In an age where forward-thinking organizations are under pressure to become more sustainable and energy efficient, universities come under some of the greatest scrutiny to meet net zero and lower carbon footprints. From profit-driven investors and Boards of Directors who regularly cheer their teams on in high-octane stadiums down to the tech-savvy and carbon-conscious students who fill the classrooms and dorms, universities are held to some of the highest standards of accountability, with no room for downtime. And while some of the more illustrious universities can claim to be on the cutting edge of energy autonomy, most still struggle with being able to manage campus systems existing of aging, legacy energy assets and buildings that are hundreds of years old to new state-of-the-art, next-gen green buildings and Distributed Energy Resources.
Whenever we’re out and about in the energy industry, everyone always wants to know what makes Blue Pillar different. One of the first things I like to point out is that there are many different players in the field promoting different kinds of energy or “IoT” systems, like building automation systems based on SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition). What we call “buzzword compliant” systems do a great job checking off all the boxes on what they can do for a commercial or industrial facility, but are they really as easy to deploy as they claim to be?
Blue Pillar takes a very different approach when it comes to deployment and have done so from the beginning. Unlike traditional solutions that have required customized SCADA development, Blue Pillar drives a software-based automated approach that is self-configurable and requires no development. We start off every new project by repeating the same process we’ve used to connect the previous 5,000 assets over our 10-year history. Inevitably, the new “Energy Thing” we are trying to connect is probably something we’ve already connected in our past and available in our asset library. This is how we drive a lower cost and faster time to value for our deployments.
In this automated approach, deployments start with a very simple site survey, where we capture all the relevant information from the new “Energy Thing” we are trying to connect and at the push of a button can prescribe a self-configurable, best fit, behind-the-meter energy controls network. The outcome of the survey process (which can take only a few minutes to hours depending on size of the campus) delivers everything our customers need to know from communications to one line diagrams so they can see right away what we’re going to do, how it’s going to be done, and most importantly, how much it’s going to cost.
Because we’ve gotten the site survey process down to a science, working with Blue Pillar is really a zero-risk proposition because customers know exactly what they’re going to get, and we can prove it with the extensive list of “Energy Things™” we’ve previously connected. Customers pay once deployment is commissioned (not before). And nearly every customer we’ve deployed has expanded their footprint beyond their initial scope. We’re not a “won and done” company. We strive to deliver the best customer satisfaction ratings following net promoter and customer survey data closely. We study the feedback we receive from our customers, and work towards continual improvement and innovation to continue to make the prescription and installation of the network faster, better and more affordable.
So, when I am asked “Why Blue Pillar”, I like to say thanks to our automated, self-configurable deployment process and ability to prescribe best-fit networks quickly, we can share lessons learned to save money, reduce deployment costs and derive faster time to value better than anyone in the industry.
But this is just one of the many things that makes us different from other companies. Watch this 2-minute video to learn more about Blue Pillar’s unique competitive advantage. Or, follow us on LinkedIn to stay in touch and learn more about how Blue Pillar is different.
In our Energy Network of Things video series, my co-founder Brad Witter explores where the rubber meets the road for our customers by taking a phased approached to deployment. Often, we work with customers that have lots of assets, lots of “Energy Things™” and they can be spread out over various buildings in a campus or across different geographies or countries. Trying to tackle everything at once can feel overwhelming or risky. But getting started is as easy as breaking deployments down into a phased approach and unlocking the value toward an ROI that allows a customer to start their next deployment or project with Blue Pillar.
When working with a new customer, we like to break the process of planning and integration into five simple steps:
Phase I: “I have a problem”. First, our customer establishes a set of assets to be connected to unlock a value stream. This initial project can range from a single building to several sites based on the size and deployment scope. Our customer can then determine what value propositions they want to unlock, such as emergency preparedness and response, energy management, or DER integration for the purposes of a microgrid or DERMs enablement. From there, Blue Pillar completes a work schedule to roll out the project on-time and on-budget, giving our customers exactly what they expected.
