Will Intel Get Into Building Management?

BY IN Blog Category, Posts with image On 01-02-2012

Intel is testing out the idea of getting into energy management through the plug.

At an Intel Labs showcase at the Computer History Museum, the chip giant showed off technologies for managing energy in commercial buildings and homes. Interestingly, though, Intel is not targeting the control of air conditioners or heaters, the usual targets of building control systems.

Instead, Intel largely tries to monitor, and perhaps one day control, power going to things plugged into wall sockets: computers, lamps, television sets, etc. In the Eco Sense Buildings prototype, data from these appliances are collected by sensors and forwarded to a company’s IT backbone. The information is then shipped over to a traditional building management system.

Approximately 30 percent to 60 percent of the power in a commercial building gets consumed by plug loads, but most building management systems only track the HVAC system. Thus, Eco Sense would create a bridge between the management system and all the things in the office and provide a more complete, holistic picture of energy consumption. A trial is coming up in Japan.

Ultimately, assuming smart appliances and controls could be added, this would allow facilities manager or demand response providers to add things like copy machines, data storage systems or even fridges to peak reduction and conservation programs.

For homes, Intel Labs has created WEST, or wireless energy sensing technology. It is basically a small box that contains a microcontroller and a Wi-Fi chip that you plug into a socket. It captures energy consumption information and forwards it to a local computer or the cloud. The computer or cloud then analyzes the data and then determines what appliances can be shut off, powered down, etc. The device follows some home monitoring technology released earlier.

Still, it is interesting how Intel is leveraging its strengths in WiFi and computing to get into energy management. At the same time, and unlike most of the other building management systems, Intel is not competing directly against the established giants like Johnson Controls or Honeywell. If this works, the functionality would be additive.

Most building startups — as much as they deny it — do at some level try to displace existing management systems.

Cisco moved into building management with its purchase of Richards-Zeta, which developed one of the more interesting modern building management systems, in 2009. Last year, Microsoft said it planned to move into commercial building management, acknowledging that its Hohm product was floundering.


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