Energy and Smart Building Industry Blog

Smart Buildings, Building Automation - What's the Point Part 2

This post is Part 2 of the series Smart Buildings, Building Automation - What's the Point?

What are setpoints? - Part 2

Now that we know what the point used to be (see here), let's look at our situation today. 

In the "old" days of facility automation, the term "point" meant a sensor or output connected by wires to a central data gathering panel. However, today's owners and managers depend on the timely use of complex information "on demand".

These snippets of data are no longer confined to discrete sensor values or hardwired relay outputs, but can be virtual, composite pieces of information formed through the processing of data from a variety of sources. 

This latter definition of points reminds me of an incident that happened to me 20+ years ago when I worked for PG&E, which got me thinking about this subject and also really demonstrates how customers might look at "points". 

One of PG&E's utility customers came in for a demo of an Energy Information System, as well as to negotiate a large energy commodity contract for his National organization. He was the Energy Manager for a large specialty retailer and quite naturally we struck up a conversation about Building Control, Demand side management and Energy conservation measures. I was astonished by his ability to look beyond the definition of what a traditional "point" was. 

Adaptive Energy Management - How to Use Your Buildings as a Battery

Perhaps it was simply that he just didn't know what information was and wasn't available in a traditional system, and this enabled his thought process to be unfettered by definitions. My eyes were opened up to what's really important when he began to explain that, even as an energy manager, reducing energy consumption is not always the primary goal, not in his world at least. As a matter of fact, he said that he was willing to spend more on electricity, if the additional cost was negated by increased revenue!

And that opened up the (in)famous "Ladies shoe sales" conversation. Basically, he said "you know, IF I could accurately monitor the indoor air temperature throughout the store and IF I experimented and drove down the temperature inside the store to an absolute perfect 70.5 DEG F and IF I could simultaneously measure the exact register sales amounts (point-of-sale information) in real-time; I might spend more money on electricity because my customers might spend more because they're more comfortable. Comfortable customers shop more!"

And that's when he asked the question:

"WHERE do you pick up the point-of-sale information in your system?"; 

and I thought to myself... 

"Where is the point for Ladies shoe sales?".

The answer is: "In the Oracle, IBM, or NCR system". 

Thus, in November 1997: the beginnings of the first Enterprise IoT platform... was born!


Posts in this series

Top 3 Benefits of Benchmarking for Facilities Management
What Facility Managers Need To Know About Smart Buildings
Are You Managing Your Energy Spend?
4 Common Myths of Energy Conservation in Building Management
Precision Building Management: Understanding Closed Loop Control