JCI Unveils Panoptix Platform to Boost Building Performance Insight

Johnson Controls Inc. introduced a new strategy today to capture a greater share of the market for building efficiency performance systems: an end-to-end, cloud-based solution called Panoptix.

It's significant that JCI chose to take the wraps off its solution today as the U.S. Green Building Council's annual conference, Greenbuild, gets underway in Toronto: The solution is Johnson Control's big bid to help building owners get the efficiency and performance they expect from their green buildings, which is a major point of contention for critics of the USGBC and its LEED green building standard.

Panoptix joins other building efficiency management systems in the cloud, including Indie Energy's smorgasbord of apps introduced last week and Serious Energy's service that debuted last year. Johnson Controls, however, is "really the only company with such a complete offering," said Laura Farnham, JCI's vice president for building technology and services.

Panoptix can be layered onto any building automation system -- including JCI's flagship efficiency system, Metasys -- to harness data and analyze it using what the company anticipates will be a growing number of apps. When the solution launches commercially in January there will be four:

  • A continuous diagnostics advisor
  • A carbon and energy reporter
  • A monitor to measure and verify energy use, and track savings from efficiency project
  • An analyzer that can be customized

The company plans on creating others and, with its open platform for Panoptix, anticipates that developers will design others. A web developer kit is expected to become available next year. The array of apps creates reports that enable building owners and managers to tackle energy waste and help make buildings perform as designed -- if not better.

That's a focal point for the U.S. Green Building Council and is expected to be a recurring theme throughout Greenbuild this year as the USGBC works to close the gap between green design and actual building performance. The organization has proposed amendments in the LEED green building standard and encouraged commercial solutions to the problem.

JCI's Panoptix adds two other dimensions that are seldom seen in building performance systems -- a staff of Panoptix experts who provide "live guide support" to customers and a home base for an online community of Panoptix customers. Farnham characterized the live support as being different, and better, than a standard help desk -- a team that is "devoted to customer success," which sounded to me like a staff of Knute Rockne-like coaches devoted to building efficiency.

With the online community, JCI is trying to make its website, which would be accessible to non-customers as well, the go-to place for resources and discussions on the topic.

Building efficiency is almost a $13 billion business for Johnson Controls and is currently a $253 billion market globally. But to make a dent in the carbon footprint of the built environment, businesses will have to be more aggressive in managing energy in their buildings.

The problem is that commercial solutions are often seen as being too expensive, too complicated or designed just for the big players, not a company that might have only one or two properties.

"Most solutions [are seen] as not being scalable," said Joe Noworatzky, the JCI engineering vice president in building and technology services. Panoptix is designed to address those issues and give people immediate access to system from just about anywhere. "Those are table stakes these days," he said.

The company has been on a mission to develop an end-to-end solution to help make buildings smarter and perform better. JCI's Vice President of Global Energy & Sustainability Clay Nesler hinted about those efforts during the GreenBiz State of Green Business Forum earlier this year. Panoptix is the first iteration of that solution, Farnham said.

I'll be heading to Greenbuild tomorrow to dive into the massive event. I'll have more reports on the state of the art for green buildings and building energy management as the event progresses.