A lot of politics these days is driven by the cost of living. It’s even said there’s a cost of living crisis and the major driver here is energy consumption.

Regardless of changes in hydrocarbon prices, the cost of energy just seems to be going up. And this is just as critical for businesses as for households. Corporations need to control their cost base all the time; a runaway cost driver could hole a company below the waterline and set it on the exit track out of the market.

Wattics is a Dublin based company that markets an energy saving solution for industry by applying big data analytics and SaaS technology.

The Wattics cloud software analyses electrical power consumption in a client’s operational circuitry or appliances. Their software engine processes the data collected by the monitoring application.

The aim is then to give the client’s ops team 20/20 visibility on all the energy cost drivers. This would make any energy saving strategy, which would be an imperative in controlling the operation’s cost base, a lot easier and more effective.

The current technology in this field, which includes options such as Building Energy Management Systems, can be expensive and limited in its physical application.

But the Wattics solution offers something that previously was just too complex to be practical. Now that free and open source big data analysis tools are readily available, vast data sets can be processed and analysed, generating reports on consumption patterns and trends on the front-end dashboard.

The front-end user interface is also a critical element in the Wattics offering. The aim is to give reports and present information that will enable clients to make optimal decisions about their energy consumption policies.

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This ongoing monitoring and processing of data means operations staff can get real-time insights into energy consumption, one of the greatest drivers in the cost base for any business along with wage costs.

The Wattics offering is evolving: back in June they announced Wattics Sentinel, a new application that allows constant monitoring of a building’s energy consumption. It’s technology that utilises the Building Energy Management Systems (BEM) that is already common throughout industry.

It applies new analytics technology to pull in data from those systems to process and identify any anomalies in the energy use patterns. If the software did see a pattern that was significant, it pushes an alert out to the relevant staff on the web and also on mobile platforms. This allows them to be in permanent control of the situation.

The innovations in this new application are twofold: the first, is the economic exploitation of big data pulled from the BEM systems that previously had been under utilised, and the second is that Sentinel can learn from previous energy consumption patterns and identify energy use that is anomalous to past patterns. This smart feature, the capacity to learn, means a lot of the routine monitoring of energy consumption can be automated leaving management to get on with strategising and higher value-add activities.

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Technology can be used to control a company’s cost base in other ways.

Phorest, an Irish based software company founded in 2002 by Ronan Perceval, originally marketed an app for hair salons that sent out reminder emails to clients before their appointment. This proved to be effective and cut down on the amount of no shows and the high cost of wasted resources when clients didn’t turn up.

Cost control like this is crucial to salons and spas which are usually small businesses operating with tight margins. The app has evolved with a range of features that aimed to automate administration and make marketing and sales a lot easier.

Phorest’s offering aims to create more time for salon staff to spend on their clients by automating much of the routine administrative work in any business.

An important feature is the automation of booking appointments. Clients can book appointments using the app on their iPad and iPhone. They can even get a client card that allows them to upload their details to the app.

When we spoke to Ronan Perceval he said that each salon booking is very complicated and there are 1 million bookings per month on the app.

The Technology Behind Phorest

The medium allowing them to deliver these services is the technology. And the technology behind Phorest is innovative and utilises lots of smarts, one of which is WebSockets. This technology makes booking appointments via Phorest easier.

WebSockets are a bi-directional, full-duplex, persistent connection from a web browser to a server. Once a WebSocket connection is established, the connection remains open until the client or server decides to close this connection. With this open connection, the client or server can send a message at any given time to the other. This makes web programming entirely event driven, not (just) user initiated. It is stateful. To add to this, a single running server application is aware of all connections, granting the capability to communicate with any number of open connections at any given time.

Booking details can change frequently and these changes need to be updated on mobile and web platforms in real time. This is where they applied websockets: it enables the updates on the cloud platform to be pushed out to mobile devices automatically; users don’t have to refresh their page or experience any delay while waiting on all platforms to sync. The aim is to ensure everyone is reading from the same booking form and minimises opportunities for errors.

The booking engine is Java and the cloud platform the app sits on is Amazon Web Services. According to Phorest, it was chosen because of the advanced tools it offers their engineers, and consistent with many other industries, they are finding that most of their bookings are via mobile devices.

Time Equals Money

Doing business consumes time as well as money. And at the end of the day, the old adage of ‘Time is Money’ holds true. Phorest with its drive to automate and simplify running the salon or spa, aims to give staff control over the time consumed by routine and administrative tasks.

The auto-service review feature, for example, enables clients to give instant feedback after appointments, allowing the salon a regular information flow from the market and also rapid response and control over any incipient problems before they become serious.

Automated stock control and performance reporting offers the ability to save time in stock replenishment, allowing more sales, along with analysing the salon’s performance.

And Phorest offers mobility as well to staff: the iPhone app means that they can complete transactions on the salon floor, again making business easier for the customer and time efficient for the company.

Simplification and automation are the areas where the value is concentrated in today’s tech markets. That means the technology itself is getting smarter. It has to think, and respond quickly and just melt into the background; just not being obtrusive.

All of these capabilities, driven by the underlying technology, improves the agility of a business, making it more responsive to the customer. Ultimately leading to happier customers, repeat business and better informed strategic decisions. Not forgetting of course, driving down the cost of doing business.