Make the buildings smart, like the people who inhabit them: that was OSIsoft’s goal for Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Modern buildings create a wealth of information through sophisticated sensors – temperature, lighting, ventilation, electricity use, security – but that information is useless if it doesn’t provide actionable insights into system performance.
 
Expensive energy
 
In the 1990s, CMU was spending more than $20M per year on energy – the equivalent of $1,600 per student! To find ways of bringing that cost down and being more energy efficient, CMU built the Robert L. Preger Intelligent Workplace, a 7,000-square-foot lab on campus, equipped with more than 10 data collection and control systems and over 1500 sensors to help them understand how energy was used.
 
However, what they encountered was a lot of data they couldn’t use. The lab’s data streams were collected and analyzed separately, which was not only time-consuming but which limited the insight integrated systems could provide. Different sensors stored data in different places, in different formats. Plug load data couldn’t be correlated to ventilation or lighting, and air quality readings were completely separate. CMU implemented PI System from OSIsoft, an open data infrastructure, and linked building automation with all of their other data sources to create a real-time energy dashboard. Connection between systems, powerful analytics, and easy-to-use visualization tools provided deeper, more useful insights into system performance.
 
Information is power. Or is it energy?
 
Every building sees this battle: the employee who wants to crank up the air conditioning versus the worker with the ever-present personal heater. To combat the thermostat wars and other wasteful behavior, we worked with CMU to extend our solution by including Microsoft’s Power BI tools for Office 365, giving everyday users a high-level overview of energy consumption. Not only is the data integrated, accessible, easily shared, and in the familiar Office environment, but now consumers have visibility into the impact of their actions with the thermostat or under-the-desk heaters. As a result, CMU’s energy consumption dropped by 30%.
 
Conservation of energy isn’t the only savings CMU now enjoys. Because the data and cloud technologies make information more accessible, CMU can determine, real-time, the status of equipment, allowing them to identify faulty equipment quickly. Carnegie Mellon was so pleased with their results, we’re working with their researchers, faculty, and students to create a Smart Campus to take sustainability to the next level.
 
Leveraging the Internet of Things
 
The advent of the Internet of Things means sensor data is exploding – there’s much more of it, and it’s coming from new areas. As the volume of information increases, so does the need for tools that make sense of the data and make it actionable. The opportunities this information provides are endless. Using a combination of OSIsoft’s analytics and Microsoft Power BI, users have the ability to look across their entire enterprise, city, or geographically dispersed campus and drill down into a single building or even to a single device – a printer, for example, or even a light switch. Not only are end users able to access information, but it’s presented to them in intuitive visualizations that don’t require special training or skills to understand, engaging and empowering a much wider range of users.
 
When we have a greater understanding of our energy consumption patterns, we can work together to prevent the air conditioning/personal heater battle and other wasteful exercises in futility. We can make our working environments more comfortable, save our organizations money, and help reduce our environmental footprint. Now that is Business Intelligence!