IoT innovations for greener, smarter buildings
With AI and Internet of Things solutions, EnergyBox proves building operations can be sustainable and cost effective.
Climate change demands great innovation. But the resulting solutions must be easy to implement, highly impactful, and above all, cost effective.
By applying Internet of Things and AI solutions to building operations, EnergyBox is doing all that and more. In partnership with Cisco, the company brings greater sustainability, safety, and efficiency to buildings, a source of nearly 30 percent of global carbon emissions. All while cutting its customers’ expenses.
We spoke with Tony Carrella, president and co-founder, for his thoughts on how EnergyBox is impacting retail, hospitality, healthcare, and other industries — and the future challenges he hopes to help solve.
Thank you, Tony! Great to have you with us today. What inspired you to start EnergyBox? And what was the initial vision?
When we started the company, our vision was about bringing transparency to energy consumption with the end goal to help customers reduce overall energy consumption and improve sustainability — as well as for commercial, business reasons.
What are some technologies and solutions that you’ve developed and refined along the way?
Our core technology is a cloud-based IoT platform. So, we’re monitoring on an individual, circuit-by-circuit level, and on an equipment-by-equipment and site-to-site level. Then we’re aggregating all that information in our very robust cloud platform. That’s what’s been refined over the years. Our customers have thousands of locations with hundreds and thousands of pieces of equipment that are effectively left unmanaged. And so, with our technology, we enable our customers to manage these pieces of equipment, reduce energy consumption, improve sustainability, and also improve the life of the equipment, which is another component of general sustainability.
What are some key industries or organizations that EnergyBox is helping to transform?
What makes us unique is we support what we call smaller, multi-unit enterprises. So, for example, retail is a tremendous segment for EnergyBox. Among the organizations that we work with is the LVMH retail group, which owns luxury brands such as Tiffany's, Dior and Veuve Cliquot, And they have an amazing commitment to driving sustainability and reducing carbon footprint emissions, and a large amount of smaller spaces to manage. We also work with some renowned restaurant groups like Starbucks, Wendy's, and we’re starting to work McDonald's. And these are groups that have a large footprint. Their impact is pretty profound. So, by us being able to leverage our technology, which is really designed for these multi-unit enterprises, it’s a great opportunity.
So, addressing the challenges in smaller buildings can have a big impact?
When we first started the business, nobody was thinking about these smaller footprint facilities. They had absolutely no solution. The big buildings often have very sophisticated technology available to them because they have more funds. That’s really what inspired us to focus on this multi-site strategy because with so many of these multi-site facilities the impact can be tremendous. Globally, the carbon emissions from all buildings, large and small, even exceeds vehicles. So, the opportunity to do good things is tremendous.
Of course, fast return on investment is important when it comes to securing budget for sustainability initiatives.
Everyone wants to be sustainable. But how do you do it from a business perspective? We provide a very healthy return on investment while driving some pretty aggressive sustainability targets. We’re a subscription model. So, our customers have very little capital outlay. We’re able to install and implement our systems and get the customer running within a few days. And it will effectively pay for its monthly service fee right after that. We’re offering a heavy reduction of carbon footprint along with cost savings. With our restaurant division alone we’re taking out about 100 million tons of carbon emissions out of the environment per year. And last year, our customers, which includes franchise operators of Wendy’s, McDonald’s, What-a-Burger, and others, saved more than 18.5 million kilowatt hours and nearly $2 million in real costs.
And what are some of the specific systems in a building, of whatever size, that your technology would monitor and control?
We’re impacting the HVAC, the heating and cooling systems. That’s a tremendous driver of carbon emissions. Also, lighting and other key equipment like large compressor motors that reside within those facilities. The other thing that we do, because our platform is end-to-end, is help our customers maintain better quality and compliance. For example, with food safety, ensuring the refrigeration is doing what it’s supposed to be doing and giving them preventative maintenance notifications on their on their equipment. It helps them run a better business.
How did the partnership with Cisco come about?
We started talking to Cisco about four years ago. We’re controlling things, we’re turning things on and off and managing the functionality of some very important pieces of equipment. So, the integrity and stability of the network environment was essential. We needed a platform that would ensure that customer has full uptime all the time, that the system’s always running regardless even of internet interruptions. Cisco was an obvious choice to provide such stability with very important tasks.
What are some of the main Cisco technologies that support EnergyBox and how have they expanded your capabilities?
A big part of it is the Cisco Catalyst 1101 router, with the Cisco IoT Operations Dashboard. That’s very important because the dashboard enables us to be able to provide a platform where the systems can be maintained, updated, and upgraded on an ongoing basis. Our business model is subscription based. So, our customers are paying us for an outcome, a result, a service. At the end of the day, we are consistently upgrading and updating our systems to provide new features and functionality. The ability for the Dashboard to provide a good platform from which to maintain and manage the individual sites is extremely important.
Security is a huge concern in anything IoT related. How do you ensure it?
Cisco enables us to establish an isolated network environment. That means we’re not attached to other networks within the facility. We stay independent. And as I mentioned, we’re controlling critical devices, we're controlling heating and air conditioning. We’re controlling lighting, a lot around refrigeration. So much is about safety and security. It’s about business continuity. And the Cisco system is an extremely stable and secure platform.
What excites you about the future?
We’re just always trying to make a greater impact. And I think the next thing to look at is how do we better help our customers with managing and growing alternative energy sources. Some great technology is being developed, and solar and wind are becoming more of a viable solution. But the reality is that those solutions are only as good as the technology and the control that’s behind them. And so, there’s a lot of opportunity there, and it’s going to be a tremendous, tremendous chance to make a big difference.