A few weeks ago, IBM made one of its strongest plays in the smart buildings market by announcing that it was acquiring Las Vegas-based Tririga. Today, word is that the deal is done. Financial terms remain undisclosed, however.
With Tririga, a maker of facility and real estate management software, in the fold, IBM can leverage its considerable technical resources to move into a market that’s expected to experience strong growth for the foreseeable future. More importantly — at least to green techies — it’s an example of how the use of IT can help combat climate change.
According to a company release, here’s how integrating Tririga into IBM’s Tivoli management software and Global Business Services divisions can help companies realize energy savings from their real estate assets:
Tracking and managing utility costs, including electricity, gas and water, is the first step companies must take in driving those costs down. Using TRIRIGA software, a company can monitor and track its carbon footprint and reduce greenhouse gases from underperforming facilities. Companies can evaluate the financial and environmental benefit of capital investment decisions focused on energy and environmental efficiency strategies, such as a building retrofit or updating to a more efficient HVAC system.
These abilities will undoubtedly come in handy, but let’s look at why IBM is betting big on smart buildings.
Boom times beckon
The Department of Energy reports that as of 2008, U.S. commercial buildings accounted for 46.2 percent of building energy consumption (residences are largely responsible for the rest) and 18.4 percent of all energy consumption. This will rise along with the growth commercial square footage, but not at the same rate according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2011 Annual Energy Outlook report (data was gleaned from the preview, final release is on April 26).
By 2035, the agency expects the commercial sector to consume 30 percent more energy — 24 quadrillion BTUs, up from 18.4 quadrillion BTUs in 2008. Commercial square footage is forecast to grow to 109.8 billion sq ft by 2035 from nearly 78.8 billion square feet in 2008, a whopping 71 percent increase. This suggests that buildings will become more energy efficient during that time.
To manage that growth while keeping energy consumption in check, smart building tech will become critical. Cisco estimates the smart buildings market could grow to roughly $100 billion through 2020. In IDC data that IBM cites, the worldwide market for smart building technology is estimated to grow by 25 percent annually after hitting $3.9 billion this year.
It’s an opportunity that’s too good for IBM to pass up and it sure explains the recent uptick in smart building startup deals.
Big Blue in green buildings
But how will this affect current IBM customers? In a huge way, potentially, at least according to Dave Bartlett, Vice President of Industry Solutions for IBM Software. In a developerWorks blog post last month, he describes Tririga as the final piece of a “trifecta” that will enable huge efficiencies in corporate environments. He writes:
Today, companies struggle with visibility into the operations of their building portfolio. Buildings and their assets are the second-largest expense on the balance sheet. Today most organizations rely on point products from different vendors to address areas such as: facility and datacenter infrastructure, lease obligations, energy and sustainability management, space and occupancy, and facility-condition assessment.
….TRIRIGA’s leadership in IWMS [Integrated Workplace Management System], coupled with IBM’s leadership in EAM [Enterprise Asset Management] and ITAM [IT Asset Management] represents the perfect trifecta. And it is not just about the technology. Both companies combine deep services skills to help customers not only implement their software but transform process and policies, roles and responsibilities, and org structures to take smarter buildings to a new level.
Expect other IT companies to turn their attention to smart buildings and explore how to forge more connections between the business processes and sustainability pieces of puzzle.
Empowering the “Building Whisperer”
Personnel-wise, this is a step closer to giving “building whisperers” not only the technological tools to monitor and analyze energy usage, but also the clout to help steer the C-suite into money- and energy-saving decisions as they pertain to real estate.
LEED, net zero, smart lighting, solar roofs? Yup, these all sound great, but without hard data they’re a tough sell. Hopefully, the seamless integration of Tririga’s tech into IBM’s other enterprise management software and services offerings will give facilities managers a stronger voice in imbuing sustainability into real estate strategies. Much like energy monitoring and management is taking off in the data center and informing how they are being built and outfitted in these eco-conscious times, this deal — and others like it — could have a big impact on the design, operation and ultimately acceptance of green office buildings and corporate parks.