I have noticed over the years that there seems to be a high rate of interest and participation in cycling among the engineering/technical community. Perhaps it is the technical aspects of cycling, since materials science, biomechanics and physics all impact the performance of elite cyclists.
When I discovered cycling years ago, I began to read about new advances in bicycles of the day (titanium and early carbon frames, index shifting and aero wheels). Articles in magazines covered the latest technical innovations, all with the idea of shaving small fractions of percentage from the performance of elite athletes. I also discovered the Tour de France. The history, the countryside, the drama and the sheer suffering inspired my love of cycling.
My current focus is on energy management and in watching the Tour this year, I couldn’t help but think about how what I am seeing in the world of energy management and Le Tour are similar. In the Tour, equipment technologies are very similar between teams, with improvements such as a new tubing shapes providing very marginal improvement. In the world of energy management, I can’t think of any disruptive technologies that are exclusive to a single company – the way Google dominates search engine technology for example. In cycling, the major innovations of the safety bicycle and derailleurs are both over 100 years old. Since that time, improvements to bicycles have been incremental. Energy Management Systems have been around for years, with the major improvements being in the information technology that can gather, store and display information at a much lower cost.
So are both activities hopelessly mired in the past? I don’t think so. Both cycling and energy management performance has increased greatly. Some of the improvement is due to the influence of money. Top cycling talent can receive salaries in the millions of dollars a year. Likewise, rising energy prices over the last decade have made energy management an imperative for business. In cycling, with the combination of better equipment, advanced training and a worldwide talent pool, cycling performance has continued to increase over time.
I believe the same is true in the business of energy management. Energy Management Information Systems (EMIS) can only deliver information to humans who must be properly trained and motivated to act on the information. So, a successful energy management program must take into account both the human and technical aspects to be successful. So, when choosing a vendor, make sure they have the expertise and support in place that can help you implement all the small improvements that add up to a big increase in energy efficiency and sustainability.