United States military bases are full of information about the engineering systems successfully used to create systems for building automation, energy, HVAC, and alarms -- yet for years, most of this data sat untapped and unused in silos. Thankfully, that's changing now, in a move that will optimize design, improve energy efficiency, and enhance security.
McKenney's and Splunk are revolutionizing the industry with their suite of big-data technology and mechanical engineering, already in use at Eglin Air Force Base. McKenney's is a mechanical contracting and engineering firm that specializes in building automation and security systems, while Splunk is a publicly traded software platform that focuses on real-time operational intelligence. By combining Splunk's big-data technology with McKenney's business intelligence (BI) for Buildings (bdoc) system, McKenney's is optimizing engineering systems for higher, more energy-efficient performance.
Using BI for Buildings and Splunk's operational intelligence platform, McKenney's is analyzing and recommissioning buildings and their mechanical systems for increased energy and operational efficiency. McKenney's is using real-time insights generated by the Splunk platform in order to monitor and intercept any security threats to building systems under their purview.
Big-data saves energy at Eglin AFB
McKenney's partnered with Gulf Power and Chevron Energy Solutions for an energy optimization project at Eglin Air Force Base near Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. Under statutory, executive order, and Air Force corporate energy mandates, Eglin Air Force Base developed a strategic energy master plan and awarded the contract to McKenney's. The solution integrates more than 850 buildings and tens of thousands of data sources from Eglin.
Splunk can ingest data from any source, easily connecting and assimilating machine data from countless RDBM systems, CSV files, and log, alarm, event, and sensor data from building automation control systems. To facilitate easy connection to RDBM systems, Splunk developed Splunk DB Connect, a reliable and scalable integration piece for real-time connection and configuration of database sources such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, MYSQL, Sybase, and PostgreSQL.
Through this adaptability, the Splunk platform gives McKenney's real-time and historical operational intelligence about HVAC systems, device temperatures, building temperatures, gas metering, water metering, electrical load, and log data on a device-by-device basis. Splunk also collects security information and event management (SIEM) data, such as log activity that pertains to filename patterns, IP addresses, hosts, transactions, users, and file transfer sizes. All these data sources are integrated into the Splunk platform on their most granular level for analysis and visualization of historical trends and real-time events. This capability allows McKenney's to aggregate and re-aggregate datasets for many different purposes. For example, McKenney's is using this information to streamline energy expenditures across the system of buildings at Eglin AFB.
Securing building systems with Splunk
McKenney's discovered a new, unanticipated capability during its deployment of Splunk.
When you connect previously siloed mechanical and electronic systems these physical systems then become vulnerable to the same sort of cyberattacks that plague any other IT network. Therefore, they require security solutions and safeguards. By providing SIEM capabilities that track, analyze, detect, and act when there's an attack or breach, Splunk gives McKenney's engineers the insights they need to keep systems secure. In fact, this is one reason Gartner recently named Splunk as a leader in its "Magic Quadrant for SIEM" for 2013.
With Splunk's developer platform, McKenney's is now able to develop custom applications that support the needs of each client's individual project. This results in an increased capability to optimize building and mechanical engineering systems for a variety of purposes beyond energy savings and cyber security. In particular, McKenney's is excited about a Splunk-facilitated development that will enable them to use long-term historical data to develop control loops on change-of-value metrics for use in control system automation. Although this is a development still in the making, it's clear the big-data insights Splunk offers will spur many advances in McKenney's designs and implementations.
— Lillian Pierson is a data analytics engineer at Orange County Government, Fla. She also specializes in environmental engineering, GIS, world travel, tech journalism, and would-be digital humanitarianism. You can follow her on Twitter at @lillianpierson.