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IBM's smart building software ties IT to building management systems

IBM edged its smart building strategy forward with new solutions that let IT organizations tie their operations to building management systems.

IBM beefed up its smart building initiative with a handful of products that help IT organizations integrate their operations with those of building management systems and their surrounding environments.

Specifically, the company has delivered products that tie asset management and energy management software together with facilities management software. The intent is to make it easier for IT to create a sustainable enterprise, as well as stay compliant with energy regulations imposed by utility companies and state and federal governments.

"This is a collection of software and tools that can be deployed on traditional or blade servers made by IBM or other vendors, either on-premises or in the cloud," said Rich Lechner, vice president for Energy and Environment at IBM. "CIOs and others in the C-level suite have wrestled for years with integrating heterogeneous IT environments; now we are helping them integrate heterogeneous environments in the building management area," he said.

Lechner believes CIOs, along with executives responsible for compliance, will play an important role in helping integrate building management systems, if only because smart building helps them achieve goals already listed in their job descriptions.

"For CIOs and compliance people, there are several important reasons they need to be involved. By improving the energy efficiencies of the IT environment, they can reduce costs and also overcome operational barriers like ensuring [IT] has enough power to meet customer demands," Lechner said. "This is already on their to-do list."

Some analysts believe tying together a range of different assets and data to control energy consumption and a company's carbon footprint increasingly will be an information, rather than an infrastructure, challenge.

"Gathering, analyzing and reporting meaningful information against efficiency and sustainability metrics is, in theory, a job for CIOs and compliance leaders. Our survey data shows about 40% of CIOs are actively involved in creating and executing their companies' sustainability initiatives," said Christopher Mines, senior vice president and research director with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

But when Mines talks anecdotally to CIOs and compliance managers about integrating building management systems, he often hears a different story, he said. Many say they delay these projects because they have too many other priorities to tend to, lack domain expertise or have "an uncertain management charter" to pursue the smart building challenge.

"IBM is on the right track here, but has a lot of educational and evangelical work to do to bring the non-IT aspects of facilities and other assets into the purview of CIOs," Mines said.

IBM is on the right track here, but has a lot of educational and evangelical work to do to bring the non-IT aspects of facilities and other assets into the purview of CIOs.

Christopher Mines, senior vice president and research director, Forrester Research Inc.

Separately, IBM also announced it is jointly creating a portal with North Carolina State University where IT shops can learn about the incentives offered by utility companies and state and federal governments that are now available to energy-minded organizations. IBM is also making another service available that guides IT shops through the sometimes confusing process of applying for such incentives, Lechner said.

"In the U.S. alone, there are over 80 incentives being offered, but customers just don't know how to apply for them or which ones are applicable. In the U.S. alone last year IBM earned $20 million worth of incentives from improving efficiencies in our own operations," Lechner said.

IBM also announced it will work with electrical power management company Eaton Corp., which is based in Cleveland, and North Carolina State University to create a working model that will serve as a showcase to demonstrate how homes and enterprises can plug into renewable energy sources and smart grids. The working model will be located at The Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems Center in Raleigh, N.C.

Product highlights include:

  • A new version of the IBM Maximo asset management software for energy optimization that collects and displays -- through a new graphical interface -- a data center's energy and environmental data including temperature and power usage.
  • A program called Myincentivefinder that automates the process of navigating the forms and processes needed to earn incentives that reward energy efficiency upgrades by facilities and IT managers.
  • A new service called the IBM Sustainability Management System, which integrates sustainability efforts with business strategies.

Let us know what you think about the story; email  Ed Scannell, Executive Editor.

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