Smart buildings will become smart cities, and smart cities will change everything. But first, let’s start with our own campus. That’s the philosophy behind a Microsoft project called 88 acres, after the 88 acres of land Microsoft chose for its headquarters in 1986. Microsoft’s campus counts 125 buildings and 41,664 employees. A small team of engineers is using a “Internet of Things meets Big Data” approach to achieve energy savings and other efficiency gains using a data-driven software solution. It works so well, that they are now bringing the software to the rest of the world. And as they write themselves: “commercial buildings consuming an estimated 40 percent of the world’s total energy, the potential is huge.”
The software tracks thousands of building sensors like heaters, air conditioners, fans, and lights, harvesting billions of data points per week. That data provided deep insights and thus allowed more intelligent decision making.
“Give me a little data and I’ll tell you a little, give me a lot of data and I’ll save the world.” Darrell Smith , Director of Facilities and Energy Microsoft
The software lets buildings talk to each other and to their building managers. One example of inefficiencies they found was in a building garage: exhaust fans had been mistakenly left on for a year to the tune of $66,000 of wasted energy. The team now collects 500 million data transactions every 24 hours, and the smart buildings software presents engineers with prioritized lists of misbehaving equipment. Algorithms can even balance out the cost of a fix in terms of money and energy being wasted with other factors such as how much impact fixing it will have on employees who work in that building.
Of course visualization is key here. The smart buildings tool dashboard is showing a colorful collection of maps, dials, lists, and tickers. Engineers can get big-picture information at a glance, like how many kilowatts of energy are being consumed across Microsoft headquarters at any one moment. With a few clicks they can also zoom in on one building, one floor or office in that building, or one piece of equipment.
Towards a data driven city
We are hearing stories about smart homes and smart cities for a few decades now, but this is actually one of the largest scale (and operating) projects I have ever read about. The fact that Mircrosoft is bringing this software to the market, might just spark the next wave of data-sensing to companies and cities in the future. At the intersection of Big Data and the Internet of Things this project is definitely not an ordinary case.
“BIG DATA: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think,” is a revelatory exploration of the hottest trend in technology and the dramatic impact it will have on the economy, science, and society at large. Which paint color is most likely to tell you that a used car is in good shape? How can Con Edison catch the most dangerous New York City manholes before they explode? And how did YOU (well, Google) predict the spread of the H1N1 flu outbreak? The key to answering these questions, and many more, is big data, our newfound ability to crunch vast collections of information, analyze it instantly, and draw sometimes profoundly surprising conclusions from it. This emerging science can translate myriad phenomena—from the price of airline tickets to the text of millions of books—into searchable form, and uses our newfound computing power to unearth revelations that we never could have seen before.
A revolution on par with the Internet or perhaps even the printing press, big data will change the way we think about business, health, politics, education, and innovation in the years to come. It also poses fresh threats, especially the prospect of being penalized by for things we haven’t even done yet, based on big data’s ability to predict our future behavior.”
Big Data is the next step in Sony’s strategy. That’s what Keisuke Kakoi told me in Tokyo. Kakoi is VP Mobile communications at Sony. He presented the strategy of Sony in Tokyo today, explaining the drive to personalize their products. They have been working on breaking down the silos in order to create “one Sony”. That means one login for all the services, one wallet, one touch and working as one team. And that will all boost “The Sony Experience”.
Big Data will bring a better experience to the customer. Interestingly, Kakoi said that Big Data requires new competences (security for instance), suggesting Sony needs new partnerships.
I asked Mr. Kakoi whether they will launch Sony Glasses. He first mentioned that Sony already produces 3D glasses. Then he said that they have the crucial technological capabilities. They sounded to be better equiped than Google. Then he said that Sony’s strategy is to become more personal.
I take that as “Sony will launch Sony glasses”. Recently they have patented new glass technology, so it’s probably a no-brainer. Interesting question: what will Sony do with the data. If Big Data is Sony’s next step, data on what you’re looking at could enrich their data enormously.
Rick Smolan, who’s behind the amazing Human face of Big Data project, speaks out on the dangers of Big Data in a video from the THNKR series. The basics of his argument is the fact that mostly big companies and governments can benefit from Big Data, but the value for people like you and me is missing.
Smolan provides some speaking examples of the dangers of Big Data and the new world of connected sensors and claims that ‘we are not the centre of the data universe anymore’. Our third report in the Big Data also deals with these issues plus the flux in legislation and how big data blurs the line between big brother and little brother. Download our report here.