Predictive analytics is about to meet the apartment business—and residents—in a meaningful way.
Submeters measure, monitor and collect data. They identify electricity, water and gas usage down to the individual apartment unit. Most are non-intelligent measuring devices that track usage and provide data back to a server. While the data tells the story, the software interface managing the data is also a key part of energy management automation.
As analytics and AI move into the apartment operations consciousness, submeters provide an obvious entry point. The energy management automation they enable has the potential of influencing human behavior in areas where individual habits create what’s known in the energy field as rejected energy consumption.
Research from Lawrence Livermore Lab suggests that as much as two-thirds of all energy produced in the U.S. is “rejected” or wasted, a number that has increased from half in 1970. Waste is about personal behavior and inefficiency—such as leaving on the lights—and waste is also about system design.
What this means to apartment operations is that there is potential for enormous savings with better-designed systems. Theoretically, we could double energy use with no increase in production simply by halving our energy waste.
The art of persuasion
Humans do the darndest things. My teenagers would turn on the lights, TV, and computer, crank up the stereo—then leave the house. Our electric bill was the subject of heated discussions at the dinner table. Anyone who has kids knows the challenge of training young people to flip off the switch. What if things simply turned off when a room was vacant? Systems that do this already exist in many hotels and offices.
Many apartment buildings have the infrastructure in place for a basic energy management system without incurring added cost. Today, electricity meters, for example, provide large quantities of data that, when used ethically, can profile resident behavior.
Does the resident make coffee every morning? Does he watch the morning news before heading to work? Electricity consumption can be charted by signal patterns created within the unit’s internal electrical grid. Certain patterns can then be programmed to trigger automated responses that avert energy consumption that has no useful purpose: i.e. turning off lights and adjusting climate control in an empty room.
Then there are human behaviors that responsive automation can’t cure. Running a half empty dishwasher is an individual choice and can only be dissuaded by the consequences of a utility bill. It’s also an opportunity for management to partner with residents, helping them curb consumption in known areas of waste.
Utility billing + data = revenue
Integrative utility billing provides detail on energy waste and potential targets for increasing efficiency. This is a direct benefit of analytics and AI, and provides dynamic guidance that saves energy and money for both the resident and the community. The impact of such energy management tools is so compelling that simply billing for services is no longer a viable business model.
The inclusion of an “energy guide” designation, be it LEED or other standard, associates utility billing with higher purpose. This type of focus on energy savings and carbon footprint reduction is equally strategic and marketable.
An analytical engine can track and flag waste created by aging or inefficient equipment, resident behavior and some other inefficiencies occurring within the community ecosystem. Adding sensors to equipment through intelligent AC outlets provides further visibility, such the status and electrical draw of anything plugged in. It can also provide defense against electrical fires through auto on/off decisions as well as other services and alarms paired with common resident energy consumption.
Such services expand the resident experience beyond a monthly bill and connect occupants to the energy environment in which they live. As a result, residents become knowing and vested partners in their own energy efficiency.
Making the user experience enjoyable and intuitive translates intelligent processes into energy savings. The industry can simply refer to the home automation industry for live case studies on how technology platforms can maximize customer service, generate revenue and improve resident experience. Apartment companies seeking to add retrofits and other upgrades to reduce energy consumption and cost need only look at their existing processes to find cost savings and improved resident retention.