Embarking on the journey to net zero together

Through partnerships and alliances, Johnson Controls is helping organisations to balance their day-to-day operations with the journey to net zero

Nicole Denil
By Nicole Denil on 03 January 2023
Embarking on the journey to net zero together

Johnson Controls helped Intaleq improve experiences for attending fans at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Johnson Controls is known as a worldwide leader in building management, but its mission reaches much further. It’s at the forefront of creating healthy, sustainable buildings of the future.  

The organisation is disrupting current models and enabling property owners and operators to meet their short-term goals by helping them to run their buildings smoothly and maintain the health and comfort of tenants, while keeping an eye on longer-term and more complicated goals for sustainability.

With Johnson Controls’ OpenBlue Enterprise Manager, property management teams can make data-driven operations choices for both now and the future. Launched in 2020, the artificial intelligence platform epitomises our commitment to becoming the only pure-play smart sustainable buildings enterprise in existence today. 

OpenBlue functions as a recommendations engine, continuously scanning facility operations to uncover opportunities to save energy, improve indoor air quality and maintain occupant comfort. It draws on site-specific systems data, pulls data from external vendor silos and uses proprietary algorithms to project the impact of operations decisions.  

The platform is built on top of the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, which is critical. Microsoft is one of Johnson Controls’ largest and most important partners. Its technology is the foundation of many of our systems. At the same time, Microsoft is a Johnson Controls customer that uses our technology in its data centres. Ours is truly a symbiotic relationship.  

Because of partnerships like this – and the important innovations that emerge from them – I joined Johnson Controls in October 2022 after 18 years at Microsoft.  

The power of partnership 
At Microsoft, I was on a digital transformation journey, working to connect the world of IT with operational technology (OT) and create a feedback loop to make decisions in an automated way. But as a single-platform company, Microsoft needs to collaborate with partners that are building internet protocol (IP), like Johnson Controls, to fully realise its commitment to sustainability, clean energy and smart buildings.  

There’s plenty of talk about the role buildings play in climate change – by most estimates, they’re responsible for 40 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions – but Johnson Controls is doing something about it by collaborating with companies like Microsoft. Together, we’re innovating to help customers transition to a safe, sustainable, low-carbon world.  

There’s real power fuelling this partnership. Johnson Controls products reside in the physical world, as it leverages data that literally changes the environment. Microsoft brings the strength of digital innovation. Both are crucial to being able to truly affect lasting change when it comes to healthy buildings and a healthier world. 

In my new role at Johnson Controls, I’m responsible for building a global customer alliance team. The intent is to forge strong alliances across the globe with top partners and customers so we can make sure we’re serving the needs of the world in a consistent way. We’re laser-focused on building a top-down strategy for the most effective and impactful alliances so we’re providing a consistent experience to our customers everywhere. I use the term “customer alliances” because all our customers are partners, as we partner to help them serve their customers.  

The crux of my work is to build out our partnerships in a deeper and more meaningful way. Like our partners, we want all the spaces that people live, work and play in to be healthy buildings. In order to achieve that, we must work faster and smarter. We need to bring solutions quickly to market in a systematic way and achieve a faster time to value for our customers. We need to replicate experiences with the ultimate goal of speeding up efforts to reduce carbon footprint. 

Stability and repeatability 
An excellent example of the great work Johnson Controls and Microsoft have recently accomplished together was at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Venue and event management company Intaleq – which oversaw preparations for the event – sought out Johnson Controls to help maximise the experience of the millions of football fans who travelled to watch the games. 

During the tournament, Intaleq harnessed the AI capabilities of OpenBlue Enterprise Manager to help eliminate safety risks such as unauthorised access and overcrowding. OpenBlue also helped to ensure fans were cool and comfortable, and it minimised the consumption of power and water during the event. The software generated real-time insights about the use of space and energy and air temperature in the eight stadiums that hosted the tournament.  

It’s this type of outcome that I want to be able to easily replicate, and Johnson Controls is on a mission to do this in every stadium. My vision is to make it simple for every event and stadium in the world to adopt these smart buildings solutions in a faster way. By deepening partnerships with firms like Microsoft and building other strategic relationships, I’m confident we can achieve this at scale. It’s about stability and repeatability.  

Leading a paradigm shift 
As I immerse myself in this important work, I plan to keep time to value for the customer as a gauge of success. Again, success is also about lighting up scenarios like the World Cup in as many venues as possible throughout the world in a very quick and strategic way. As my team and I do this work, the customer will always be top of mind. 

We know that a few years back, net zero was a nice-to-have for companies. Now, a growing number of organisations are declaring they’re going to be carbon neutral or net zero, and will even go as far as reversing their historical carbon footprint. Regulations are also pushing companies to do this at a much faster rate.  

As achieving net zero grows increasingly urgent, facilities managers must learn to base their purchasing decisions on both sustainability and cost. That requires making all managers aware of high-level organisational goals and helping them to avert the decision paralysis that often stems from contemplating too many choices and factors at once. 

Working with partners like Microsoft, Johnson Controls can get the corporate world to a better place faster, helping not only the organisations it serves, but also the planet. I’m excited that Johnson Controls is at the forefront of this change and that the company is proving to be a thought leader in the space.  

Johnson Controls is solving some of the biggest problems that we face as a society – and as a planet – by leveraging technology. I’m thrilled to be a part of this journey.  

Nicole Denil is vice president of customer alliances at Johnson Controls

This article was originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription

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