The granularity of the Internet of Things (IoT) makes it arguably the most important fundamental change in the energy management landscape in decades. The key is the ability of the IoT — along with the cloud and big data analytics, two other important new fundamental tools – to burrow deep within a building to find inefficiencies that were previously hidden or inaccessible. These can then be turned into real savings and increases in efficiency.
The bottom line is that the emergence of the IoT points to a huge shift in the very nature of what building management systems are and how they operate. These tools are powerful; when put together in the right way they can refine the focus and enable an organization to find small areas in which money can be saved and efficiencies gained. A parallel change will be in the business models that allow these platforms to be deployed in the absence of sudden and dramatic increases in energy efficiency and savings.
The new landscape is evident in ABB Motors and Generators’ plan to slap sensors on motors to track their performance. Another is an agreement announced this week between BuildingIQ and AMP Technologies that will provide customers with access to two platforms: BuildingIQ’s Predictive Energy Optimization (PEO) and AMP’s Commercial Real Estate Business Intelligence. The PEO adjusts a buildings HVAC system in light of real time variables, such as weather conditions. AMP’s product tracks tenants and a variety of financial, operational and tenant variables, also on a real time basis.
The key is that the fine tuning facilitated by the platforms generally will save small amounts of money and only incrementally increase efficiency. It will, however, be happening on a real time and continual basis. Chris Tomasini, the Vice President of Business Development for BuildingIQ said that an example of how the combined platforms can increase efficiency and help buildings save money is by helping develop and implement optimal peak use strategies.
The deal is a good example of the beginning of a transition. The attention being paid to the basics of building and energy management during past few years has led many companies to tackle the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency. For many, obvious big tasks – ensuring that HVAC systems are efficient, that air is not freely blowing through windows, that insulation is adequate and others – have been addressed. For these companies, the easy gains are gone. The small – but constant – gains that can be realized with the combined BuildingIQ/AMP platform may increasingly become the norm.
Energy efficiency has become a smaller, inside game. “Everyone talks about turning data into information, but oftentimes some of the incremental savings we provide are rather small and not worthy of a person’s trying to pursue. It’s the concept of machine to machine communications to try to make the building run more efficiently.”
Tomasini says that the new approaches require a different model. If a particular step is likely to generate very small (though consistent) financial benefits on an ongoing basis, it is impossible to justify large capital expenditures to put them in place. Instead, he says, an incremental subscription model will take hold. This is increasingly common throughout the information technology, telecommunications and other sectors: Locating much of the intelligence in the cloud enables a variety of services, each offering some small incremental advantage, to be offered.
Tomasini sees BuildingIQ as an example of the new model “The foundational investors in BuildingIQ are Siemens and Schneider, so they see the world changing,” he said. “Customer expectations have changed. They expect more of infrastructure. When they invest in a control system they want it to deliver continual value. It is no longer ‘set it and forget it.’ ”