Austin is about to be home to a 34,000-square-foot digital powerhouse.
Siemens will invest $14 million annually towards a new Digital Service Center in Austin, which will serve as a hub for their growing building technologies industry that focuses on environment-friendly buildings and infrastructures, said Dave Hopping, President of Siemens’ North American-based Building Technologies Division.
Their office on Bee Cave Road has already begun its transformation into the Digital Service Center earlier this year, and it has been ramping up over the last few months, Hopping said.
This is all a part of Siemens’ grand plan for digitalization, Hopping said. The building technologies industry is experiencing a surge of technological advances, he added.
“At Siemens, we talk about the ‘digital transformation of buildings,’ which combines automation and digitalization,” Hopping said. “Building performance data and occupant usage data can be connected to the internet so that productivity and efficiency can increase, while simultaneously reducing downtime and labor costs.”
Just like setting the thermostat at home, either manually or remotely from a phone, or managing a security system, automation for commercial buildings occurs on a larger scale, Hopping said. The main difference is that all these smaller systems are connected to a main system, called the integrated building management station, or IBMS.
“So let’s say a fire breaks out in one section of a building,” Hopping said. “The alarms would go off there and, because the various building systems can ‘talk’ via the IBMS, the building automation system could shut off the dampers (in the HVAC ductwork) in the affected area to help prevent the fire and smoke from spreading throughout the building.”
Although Austin’s Innovation Zone seems to be a perfect fit for this Digital Service Center, that wasn’t the exact reason Siemens chose the city for their project, Hopping said.
“Areas of expertise sought for the Digital Service Center include software development, IT, cyber security, remote and digital services and business intelligence,” Hopping said. “Austin, being an up-and-coming U.S. technology hub, is an ideal location where we can find such talent.”
This is also a huge source for growth for the technology industry as a whole, driven by the value derived from translating data into actionable information, Hopping said.
That includes anything from early signs of equipment failure to adjusting room temperature, Hopping added.
“What we often see is a reactive approach to maintenance, meaning activity occurs when a problem arises,” Hopping said. “But using data for maintenance and optimization activities will lead to more controllable outcomes, resulting in energy-efficient buildings.”
Siemens already has approximately 300 employees in the Austin Metro area, more than 130 of which are full-time positions in the Building Technologies Division’s Digital Service Center.
“We have hired several recent UT grads who have brought great ideas to the team,” Hopping said.
He added they will still be looking for local candidates not currently employed with them.
As to whether Siemens would consider partnering with UT-Austin for future projects, Siemens said they are continually looking for ways to partner with the local community to help the industry.