Buildings and cities are getting smarter, turning away from analog to digital systems to improve energy and maintenance efficiencies.
It’s a huge and growing trend thanks to digital twin software that plugs into digital sensors, cameras, and meters that monitor all types of connected systems—from air conditioning and lighting in buildings to electric grids and roads in cities. The collected data is then analyzed to advance performance.
“Infrastructure is one of the last massive analog markets and we are on a mission to digitizing that, transforming the performance of infrastructure assets across the world,” said Kevin Kemmerer, CEO of Brightly, a leading U.S. software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider of asset and maintenance management solutions.
Founded in 1999, Brightly offers cloud-based solutions for built infrastructure—buildings, roads, airports, schools, factories—which traditionally relied on manual processes and fixed preventative maintenance schedules. But with the rise of digital devices used by public institutions, manufacturers, and governments, they are turning to Brightly to better manage their infrastructure assets.
Brightly serves more than 12,000 clients worldwide. Among them is the City of Sydney, Australia. The city manages a variety of physical assets within a 26-square kilometer area and turned to Brightly to centralize its asset data into one registry—a key step in meeting its goal to be a green, global, and connected city by 2030.
Another is an Arizona-based hospital system with over 400 buildings that was managing its facilities with manual spreadsheets. Brightly worked with the hospital to transition to an automated system where maintenance tasks are automatically noted. In southwestern Wisconsin, Brightly helped a school district with more than 50 buildings that hosts athletics, school clubs, and community events keep track of facility usage and custodial tasks.
And these are just a sampling of how Brightly has helped clients over the years.
Siemens Acquires Brightly
Kemmerer, with nearly 30 years of software expertise, took the helm in 2020. He initially served as an operating executive with Clearlake Capital, a private equity firm that owned Brightly at the time.
Brightly’s success in recent years, with double-digit growth per year, caught the eye of Siemens, a German technology corporation, which acquired Brightly for $1.575 billion plus an earn-out from Clearlake in 2022.
William Blair was the lead financial advisor to Brightly on the deal.
Siemens Smart Infrastructure, which offers solutions to manage building systems, energy use, and address sustainability initiatives, bought Brightly to elevate its software offering to digitize building and infrastructure operations.
“It’s really a symbiotic relationship where Siemens is bringing this massive global footprint of customers, massive expertise around automation and sustainability, and we’re helping them digitize what they do to drive a much more operationally efficient and sustainable world,” says Kemmerer.
Buildings account for 40% of all carbon emissions globally today, says Kemmerer, but waste up to 50% of the energy they consume. But now with sophisticated sensors and devices to monitor HVAC systems, building occupancy, office lighting, and other systems—the data collected provides Brightly a big inflection point as to how those buildings can be maintained to cut energy use and reduce their carbon footprint.
We’re infusing sustainability goals as part of our planning tools.
Increasingly, businesses, cities, and communities are looking to do both, incentivized by stimulus initiatives around the globe to decarbonize, he adds. Over the past two years, the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorized hundreds of billions of dollars to improve the nation’s infrastructure and reduce carbon emissions.
“Obviously this is huge for us,” says Kemmerer. “We are definitely seeing government clients, education clients, and private sector clients having access to more capital because of these acts.”
Whether it’s a K-12 school that wants money to improve its facilities or a municipality looking to upgrade a bridge or roadway, most of the stimulus programs include key goals around climate change or carbon footprint reduction. So grant applications need to show not only a return on investment, but also a return on sustainability.
“Part of the opportunity for us is helping clients by providing the sophistication of scenario planning and cost planning over time, but also planning for that net zero carbon footprint target. How do you get there? So we’re infusing sustainability goals as part of our planning tools,” says Kemmerer.
Europe is way ahead of the U.S. on this front, far more conscious of sustainability and where it sources its energy, he adds. Many of the big cities in Europe and the U.K. have made public commitments to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030, 2040, 2050.
“The cities of Birmingham and Edinburgh are big customers with an ambitious goal to reach net zero by 2030. We’re helping them meet their goals,” Kemmerer says. “You’re starting to see that in the U.S. and the federal initiatives are helping.”
A World Changing Before Our Eyes
Decarbonization can begin with smart buildings. A networked community of buildings, streets, and microgrids that leverage data and artificial intelligence for the local generation of renewable energy, for electricity, heat, and for mobile charging infrastructure creates energy self-sufficient, smart cities.
“There’s all these things that make the quality of life much better by digitizing the world,” says Kemmerer. “You hear a lot about it with automation of factories; Siemens has driven a lot of that. You’re going to start hearing more about it in buildings.
“And now we can do it on a broader scale—maintenance of ports, airports, water treatment plants, buildings, you name it—it’s fascinating.”