How platforms are transforming building energy efficiencies

Last week's, VERGE conference explored how innovation in energy, building and transportation technologies is transforming sustainability to generate "radical efficiencies."

Innovation was the buzzword as discussions throughout the conference showcased a transformative vision: "the future of sustainability is about data.

To that end, HackCity opened the conference on the theme "hacking to scale" showcasing how start-up ingenuity can be developed for commercialization. OnStar and Panoptix by Johnson Controls were sponsors for HackCity which offered participants prizes in total over $7,000.

At the event, Johnson Controls announced the official launch of the Panoptix App Marketplace as a avenue for commercializing third-party and JCI building efficiency applications, underscoring the growing interest in platforms for energy efficiency.

At the event, I moderated a panel on just that topic: "Platforms for Accelerating Energy Efficiency." I joined Dave Bartlett of IBM, Domenic Armano of First Fuel, Scott Harmon with Noesis Energy, Sonal Kemkar from the White House CEQ, and Michael Murray of Lucid to discuss how social platforms and data enable information-sharing and the tools and best practices needed to promote energy efficiency. In this context, platforms are online communities where information can be shared, products can be reviewed and in some circumstances there is a marketplace to commercialize smart building solutions.

One idea discussed is that the industry is heavily focused on new technologies, tools and applications to promote energy efficiency, but there is a lack of focus on the people who will ultimately use smart building technologies. There are two specific ways platforms can help the industry overcome the people challenge to advance the adoption of smart building technologies.

Authentication of tools: Peer-to-peer platforms provide an avenue for operators and other stakeholders to share information and perspectives on solutions in the market. The information exchange between building professionals can help a potential smart building technology customer determine which tools are most effective and/or best suited for their particular facility or portfolio. The ability to share information between end users rather than between vendors and end users provides objective assessment of new technologies and can promote the adoption of smart building solutions.

Demonstration of vendor credibility: VERGE highlighted the level and amount of innovation in smart building technologies coming from the startup community. Platforms can also play an important role in promoting the adoption of smart building technologies by providing a go-to-market channel that gives small startups the visibility and credibility necessary to scale.

The platform theme discussed highlighted a new enabler in the transformation of facilities to smart buildings. Looking at the momentum of several high profile social platforms for buildings featured at VERGE -- namely Panoptix, Noesis Energy and Honest Buildings -- showcases the value in providing tools and communities to accelerate adoption. Indeed, platforms have a significant role to play in the energy efficiency and smart buildings market as we are seeing in other segments of the economy.