The smart building space just got smarter

I attended an IBM Analysts recently in London where IBM briefed us on a number of announcements in the Smart buildings space.

Why do we need smart buildings in the first place? What problem are they solving? Well, according to IBM, worldwide, buildings consume 42% of all electricity generated and by 2025 they will be the largest emitters of greenhouse gases on the planet! That’s definitely something we want to start tackling sooner rather than later.

What exactly is a Smart Building?

Building controls

Old Building controls

A Smart Building is one which takes data from all of a building’s disparate systems – think lighting, air conditioning, water heating and pumping, access control, video and physical security, lifts, etc. and provides integrated control of those system. Also a smart building has analytics to report when there are problems with any of the building’s connected systems and it brings all this information together into management dashboards appropriate for the users and operators of the building.

Having access to this data and integrated control enables building owners/operators to reduce energy consumption, increase operational efficiency and by responding more quickly to alerts, to reduce maintenance costs. According to IBM, adding intelligence to buildings, can reduce energy usage by 40% and maintenance costs by anywhere between 10-30%.

IBM see this as an important emerging space so they recently announced new software, appliances and partnerships to help address it.

The IBM partnership with Schneider Electric has yielded a new smarter buildings solution which when deployed in Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island saw:

a 15 percent reduction in energy consumption in its data center, with similar savings expected campus wide– across 50 buildings on 428 acres

Maximo Asset Management for Energy Optimization 7.1.1

Maximo for Energy Optimization 7.1.1

IBM’s latest version of their Maximo software can create a data-driven heat map of a data center room at any height (important because temperatures can vary wildly by height within a data center). The heat map is a useful too to see cooler spots where perhaps a little less air conditioning energy need be expended (by, for example, swapping out a perforated floor tile for a solid one).

Finally, IBM, as founder members of the Green Sigma Coalition, announced that AutoDesk have signed up as members of the organisation. The Green Sigma Coalition brings together leading players in the industry (IBM, SAP, Johnson Controls, Honeywell Building Solutions, Eaton, ESS, Cisco, Siemens Building Technologies Division, and Schneider Electric) to help clients optimise their buildings for energy, carbon, water and waste.

The addition of AutoDesk adds a new dimension to the coalition. Now it will be possible to design efficiency and sustainability in to building projects right from the beginning, which is obviously far better than trying to retrofit, after the building has been built.

The Smart Building space, a natural extension of smarter data centers, is one with huge potential for efficiencies and energy savings. There are lots of players diving into this space but very few of them have the breadth of vision, the installed customer base or the existing toolset which IBM already has at its disposal to make a credible play here. Fun times ahead.