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EMAIL INTERVIEW Bill Gnerre & Ken Sinclair
Bill Gnerre, CEO & Cofounder, Interval Data Systems, Inc.
Bill Gnerre brings over 20 years of entrepreneurial experience to IDS. He has brought new technologies to market at Circadian Software, an energy management company, and various other enterprise software firms. Earlier in his career Bill worked in the CAD industry in engineering and product management roles, and has a degree in mechanical engineering. Interval Data Systems provides a revolutionary new platform for facilities operations that harnesses the wealth of data inherent (but mostly ignored) in today’s building systems and central plants.
The Business Impact of Using Data to Drive Facility Operations
It affects building and plant operations, design and construction engineering, utility billing, proactive maintenance, budgeting… pretty much everything under the facilities and utilities umbrellas.
Sinclair: What kind of business impacts can using operational data create, beyond energy efficiency?
Gnerre: While relying solely on the diagnostic tools provided by control companies typically leaves 15 – 20% of HVAC operating costs on the table, there is even more value in addressing broader business issues. We’re seeing the beginnings of transformations in how facilities directors run their organizations and in how much they can accomplish with existing resources. It affects building and plant operations, design and construction engineering, utility billing, proactive maintenance, budgeting… pretty much everything under the facilities and utilities umbrellas.
Sinclair: Can you give me an example?
Gnerre: A university client is giving each area mechanic a customized view of the data related to their building. They can click through a set of folders and do a complete check of all building systems, effectively a walk-through of the building, in only eight minutes instead of an hour or more to do it physically. It’s more thorough, more accurate, and more informative. They can also see what happened overnight and then focus their time on priority issues and preventative maintenance. They become more proactive rather than reactive.
Sinclair: Does it all boil down to efficiency and labor savings?
Gnerre: That’s one part, but it goes way beyond that. Here’s a different example. At a hospital we’re working with we were able to completely review and generate a prioritized action list for 165 air handlers in just a few days. So yes, it saved months of technician and engineering time. But beyond that, the information is an invaluable management tool for the facilities director who now has a documented plan—a roadmap to navigate forward—to systematically fix, verify, and track each identified issue.
Sinclair: How is what you’re doing different from what control systems or metering systems provide?
Gnerre: It’s not even close. Control systems are great at control, but they don’t understand information technology. Trend logs have more limitations than I have time to list. Meters give you consumption data, but nothing about how or why the usage is what it is—and they are expensive. What we do is collect data from every point within the control system, every meter, plus utility data, weather data, etc., and consolidate it all, providing highly interactive access to the data. It gives facilities directors the information to reinvent how they operate instead of making small, incremental improvements.
Sinclair: You mentioned utility billing. What’s the role of chilled water temperature or air flow in that?
Gnerre: It’s about accountability and responsiveness. The industry has separated utility billing from operations, but when you merge the two, you can accurately allocate costs across departments without expensive metering. When someone complains that their bill is too high, you can actually tie it to operations and explain why. The cost centers become accountable for their consumption and the utilities group can better respond to help them and look more professional in the process because they have real data.
Sinclair: Where do you think this is headed—will data completely automate facilities operations?
Gnerre: No. Data and IT will become a large part of managing a facility. CFOs will demand facts, not conjecture. Accountability will increase everywhere—something this industry has sorely lacked. Data becomes a tool for facilities departments, it doesn’t replace them anymore than it has replaced the finance department—but imagine the CFO operating with only 1 or 2% of the finance data. We see a tidal wave of change coming, and the proof is in what happens every single time an organization really gets their arms around all the data.
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