‘End-to-end visibility enables us to create a smarter planet’

‘End-to-end visibility enables us to create a smarter planet’

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Dave Bartlett, Vice President, Smarter Buildings, IBM
Dave Bartlett
Vice President, Smarter Buildings, IBM

There is a link between IT and smart buildings, says Dave Bartlett, Vice President, Smarter Buildings, IBM, as he underlines how the division is leveraging IT and analytics to help governments and communities improve quality of life

Why is the Smarter Planet initiative such a big thing at IBM?
The IBM Smarter Planet initiative, which is in its fifth year now, talks about the three ‘i’s — instrumentation, interconnectedness and intelligence. The world is becoming highly instrumented with sensors and related technology. This means there is also the ability to interconnect it all — not only IP-based networks, but also the ability to stream data over LTE and 4G communication networks. And then there”s the Internet of things. And then there is the ability to derive intelligence about our built environment. That is the third ‘i’ — intelligence.

So the goal is to collect data from sensors, analyse them and then automate processes rather than having a human being intervene?
The ultimate goal is to automate as much as you can. But not everything can benefit from automation. We have the concept of visibility controlled automation: if we have end-to-end visibility of what is happening in the physical world, then we can have better control. As we control things for better efficiency, we look for opportunities to automate repetitive tasks. But everything is not repetitive. It”s a combination of control based on visibility and not relegating humans to repetitive tasks because humans are error prone.

The entire electric power grid is a set of very complex thing and visualisation of this very complex system enables us to prevent outages even before they occur. The intelligence part of the equation is to turn the data into useful information. We also need to be smarter in the way we capture intelligence from numerous interconnected systems. For example, the ability to run analyses prior to build can ensure that these facilities perform to expectation.

The same is true of buildings’ energy credentials. Heating, ventilation and airconditioning systems contribute to making buildings a significant CO2 emitter. However, being able to model building energy performance before construction can lead to substantial improvement in energy performance but the effects of such changes must be modelled beforehand.

Tell us about IBM’s smarter neighbourhood project in Boston.
I have been working with Boston University for two years. It’s called the Sustainable Neighbourhood Living Lab. We’ve got all sorts of funded research in transportation, lighting, energy grid, smart grid. We are working with a number of companies as partners and also the City of Boston to find out the “quality of life issues” in a neighbourhood and how can they be approached with smarter infrastructure. We try to leave it to the people to define the mission, but the starting points have been more around buildings, transportation, smart grid etc. But the key to all of these is we need to have transparent data about buildings and infrastructure.

We are collecting carbon data from top of the buildings, inside buildings and landscaping. It’s the longest contiguous carbon monitoring project in the US. Now, what happens if I correlate that information with health care in Boston? When we see the highest number of people with respiratory illnesses, we could probably look at adjusting on certain days at certain times the CO/CO2 levels by looking at whether shifting transportation modes could solve the issue. So you start improving quality of life. We should visualise not just for control but also for helping communities make better policy decisions.

We use LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification wherever possible, but a lot of LEED work is about building to green standards and energy-efficient systems. Our project is more about understanding how we operate systems in the buildings in the neighbourhood. It is also about the performance of transportation networks and power grid and things which are beyond LEED. The Boston project will be about maintenance and ongoing operations rather than just building something.

Is it like rating buildings according to their energy usage, emissions etc?
Buildings last for many years and if significant improvements and cost savings are to be made, we should be looking for better ways to run these assets more efficiently. There are emerging IT solutions that can apply analytics to BIM models to drive down energy costs, improve building utilisation, optimise property portfolio management and maintenance, and reduce environmental impact.

Further, it’s great to build energy efficient things but if somebody leaves a door ajar what is the value of it? We need to incorporate all such operational data also into our information model. If I had something that is a far more trustworthy representation of how the building is operating, it could affect real estate values or demand for a property, or the city could use it for tax breaks. We discovered two buildings that were identical but one was using far more energy than the other. It could be due to equipment not operating optimally in the less energy-efficient building, [BIM could help us here] or maybe it is just bad human behaviour in terms of operation [which is what community involvement is all about].

We want to put more science into the comparison of different buildings and learn from it. How can we learn from the top performers and apply that knowledge to other properties? Building information is the first step in the visibility, control and automation process.

The General Services Administration (GSA) in the US has a goal to reduce 30% energy usage of federal buildings by 2015. IBM has been contracted to develop a system to monitor energy usage of federal buildings.
IBM was chosen [by GSA] to lead the project and see how we can start with the 50 most energyintensive buildings in the GSA portfolio. It”s a combination of everything — from integrating workplace management system to real-time monitoring of events.

Defence Infrastructure Organisation, the biggest landlord and energy user in the UK government, selected IBM for its biggest project which is about military bases and housing. It is not only about a smarter building transformation, but also about transforming the entire IT infrastructure which needed overhauling in order to support smarter buildings.

There is a link between IT and smart buildings. IBM”s background is IT and we deal with huge amounts of data. That is why IBM got into smart buildings in the first place. It got everyone in our company fired up because it is an opportunity to help communities, cities and governments to operate at lower cost more efficiently and improve the quality of life.

This is applying IT to industries that haven”t had a lot of IT in the past, like construction or the power grid.
Exactly. And that is why this is more of a transformation — it”s about changing roles and responsibilities, and creating jobs. My team, which is essentially an IT computer science team, works hand in hand with our facilities team in IBM to transform the company’s portfolio. That”s something we just didn”t do in the past.

We heavily leverage IBM products like Maximo, Trirega, and our real-time monitoring products. We use Cognos and analytic tools, and our warehouse tools, but the key is IT working hand-inhand with the facilities team.

What tools do you use to identify high energy or carbon footprint in buildings and facilities?
I break up the solution into two pieces, strategic and tactical. The tactical piece is the visibility; it is about identifying where to start. I find the 20:80 rule over and over again — 20% of the buildings use 80% of the energy. That could be based on the tasks, the climate, or a combination of both.

What is the difference between IBM”s approach and a company like Schneider Electric that provides hardware and software solutions?
Schneider Electric is a building management system provider. It deals with energy systems, air handling systems and so on, and it is adding software to make these systems more efficient. But what IBM is talking about is a big IT play on top of those systems. It can not only connect multiple buildings but can also aggregate and look at what is happening at a city and at state level.