Without Small Data, Big Data and Cloud-Based Software are Useless to HVAC Maintenance

Yes, the facility management industry has entered the age of ‘big data’ where extremely large data sets are being collected and analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, primarily between HVAC equipment and energy optimization.

However, “Big Data” may be the most worn out catchphrase ever. When you think “big” you think Wall Street, the Pentagon, Silicon Valley. Places far and away from where you live and work, with needs far different from what you encounter in systems management. And is there any word less exciting than “data?” But unlike in other industries, the HVAC industry seems to realize big data is driven by small data and small data is still king. Without small data, big data is useless.

Martin Lindstrom recently wrote a book with a simple premise: sweat the small stuff. Big data, says Lindstrom, extrapolates correlations between small data. Small data, however, provides the why and HVAC facility technicians are already masters of small data. You deal with it every day. Your life revolves around minute differences of 1 and 2 percent that translate into massive differences for your boss or client. Those facilities gauges and monitoring systems are a treasure trove of small data. And small data is what you rely upon on a day-to-day basis. While big data has a lot to offer regarding big, sweeping decisions on energy policy at the very top, small data helps you to troubleshoot and make improvements at the micro level. Those small changes can mean big differences in terms of system performance.

The difficulty with spending your day at the small data level is that you’re often tasked with inputting that data yourself, and there’s quite a bit to track. Think of all of the maintenance log data you’ve scribbled on paper. Now, additional time must go into comparing that data to past logs. Consider that you can’t immediately get feedback on the implications of your latest reading so you’ll have to pause and eventually restart your thought processes. LogCheck reduces this pain and provides you insights from your small data right in the field. By entering routine inspection data into their mobile app rather than paper, you get instant feedback while you’re still in front of your equipment as well as an online dashboard for deeper analysis.

Goodway’s VS-S Video Borescope and VS-W Borescope, are also great tools for getting the small data you need to keep your facilities running. These borescopes are primarily used for inspecting inside tubes. To focus in on the tube’s walls and blockages, each scope’s field of vision is quite small. They are used to visually identify issues before cleaning and gather photographic evidence after cleaning to help assess quality. 

Most everyone can agree that Big Data is the likely future in facility maintenance. But Big Data’s power comes mostly in making big decisions. The day is coming, sooner rather than later, when your chillers will tell you what they need. Until then, you’ll need to continue to figure out the small stuff, and we’ll keep trying to make it as pain free as possible.

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