The 3 Key Elements of IBM's Smarter Buildings Message

Last week I attended IBM's launch event for their Intelligent Building Management software at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. IBM showcased the success of several key pilot projects that laid the framework for their new smart building software solution.

There were three main take-aways from the meeting:

1) It's crucial to truly understand the problem we face with the management of today's buildings,

2) buildings hold enormous opportunity for energy conservation and GHG mitigation if management is approached with a holistic solution, and

3) the evolution of a Smarter Building can only come if we enable radical transformation of today's building management paradigm.

Dave Bartlett, VP of IBM Smarter Buildings, explained the need to understand the problem faced in building management today. He explained that the energy waste and inefficiencies of today's buildings come down to three main problems:

• Buildings today are often managed with a collage of disparate systems -- building management systems, sensors, and digital networks -- that are often lacking effective integration;

• buildings generate a lot of data that can overwhelm the the implementation of efficiency policies (in the first third of IBM's pilot in their MN facility they gathered data from 80,000 points); and

• transforming energy management in buildings will require a new skill set driven by technology integration.

IBM argues that it is ideally suited to help stakeholders overcome these hurdles, in collaboration with its partners, through instrumentation, interconnection, and intelligence. The Smarter Building will utilize networked sensors, high-speed, IP-based interconnection strategies with sophisticated analytics capable of streaming, sifting, sorting, and prioritizing building operational and energy data to improve building reliability -- as defined by the occupant's primary business mission.

A holistic vision: IBM's new solution proposes a three-pronged approach to building management: energy savings, space management, and building maintenance. The Intelligent Building Management software will be marketed as a pre-configured solution that will utilize the proven strengths of existing technologies.

The solution aims to provide "end-to-end visibility" bringing forward data on asset performance, automation of service requests, and notification of critical events, all utilizing role-based and predictive analytics. These advanced analytics will utilize the tried and true technologies of IBM and its partners in a new networked approach in which data can be pulled from all systems to identify problems, manage operations, prioritize solutions, and predict outcomes.

The goal is to create a Smarter Building that uses less energy, while optimizing the use of space and building management.

Radical transformation of the building management paradigm: The afternoon Smarter Buildings panel discussed the major challenges in transforming the management of today's commercial and industrial buildings.

There was debate over the role of the traditional facility manager in tomorrow's highly instrumented, finely tuned building system. IBM argues the launch of their Intelligence Building Management solution will facilitate a transition to sophisticate building management by providing a tool to bring information technology and building management professionals together.

In the end, the Smarter Building solution answers the call of a fundamental challenge in my mind -- bringing rationality and order to big data.

As we evolve commercial buildings into fully networked systems, we need to have tools that translate the volumes of data into patterns and signals for operators and decision-makers to manage effectively for real optimization.

Whether the goal is cost savings, sustainability, or climate mitigation, no data is useful unless decision-makers have the tools to use the data to drive operational and maintenance changes in their facilities. IBM Intelligent Building Management software is designed to aggregate data from building systems, and then run the kind of rules-based and predictive analytics stakeholders need to prioritize investment and conservation efforts in a completely new way that will bring IT professionals, facilities managers, and the C-Suite all into the proverbial driver's seat.

It is yet to be seen how the market responds to the new IBM offering, but the focus of this IT giant certainly reiterates the value and future of the vision of the Smart Building.

Photo CC-licensed by John Brennan.