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IBM Expands Smart Building, Green IT Tools

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IBM (s IBM) has been talking for a long time about linking smart building technology and enterprise-wide sustainability. Late Thursday, it unleashed a slew of new products, services and partnerships aimed at cementing that role.

Big Blue’s announcements include a new partnership with building automation vendor Schneider Electric (s SU), similar to its partnerships with Johnson Controls (s JCI) and Honeywell (s HON), as well as energy management and optimization software for companies and utilities and, of course, a service to help customers manage all these tools.

“This is all about helping clients look across their enterprise, and see where their enterprise meets the smarter infrastructure around it,” Rich Lechner, IBM’s vice president of energy and environment, told me in a Thursday interview. That means collecting, analyzing and acting on data in real time, something IBM says is needed to capture the lion’s share of the up to 30 percent efficiency gains it’s seeking to deliver through its building energy management partnerships.

It’s also important to be able to scale up building-specific efficiency efforts to campuses, real estate portfolios and, at the end of the scale, enterprise-wide efficiency management, Lechner said. IBM’s work with Schneider at the Bryant University campus in Rhode Island, where the two started on a data center efficiency project, but then expanded it to the entire campus, yielding an overall 15 percent drop in power use, is one example of the type of partnerships that IBM is looking for, said Lechner.

IBM’s software-centric approach differs from that of Cisco (s CSCO), which has rolled out a Building Mediator product to interface with multiple building management systems and tie them together using Internet protocol (IP). Still, Lechner called the new Smarter Building Solution product as “essentially a smart building in a box,” brought together in an enterprise-wide platform through its so-called Maximo energy optimization offering — similar to the functionality Cisco is targeting.

IBM also announced that it’s adding design software company Autodesk (s ADSK) to its Green Sigma Coalition, a group aimed at providing interoperability and joint projects with partners including Honeywell, Johnson, ABB, Eaton (s ETN), Cisco, Siemens (s SI), Schneider and SAP (s SAP).

Autodesk this week also announced it has embedded energy analysis in its building design tools to allow architects to predict the energy efficiency implications of their building plans. Buildings designed with energy data considered from the get-go typically have 30 percent better energy performance than those that don’t, said John Kennedy, Autodesk’s senior manager of sustainable analysis products.

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