Blue Pillar IoT ensures hospitals always have power

When lives are on the line, power management takes on a whole new meaning

Surgery requires steady hands—and power.

How do hospitals make sure they always have life-saving power? Or that standby generators and switches kick in when needed? How can patient safety be preserved during a power outage?

Sprawling hospital campuses, large power needs and zero downtime tolerance make it difficult. It’s so important, though, that there are even federal regulations for hospitals to ensure they’re prepared for potential outages.

With IoT-based facility management, though, hospitals concentrate on saving lives and worry less about power issues.

The challenge: maintaining equipment

Emergency power supply systems (EPSS) are the critical power infrastructure that supports hospitals during a power outage. This standby network of generators and switches ensures critical, life-saving power for equipment is always available. The systems have to be regularly tested and monitored to make sure they are in good working order.

Manually testing and reporting on equipment spread across a large campus is both difficult and expensive. Generators and automatic transfer switches may be located on the top of one building and in the basement of another building across the campus. Facility managers often have to walk across acres, through tunnels and up and down stairs to get from one generator to the next. Inspecting and testing just one generator often takes over an hour. Manual inspections don’t scale with dozens of power generators and switches in a hospital system.

Other challenges

  • Integrating EPSS equipment from different manufacturers regardless of make, model, vintage or protocol
  • Developing custom supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) interfaces for every piece of EPSS equipment isn’t feasible
  • Support for both current and future energy systems  

Compliance requirements

EC.02.05.07 in the Joint Commission code defines what’s needed for hospitals to stay in compliance. Rigorous and regular testing is required because “emergency electrical power supply systems may fail during a power disruption, leaving the hospital unable to deliver safe care, treatment and services to patients. Testing these systems for sufficient lengths of time at regular frequencies increases the likelihood of detecting reliability problems and reduces the risk of losing this critical resource when it is most needed.”

Compliance is especially challenging for hospitals with sizeable campuses.

Designing the solution for Houston Methodist

US News and World Report ranked Houston Methodist Hospital the No. 1 hospital in Texas stating: “It scored high in patient safety, demonstrating commitment to reducing accidents and medical mistakes.” It’s located amidst several leading medical centers and hospitals on the Texas Medical Center campus. It has over 800 beds and 6,000 employees. It manages nearly 400,000 visits and admissions every year.

Houston Methodist chose Blue Pillar to automate its EPSS compliance testing, monitoring and reporting. The first step to achieving this was connecting the hospital's equipment to a secure network. Aurora gateways transmit the data to Blue Pillar’s Energy Network of Things platform providing real-time equipment visibility and control.

Hospital staff now get real-time data from connected equipment and can manage them remotely. Equipment testing and compliance report preparation is now automated. About 70 man-hours are saved annually on EPSS testing for each connected system. Preparing for accreditation audits is streamlined.

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Integrating legacy equipment

Older equipment that cannot communicate natively is integrated into Aurora through "retrofit kits." The equipment's make, model and nameplate rating is used to produce a Build of Materials (BoM) for the retrofit kit. The kit is connected to the asset, and it transmits readings to the Aurora cloud platform.

Aurora integrates with equipment using both IP and serial connections. It also supports building protocols such as BACnet, Modbus, OPCUA, DNP3.0, LonWorks and SNMP.  Integration with utility systems are through RESTful APIs and ICCP.

Load creep

The load on circuits increases as equipment ages and new generators are added. The Aurora platform can be utilized to quantify load creep. This enables the hospital to order right-sized generators to meet the true projected demand for power.

Replacing generators is always costly, and in an urban setting such as the Texas Medical Center, it may even require shutting down streets to allow the cranes to remove old generators and install new ones. By accurately sizing generators, the hospital saves costs by doing it right the first time. Hospitals save on fees for engineering studies, as the Aurora platform automatically profiles load conditions. Depending on hospital size and construction activity, this can provide a annual savings between $50,000 and $100,000.

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Utility provider programs
Houston Methodist saves money by participating in their utility provider’s Automated Demand Response (ADR) program. This enables the local utility to tap on the hospital’s qualified power generation when there is a surge in power demand. Hospitals often save $100,000 or more annually, depending on how many kilowatts they’ve enrolled in the ADR program.

Fewer truck rolls
The Aurora system automates manual processes that required site visits or trips. Remote monitoring of generators reduces frequency and often the need for expensive truck rolls to generators.

Energy consumption reduction
Facility managers reduce power usage with real-time energy data. They analyze power consumption trends to identify which buildings are consuming and potentially wasting energy and might be scaled back. Power consumption can often be reduced 10 percent to 20 percent.


Aurora incorporates security from sensors to the cloud. It encrypts all data and authenticates all devices with keys that rotate every 30 minutes. The platform logs access records, enabling companies to quickly monitor and respond to any threats.

Blue Pillar ensures hospitals meet their power needs—and that doctors never operate in the dark.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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