Cisco, Schneider Electric team for smarter building energy management

Two of the biggest forces in technology are leveraging their market positions to target what has become one of the sexiest distractions for leading high-tech players: building energy management. The reason this area has so much attention is that some figures imply that buildings could suck up as much as 42 percent of energy usage worldwide.

Two of the biggest forces in technology are leveraging their market positions to target what has become one of the sexiest distractions for leading high-tech players: building energy management. The reason this area has so much attention is that some figures imply that buildings could suck up as much as 42 percent of energy usage worldwide. That's a lot of money.

This time, it is Cisco and Schneider Electric putting their brains and sales brawn together. Schneider Electric has already teamed up with another high-tech behemoth targeting this space, IBM.

Under the most recent deal, Cisco and Schneider Electric have integrated their respective products -- EnergyWise and EcoStruxure -- into a solution that promises to let facilities and IT managers control five different business domains via an uber-network approach: power, data centers, processes and machines, building control and physical security. The combined management solution will touch any and all of the following:

  • Heating ventilation and air-conditioning
  • Lighting
  • Security systems
  • AND (now) anything that is IT or IP based including PCs, phones, Catalyst switches or Power over Ethernet devices

Mind you, Cisco has been circling this space for some time now. It has been carrying on courtships with several key players in those "other" networks that businesses rely on to run their day-to-day operations. (Other notable partners include Honeywell and Johnson Controls.) Cisco's EnergyWise technology enables its switches to manage the power consumption of devices on the network, including turning them off at certain times of the day if necessary.

Schneider Electric's EcoStruxure is billed as an intelligent building management platform. The company is also one of the world's biggest players in energy performance contracting. That is, it will take over the management of a building over a period of time, so that the company can meter out its investments. These contracts guarantee certain levels of reduction or Schneider Electric risks not being paid.

For an idea of what might be possible using the combined solution, the companies hold up two schools in Europe as an example. These schools, which were part of a pilot test of the combined technologies, managed to save approximately 30 percent of their IT energy, which translated into about 6 percent of their overall energy consumption. Among the features that the solution supports is the ability to respond to signals from the grid in order to adjust energy consumption habits.

There's word on the street today that Cisco is prepping up to 7,000 layoffs, plus another 3,000 job position eliminations that would come through early retirement. One area that I doubt it will touch is the smarter building space, especially with all that IBM is also doing in this area.

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