Some people just want the burger, without the fries and fancy toy.
I believe Marc Petock hit the head on the nail in his last article for January 2014 edition. Buzz words like ‘cloud’, ‘big data’, and ‘infographics’ has opened the floodgates for a swarm of new software into the Energy Management space, many of which market themselves well, but don’t quite meet the target of completing the circle and adding value back to the end-user. 2014 will be the year the mist begins to fade and we’ll begin to more distinctly recognise products in the market that do more than just stimulate your interest based on hype and pretty charts. They should actually, quantifiably, save you money on running your building.
Here are a few of my own observations of what’s happening in the industry right now:
- The software geeks (and I can say that because I am one) are on an all-time high coming off the news of recent Google acquisition of Nest. This means more and more silicon valley startups on a quest to ‘change the world of thermal comfort’ but don’t know what a chiller is
- The automation guys are getting concerned and, lets face it, providing pushback to the idea of things being taken out of the scope of their control. Do they need to learn HTML5 before they can program the central plant?
- The automation companies are hiring software development teams in India to ensure they don’t get left behind, and of course the more programmers you throw at a software project the better it will be, right.
- The IT guys see an even greater opportunity to be a pain-in-the-butt to everyone by slowing things down or not allowing things to happen at all. They’re loving it!
- The management teams are slowly becoming amenable to the fact that the billion dollar ‘cloud’ data center is more secure than the USB hard drive inside the plant room.
Connecting commercial buildings into the cloud is still something which must be championed by ambitious and technically savvy people who are acting in the interest of the building owner – mainly consultants or switched-on real estate managers, who have a good grasp of what they want to use the software tools for. There are definitely some very good software packages in the market right now, but they are selling themselves as exactly that, a one-size-fits-all package. Once you buy in, you’re seemingly locked in, which is ironic since the software world is supposed to be all about freedom of choice.
So we have some companies with great cloud-based energy management packages (burgers), but you’re pushed to buy all the sides and extras that come along with it, whether they are useful to you or not. Some people just like very plain and simply want to get their data into the cloud. They have their own analysis tools, gizmos and contraptions to get what they want from the data after that.
Bitpool (bitpool.com) is a cloud data collection platform. As a platform, it’s key feature is simply to provide the infrastructure for people to start pushing HVAC and any other building data into the cloud. The API developed around it allows people to build connectors for uploading from equipment or systems and retrieving data for use in applications.
Since 2011 when Bitpool went into development, our team has been using the very same API to build tools and connectors that make it straightforward for anyone to engineer a solution. Here’s some examples:
- Uploader software that pulls data out of an existing BMS SQL database
- A small, low-cost hardware gateway which is based on the Raspberry Pi board (http://www.raspberrypi.org) which pulls data via BACnet or Modbus
- A Niagara AX point extension which can be added to any point on a Tridium system. This is a very simple way to get data into the cloud from Tridium, including history.
- CSV uploading via email or FTP
These are all fairly standard ways up pushing data to a cloud service, but the important point to note is that we’ve developed them for anyone to use to connect to Bitpool, but alternatively you can also create your own method or application to push data up there.
Similarly there a number of ways to retrieve and use that data. We develop many interactive displays for Universities like shown below.
Also a number of commercial office spaces choose to have a more analytical dashboard as shown here.
What we’re currently work on is a fully customisable library of widgets that can be hooked into Bitpool data. If we’re to speak about mobile collaboration, they say a picture speaks a thousand words and these dashboards certainly can be used to convey information about your building whether it be good or bad. Bitpool tells the real story.
By making the API available for others to develop on, it encourages a community aspect around the project. The more data that can be brought into the system, the more opportunities for doing comparisons and normalised ratings etc. The more tools that are developed, the more ways for people to push data from their equipment. The best thing about community supported projects is that you’ll always be surprised at what people do come up with.
Taking a page from Tridium, a community supported framework leads to a self-growing and self-developing ecosystem that benefits everyone. There is no underlying bias toward any particular vendor or manufacturer since Bitpool is run as an independent software platform. A number of players have gone into the market to play the grab-and-hold game, rather than to see how we can help develop the market’s acceptance and growth first. These systems are only valuable if you have people actively using them.
So how will Bitpool actually be useful and save people money. Right now it’s a platform to be built upon and we’re encouraging everyone to get on board to see how they can use it to suit their own specific environments and use-cases. Without being too voodoo magic about it, if you have instant access to all your building operation data and know what it means, then there is almost always a means of saving money by correctly acting upon the information being presented. However, back in the laboratories, we’ve already started working towards a cloud-intelligence solution that will be our own concrete (non voodoo magic) answer to this very important question. We hope to reveal more on that in Q3 this year.
If you’re interested to have further discussion on getting connected to Bitpool, or want to discuss anything further to what’s been said here, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and next time someone asks if you want fries – just Bitpool it!