Automation, Controls

What is a BAS today?

Building automation systems have come a long way in the past 100 years

By Jaco Cronje January 13, 2021
Courtesy: WSP USA

The automation of building services continuously evolves. It started in 1883 with the invention of the thermostat by William Johnson (later to be the founder of Johnson Controls), providing feedback on air temperature to a coal shoveling building assistant. Today’s designers now need to consider robotic machinery assembling electric vehicles, infrared cameras detecting fevers and myriad “internet of things” sensors enabling rich building occupant experiences.

Game changers in the implementation of building automation include the migration from pneumatic controls to electric controls in the 1970s, digital control in the 1980s, distributed control in the 1990s and abundant internet connectivity in the 2000s. Today, users experience the as-a-service model enabled through low-cost, battery-powered, easily deployable, robust sensors feeding information in real time to cloud processing servers using both current data and analytics to manage the building.

Owners, operators and occupants expect more from the built environment, and rightfully so. Technology continues to evolve at an exponential pace. There are many more tools, systems and services available to building owners and managers. Buzzwords like “internet of things,” Industrie 4.0, 5G, smart building, return on investment and ransomware are thrown at you in every newsletter and conference. Navigating the jargon, equipment manufacturer promises and the chief financial officer or chief information officer’s voice, requires an understanding of the ecosystem and a mature response.


Jaco Cronje
Author Bio: Jaco Cronje is a technology solution architect at WSP USA.