A big win for IT: bringing IoT to energy management

Posted by Eric Reichel, Vice President Product & Operations on Apr 7, 2016 11:00:00 AM
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Part 2 in a 4-part series...

In our last post we discussed how the digital revolution is changing the role of the IT department in the modern organization. As the move toward “all things digital” and the Internet of Things (IoT) enables an enlightenment of new business models, IT is no longer viewed as just the company’s gear supplier and “help desk;” the CIO and team are becoming strategic partners in proactive, technology-driven business initiatives across the organization. One such partnership is growing between IT and facilities/energy managers, as these groups team up to find ways to reduce energy consumption and meet the company’s sustainability goals.

Simply put, energy management presents IT with low-hanging fruit that is ripe for the picking – the opportunity to be an energy management hero. How? By taking advantage of today’s available technology to digitize and network the company’s facilities infrastructure. In other words, IT has the expertise to apply IoT concepts to energy-hungry equipment like HVAC systems, generators, and lighting, as well as energy-producing gear such as solar panels or wind turbines. All of the company’s energy assets can be connected, communicating and centrally-managed. You might think of it as “energy IoT.” Here at Blue Pillar, we call it an “Energy Network of Things.”

Until recently, this level of complete visibility across all facilities hasn’t been possible. With so many variables in play – building sizes, local climates and electricity rates, and the usage data of thousands of pieces of equipment across disparate locations – it was just too difficult to feed all relevant information into a single, all-encompassing system. An Energy Network of Things solves that problem, and the value it brings to the organization can be huge.

Power in harmony

The beauty of an Energy Network of Things is that it centralizes and simplifies the job of energy management. Instead of numerous facilities acting independently of one another, an Energy Network of Things can bring a diverse collection of energy assets into harmony.  What used to be a multitude of garage bands becomes a hundred-piece orchestra, playing in time with a single conductor.

That type of control creates some clear advantages for energy cost savings. With real-time information from every facility at their fingertips, energy managers can make more informed decisions to increase energy efficiency and save the company hundreds of thousands – even millions – of dollars per year. But there are other benefits to an Energy Network of Things that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Energy resiliency is a big one. For example, an intelligent system of connected energy equipment can help prevent power outages that cost companies precious productivity. The network could be designed to detect problems, issue early warnings, self-correct or engage backup power sources when necessary to avoid power outages. It could even enable complete energy self-sufficiency for facilities that own their own power-generating equipment. What’s more, an Energy Network of Things can actually make money – giving companies the information they need to capitalize on “demand response” programs, in which utilities compensate companies that can generate power themselves to stabilize the grid during peak times.

On top of it all, more efficient energy management plays a major role in meeting sustainability goals, which today rank higher on the corporate agenda than ever before.

It goes to show that through the right combination of sensors, hardware and software, there are virtually no limits to what IoT makes possible. And the IT team – from its newly expanded role – can be the instigator of it all. 

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Topics: Internet of Things