Texas College to Improve Cybersecurity of Smart Buildings

A Texas college project to improve the cybersecurity and energy efficiency of commercial buildings is being supported by the United States Department of Energy (DOE).

The Securing Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings through Cyber Defense and Resilient System project designed by Texas A&M University College of Engineering has received $3.5m from the DOE’s Building Technologies Office.

Over the next three years, the project aims to research, develop and demonstrate a real-time, advanced, building-resilient platform through multi-layer prevention and adaption mechanisms. 

Partnering with Texas A&M on the project are Raytheon Technologies Research Center, Drexel University, Arizona State University, Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory, and Northwestern University, among others. 

To facilitate the project, a local testbed will be developed in Texas. There, a team led by Associate Professor Zheng O’Neill will use a hardware-in-the-loop simulation technique to explore and demonstrate potential approaches to cybersecurity and energy efficiency.  

O’Neill’s team is currently on the lookout for potential building partners who can help them to field test their cyber-defense and resilient system (CYDRES) in the third year of the project.

“The proposed CYDRES system will accurately identify cyber-threats in real-time and offer immediate defense against malicious network activity,” O’Neill said. 

“In addition, the fault detection, diagnostics and prognosis and cyber-resilient control scheme will enhance grid-interactive efficient building tolerance to both cyber-related and physical faults while maximizing the potential energy savings and load flexibility and maintaining occupant satisfaction. CYDRES will be prototyped and tested in a hardware-in-the-loop and real building environment. The resulting test data will be used to inform the building community and support the technology transfer to the industry.”

O’Neill said current building automation systems (BAS) leave smart buildings vulnerable to attack as they are often designed and operated with little consideration of cybersecurity.

“Current physical behavior-based anomaly detection methods employed by building automation systems fail to differentiate cyber-attacks from equipment or operational faults,” she added. “Such distinction is critical in ensuring the appropriate automated mitigation, via control response, of cyber threats and providing actionable recommendations to facility managers.”

According to O’Neill, CYDRES should be effectively monitoring, detecting and responding to cyber-attacks and physical system faults by the project’s conclusion.

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