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Last week, Austin Texas played host to the Fortune Brainstorm E conference, which showcases the people, companies, ideas, and strategies that will bring about transformational change in the business world. The conference explored the disruptive technologies and the new business models that will be needed to thrive in this age of rapid change.

Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon all laid out their road maps explaining how they intend to achieve goals of procuring 100% renewable energy.

Zero Energy

This includes not only their office buildings but also server farms that now consume 1.5% of global energy and are one of the fastest growing sources of CO2. Apple is now the biggest private owner of solar facilities in the United States, and Google has invested over $1 billion in clean energy. Even new comers in the technology arena, such as Salesforce or Box have made 100% renewable energy pledges.

However, in a breakfast session called “The Zero-Energy Corporation”, panellists emphasised that it was not only clean energy generation that would bring about this change but also the Internet of Things in their buildings.

In recent years, the introduction of IP networked products has greatly improved many of the services within buildings, however they still fall short of delivering full optimisation and automation in commercial and industrial buildings. With the advent of IoT we now have the capability to join “things” together more efficiently and cost effectively in a building.

We term this transformation the Building Internet of Things (BIoT) and discuss it in more detail in a recent report The Transformation of BAS into the Building Internet of Things 2015 to 2020.

We will be hosting an interactive webinar on BIoT on Wednesday the 21st of October, with Terry Casey, former CEO & Co-Founder of the UK building controls company Trend. For more information and to claim your free spot, follow this link –

At the The Zero-Energy Corporation session, Joe Costello, CEO of Silicon Valley energy technology company Enlighted, said his company’s clients are cutting their lighting bills by 60% to 70% and cutting heat and air conditioning bills by 20% to 30%. “The energy savings pays for the installation of the network”, he said, referencing the collection of smart building technologies, “and gives you data that enables a ton of other applications”, including asset tracking among other things.

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Enlighted announced the commercial availability of its unified digital sensor and data analytics system earlier this year. The California based company then began installing its light sensors into lighting fixtures at AT&T offices, garages and call centres, bringing about energy savings of $8 million annually from just 20% of AT&T’s commercial space.

Thierry Van Landegem, chairman of GreenTouch, an information technology consortium focused on sustainability, spoke at the conference about reducing energy usage in the mobile phone business “by a factor of 10,000”. Mobile technology was developed without energy usage as a consideration, he explained. Companies can save large amounts of energy by getting cellular towers to go into “sleep” mode when usage is low, for example. While Bill Weihl, director of sustainability at Facebook, said his company has been able to cut energy usage at its data centers by 38% through IoT and smart applications.

Executives at the Brainstorm E conference, also sought to emphasise just how important the electrical grid is to our Internet-connected urban future. “The distribution grid is an enormous trillion-dollar asset. You could argue that it’s the largest machine on earth and a fascinating facilitator of all these connected devices”, Dan Yates, founder and chief executive of Opower, told conference attendees.

The efficiencies of using smart, or IoT, technologies throughout the energy consumption pipeline are clear. Opower has saved 8 terawatt-hours of energy usage, or about $1 billion dollars for consumers, according to Yates. To which Ben Bixby, director of energy products for Nest Labs, responded, “Sexy devices may yet have a role, too. Nest saved 4 terawatt-hours of power”. Be they sexy or not, the IoT in smart buildings and grids is exhibiting real world energy savings for businesses, and is beginning to receive the high acclaim it merits.