Smart meters are amassing reams of data that, when effectively analyzed and applied, can help energy consumers at all levels -- residential, commercial and industrial -- cut down on both their consumption and their bills. And social media, backed by strong analytics, may prove to be an effective tool for delivering efficiency improvements.

Using the Data

Managers of large buildings, campuses or other facilities can significantly reduce operating costs by cutting down on their energy consumption. While smart meters are now providing data that can allow consumers to pinpoint prime targets for energy-efficiency measures, making sense of all that data is not as simple as collecting it, which could pose an obstacle to consumers’ ability to use it effectively.

“A massive amount of data has become really accessible, for the first time, to us,” said Paul Bardon, Honeywell Building Solutions Vice-President of Global Marketing, at the Honeywell Users Group (HUG) conference in Phoenix, Arizona this week. “How do you use this data to actually either make a building more efficient or make the operators more effective so they can make the building more efficient?”

“Managing that information and that data is the next big frontier for this industry,” Bardon said.

The Social Building

HBS plans to bring social networking products to market in the next twelve to eighteen months to help manage that information flow and deliver it in a way that enhances both the speed and efficiency of identifying and responding to opportunities for on-site energy efficiency improvements.

HBS’ solutions seek to transform a “smart” building into a “social” one -- one that provides real-time, accessible information on operational performance. The idea of Facebook-style status updates from a building or an energy-intensive piece of equipment might raise some eyebrows. But it also may represent a practical means of helping facilities to manage their energy consumption.

“These buildings are not static objects. They are constantly changing,” said Datta Godbole, Vice President of Engineering and Chief Technology office for HBS. A malfunction or skewed setting can significantly hamper the energy efficiency of a boiler, for example. And “wasting energy is wasting money," Godbole added.

HBS’ "social building" solutions will entail a Command Center application backed by a Honeywell analyst support team and two-way communications to connect facility management teams both to Honeywell analytics experts and energy end-users. The latter will be able to report environmental conditions (such as "too hot" or "too cold") directly to the facility via mobile device.

The Command Center will include a dashboard that offers user-friendly data displays, such as graphs of energy consumption over time, which allow for remote monitoring of energy use from an office computer, tablet or smart phone. Not only can you see where energy is being spent, you can see the benefits of conservation or efficiency measures, as well as anomalies, such as energy usage levels that fall outside of norms or expectations.

The Command Center will also offer service alerts via communications feed from a controller connected to a social network. The alert specifies the potential problem area, and provides additional detail on the nature of the problem when prompted, as well as the option to request Honeywell assistance. A customer can also set energy consumption thresholds for specific assets that trigger alerts if exceeded.

“This is information coming to you directly from your social network. It’s live,” Godbole said.

The Command Center application will be offered as a bundle with Attune, an HBS analytics service that assists with evaluation of a site’s data. Attune will add another layer of efficiency enhancement -- and potentially cost-cutting -- through remote monitoring and analysis of how facilities are operating.

“When the people in our Attune optimization center see the data, see the analytics, and they can start to make correlations, that’s when they start to see things that your control team or your building operations team isn’t seeing every day,” said Colm Lennon, HBS Service and Energy Offerings Director.

Attune analysts can help to eliminate the “false positives” among the anomalies that may appear in energy consumption data. “HBS Attune can help evaluate whether an anomaly is actionable,” Lennon said. “Some depend on judgement.”

And by cutting out at least a portion of the need for on-site evaluation, Attune analysts can substantially speed up the process of responding to a problem. “Traditionally, you had HBS people on-site or dispatched to a site,” Lennon said. But “that’s leaving money on the table. In the time between when someone reports a problem and the time we get there, you’re losing potential energy savings," Lennon said.


Editor's note: This article is reposted in its original form from Breaking Energy. Author credit goes to Conway Irwin.