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Vertuoz Pilot: human beings at the heart of energy efficiency
Smart buildings 13/03/2017

Vertuoz Pilot: human beings at the heart of energy efficiency

Vertuoz by ENGIE is a digital platform that lets you use all the data produced in buildings to make them smarter, more efficient and more comfortable for their occupants. In February, ENGIE exhibited Vertuoz Pilot, one of the solutions of the platform, at its innovation corner at La Défense. An opportunity for Julian Dufoulon, Development Manager, and Giulia Manfroni, Product Manager, to talk about Vertuoz Pilot.

Q- What is Vertuoz Pilot?

Vertuoz Pilot is a system for optimizing energy consumption that lets you balance the comfort of a building’s occupants with greater energy savings. It involves connected objects that are installed on site that send measurements via the internet to an artificial intelligence algorithm. The algorithm simultaneously accounts for the site’s condition, preset consumption objectives and parameterized constraints.

The algorithm then sends commands to the devices that control the heating, lights or other data it needs to operate on.

The devices can be things like thermostatic valves, switches or LEDs.

Q - Is the system intended for apartment and tertiary buildings or for individual homes?

Vertuoz is intended for the B2B and B2B2C market and the main targets for Vertuoz Pilot are buildings that are used frequently but intermittently. Managing this intermittency room by room is one of the most significant sources of energy savings.

So our targets include public buildings, schools, apartment and small office buldings, that don’t already have a system for remotely managing heating and lighting. Vertuoz Pilot can be installed on existing boilers. Also, since the sensors and devices are wireless and battery-powered, they can operate independently of an energy source, so there is no need to lay cables. The only constraint is that there has to be internet access in the buildings.

The system uses low frequency local radio networks (the ENOCEAN protocol) which has no harmful side effects. The radio signal is only transmitted at signal time rather than continuously. Because of this, it is particularly suitable for use in schools, since it eliminates concerns about harmful health effects.

For our first project, we will install Vertuoz Pilot in 140 schools in Paris over a period of 3 years. 50 have been installed since last year.

Using open protocol radio networks that communicate with an offsite intelligent cloud makes the system scalable. Its 3-layer architecture, which follows guidelines defined by the Smart Building Alliance (R2S Ready to Services Architecture), also lets the connected objects be shared. For example, schools in Paris have decided to pilot their own heating, but tomorrow they could decide to also operate the lighting using the same presence sensors. All it takes is adding relays behind the switches.

In Poland, where the system will soon be installed in a number of schools, Cofely has asked us to also control the opening and closing of windows. So we are adding sensors that will opening them. Doing the same for doors will be an easy security solution.

Q- Specifically, what do you put in a classroom?

For a classroom, the system consists of
  • a temperature sensor
  • a presence sensor
  • switches

The system learns from usage patterns and the building’s thermal inertia to know when to turn the heater on in order to reach a set temperature at a given time. It really revolutionizes operations for this type of building. The system manages the influence of the weather on a room-by-room basis and can incorporate feedback from occupants. Users can input information through the mobile application or using nfc cards that communicate with the “luminion” is an object that interact with the system. It lets an operator visualize energy consumption at a specific moment and responds to NFC cards – for example, ones that say "I'm too hot" or "it's too bright" – that you can lay on the luminion.

The artificial intelligence algorithm works by self-learning. You don’t necessarily have to pre-program scenarios. Instead, there you can enter relatively simple rules and basic schedules but also ones about whether there are people on the site or not, energy savings goals, and budget limits to be respected.

The system adapts and manages the building itself and can also manage exceptions. For example, if there is a holiday in the middle of the week, the system will detect by itself that no one is on site and will shut off the heating. Q-Can Vertuoz Pilot also work in other situations?

Yes, definitely. For apartments or small office buildings, a law firm for example, the system is capable of recognizing habits and patterns. It will learn the schedules of the various occupants and reproduce each person’s weekly pattern, but it can also adapt to their behavior and comfort preferences. In the law firm example, Vertuoz Pilot will be able to know that Partner X arrives at 8 a.m. and likes to be hot while Partner Z arrives at 9:30 and prefers an office at 19 degrees.

Q- You participated in CES 2017 with ENGIE, right?

Yes, and if we take a step back, Vertuoz Pilot is a superb illustration of how we can implement the Group's strategy on digital and new business lines. Vertuoz Pilot is a digital solution that uses the latest technologies in connected objects, artificial intelligence and mobile applications. It is a highly relevant solution that solves real problems of intermittent occupancy in buildings where one can’t afford to fine-tune energy consumption.

In Vertuoz Pilot, peoples’ needs are at the center of the system. It’s not a person’s job to adapt to automation: instead, automation will be regulated based on the patterns of human use.

Lastly, this is a partnership between a large group, ENGIE and a spin-off of ENGIE SA and COFELY operating in start-up mode called Vertuoz. We are also working with an external startup, Ubiant, that has been integrated into the Vertuoz Circle. It is a great illustration of what can be done by bringing together people and subsidiaries from across the Group to produce solutions that meet real needs while working with the startup ecosystem. The Vertuoz Circle of partners lets us bring innovation to our customers while sharing data acquisition systems and providing a better customer experience through a series of Vertuoz modules.

One other thing: it can easily be replicated throughout Europe. This year, our first, we are already starting to sell the solution internationally.

Vertuoz Pilot fits perfectly into the products and services sold by the Group's operational subsidiaries. Energy efficiency improvements can be made that were previously impossible. It’s a new solution for targets that we weren’t addressing before. And it’s a differentiating innovation for Cofely's energy performance services, for example.

Q- What’s the story of Vertuoz Pilot?

Vertuoz by ENGIE is an Engie spin-off in an internal start-up mode. We sell a platform for intelligent building solutions. Through the Vertuoz Circle we set up partnerships that integrate third-party solutions. These solutions make each other better and can be assembled to match a customer’s needs.

Vertuoz Pilot is a solution we detected through a call for projects launched with ENGIE Fab. That’s how we discovered Ubiant, a startup with whom we set up a mutually beneficial business partnership. Their digital solution uses the latest technologies in connected objects, communication protocols and artificial intelligence as good as Nest or Alexa. Finally, their solution perfectly matches with the Group's traditional businesses.

The Vertuoz Circle currently includes Ubiant, Datapole, Powerdale, Dhatim, Openergy, Smart Impulse and Microsoft, and other partnerships are being negotiated.

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