As the owners of widely diverse building portfolios throughout the United States — some new, some old — Commercial Real Estate (CRE) firms host hundreds of tenants who use varying amounts of energy 24/7/365. These CRE firms have had a front row seat in experiencing the problems and challenges of energy management. Over the years, many of the building energy needs have changed while legacy hardware infrastructure has remained the same. Hardware assets may have become stranded, while generation assets that are decades old may still have many years of usable life left in them. Electric and water meters may have been updated in some locations, but not in others. And all these systems have become more diverse and complex as the buildings are bought and sold. It’s this history that makes commercial buildings such an interesting energy management challenge to solve. And as the need for more sophisticated billing and consumption data becomes a priority to CRE organizations, the question they must answer remains the same: “Are we able to get the real-time data necessary to meet our current and future energy management needs from this aging energy infrastructure of disparate ‘Energy Things™’?”
That is why more Commercial Real Estate firms are taking an Energy IoT approach and turning to Blue Pillar. Our Aurora® Energy Network of Things® platform allows CRE firms to take an open, vendor agnostic approach by connecting all legacy energy assets regardless of make, model or type and gathering real-time energy data from these assets. Once data is accessible in real-time across their building portfolio, CRE organizations can meet more of their sophisticated tenant billing and energy management goals, from reducing energy to participating in Demand Response. With real-time data and control centrally enabled by Blue Pillar’s Aurora, the sky is the limit.
Working with Commercial Real Estate firms, we see five main challenges that are being addressed:
- How do we scale across multiple facilities (including international) with a diverse set of energy assets that have been inherited over decades, without the need to rip and replace legacy hardware infrastructure?
- Are there any solutions that can be rapidly deployed across a national footprint of hundreds of buildings?
- Is Energy IoT cost competitive?
- Can Energy IoT meet my IT team’s end-to-end security requirements?
- What happens if we want to make changes to our billing management software or hardware infrastructure over time? Is Energy IoT future-proof?
1. How do we scale across multiple facilities (including international) with a diverse set of energy assets that have been inherited over decades without the need to rip and replace legacy hardware infrastructure?
CRE Challenge: With a wide range of buildings that stretch across the US, CREs have tried everything to collect data, from dial-up modems to manual meter readers. Instead of having up-to-date consumption data, energy bills have had to be made on estimations based on a tenant’s square footage as a percentage of the buildings’ total energy spend. This meant the CRE firms were not able to adequately charge their clients for their full energy consumption, which got quite costly in major metropolitan areas like New York, Boston and San Francisco. Worse, some of their clients were in the high-tech space and couldn’t understand how they were not able to get a more accurate view of their actual energy usage and some felt compelled to dispute what they were being charged if it could not be substantiated.
Blue Pillar Solution: Without IoT, CRE firms would need to get into the business of building connected networks themselves by hiring a system integrator to build a customized SCADA network for each unique piece of equipment at each building location and then repeat this entire cycle at each site. This is timely, costly, and the most common reason why deployments of a nationwide magnitude fail.
Instead, Blue Pillar’s Aurora takes an automated approach that allows us to create a network that connects all energy equipment regardless of make, model, vintage or type — at each building. We eliminate the need to custom develop SCADA networks. Instead, we use our Energy IoT technology platform to establish a network of connected equipment with our self-configurable Aurora gateways, managed via an automated survey tool, which avoids the programming and customization typical of costly energy equipment integrations. Our survey tool accesses an extensive list of pre-integrated equipment, meaning that we can connect every piece of equipment we network faster. When we encounter a new piece of equipment or situation, the survey tool stores and remembers this new information so it can be referenced again the next time we see that same configuration. This dramatically reduces time and costs which we’ll outline in more detail in the next installment of this blog series.
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2. Are there any solutions that can be rapidly deployed across a national footprint of hundreds of buildings?
CRE Challenge: A patchwork of legacy hardware used to band-aid solution after solution over time leaves huge data and communications gaps that make accurate tenant billing impossible. Meters that were once connected to a network no longer communicated effectively and data was unavailable. Old load control or other devices that had once connected buildings to regional demand response programs no longer worked. All of this meant that the accuracy of the bills and payback from local utilities were in jeopardy. In total, all of these failed devices added up. For CRE firms, this begs the question: How is any one solution going to scale across a national footprint of buildings with tens of thousands of stranded energy assets?
Blue Pillar Solution: Our Aurora Energy IoT platform is purpose-built to create an Internet for All Your Energy Things™. It starts behind-the-meter, at the connectivity layer. Our software-automated site survey tool automatically produces everything needed to connect any asset — from wire drawings to equipment lists for hardware retrofits. Once an asset is surveyed, we wrap it in a little Aurora love — our unique IP. Aurora “digitizes” assets into an IoT network, regardless of the asset’s make, model or type. Now your once-lonely device can be monitored, controlled, and connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Taking a digital approach means that Aurora remembers the configuration for each piece of equipment and each building surveyed and that knowledge can then be applied against all remaining buildings to create a rapid deployment across a national footprint. No other solution has this capability. And with Blue Pillar, we can approach multiple buildings in parallel. This approach allows us to get smarter with each piece of equipment we connect and when compared against a customized SCADA approach, we are 75% faster.Learn more by downloading our Aurora overview brochure, then find the answers to the rest of the challenges CREs are facing in Part II of this blog series.