Smart Buildings Thrive on Big Data

Johnson Controls turns construction projects into complex information networks.

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The Institute for Building Efficiency's 2011 Energy Efficiency Indicator survey, which was conducted by Johnson Controls in 13 countries, found that 80 percent of respondents expect energy use to increase by 11 percent in 2012. According to Energy Star, energy is the biggest operating expense in commercial buildings, consuming about one-third of operating budgets.

Wireless technology will make smart buildings even smarter. "Wireless adaptations have been around for about 10 years," says Noworatzky. "But they were point-to-point and only solved rudimentary problems." Along with preventing the destruction of walls and ductwork to install cable, wireless communication more effectively controls the cost of lighting and HVAC, which accounts for about 60 percent of most buildings' energy costs.

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Nirvana for cost-conscious owners would be a single tool for managing building data, whether for one building or hundreds. Johnson Controls's answer is Panoptix, a cloud-based solution for managing building data consisting of four applications: Carbon Energy Reporter, a dashboard that monitors energy use; Continuous Diagnostics Advisor, which troubleshoots infrastructure problems; Performance Monitor, which analyzes costs on retrofit projects; and Custom Analyzer, which provides a building's performance metrics. It can lie on top of any building control system and analyze data synched with wireless platforms.

Johnson Controls has an iPad app, but Panoptix will support any device. "We knew early on that we needed to support everything. We have to be open to all platforms. There's lots of table data, pie charts, graphs—you'd want iPad's real estate for that," Noworatzky says.

Panoptix has the less-benign potential to disrupt the vendor's traditional role and hand it to the user. "We have our own apps in development that we're going to add, but we're also going to create an environment for other people to write apps against the data we're collecting," Noworatzky says. "I think we're going to see some interesting things come out of that. Users will say, 'This is neat. I understand how the data works, so I'm going to write an app to help me manage my business better.' It's the customer's data and perhaps they know best."