Phase II: Where else can we take this? Once “Energy Things” are connected and data is being provided in real-time through our platform or OpenAPI to a third-party software provider, our customers are armed with the knowledge of their current state. Now they can understand the value of Blue Pillar’s platform once it’s in operation and extend it to other buildings that could benefit from harnessing similar value streams.
Phase III: Thinking outside the box. Once assets are connected and data is visualized, customers are learning a lot and finally able to measure and verify the results of their energy management programs. Inevitably, they begin finding adjacent value streams that could be unlocked, measured, or verified with Blue Pillar’s platform. During the process, we may have found stranded assets or outdated systems that are not communicating data anymore. These can be good areas to attack and embrace to continue to drive value and ROI from the Blue Pillar system.
Phase IV: “Getting creative.” Now that the customer is applying what Blue Pillar can do in new ways, the sky’s the limit. Additional value can be gained by incorporating other systems and assets into a centralized and accessible network. For example, many of our hospital customers may have started with the emergency power and supply systems to meet compliance and avoid outages. But adding in new assets like meters (water, gas and electric) or new DERs like solar or energy storage are equally compelling. With this, it is possible to think about reducing energy costs, eliminating energy waste and meeting sustainability goals.
Final Phase: "All-In". As all “Energy Things” become connected into a single, ubiquitous network, the business can become more responsive to real-time energy demand, costs and situations and react accordingly. This is the future of energy and by creating the connective tissue, it is now possible to continue to add new value or services offered by your utility or energy provider into the platform. Adding a new capability is as easy as plugging in a new third-party service or application, and data and control from assets are universally applied through our OpenAPI to offer new capabilities. The solution is future-proof and extensible. It is also possible to replace older software or add new things into the Blue Pillar platform automatically, without causing problems or starting over with customized development. Simply add-on to the system over time and continue to drive a history of energy use, measure and verify suitability goals or drive responsive demand management or microgrid projects.
Today, Blue Pillar, Dell and Microsoft worked together to release their Blueprint for Automated Demand Response (ADR). Through ADR solutions, facilities are able to improve profitability through DR incentives and reduce operational risks by receiving proactive notifications from their utility ahead of a potential power disruption. Utilities, on the other hand, are able to maintain grid reliability and stability while enabling their end customers to realize significant value from onsite power generation and reduced consumption.
Final in a 4-part series...
The dawn of the Internet of Things is upon us, and the technology world is abuzz with all of the spectacular new capabilities that IoT will make possible (beyond what’s already happening). But if there’s one thing people are talking about even more than IoT, it’s cybersecurity. As all types of organizations seek to capitalize on the promise of digital transformation, they also become more vulnerable to disaster than ever before.
Topics: Internet of Things
Part 3 in a 4-part series...
Anyone who’s ever been involved with a new system implementation knows that it’s easier said than done. The grand declarations made during the planning phase often fail to become reality, as the project becomes mired in complexity and unforeseen snags. The same fate could befall many companies wishing to capitalize on the Internet of Things (IoT), particularly as it relates to energy management. Without a proven implementation methodology and a clear, cross-functional execution plan, the incredible potential of IoT to help reduce energy usage may never be fulfilled.
Topics: Internet of Things
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.
Topics: Internet of Things
This is the 1st in a 4-part series...
Not long ago, the fields of information technology and facilities management were about as similar as apples and oranges. On one hand, facilities professionals worked with heavy industrial equipment like HVAC systems, generators and lighting systems, and part of that job included keeping close tabs on the utility bills. IT people, on the other hand, had laptops, software upgrades and networking gear to manage. But all of that is changing. A variety of forces are pushing these two worlds together, as technology enables relatively simple machines to become ever-more intelligent, inter-connected, and energy efficient. As this new alliance develops, professionals in both fields are making themselves more valuable than ever to the companies they serve.
Topics: Internet of Things