Getting our house in order with AI

Battling climate change is arguably the most important priority for humankind.

In the decades to come, work needs to be undertaken across all areas of society to ensure we reach the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. Given the holistic nature of the threat, it can only be countered by the concerted efforts of every nation, organization, and individual all pulling together. As the Paris Agreement points out, profound economic and social transformation will be needed. But will that be enough?  

For organizations like ABB, whose innovations form the basis for our modern lives, technological transformation must run alongside all other efforts if we are to have any hope of reaching our goals. Innovations that enable a greener, healthier, sustainable, and responsible way of life are not only possible and necessary—in many cases they are already in use today, quietly humming along in the background as we get on with our days. A great example of these enabling technologies is artificial intelligence (AI).  

Artificial Intelligence Beyond the Hype 

When discussing AI, there is a tendency to judge its effectiveness on the criteria set up by futuristic renderings in science fiction. But the workday activities of today’s AIs have less to do with opening pod bay doors (HAL) or staging coups to overthrow humanity and more to do with orchestrating and fine-tuning the technology that make everyday life possible. This science-fiction fallacy can sometimes also obscure the enormous resource-saving potential that AI delivers. 

Consider, for example, the following prediction made by Capgemini Research Institute: By the year 2030, AI is expected to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 16 percent. At the same time, AI is also estimated to have helped companies reach up to 45 percent of the targets stipulated in the Paris Agreement. Combine AI with other energy-saving innovations and the positive net effect on climate change will be enormous.  

Cleaning House Together 

Cross pollinating existing technologies in new and innovative ways can be both good for the planet and for the bottom line. One example of this point is the collaboration between ABB and BrainBox AI, a pioneer in the field of AI solutions that help reduce energy costs and carbon emissions from HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems in commercial buildings. The companies joined forces to tackle one of the dirtiest sectors in the world: building construction and operations.  

According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2020 Global status report, the sector is responsible for a staggering 38 percent of total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions globally. Zooming in on building operations alone gives a similarly bleak picture. Turning our houses into energy-efficient smart buildings, it seems, is an urgent priority. 

With HVAC responsible for most of the energy consumed by the average commercial building, ABB Ability™ Efficiency AI targets this problem. Leveraging the ABB Ability™ digital platform and BrainBox AI’s predictive, self-adaptive, and scalable cloud-based artificial intelligence, the solution is capable of reducing carbon emissions by up to 40 percent while enabling up to 25 percent reductions in energy costs. From commercial office towers, retail shopping centers, hotels and other asset classes, the technology is delivering significant results right now.   

Holistic Digital Transformation  

As we have seen, digitalizing building operations has a massive potential for decreasing carbon footprints, reducing energy consumption, and, almost as a byproduct, save cost. But digital transformation should not be conceived of as the implementation of a single ‘silver-bullet’ solution.  

Successful digitalization projects are holistic in nature and involve the joining of a network of technological solutions to new and improved ways of working and thinking. The effects of digitalization on building operations needs to consider HVAC alongside a number of interconnected areas including lighting and energy management. It is only when an all-encompassing mindset has been adopted that we are able to tap into the driving force behind digital transformation: interoperability. 

Drawing on the experience of many hundreds of digital transformation projects that have leveraged ABB technology, it is clear that interoperability stands out as a key success factor. People looking to embark on a transformative journey must make sure that the solutions they purchase can be networked and can communicate to avoid ending up with a patchwork of siloed solutions. After all, it is only through communication and collaboration—between countries, companies, and people as well as between machines—that we will be able to achieve the cumulative effect that will be needed to halt climate change.  

Download Our New White Paper 

Read more about climate change, implementation best practices, and real-world case studies where AI has made a significant impact in the ABB-authored White Paper Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the building sector as a change driver towards carbon neutrality.

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About the author

Bertrand Vandewiele

Global Head of Product Line, Commercial Buildings Solutions, ABB Smart Buildings Bertrand Vandewiele has been VP, Global Head of Product Line, Commercial Buildings Solutions for ABB’s Smart Buildings division since July 2021. He joined the company from Honeywell where he was General Manager, Healthy Buildings and Global Offering Management leader. Bertrand leads strategy and full P&L responsibilities for ABB’s commercial building solutions globally, including product innovation across four portfolios. With a passion for growing global businesses and delivering results in fast-changing, high-tech envi-ronments, Bertrand’s career began in Philips in Telecom and Semiconductor in research and develop-ment. His experience has also spanned sales, strategy, research, innovation, and marketing roles at Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) and Intel (formerly Silicon Hive). He is passionate about customer-back innovation, driving innovation across disciplines and teams. With a growth mindset, he trans-forms roadblocks into opportunities to grow and turn-around businesses in record time. He graduated as a Master of Science from Le Mans Université and an Executive MBA from Erasmus, Rotterdam School of Management. He has also studied Digital Business Strategy and Marketing in MIT Sloan School of Management and had immersions in Hong Kong and South Africa. He has lived in France, the Netherlands and is now a resident in the USA; always thrilled to discover new cultures.
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