The big energy problem that happens while you’re sleeping

When we were young, our mothers would tell us to turn off the lights before going to bed.  But our mothers’ best efforts to encourage conservation at home have not carried over into our working lives.  We leave lights, printers and more on when we leave the office. And when it comes to the problem of energy conservation, we need to remember mom’s advice because in the business world, saving money is making money.

When it comes to ATMs, time is money

ATMTake ATMs for example. A large European bank recently found that its ATMs were left idle for 86 to 97 percent daily. That means even on a busy day, an ATM is only used for 8.4 minutes each hour! Following this, they identified that nearly 50 percent of its 58,000 ATMs were in locations that allowed power-downs (i.e., in places like shopping centers that close after business hours). With this newfound information, the bank used technology to turn its ATMs down when the crowds were gone and got a nice refund of $19 million per year. Through the use of network-based software, the bank was able to monitor and manage energy consumption at a very granular level, to both reduce costs and its carbon footprint.

Consider that as of April 2013, there are 420,000 machines operating in the U.S. alone – that’s seven times the number of ATMs the European bank operated.

And what about ATMs in public places that are meant to serve the public 24/7? This is where grocery store wisdom has come in handy. Your local shop’s refrigerator lights might dim when you walk away, then pop back up when another customer comes near. ATMs can do the same. No matter where an ATM is, it can be powered down – either completely, or just dimmed.

No home game? No need for soda

Vending machines – specifically the ones in enclosed places like stadiums – are another overlooked device. During a game, vending machines are on fire serving many customers. But when the stadium is closed and no one is around, the vending machine stays on. Understandably, the fear is that if things get powered down, the drinks won’t be cold. But, if you set the machine to power up five hours before the start of the game, the stadium saves energy while delivering cold drinks to customers.

That’s only the start of how we can use technology to optimize machine operations. When devices become connected through the Internet of Everything, you can automate more than just power. An intelligently networked vending machine can automatically tell if your stash of diet soda is running low and send an alert so the supplier can replenish the machine before it runs out – giving soda addicts everywhere a reason to rejoice.

What about the workplace?


ATMs and vending machines aren’t the only things that can be optimized – the workplace is also ripe for an energy makeover. IT managers are consistently looking for new ways to save money, as the number of plugged-in devices at work (such as laptops, tablets, monitors, wireless access points) grows substantially each year. Our stats show that a single workplace device is left on for an average of 8,000 hours during its usable life, but only in actual use 25 to 50 percent of that time.

This creates a significant problem in the U.S. In 2013, commercial buildings consumed 70 percent of all electricity, accounting for upwards of $202 billion in annual energy costs. By 2030, electricity usage by commercial buildings is expected to increase by 36 percent, if nothing is done.

What’s the solution? We have to begin by admitting there is a problem and taking the steps to address it. Then we need to determine the right technologies to address the problem.
With an intelligent network that connects people, processes and things comes great visibility into areas like energy consumption – and allows for automation that can  address problem areas. We have found that customers who use energy management technology to automate energy savings policies actually influence employee behavior. In other words, the technology sets a good example.

We’ve seen that organizations can reduce IT infrastructure energy costs by as much as 60 percent – amounting to savings of $24.6 billion. That’s enough to power the city of New York for five years!

Not bad for just turning off the lights.

Tom Noonan is general manager of Cisco EnergyWise Suite.