Vancouver to install Cisco power management

Cisco Systems Inc. announced it has inked an agreement with the City of Vancouver and Pulse Energy Inc. to install Pulse’s software with Cisco’s Network Building Mediator in city-owned buildings.

The memorandum of understanding, announced Thursday at Expo 2010 in Shanghai, is a broad agreement that includes studies and trials using hardware and software to monitor electricity use in buildings.

Wim Elfrink, executive vice-president and chief globalization officer for San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco, said different devices in buildings use different network protocols. With Network Building Mediator, he said, Cisco can “IP enable” the devices and “make them visible.”
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The companies did not disclose the cost of the project, but Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he expects the money the city saves by using electricity will be greater than the cost of the products it buys.

Robertson said he does not anticipate there will be a “direct cost” to the city, other than on salaries for staff involved in planning and implementing the project.

“We will have the Cisco Network Building Mediator combined with Pulse Software to manage energy consumption in several buildings, including City Hall,” he said during a press conference.
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Elfrink and Robertson, along with other executives from Cisco and Pulse, spoke to journalists and analysts using Cisco’s Telepresence and Webex systems. Robertson was linked in from China, where he was attending Expo 2010, while Elfrink spoke from Amsterdam and Cisco Canada president Nitin Kawale addressed journalists from the company’s own Telepresence room in Toronto.

Kawale said the first phase of the project will entail planning, design and implementation.

“We will do exploratory consultations with the City, Pulse and Cisco,” he said, adding the parties will “explore potential operating models.”
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The second phase will include pilot projects using two Cisco products. Network Building Mediator, which is essentially a switch with a 266 GHz microprocessor plus various USB, Ethernet, RS-232 and RS-485 ports, is designed to collect data from IT systems and other devices that consume power and translate information between the various protocols used by the plethora of appliances you would find in an office building.

Pulse Energy provides software designed to collect information from building systems and power meters. The Pulse Benchmark software compares energy consumption between buildings using measures such as energy consumption per unit area, during different times of the day, month or year.

“The goal is to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world by 2020,” Robertson said. “Going green is not just good for the environment. It’s good for business.”

The deal reflects well on the city of Vancouver, said Jon Arnold, a Toronto-based telecommunications analyst.

“If they can serve as a template for how to make smart grid pay off, that’s great,” he said, but added building automation firms such as Honeywell International Inc. and Johnson Controls Inc. already provide ways of controlling energy use.

“When they’re talking about saving money on these kinds of things, the building automation sector has been doing stuff like this for a million years,” he said.

In addition to Cisco Network Building Mediator, the City of Vancouver also plans to install Cisco Home Energy Controller in some homes as part of a trial.

Elfrink said he uses Home Energy Controller in his house to plot heat consumption on to a floor plan and show how his family expends energy.

“Currently in the home you have a meter somewhere but as a family you have no visibility” on power use, he said. “When the kids go to school in the morning, we can say,’ Hey, you forgot to turn the lights off.’”

Arnold said smart grid has greater potential in the corporate and public sector than among residential users.

“Home automation is a much more embryonic scenario,” he said. “Consumers aren’t necessarily looking for these sorts of things.”  By contrast, Arnold said, installing smart grid technology with a city or private firm could control thousands of light fixtures.