severe the treatment requirements (desalination vs heavy metals) and the average water usage (lawns vs agricultural) and any associated wastage from the source to the end-user are.

IoT can reduce water waste to a minimum by identifying and controlling excess water flows and determining if it is a “normal usage” situation or due to a malfunction within the water distribution piping, pumps, valves, and connected components. In turn, if a malfunction such as a pipe rupture occurs, the water supply would shut off to prevent extreme water wastage as well as preventing thousands and thousands of dollars of possible damage.

In the situation where on a late Friday evening, a 2” water supply line on the 20th story of a finished and unoccupied high-rise building were to burst and not be discovered until Monday morning, could result in unimaginable financial losses. In many cases, developers, builders, and insurance companies may make water management systems mandatory for pre-construction and after occupancy. It is even possible that with time, minimization of water losses as a natural resource concern and the potential for damage costs could become part of the building or plumbing code.  

Integrating BAS systems within IoT platforms and protocols, equipment operation, and energy resources along with fire and security systems can make them smarter and more efficient in their functions.

The entire system of a building and associated processes can be built in layers and continued to be built up as independent or dependent layers sharing information as necessary. For example, the BAS system and lighting systems can be viewed as a layer. Then the water management system can be added on simultaneously or independently as another layer of control. Fire and security can also be added depending on AHJ (authority having jurisdiction), where these systems can be either “blended,” obtaining and communicating with the previously mentioned layers or kept independent and isolated from any other layers and functions.

As codes evolve, building requirements require different operating characteristics. The changes can be done proactively and intuitively and in many situations with very few hardware swap-outs, changes, or upgrades.

IoT standardized platforms that have intuitive installation processes with a commonality of input and output devices and communication networks will further assist in maximizing revenue by reducing or eliminating downtime as application limits become untethered, installation and appliance costs are reduced, which will provide a collective knowledge base for improving quality, predicting preventative needs, increase energy use efficiency, reduce waste factors, minimize carbon footprint, increase building sustainability while providing higher customer satisfaction – without the customer realizing it!

 Well then, how do you prefer your coffee now? 

Related Content

We Stop Leaks for Buildings Like Yours

Sign up here to receive insights, tips, and updates from leak mitigation experts.