October 2016

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Energy Management Lessons from Star Trek

The right technologies allow people to treat the world as a collection of data sources, ready for analysis.
David Doll
Industry Principal,
Facilities and Energy Management
OSIsoft, LLC.

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Star Trek is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its debut on network television. The original show used science fiction to examine social issues of the day, and while the acting and special effects appear rather campy in hindsight, many of its lessons still resonate today.  So it seemed like an interesting idea to take a few lessons from the series and apply them to our current world.

Here are a few thoughts on five Energy Management Lessons from Star Trek:

1)     The Five Year Mission

You can’t win overnight. We have to be in it for the long game. Many of us face mandates on reductions by 2020 or 2025 (e.g. Executive Order 13693). You can’t expect to reach long-term goals with short-term projects. An equipment upgrade should give you a short-term bump in energy efficiency, but Scotty will tell you that entropy guarantees that if left alone, chaos increases and those gains will disappear. In order to improve over time, you must take a long term approach. In space terms, a “big bang” won’t get you there; it takes a thousand little bangs to succeed.

2)      Lots of Things Go Wrong

“I'm giving it all she’s got, Captain!” OK, we may not have Scotty down in the engine room to miraculously fix things, but we can guarantee things will go wrong.  Everything fails sooner or later. Things that seem reliable will cause problems (remember The Trouble with Tribbles?), and just when you think you can relax, the transporter malfunctions. The best path is to recognize that the unpredictable will happen and be prepared. How?  Continuous monitoring, continuous improvement, continuous innovation. They all go together. Rely on technologies that enable a holistic view, not spot solutions that solve today’s problem but create bigger issues tomorrow.

3)      You Need The Right Data

The crew often found themselves in trouble because they didn’t know all of the facts. The alien guest was actually an enemy in disguise; the evil rock monster was just protecting her nest. We can usually see it coming on TV, but in the real world evil Spock doesn’t always have a goatee. The way to resolve – or avoid – trouble is to have the right information. In the Facilities/Energy world, that means A LOT of data from your meters, control systems, and IoT devices. But data isn’t enough; you need to be able to collect, process, analyze, visualize and turn raw data into actionable information. The right data technologies will collect all of your disparate data, enable analytics, and empower flexible visualization for all of your stakeholders.

4)     Security Matters

It’s a good thing Kirk always brought that red-shirt ensign when they beamed down to a strange planet. That unnamed guy would always be sacrificed to save the regular characters. Think of that guy as a disintegrating security system. Of course, in our world, security means physical AND cyber security. The complexities around securing operational systems require more than firewalls; assets and control systems need to be monitored and secured as a part of an overall Information Systems Network. There are evolving best practices established across critical industries that can show you the way. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The right combination of technologies can provide real-time detection AND detailed historical data for forensics analysis.

5)     It All Relies on People

Control Solutions, Inc Where would the Enterprise have been without Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty and the rest of the crew? Oh sure, the computers, tricorders, phasers, and all the fancy stuff helped them survive, but it always came down to the people being creative, smart, and brave. The path to success in your enterprise is always about enabling your people - putting the right information in front of them and empowering smart people to do smart things. Successful energy management means more than watching the meters; you need to engage all of your stakeholders with information relevant to each of them – Facility Engineers, IT, Management, and especially Occupants!

Modern technologies are providing more data, better insight, and a seemingly infinite list of decisions on how you can improve your facility and energy management toolkit. The right technologies allow people to treat the world as a collection of data sources, ready for analysis:

It’s not science fiction. With the right technologies, you can solve today’s problems AND enable the future - to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Kirk out.

David Doll
Copyright 2016


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