CivSource has previously reported on the trillion dollar market opportunity known as the Industrial Internet, or the Internet of Things (IoT). In essence, the IoT will be a world in which your fridge talks to your iPhone and your parking meter talks to your car. Critics of this platform raise questions about what kind of private life individuals can expect to have when every inch of our lives are tracked (everyone wave to all the marketers tracking you and the NSA), but that’s not stopping tech companies from releasing new products aimed at just that. In some cases IoT technology has less nefarious and more efficient purposes, like the new product offerings from critical infrastructure vendor Blue Pillar.
Blue Pillar provides electrical grid support for critical infrastructure grids in both the public and private sector. In practice this means Blue Pillar is working with hospitals, military bases, or data centers to centralize command and control of new and legacy grid systems in order to support resiliency within these organizations. There are more than 300,000 of these types of facilities nationwide, amounting to some 24,000,000 stranded or uncontrolled pieces of equipment. Today the company released two new products that provide an IoT platform for legacy microgrid components to start talking to each other, giving organizations the ability to centralize facilities and infrastructure management.
“What we’re seeing is a 20% increase in the number of power outages over the past 10 years, alongside a 50% increase in the cost of energy over the same period. So if you can’t afford for the lights to go out because you’re a hospital, or another critical facility, these factors are going to be weighing on you,” explains Blue Pillar CEO Tom Willie in an interview with CivSource. “The other factors at play are that about half of the current facilities management personnel in the workforce is expected to start retiring soon, and the average age of those facilities is 27 years, so there are a lot of components in a grid of a significant age.”
The problems for these facilities are manifold and should sound familiar to public sector organizations. Even where the localized power infrastructure works fine generally, managing the system requires a working knowledge of potentially hundreds of components that do not speak to each other. Over the years, as pieces and parts get brought in from a range of vendors without taking the whole system into account, there is no way to truly manage the system as a whole.
“Typically what organizations do at this point is call up the vendor that supplied the bulk of what they have now and ask them for a unified system. That vendor will tell them they can either replace all of the hardware that isn’t from their company or they can get a custom solution, but if they add or change any part of the existing system they’ll have to rebuild the custom solution,” Willie says.
Blue Pillar claims it offers a way around that issue with its newly launched Aurora product, which provides an IoT platform for the disparate devices to talk to each other. “When we come in, we pull out an iPad and take an immediate audit of everything that’s in the system and check it against our library of products,” Willie says. “The schematics are automatically created, then we get a breakdown of what needs to be done in terms of bringing all the components online, we can work with the organization to retrofit them and check them against the audit that was created day one.”
In addition to the platform, the company has also released Avise Foresite, a centralized facility management software applications platform that allows multi-site facility operators to centrally manage energy efficiency, resiliency, capital and local emergency events. These products work alongside Blue Pillar’s Avise Insite a real-time analytics reporting platform that captures the information generated by the devices on the system. Together, the products allow organizations to remain vendor agnostic while still centralizing command and control.
“A lot of these facilities weren’t originally created with energy efficiency in mind, especially hospitals or older public schools, with the analytics component organizations can start to get an understanding of where their resources are going which is important as the cost of keeping the lights on continues to go up.”
Willie adds that the platform can help facilities better handle events management if they lose power and have to revert to backup generators or need to work through a strain on the overall system.
This is not Willie’s first venture into the nascent IoT world, prior to joining Blue Pillar in 2013 (the company was founded in 2006), he was the CEO of Current Group which provides sensor networks for smart grid projects. He also served as the Vice President/Vice Chairman of PRIME Alliance AISBL, a nonprofit industry trade group focused on the development of a new open, public and non-proprietary smart metering and smart grid communications solution. At Blue Pillar he plans to build out a range of solutions using the IoT to give organizations the ability to centralize management with technology.
Blue Pillar recently closed the first tranche of its most recent fundraising round on $3.3 million from existing investors. Known investors in the company include Claremont Creek Partners, Arsenal Venture Partners, and Allos Ventures.