GE Research: safeguarding energy management systems

By Brittany Hill

As more buildings become increasingly smart and digitally connected, GE Research starts a three year project to safeguard commercial building systems.

Via the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, GE Research has partnered with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to develop cybersecurity solutions, to safeguard commercial building systems from cyber attacks and system faults. 

“With more than 75% of electricity consumption in the US coming from buildings, the digitization and automation of building control systems offers tremendous opportunities to create a more sustainable energy footprint,” said Mustafa Dokucu, a Senior Engineer in the Controls and Optimization Group at GE Research and project leader. “But with greater sustainability must follow higher degrees of security to safeguard building energy management systems from increasing cyber threats.”

The US$4.1mn project will be completed over the course of three years, focusing on building more resilience within the systems. To achieve this, GE Research and PNNL will use artificial intelligence, reinforcement learning and advanced controls, to enable the system to adapt itself to operate reliably while a fault is occuring, as well as differentiating regular system faults from faults triggered by cyber attacks.


GE Research is already using similar technology in power plants with its Digital Ghost platform, which it plans to apply to the same features to the commercial building systems alongside PNNL’s unique and deep domain experience to design a highly effective digital architecture to safeguard these buildings. 

"We can now learn building behavior using data driven methods conditioned by domain awareness. Our framework will allow characterization of failure and cyber-attack dynamics as well as differentiate between the two.” said Draguna Vrabie, a Chief Scientist in the Data Sciences Group at PNNL. “As building systems are adding functionality beyond energy efficiency to enable revenue streams and become earnest active participants in the power grid operation, proactive cyber protection is of vital importance. We have to rethink building controls and build in robustness and resilience.”

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