Navigant Research Blog

Data Analytics Drive Building Efficiency

Eric Bloom — February 4, 2014

The energy efficiency sector has been catapulted into the digital age with the advent of new software platforms that harness and structure the digital data from building control and metering systems.  This shift began to take hold in 2008-2009, when carbon management software vendors, dismayed by the failure to instate a global carbon price at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, shifted gears to provide energy management software instead.  As competition in that market intensified, many vendors saw the need to differentiate based on the sophistication of their software algorithms.

At the most basic level, analytics go beyond the energy visualization dashboards that characterize most building energy management systems (BEMSs).  Basic energy-related data (from a range of sources, including BMS/BASs, utility meters, and energy bills) is compared with data from external sources such as weather and temperature data, average building performance data for specific facility types, and building occupancy and space utilization data.  Proprietary algorithms are used to turn streams of data into useful information that goes well beyond the basic visualization of energy and helps reduce energy costs and improve the operational efficiency of buildings.

Hands Off

So what’s the state-of-the-art in data analytics today?  While several dozen vendors offer solutions that enable building owners and managers to make changes based on real-time data, only a few have offerings that automatically make changes to the building’s HVAC, lighting, and control systems independently.  For example, San Mateo, California-based BuildingIQ’s platform tracks energy and temperature data in a building and communicates with a building’s BMS and air handling systems to make automatic changes in real-time that reduce energy costs and enable building owners to take advantage of demand response events without any manual involvement from the building manager.

Pacific Controls, an automation software company based in Dubai, uses M2M communications between control devices to enable integration between the various operational technology platforms in the building environment (such as asset management and CRM systems) and ensure seamless integration across interconnected platforms.  Although many building managers will continue to insist on manual control over building systems, systems that automatically turn analytics into action represent an important frontier in smart building data analytics.

Faster, Deeper

Looking ahead, data analytics will play a critical role in opening up new opportunities for integration between buildings and the smart grid.  As demand response markets evolve from today’s largely manual response protocols to automated demand response, demand for fast-paced connectivity with a building’s control systems will intensify.  As building technology gradually matures to enable participation in ancillary services and frequency regulation markets, software analytics that maximize available capacity for such programs while ensuring minimal disruption to building operations will become integral components of buildings’ control systems.

Along with Jim Schwartz, director of Strategic Marketing at Johnson Controls, and Peter Dickinson, chief technology officer at BuildingIQ, I’ll be discussing these and other innovations in the field of smart building data analytics on a webinar on February 11 entitled Innovations in Smart Building Data AnalyticsClick here to register.

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