Blue Pillar: Bringing Energy Management to Enterprise Facilities

Oct 29 2014

By Carl Ford
Partner, Crossfire Media

I had the opportunity to talk with Tom Willie the CEO of Blue Pillar.  It was personally great fun for me because Tom and I had lived in a parallel world of Network Management Systems that were a great opening for our discussion about how Blue Pillar is enabling energy management for enterprise facilities.

Tom Willie you have an interesting background that seems to have come full circle back to network management. What were the lessons along the way?

What we’re experiencing now in energy management is very similar to what I saw in the telecom industry years ago when I worked at Efficient Networks. Back then, telephone companies were forced to spend billions of dollars to upgrade and replace their outdated infrastructure, while at the same time future-proof against an aging workforce. In the emerging energy management space, core facilities systems today are facing the same basic challenges, which Blue Pillar is now addressing through new technologies and new operating approaches.

Blue Pillar is coping with two big issues, prioritization during a crisis and business intelligence about the operations. Do you find that customers have best practices in place and do they know how to use your suite to meet their needs in the crisis?

Our customers face a number of challenges when it comes to managing resilient, efficient and sustainable energy in facility operations; budgets are getting tighter, energy prices are rising and core infrastructure is aging. Not helping the situation is a graying facilities management workforce, of which more than 50 percent are expected retire within the next 10 years.

Although a number of operational, technology and process ‘best practices’ have been put in place over the years, the glaring hole to date has been access to real-time performance data to enable better budget and critical operational decision-making.  And when energy systems fail, like in a hospital, lives could be at risk.
Aurora, our recently released Digital Energy Internet of Things platform, securely connects, controls, and collects data from facility equipment. Avise Foresite, our trademarked Centralized Facility Management software applications platform, allows multi-site facility operators to centrally manage energy efficiency, resiliency, capital and local emergency events. At the end of the day, Blue Pillar provides facility and corporate managers the tools to gain the insight needed within and across all facilities to make smart operational and budgeting choices for their facilities and remain resilient and sustainable.

Hospitals are great way to showcase Blue Pillars capabilities, but our history in NOCs shows that many more companies need them.  What other facilities would benefit from your solutions.

Any critical and complex facility where bad things happen when the lights go out can benefit from Blue Pillar’s technology. You are correct in that hospital systems, like our customers Tenet Healthcare and Duke University Medical Center, have been quick to adopt our solutions. However, we’ve also seen growing interest from large and multi-site geographically distributed facilities such as universities and military institutions.

NOCs have a history of being tier 2 or tier 3 support.  Do you see the team working in the NOC as a new breed of facilities managers in the future?

Looking back at my telecom days in the early part of my career, NOC technicians would escalate issues in a hierarchic manner, so if an issue arose that required more sophisticated personnel, that tier 1 or tier 2 technician might call in a tier 3 or tier 4 veteran technician or engineer depending on the seriousness of the problem.

What we are trying to do at Blue Pillar is develop an easy-to-use solution that almost anyone could use to find the problem and then bring in the right people to fix it. For example, one of our larger customers Tenet Healthcare has dozens of facilities using Avise Insite at their local facilities and Avise Foresite at the corporate headquarters. A COO, who is not a facilities manager or an engineer, could be using Avise Foresite and discover a power problem at a facility across the country, notify local team that there is a serious problem and then deploy the appropriate personnel with the relevant skill set to remediate the problem. 

With the cloud being the answer to so many solutions in the marketplace do you see yourselves going into the outsourced NOC business? Or do you see an opportunity for companies to use Blue Pillar in that way?

Technically, we could do that but we would also have to build a much larger professional services team in order to place facility managers at our customers’ sites. Remember, you still need people on site to do things like maintain the physical equipment and secure the facility. That said, Blue Pillar could offload the energy management piece from that onsite staff and then report it back to a central corporate manager, which is essentially what our Centralized Facility Management solution does.

Tom, thank you.  I look forward to hearing more about Blue Pillar managing critical power systems.

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"Our customers face a number of challenges."
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