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What has been heralded by the Buildings and Energy Industry as Convergence, System Integration and Internet Digital Control™ is in direct alignment with trends in E-business as a whole.
John J. "Jack"
Mc Gowan, CEM
The title of this column may seem to ask a silly question. Particularly for those who attended the recent AHR Expo or attended the XML Symposium in January. XML (Extensible Markup Language) may be a new term to many readers, and there is good reason for that, it is a fairly high-level software tool that the average user would not see. What is more important than the tool itself is the impact that its use will have on the energy business. For those who did not hear about the XML event, it was a world-class gathering, sponsored by the Continental Automated Building Association (CABA) www.caba.org and Clasma www.clasma.com, the sponsor of BuilConn. The XML symposium presented a unique opportunity to meet with industry leaders and talk about Internet based applications that will define the future of the energy and buildings industry. Again, XML is a software tool being used to develop Internet services that shape building automation and energy management over the next decade. But before getting too far down the road, it is worthwhile to stop and reevaluate the energy industry in the context of Information Technology at large. This would entail revisiting the basic premise for Energy Online, and the accompanying chart provides an excellent context for that discussion. This chart was developed by Gartner, Inc. a business and market analysis think tank, with operations worldwide.
The Gardner E-Business Hype Cycle
As hype subsides, e-business is increasingly integrated into all business models and processes.
It would be hard for anyone to have missed that the U.S. is experiencing an economic recovery, and the technology business is right in the middle of it. Many investors have barely recovered from the beating that their portfolios took over the past few years, and are not anxious to get back in the water. This E-business Hype Cycle appeared in a recent Optimize Magazine article, "Altered States", by Simon Hayward of Gartner. Hayward stated that E-business is not gone but rather it is being absorbed into the way that business is done. The article went on to acknowledge that Internet technologies have been a great disappointment to us all from an investment perspective as evidenced by the "peak of inflated expectations". With the approach of 2004 though, it is becoming evident that the true value of the Internet is yet to be seen. The exciting thing about the Hype Cycle, which is really focused on business models for Information Technology and global business in general, is that there is a direct correlation to energy and buildings. What has been heralded by the Buildings and Energy Industry as Convergence, System Integration and Internet Digital Control™ is in direct alignment with trends in E-business as a whole.
Perhaps it bears briefly revisiting this convergence topic. In the November Energy Online Column, convergence was likened to a highway interchange that allows for a seamless flow of information between disparate systems. Convergence is the logical extension of building automation, which has grown from Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) control to Direct Digital Control (DDC). Convergence is the process of integrating DDC and other special systems like fire and security to enhance facility management. At the turn of the century, the next step for DDC was Internet access, but convergence is more. Convergence is simply defined as facilities, HVAC and process automation using integrated systems that migrate to the enterprise level via campus networks, such as Ethernet, and thus may become part of a larger set of Integrated Services leveraging Information Technology and the Internet. This converts a control system into a management information system. That entrée combined with a look at what Gartner projects for e-business over the next three to four years sets the stage for an Energy E-business resurgence, not only in building automaton but in Energy Management. Of particular interest is that two core components of systems that were discussed at the XML Symposium are highlighted in the Hype Cycle. "Integrated E-business", and by definition Integrated Systems, is the foundation for future building management combined with the "Real-time Enterprise". These topics have been discussed repeatedly here and in other leading edge publications like Engineered Systems and www.automatedbuilding.com.
It may be that this appears to be a treatise on a possible future and seems a little too vague. There are those who would ask, where is the value for energy and building managers? A real world example, that provides a glimpse of how this technology will reach Gartner's "Plateau of Profitability", was presented at the XML Symposium by Mary Ann Piette of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Ms. Piette described the results of research concerning the status and use of state-of-the-art monitoring, control and information management technology in large commercial buildings. This technology is clearly of growing interest to building owners as a way to reduce energy costs and evaluate building performance data. The Berkeley project recruited five large commercial building facilities to participate in a fully automated demand response test that involved an XML-based electric price signal. Building owners, controls and energy information system vendors were asked to participate in this project. Technical development and software programming was conducted at each site and involved a range of strategies that would be implemented in a fully automated demand response test. The sites were spread geographically throughout California and ranged by building type. Integrated systems for real-time building automation and energy management were a requirement to implement strategies, such as chiller unloading and reset and lighting reduction, that reduced electrical demand when a price signal was received via the Internet. The project would create fictitious price increase signal and send it via an Internet service to the automation system, which would automatically implement the demand strategies. Results of the project indicated overwhelming success, with reductions of up to 50 KW in demand at the buildings during test periods. Quite simply, it works.
The energy business is changing and Building Automation has come a long way from a discretionary system to a facility necessity. Perhaps the most exciting point here is that XML and Internet-driven automation offers the opportunity for energy management to become real-time in nature and generate real cost savings. It has been an ongoing frustration for three decades that most energy strategies are built on data that is 30 days old, last month's bill. This brave new world of real time data and sequences that can integrate Internet Services with building automation will become a requirement for companies that want to succeed. There has always been profit trapped in the energy line item of the budget, because buildings have not been optimized for the most cost efficient operations. XML based energy services may be the way to capture those savings and truly reach that plateau of profitability for vendors and their customers. BuilConn in Dallas this April is where integrators and owners will want to be, if they are trying to understand how to make this happen. Visit www.builconn.com now to reserve your spot and meet many of the presenters from the XML Symposium, as well as the industry thought leaders.
About the Author
Mc Gowan is President of Energy Control Inc., an Energy Service Company and System Integrator. He is the author of 5 books including "Direct Digital Control" on Fairmont Press. The Association of Energy Engineers named him 1997 "International Energy Professional of the Year and admitted him to the "International Energy Managers Hall of Fame" in 2003. Mc Gowan sits on the Energy User News Technical Advisory Board and is a contributing editor with www.automatedbuildings.com.
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