IBM, Johnson Controls Eye Smart Buildings

Vendors combine facilities management and IT systems to help customers reduce energy costs by as much as 35%.



IBM has teamed up with environmental management specialist Johnson Controls to develop systems designed to make office buildings and other facilities more energy efficient.

Under the plan, IBM will integrate its business analytics software and middleware with Johnson's building control technology. The companies will also offer a range of services options around the offerings.

The aim is to create smart systems that can automatically turn off lights when a building is unoccupied, identify pockets of heat loss, shut off and power up cooling systems as needed, and perform other energy-saving tasks without human intervention.

"This is the result of a long relationship that's benefited both companies," said Clay Nesler, Johnson Controls' VP for Global Energy and Sustainability, in an interview. Nesler noted that the two vendors have previously collaborated on smart systems aimed specifically at the datacenter market.

Johnson will combine IBM Tivoli products and other middleware with its EnNet software to integrate building systems, business systems, and smart grid technologies.

The companies will also pair Johnson Controls' Metasys Sustainability Manager with IBM business analytics and Maximo asset management software to create systems that can provide facilities managers with information that can help them reduce energy waste.

Additionally, Johnson's Energy and Emissions Management System will be married with IBM enterprise reporting tools as a foundation for systems that can calculate and forecast greenhouse gas emissions.

"These capabilities have been available for a long time, but they haven't been widely applied," said Nesler, adding that Johnson Controls' team-up with IBM will eliminate much of the difficult integration work that often kept companies from deploying such systems.

"Both organizations are committed to open standards and Web technologies," said Nesler. "So while this would have required a lot of engineering and R&D work several years ago, we now hope to leverage as many standards as possible," he said.



One organization that not only is benefiting from the partnership, but actually pushed for its creation, is Ave Maria University, a Catholic liberal arts institution near Naples, Florida.

Several years ago, Ava Maria VP for Technology Systems Engineering Bryan Mehaffey went looking for integrated systems that could help him fulfill his plan to make the just-opened school a smart campus—but all he could find were piece parts.

"Companies like IBM, Johnson, and Cisco weren't working together to see how they could leverage solutions from each group to make the planet a better planet and increase the capabilities of intelligent environments," said Mehaffey, in an interview.

"So I met with them, and it seemed like the light bulbs came on," he said.

Now, with IBM, Johnson, Cisco, Dell, and other vendors cooperating on smart, green technologies, Mehaffey said he expects innovation in the market to occur much faster.

The integrated building management and IT systems from Johnson Controls and IBM that he's deployed at Ave Maria have cut the university's power costs by 30% to 35% annually. "The return on investment is astronomical," said Mehaffey.

Ave Maria's smart campus system ties together Johnson's Metasys building automation control system with IBM's Maximo asset management software and other third-party tools. "It's the brains of our system," said Mehaffey.

Among other things, the system has helped Mehaffey and his team of just eight staffers deploy smart systems that automatically shut off lights in unoccupied rooms, generate alerts when equipment requires maintenance, and allow the university to issue to students smart key-cards for campus-wide access.

IBM and Johnson controls plan to continue to work closely to roll out smart building systems through joint technical, sales, and marketing arrangements. The services will be offered in the U.S. and worldwide, the companies said.

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