Microsoft Builds The Smartest City

Buildings have been built and run the same way for the last 30 to 50 years.

When Darrell Smith took over as Director of Facilities and Energy at Microsoft he had one very audacious goal in mind – to build the smartest corporate facility in the world.

Smith and his team have been working for more than three years to unify an incongruent network of sensors from different eras (think several decades of different sensor technology and dozens of manufacturers).

This would be a significant undertaking on just about any corporate campus, but this wasn’t just any campus. This was Microsoft’s huge 500 acre campus with 41,000 employees covering nearly 15 million square feet of office space in 125 buildings.

And to solidify the sheer impossibility of their mission, they had to build the technology themselves.

When Smith, Jay Pittenger (Smith’s boss), and others started exploring ways to manage buildings smartly, they realized it would cost upward of $60 million to “rip and replace” enough equipment to get those 30,000 sensors to whistle the same tune.

This would not only involve costly construction and equipment replacement, but it also would mean displacing employees and losing work while teams temporarily shut down labs. Smith and team knew there had to be a less pricey, less disruptive way to achieve data harmony, but after a whole lot of looking, they couldn’t find one.

So they invented one.

Buying complex software products off the shelf and integrating them is a path full of pot holes and dead ends. But venturing out to build their own software solution from scratch takes some serious guts, and some really smart people.

Smith’s team enlisted the help of three vendors in the field of commercial building data systems and created a pilot program in 13 of the buildings on Microsoft’s Redmond campus. The team developed an “analytical blanket” to lie on top of the diverse systems used to manage the buildings. The blanket of software finally enabled equipment and buildings to talk to each other, and to provide a wealth of data to building managers.

And by a wealth of data, they’re talking thousands of sensors providing billions of data points each week.

smart Campus Infographic

And with Microsoft as his platform, Smith now wants to take the millions in savings and energy reduction technology to the world.

Buildings have been built and run the same way for the last 30 to 50 years,” Smith says. “This isn’t a Microsoft problem, it’s an industry problem.

Fox Tip: What skills are you using to change your job that may be useful to change the world?

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