IBM and Johnson Controls Partner on Smarter Buildings

Two of the biggest players in the emerging smart building industry have joined forces. IBM (s IBM) and Johnson Controls (s JCI) announced Monday the launch of a joint initiative called Smart Building Solution — combining the business analytics and enterprise software of Big Blue with the building technology and energy efficiency solutions of Johnson Controls – that the companies said will improve operations, lower costs and reduce energy and water use in buildings. The initiative will be co-marketed by the companies and target government and education buildings, large commercial real estate owners and industrial facilities.

While IBM has expertise in digital technology, the company needed a partner with experience in metering and measuring the physical infrastructure of buildings, Florence Hudson, energy & environment executive in IBM corporate strategy, told us. Together with Johnson Controls, Florence said IBM could help customers “integrate the physical with the digital” to make better decisions about their assets.

The joint initiative is essentially a platter of various tools and services that IBM’s and Johnson Control’s customers can now select from to add intelligence to their buildings. One of the key services, IBM said, is systems integration. Johnson Controls develops and installs building management systems, essentially metering devices connected to a computer that let facility operators monitor and control air-conditioning, lighting and other physical systems throughout a structure. IBM, meanwhile, develops business software systems, like those for asset management. Together, the companies will integrate customers’ building systems with their business systems to help improve the performance of their buildings and reduce operating costs.

Another key element of the joint effort is around energy management. Johnson Controls’ Metasys Sustainability Manager combined with IBM’s business analytics software will provide building owners, operators, tenants and data-center managers “actionable information” to help reduce energy use and waste, IBM said. Hudson said IBM has developed a dashboard for facility operators that would help them more proactively manage building systems, such as identifying a boiler that is beginning to run inefficiently but hasn’t yet completely failed. This could lead to between 10 and 20 percent energy savings across an organization, IBM said.

The latest announcement isn’t the first time IBM and Johnson Controls have worked together. Last June, IBM announced the formation of an “industry alliance” called the Green Sigma Coalition with leaders in metering, monitoring, automation, data communication and software. Charter members of the coalition included Johnson Controls, Honeywell Building Solutions (s HON), Cisco (s CSCO), Siemens Building Technologies Division (s SI), SAP (s SAP) and others. The members committed to working with IBM to integrate their products and services with Big Blue’s Green Sigma solution, a consulting offering focused on helping organizations reduce their environmental impact.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons user TakingITGlobal.