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Is a clash of the titans coming on the smarter buildings front?

Is a clash of the titans coming on the smarter buildings front?

Posting in Design

More efficient energy management, better access control and proactive maintenance are just just three potential benefits of the latest smart buildings technology.

How much do operations and facilities managers care about using technology to run their buildings more efficiently? Companies like Cisco and IBM are hoping they care a lot, as they launch uber-initiatives intended to create Smarter Buildings (in the case of IBM) or Smart Connected Real Estate (in the case of Cisco Systems).

Now, IBM and Cisco are relatively close partners (at least last time I checked), but my guess is that all bets will be off as the real market for smart buildings projects emerges and the lines between where IT companies should play a role starts to blur. After all, Cisco and Hewlett-Packard were once close, too, and that relationship apparently has fallen to the wayside as the two huge technology companies duke it out for control of the communications heart of data centers.

Anyway, Cisco and IBM certainly are both circling the smart building space with keen interest. Right now, their efforts seem complementary rather than competitive.

For example, IBM is launching a new consulting and technology services offering focused on this market, in conjunction with Johnson Controls, a huge equipment provider in the energy management arena and also a strategic partner of Cisco in the smart buildings space.

The new service will combine the features of IBM's Tivoli systems and network management platform with various Johnson Control building technology solutions. The two are also working on technology for access control, space optimization, emissions reporting, and broader building lifecycle management issues (such as when you need more space).

So, for example, IBM's management software will integrate with Johnson Controls' own EnNet management technology, so that more information is visible to facilities managers. The two are also integrating the Johnson Controls Metasys Sustainability Manager, which is an energy management platform, with IBM analytics software so that metrics can be used to affect energy consumption.

IBM has been developing all sorts of Smarter Buildings reference accounts. Here's a video that it just did with the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, which certainly is a facility in need of close efficiency management.

Another example of a facility that is already using IBM to help make smarter decisions about how it uses it facility is the Galveston National Laboratory. The lab is a bio-containment facility, which means there are plenty of safety considerations that govern how it uses its space and the various equipment throughout its facility. So, for example, it needs to enforce the appropriate security levels on air-flow handlers, door seals and decontaminating showers. It uses IBM Maximo Asset Management Software to help in this quest. Maximo can help not only with access control and management, it can help alert when certain maintenance thresholds are reached/breached and it can help provide the reports that satisfy the compliance police.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is another new IBM reference account for Maximo. The largest public power company in the United States is using the software to help keep tabs on assets across all of its power facilities and business units. This is a big project: TVA has access to up to 8,000 user licenses across sites including 29 hydroelectric dams, 11 coal-fired plants, 11 combustion-turbine facilities, three nuclear plants and three green-power projects. The company works with 158 local distributors to serve about 9 million customers.

Anyway, you get the idea. It's a massive project.

Image: Bentley/Generative Design

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure