Towards the tail end of each year, various technology publications generate lists of the top tech buzzwords of the year. (For example, see the list from Tech Crunch). When we think about buzzwords, we tend to think of them as so much hype – and often they are. I was struck, therefore, by how many of the top tech buzzwords of 2016 we use at Powerhouse Dynamics – because they are directly relevant to our flagship product, SiteSage®. We may throw them around too often, but buzzwords achieve that status because so many people suddenly seem to be using them, perhaps because they capture the zeitgeist, or perhaps because the underlying technologies are moving into the mainstream. Here are some top tech buzzwords that help define what SiteSage is all about.
Internet of Things, or IoT
”IoT” is on the top of many lists – and there is no doubt that there is a lot of IoT hype. But SiteSage has always been all about the Internet of Things – using IoT technology to connect, monitor, analyze and control equipment for our customers who operate portfolios of small commercial facilities. Most people are now aware of Internet-connected thermostats which are oft-cited examples of the Internet of Things. And, such thermostats are an integral part of SiteSage. But SiteSage goes much further. For example, it connects electric panels to the Internet to capture energy use data on critical equipment, which is then used to determine if the equipment is operating properly. It captures temperature data from food preparation and storage equipment to support food safety and protect quality, helping reduce food waste. And, it is factory integrated with equipment from a growing set of manufacturers, enabling it to capture large amounts of additional data to further support energy management, equipment asset management, and food safety. In fact, given the significant amount of equipment our customers have, we have coined our own buzz expression – Orchestrating the Commercial Internet of Things – to reflect the importance of integrating and centrally managing the huge streams of data coming from multiple pieces of critical equipment on a single platform like SiteSage.
Big Data/Data Mining
That brings us logically to another buzzword – or, in this case, two that are sometimes used interchangeably (although they do not mean exactly the same thing). SiteSage captures an enormous amount of data monitoring multiple equipment data points on a minute-by-minute basis. To provide a sense of how much data we are talking about, let’s look at one of our customers who operates more than 1,000 restaurant locations across the U.S. SiteSage is capturing about 140 million pieces of data each day from that customer’s locations alone. That data is not very helpful unless there is a way to mine it for valuable insights – and that is precisely what the system does. It analyzes the data in real-time, and provides real-time alerts about, for example, HVAC or refrigeration equipment that is not operating properly, or food that is not being cooked or maintained at the proper temperatures.
Another 2016 buzzword – Actionable Analytics – appears to be eclipsing a former buzzword, Actionable Intelligence. The idea of both is that it is not sufficient to capture data and provide analytics if you can’t act on the information. SiteSage’s patented analytics are designed to deliver information that drives user actions. For example, SiteSage provides HVAC alerts on very specific issues, such as “short cycling” (where the unit is cycling much more than it is supposed to), or a broken economizer (where a compressor is not turning off when it should as the temperature falls below a set level). Often, SiteSage will also suggest possible diagnoses based on the data it sees. This type of information can be used to direct the tech dispatched to address the problem to the exact problem so it can be fixed more quickly. In fact, some customers take advantage of SiteSage’s integration with maintenance management systems to automatically generate a work order without human interaction.
In the case of food safety, SiteSage also identifies very specific problematic situations. For example, when integrated with certain ovens, the system is able to identify when food has not been sufficiently defrosted before being placed in the oven – and can advise the customer to throw out the food.
Machine Learning refers to sets of algorithms that adapt over time based on new data, and update predictions or actions accordingly. Examples of how SiteSage leverages machine learning include:
- SiteSage creates a statistical operating profile of all monitored equipment, and then identifies when equipment is no longer operating according to that profile – taking into account factors that may affect operating performance, such as weather.
- Weather may be a factor in other ways as well. For example, the system can learn how long it takes for a specific HVAC unit to get to the desired morning set point given overnight temperatures, and then use weather forecasts to adjust the set point time change to optimize energy usage while ensuring staff and customer comfort.
Gamification can be defined as the application of typical elements of game play – e.g., point scoring and competition – to other areas of activity. SiteSage customers can choose to have location managers – and their regional managers – receive a weekly e-mail that indicates how effective they have been at managing to their equipment schedules – and how they rank against each other (as well as the top things to look at that week to increase their scores). Competition and peer pressure can really have an effect on behavior.
That is 5 of the top buzzwords culled from a number of different lists. All of them point to important parts of how SiteSage delivers value.
Other top buzzwords for 2016 include Augmented Reality and Blockchain. SiteSage does not leverage these technologies…