How smart buildings become radically efficient

How smart buildings become radically efficient

At last month's VERGE conference, a clear message stood out: Data has the power to transform the future of sustainability.

Data, however, is only as transformative as the tools that make it actionable. If data is to define the future of sustainability, then the future of information technology will define how facilities become radically efficient (i.e. true smart buildings).

IDC has projected that social business, big data analytics, cloud computing and mobility are coming together in an unprecedented way to create solutions with entirely new business value. Indeed these pillars of future information technology will enable intelligent industries, solutions and, most importantly, innovation. These are the characteristics of intelligent IT tools that can transform facilities into smart buildings and directly align with the VERGE message of data-enabled market transformation.

Social Business: At the conference, Facebook's Bill Weihl spoke to the reality that energy efficiency and conservation efforts go largely unseen, and furthermore, he suggested social networks can be the mechanism to "surface largely invisible behavior to make it part of the social norm."

An afternoon panel on platforms for energy efficiency took this question to the test. It became apparent that social networking, whether on a peer-to-peer community or customized building management forum, can help decision-makers tackle the big questions that hinder smart building technology adoption. These forums can be the engine to accelerate the industry by showcasing case studies, best practices and the value proposition of these emerging technologies.

Big Data Analytics: The VERGE theme on "big data" fueled further discourse around the future of buildings and again highlighted a parallel with the future of IT. VERGE explored the opportunities for smart buildings as resources, looking to a future vision in which facilities have integrated mature energy management solutions and become effective nodes on the smart grid. This reality will require the utilization of big data analytics.

As suggested by Kyle McNamara from Verizon, demand response could be the "killer app" of the smart grid as utilities will rely on big data analytics to leverage buildings as energy resources. With the growth of automated demand response programs, smart buildings will provide dynamic response to utility feedback when high demand puts constraints on the grid. In this scenario, the utility must be able to process and utilize real-time data to call on the resources that will most effectively support grid stability and reliability.

Cloud Computing: The vast majority of the innovative energy management solutions showcased at the VERGE conference offer lower upfront costs aiming for early adoption because of their "software-as-a-service" design. The optimization of a smart building relies on adaptive building management directed by the insight from analytics and data management. As seen at Hack City, a hackathon hosted the weekend prior to the conference, third-party applications, such as those found in Johnson Controls' Panoptix app marketplace, demonstrate the importance of cloud computing for the future of smart buildings.

Mobility: The fact that facilities managers are widely offline is one of those central personnel challenges hindering the development of smart buildings. If the industry is to succeed in transforming facilities into smart buildings, not only will facilities managers need to build skillsets around using information technology but vendors will need to bring mobility into their solution design.

An optimized smart building will have not only a smaller environmental footprint but the tools to enable sustainability executives to monitor and verify the impact of their business objectives in a way that can be economically quantified. This ability to translate actions into dollars makes the sustainability message resonate far beyond corporate marketing and communication and up the C-Suite to the topline enterprise decision-makers. This new level of transparency and measurability will reshape the future of sustainability and generate the radical efficiency envisioned by VERGE.

This article is a brief overview of an analysis published to IDC Energy Insights' Smart Building Strategies Program.  More information about this program and report can be found here.

Smart phone buildings photo provided by media via Shutterstock