GreenBiz Group Feature

A new marketplace is in store for building efficiency apps

by Derek Top on Friday, November 23, 2012 in Features

When the Green Button program was launched as a way for energy users to share data, the initiative was hailed as an opportunity for third-party developers to build new commercial and residential energy management applications.

While many utilities and service providers have jumped aboard the Green Button program, there has been little progress in building a larger platform for aggregating commercial or residential energy management apps. Some have speculated that privacy and data security concerns and a lack of visibility has held back the development of a Green Button app marketplace.

Johnson Controls, long known for building control systems and hardware, is hoping change that by launching a marketplace of its own and a strong push into the software and services arena. Recently the company made available application programming interfaces (APIs) for its Panoptix energy management platform, giving developers access to a software kit and encouraging the creation of custom applications to be made available for sale in a JCI marketplace.

Panoptix is a suite of cloud-hosted applications intent on improving the collection and management of building performance data. Johnson Controls is sharing this building intelligence data for development of building efficiency applications. A number of third-party participants have signed on including EnergyAi, Lucid Design Group, EnergyPoints, T4G and FirstFuel.

First Fuel, a Boston-based energy software firm, pulls meter data from the Panaoptix platform to develop a better understanding of how a building consumes energy. The analytics tools provide “comprehensive energy analysis” remotely without the cost of onsite hardware or in-house energy audits.

“We’re very pleased to be part of an ecosystem that allows applications like ours to connect with large numbers of building owners,” says Swapnil Shah, CEO of First Fuel.

While the market for building control systems has been highly competitive for years as vendors offer proprietary solutions, the shift toward IT-enabled solutions is creating new opportunities, says Casey Talon, research analyst with IDC Energy Insights. “By opening their APIs and providing a marketplace for app developers to showcase and sell their tools, Johnson Controls is establishing the company as a innovator in the market.”

Indeed, Johnson Controls will be offering up the Panoptix API set at a hackathon for the first time at this week’s HackCity event, November 9-11. Developers are encouraged to sink their teeth into software challenges on residential energy management from the city of San Francisco, how to tap the smart grid for electric vehicles from connected vehicle specialist OnStar, as well as specific challenges from Johnson Controls.

“We see [HackCity] as a great place to create value on the Panoptix platform,” says Laura Farnham, vice president of building technology and services at Johnson Controls. “We hope to see a couple of market-ready apps that can enhance the building efficiency marketplace.”

Here are the specific challenges from Johnson Controls for HackCity:

Sharing Energy Usage: Create an application using Panoptix APIs that can visualize meter use and C02 emissions across one or more buildings, and share this data via social media sites (e.g. Facebook, Foursquare, etc.). If available, compare a buildings’ energy usage to data that’s available from other resources (utilities, government agencies, etc.) for ranking or benchmarking purposes. The comparisons could be shared across social media sites, as well.

Usage Alert: Create an application that monitors specific conditions that are available from Panoptix APIs, and facilitates notification via one or more of the following methods: Email, SMS, Twitter.  Specific conditions to be monitored can be determined by the team (e.g. consumption limits, peak demand, etc.).

“This is a great place to meet like-minded developers and industry leaders. We’re building a marketplace towards scalability and commercialization and also hope to have a great time” said Farnham.

Smart phone photo provided by Shutterstock

Originally published on GreenBiz Group