Dell OEM and ENTOUCH – Increasing the Intelligence of Smart Building Solutions

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  September 25, 2019

Since the earliest manifestations of the Internet of Things (IoT), managing individual buildings or multiple sites and facilities has been a key use case. Why so? In a nutshell, effectively monitoring and improving the efficiency of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), lighting and other systems and equipment can pay real dividends to owners of those facilities. Plus, centrally managing numerous sites makes great practical and financial sense.

That’s been central to the value proposition of ENTOUCH and its Smart Buildings offerings, including the smart building platform and the ENTOUCH.360 managed services solution. Shortly after the company’s launch in 2008, it partnered with Intel to develop ENTOUCH-branded platforms that could be used onsite to gather and upload data from customers’ core facilities systems. But over time, the company began looking for ways to extend its solutions’ capabilities to clients’ other onsite equipment, leading ENTOUCH to contact Dell Technologies’ OEM organization.

Let’s consider the results of ENTOUCH and Dell OEM’s collaboration and what it says about the state of IoT and the value of OEM-style solutions.

Making smart buildings smarter with IoT

Why does IoT play so central a role in smart buildings solutions and services? Because the emergence of increasingly powerful and miniscule sensors provides the means to capture, monitor, collect and transmit functional and performance data from facilities equipment of virtually any kind to backend systems for analysis and informing management decisions.

Many of these functions are mundane in the extreme, including determining if thermostats and lights in commercial buildings are being used properly. These may seem like trivial issues but setting a thermostat too low or leaving lights on after working hours can result in thousands of dollars in unnecessary power charges. Multiply that over time in dozens, scores or hundreds of locations and you can see why companies take effective facilities monitoring and management solutions so seriously.

IoT technologies enable vendors and their customers to make equipment data collection and analysis even more granular. For example, sensors can be used to monitor the performance of individual pieces of equipment, including individual furnaces or air conditioning condensers and evaporation units. If, or when, something begins to go wrong, maintenance personnel can be alerted and fix the problem before it becomes more serious.

One of the larger challenges in IoT solutions is in streamlining processes so that customers, who are primarily concerned with anomalous behavior and events, aren’t overwhelmed with unnecessary information. Vendors address this with devices that are deployed at network edges to support initial data collection, aggregate and analyze it, and pass along important information for further analysis. Dell Technologies’ Edge Gateway solutions are designed to perform those exact functions, so it had precisely what was needed when ENTOUCH came calling.

ENTOUCH meets Dell OEM

ENTOUCH came into the Dell OEM engagement with some very specific needs. Most importantly, the company does not sell and deploy any IT solutions that are not branded as its own. That was one of the reasons ENTOUCH initially engaged with Intel rather than a conventional systems vendor. But that requirement was firmly in Dell OEM’s bailiwick, as it is shared by many of the group’s thousands of other customers.

ENTOUCH also needed the solution to support specific technical and financial requirements. After vetting the Dell Edge Gateway 3000 with an Intel Atom Processor E3805 and running a version of Ubuntu’s core Linux OS and comparing it with competitors’ products, ENTOUCH determined that the Dell  solution was the best fit for its clients’ use cases and budgets. Or, as Tom Kay, VP of Sales and Marketing at ENTOUCH described the Edge Gateway 3000 as, “The clear winner and highest value solution.”

The versatility of Dell’s solution has also been a major selling point for ENTOUCH. For example, the Edge Gateway 3000 can support applications and use cases, including,

  • Enabling ENTOUCH to run its own software to perform edge-level computing and integrate with third party technologies, such as HVAC infrastructure systems
  • Providing additional cellular backhaul in situations where they are not allowed to the customer’s network. In such cases, ENTOUCH’s patented cellular communications compression algorithm in concert with the Dell Edge Gateway can help minimize data bandwidth costs.
  • Increasing the value of legacy systems by supporting their data streams and connecting them to the ENTOUCH management platform for centralized administration

Final analysis

ENTOUCH executives noted that they expect their relationship with Dell OEM and their use of Dell Embedded and Edge solutions to grow as they win more clients. As Frank Menocal, ENTOUCH’s CTO noted, “Dell Technologies is extremely flexible and supportive in helping us to enter new markets and accounts.”

Though the company’s initial focus was in smart building solutions, it has since developed offerings for specific industries and commercial applications, including retail, commercial real estate (CRE), healthcare, restaurants, education and hospitality. Whatever target markets ENTOUCH decides to focus on next, Dell OEM will likely be there to provide innovative solutions, solid support and valuable insights.

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