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Networked elevators and lights? VARs network building systems

VARs find opportunity in networking building systems to manage enterprise energy use. Part two of a series on how solution providers play a role in modernizing the electric grid.

VARs can't afford to ignore networking projects that will modernize energy grids nationwide. After all, there is $56 billion in stimulus bill funding to cover grid modernization and greening government buildings. But there is more to this overall effort than helping utilities implement smart meters.

Power savings in the enterprise and home will rely on networking technology that enables users to manage all of their power-consuming devices on one network. That means businesses can constantly monitor how much energy is being used and can simply turn off appliances when they surpass set limits. Ultimately, the sales angle on networking building systems is that they result in lower overall spending.

The government already has its eye on these projects. Within the stimulus bill there is $6 billion in funding to improve the energy efficiency of federal buildings and $6.9 billion to do the same in state and local government buildings.

These enterprise and government projects play into the overall effort to build smart grids because eventually building systems networks will be integrated into utility networks.

That's the idea behind Cisco System's new EnergyWise offering, which is already distributed through the channel. EnergyWise is based on multi-protocol building intelligence middleware that Cisco got when it acquired Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence earlier this year. The middleware enables enterprises to connect and manage building systems, according to Martin McNealis, senior vice president of Cisco's Access Business Unit.

"They are able to connect with everything that consumes energy -- heating, lighting, elevators, air conditioning -- and bring it back into a common [IT] infrastructure," McNealis said. "We're now able to understand how the building is being utilized, and we can optimize how the building gets its power."

Read Part I of this story:
Networking VARs could grab smart grid stimulus bill funding

The technology is a suite of protocols that speaks to building systems and can take that data and aggregate it into a format that a CIO can monitor in real time.

Information gathered can ultimately be integrated into existing calendaring systems, among other office applications. "Once we put it into the calendaring system, we can know that we have to power a room two minutes before a meeting starts and end it two minutes after the meeting ends," McNealis said.

He hopes to extend Cisco's energy management practice into the data center.

"A data center, which is a major culprit when it comes to energy footprint, can communicate and be controlled by the system," McNealis said.

The next step is integrating that building management system into the external grid system so that utilities can work with enterprises to cut usage and distribute power more evenly.

"What we've been talking about now is how do we use the intelligent organization and our whole energy management platform to [tie back into the] utilities in terms of their supply side," McNealis said.

The goal, he said, is ultimately to link the enterprise network into the utility networks "to reach the optimum level where supply can meet demand or demand can adjust to available supply."

[At] the end of the day," McNealis said, "it won't be easy for networking VARs to find their way into smart grid projects, but once they are in, the opportunities will be endless."

Don Flynn, CTO of Network Architects in San Mateo, Calif., said the place for VARs to begin is with utilities that have already used them for their own office IT systems.

"You could start introducing projects at the regional level or begin driving services for those systems with existing relationships," Flynn said.

In the short term, he sees an immediate role for Network Architects in selling on-premise power device management for businesses and homes, with the company ultimately working its way into larger projects.

Read Part I of this story: Networking VARs could grab smart grid stimulus bill funding

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