Energy Manager

COLUMN – Cloud Control of Energy and Building Data

I am the track leader for the Building Connections portion of ConnectivityWeek in Santa Clara, Calif. The subject matter of my track is near and dear to me - Building Data in the Cloud.

A great deal of information locked up in building systems could, if used correctly, provide huge benefit to building owners in improving efficiencies and flexibility, which is much needed in today's demanding business environment.

May 10, 2011  By  Ken Sinclair

The use of cloud computing for the collection, management and analysis of real time and historical building data is now becoming a valuable possibility. But what is involved in making this happen? Who and how do we collect data, how do we ensure quality of data through its life-cycle and how should this data be analyzed and turned into useful and actionable information?

The evolving sessions of this track have reconnected me to John Petze and Anno Scholten and allowed them to share some of their thoughts about how the industry is positioning itself in the data cloud.

Anno Scholten, OpenKin
Over the last few years we have started to see many new and innovative enterprise energy applications become available in the commercial building market. These applications include energy analytics, demand response, energy efficiency, dynamic energy management, tenant energy kiosks, energy business integration, energy portals, carbon analysis, and many more. All of these new applications recognize the value of the energy data locked up in all these buildings and much of their value proposition hinges on easy access to this data.

John Petze, Partner SkyFoundry
Looking at Cloud Technology in BAS Applications
Computing resources and software applications delivered by the cloud are receiving a lot of attention, and for good reason. The cloud-based model provides a new and different approach for the delivery of software applications and offers a range of benefits including:

• Get up and running quickly — removes barriers to entry to offer software as a service: capital expenditures (both the money and the time to get them approved and in place), IT support for the hardware and compute platform, cost and complexity associated with the installation of IT infrastructure, etc.

• Scalability — the ability to achieve scale that is difficult to build and own outright. So in our excitement to take advantage of the benefits of this new technology (of which there are many), I hope that we do not adopt a view that implies that the only way to do things from now on is with cloud-based software.

Nino provides insight on how we may monetize the cloud.
Nino Kurtalj, Elma Kurtalj Ltd
By destroying the boundaries between unreal and real, we are creating the value. So what is real? It is data point values from the field, as well as services that we have to perform. What is unreal? It is the ability to interact seamlessly with the systems and experts from the internet infrastructure. Typically, monetization could be shown by savings achieved through optimization of maintenance through usage of secure, manageable and reliable remote infrastructure.

In the integration of, for example, 100 buildings, which are as an illustration sized around 20000 ft2 into one manageable system, we would be able to achieve significant labour-hour cost reductions. At the same time, we would be able to have managed and monitored building behavior by the experts who could offer the professional quality never before achieved for a fraction of the price to the building owners.

We can say that we would, for every $1000 spent for maintenance-labour, save at least $2000 per annum. That would give us a maximum of two-year returns of investment. In the larger multi-building structures, there would be a lot of possible services that could be offered to the users that would additionally extend our profitability matrix.


Kimon provides us with an example of all kinds of building data in a large cloud.
Kimon Onuma, Faia-Onuma, Inc

 The ‘Big Bang’
The building industry and environment are infinitely complex and therefore no single solution is going to solve the problem. The technologies are all coming together to support a ‘Big Bang’. Services oriented architecture, BIM, GIS, cloud computing, live sensors, web services and open standards are some of the ingredients of the ‘Big Bang’.

71-million sf ‘Bang’
The California Community College System (CCC) serves 2.75 million students at 112 California locations, and is the largest system of public higher education in the world.

On March 11, 2011, the CCC FUSION system (Facilities Utilization, Space Inventory Options Net), the entire California inventory of 71 million sf of buildings and spaces, and the CCC Geographic Information System (GIS) Collaborative of campuses and buildings were brought together with the ONUMA System, making it the largest cloud computing Building Information Modeling (BIM) + GIS platform.

In a split second, a “Big Bim Bang” happened between FUSION+GIS+ONUMA to create a combined platform to dramatically expand the value of FUSION for CCC.


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So how do we find and manage this haystack of data? Brian has a solution.
Project-Haystack – Brian Frank, SkyFoundry
Project Haystack’s mission is to define this common vocabulary so that we can gain value from all the data our building automation systems are collecting.

Sinclair: Brian, why did you start Project-Haystack?

Frank: Project Haystack evolved from our experiences applying analytics to building automation and energy data. Most modern building automation systems have made it fairly easy to collect vast quantities of data from our buildings, including environmental conditions, equipment operation, and energy usage. However, the reality today is that this data only exists in a low-level, unorganized format, which is difficult to analyze and find patterns, issues and opportunities for improved performance. The result is that we are now awash in large volumes of data, but we can’t easily derive value from it. To give an example, a building operator rarely cares about the raw sensor data – who has time to look through history logs of temperatures for every minute of the day? But if we could easily analyze all that sensor data, we can often find the issues that matter, such as equipment and systems, which aren’t operating optimally or which need maintenance.

I hate to be the one to advise you that your future will be clouded, but it will. The good news is it will add tremendous value and visibility to the data generated by all in our industry.

Join me and stick your head in the clouds.

Ken Sinclair is the publisher of and can be reached at

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