Networking giant Cisco has teamed up with building efficiency startup Pulse Energy to track and manage energy use in city buildings in Vancouver, British Columbia. The partnership is one of the first times that Cisco has brought in a startup to work with its EnergyWise building controls platform, but given that Cisco opened that platform up to third-party developers earlier this year, it likely won’t be the last.
Cisco has clearly been eying innovative startups lately. Last week, Cisco bought up wireless network maker Arch Rock to help round out its smart grid network portfolio, and earlier this year, Cisco invested in Grid Net, a startup championing WiMax for the smart grid. Of course, startups aren’t Cisco’s only smart grid partners, and the company is working with IBM, meter makers like General Electric and Itron, power gear suppliers like Siemens and Schneider Electric, and network providers like Verizon.
Pulse Energy makes so-called “continuous commissioning” software for buildings, improving on existing building management systems by tracking energy use through multiple sources and presenting it in a way facility managers can handle. Building control systems tend to lose efficiency over time as fans break, temperature sensors go out, and other general wear and tear erodes performance. Fixing this “energy drift” usually means calling in a team of engineers to pore over every control panel and air duct — an expensive proposition, but better than putting off maintenance until something expensive breaks.
Pulse; Berkeley, Calif.-based Scientific Conservation; and others are hoping a software solution can cut those energy drift losses by 25 percent or more, as well as save money through preventative maintenance. Others tackling the market include Prenova, Enforma, Cimetrics, Tririga, and demand response provider EnerNoc, all with different angles on making buildings more efficient. Australian startup BuildingIQ offers software to turn down building power use based on utility power pricing as well as optimizing efficiency.
This isn’t Pulse’s first project; it installed software and hardware in 10 buildings for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and has done projects with the University of British Columbia. In this new project, Pulse will integrate its software with Cisco’s Building Mediator system to lower energy use at Vancouver City Hall and several other city-owned test buildings. Cisco, in turn, integrates with building control systems from giants like Siemens, Johnson Controls and Honeywell, and launched its EnergyWise 2.0 platform in April. However, beyond a pilot project with Pacific Gas & Electric and NetApp — which says it saved $2 million in its first year — Cisco has been relatively quiet about commercial deployments.
Commercial and industrial buildings present a tempting, under-served target, but at present, most building energy efficiency is done in the public sector: schools, hospitals, universities and government buildings. That makes Cisco a good partner: Beyond Vancouver, it’s working on a long list of pilot projects with cities including Amsterdam, Barcelona, New York, San Francisco and Toronto, to name a few.
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