The benefits of investing in analytics

Schneider Electric held its annual editor’s event in downtown Chicago this week, focusing on energy initiatives, big data and smart cities.

The 2012 “Invest” event, conducted at the United Center (Schneider Electric is a sponsor of the Black Hawks and has product installed at the venue), included discussions on energy management, data centers, power, smart cities, the clouds and software as a service but a recurring topic seemed to emerge from the one-day event: analytics.

Seems like, and it was confirmed, that analytics apply to much more than video surveillance and video management systems and are a critical component of delivering actionable data to end user customers who can then adjust their buildings to make better use of energy and power while steering sustainability. Harnessing data is a challenge, but it’s getting easier with software and devices that interact, and that data can be transferred into usable analytics for Schneider Electric and its global customers— which equated to over $30 billion in sales in 2011.

The event included a lineup of Schneider Electric speakers and customers from across the business, including: Duke Energy, Burbank Water and Power, TRW, Earth Rangers and Shoals Technologies Group. Jeff Drees, U.S. Country president kicked off the day with a capsule of what the company’s been up to over the last year and how the direction has changed.

“We’re here to talk energy and encourage discussion and dialog,” he told attendees, some 45 member of the media. Drees said the company has doubled its business revenues since 2006, with some 39% of its sales in what he termed new economies; logging $5.8 billion in U.S. sales in 2011. “Schneider Electric of the past was a conglomeration of some 120 brands; we are now 10 brands and we’ve made a big bet around energy management and now the next big bet is around software,” he said.

Much of the discussion of the day centered around StruxureWare software and new market segment software suites. StruxureWare is the company’s platform of integrated software applications designed to help its customers maximize business performance.

“Software as a service was not in our vocabulary several years ago,” Drees continued, “now we talk about it every day. Our goal is to get deeper in the building to harvest energy efficiency.” Drees said one example of drilling deeper into data and using that data would be on the public safety side of the business—to help manage traffic so police can respond more efficiently.

Silos of software development are no longer allowed at Schneider Electric. “We’ve stopped developing these silos,” he said. “We won’t develop platforms unless they talk to each other. We will bring analytics to the customer level. Data has to have the ability to be converted into analytics that help customers make buying decisions,” he said.

Analytics at work

Bill Brewer, vice president, Sourcing and Sustainability for Summit Energy, Louisville, Ky., spoke about the importance of integrated software applications (Schneider Electric purchased Summit Energy about one year ago). “We need to be open and interoperable,” Brewer said. “The C-level can see activities across the enterprise and drive their energy needs. They want to be fed the analytics so they can be more efficient and effective for their organizations,” Brewer said.

Other developments of analytics include putting more intelligence into embedded devices, like a power meter and making it available to other parts of the operation, in essence adding more smarts at the device level.

“There’s also a change in Schneider to thinking more about IT and how to share data and make it more robust,” said Colette Munro, Schneider’s vice president of Software Platforms. Speaking about operational intelligence and analytics, she added that one of the areas seeing a lot of investment by the company is how to bring data up from the control level (which includes security) and do it effectively.