Connecting HVAC Systems to the Cloud

Quick Facts

Customer Profile

Founded in the early 1900’s, this company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.


The company was looking to leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance the capabilities of its large-scale HVAC systems. These are typically sited in developments such as college campuses, commercial office buildings and hospitals. One particular area of interest is enabling predictive maintenance as servicing major HVAC systems is expensive, while a prolonged outage can cause disruption.

Sierra Wireless Products & Services
  • FX30 Gateway 
  • Enhanced Carrier Connectivity (ECC)

Leveraging the IoT to Enhance HVAC Operations

The internet of things (IoT) is having a major impact on building management. Connected sensors are allowing facilities managers to track a wide range of parameters from resource consumption, to space utilization, to temperature and light usage. By integrating this data with advanced building-management systems (BMS), it is possible to automate key functions, giving far greater control over the building. For example, lighting may be automatically turned down in areas that are unoccupied. With large-scale sites, efficiency is paramount. Commercial buildings account for 18% of US energy consumption overall,1 and there is great pressure to reduce this environmental impact. By making buildings more efficient, there is also great opportunity to reduce costs. According to Gartner, using the IoT to create smart buildings can reduce operational expenses by up to 30%.2

One area that has great scope for optimization is heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). These systems are notoriously power hungry as they are in almost constant use around the clock. In total, HVAC accounts for 39% of all energy used in commercial buildings in the US.3 As a result, even small efficiencies can have an outsized impact on building costs. IoT devices are capable of closely tracking the temperature in different rooms in a building and adjusting the heating or AC accordingly. 

Another way of generating cost savings is through predictive maintenance. Building managers typically have very little visibility into how their equipment is performing. Service visits are scheduled throughout the year, but these are costly and may be unnecessary as the equipment is working adequately. Alternatively, a component may fail unexpectedly causing an outage. In severe cases, parts of a building may become unusable for a period causing a loss in productivity. The IoT enables building managers to take a precision approach. Advanced sensors can monitor the performance of individual components and send detailed information back to a cloud-management platform. By using data analytics, it is possible to then determine when a piece of HVAC equipment is likely to fail. Service personnel can be sent for only when needed. Also, they will have foreknowledge of the fault and can arrive with the appropriate parts and equipment, increasing the first time fix rate.

However, implementing a predictive maintenance system involves buildingout a complex IoT architecture. A large number of sensors and devices have to be connected to a centralized management system. A manufacturer may have hundreds if not thousands of HVAC assets in the field, all of different types and models. These devices may be spread over different regions, which means managing and negotiating with multiple network operators. 

To enable remote monitoring, there also has to be a stable and secure connectivity. The HVAC equipment will be constantly sending detailed data, so coverage gaps or network outages can be disruptive, especially for mission-critical applications. Without control over the connectivity layer, it can also be easy for costs to over-run, causing unpleasant bill shocks. 

The Solution

The company wanted an IoT solution that could support advanced functionality for its large-scale HVAC systems, including predictive maintenance. The company opted for the FX30 Gateway by Sierra Wireless, as the powerful mixture of functionality and reliability provides a sound platform for IoT connectivity. Further, the FX30 is designed for low power consumption. 

An IoT-based service depends on the reliability and quality of the connectivity link. Sierra’s Enhanced Carrier Connectivity solution simplifies this part of the IoT equation. ECC provides secure access to multiple Tier-1 networks throughout the US, so the company did not have to manage multiple SIM vendors. There is one point of accountability and one invoice, which greatly simplifies management. The company can closely track spending, with real-time usage information and put in alerts to prevent over-spends. 

Sierra’ Network Operation’s center is constantly monitoring our core network to pro-actively prevent any service disruptions. The result is reliable connectivity with minimal downtime. We also have a direct line with all Tier-1 operators so we can troubleshoot when network outages do occur and minimize service disruptions.

  1. US Energy Information Administration, June 15, 2020. ‘How much energy is consumed in US buildings?’
    Available at: 2020 Accessed January 2021.
  2. CNBC, ‘How unlocking the potential of a smart building can reduce cost and boost business.’ Available
    at: Accessed February 2020.
  3. ‘Smart Sensor Technology: Reducing HVAC Energy Use .’ Available at: Accessed January

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Commercial Building Infrastructure

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