Flemish government pioneers power-saving networks

Published on 14/06/2024 in Customer talks

The Flemish government agency ‘Het Facilitair Bedrijf’ manages 180 buildings. Using an energy-saving mode during the night and weekends offers great potential for savings and sustainability. Proximus NXT makes that possible via customized scripting.

Flemish government pioneers power-saving networks

The agency ‘Het Facilitair Bedrijf’ supports the Flemish government and local authorities with facility services. It takes on an informative and awareness-raising role around sustainability and enters into dialogue with customers and suppliers about sustainable solutions. Het Facilitair Bedrijf itself naturally takes the lead. It contributes to the climate ambitions of the Flemish government and endorses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Significant power consumption

Luc Verdegem, Team Head ICT at Het Facilitair Bedrijf: "The devices in our buildings are often in standby mode after office hours. This causes significant power consumption due to the large number of locations and the wide range of devices. Such consumption is often unnecessary because many devices do not need to work at all outside office hours. With a total of 180 buildings, there was a nice savings potential to be had, both financially and in terms of sustainability."

Business-critical or not?

Simply turning off the devices was obviously not an option. "Each group of IoT devices has a different function. Some applications are already more business-critical than others. For example, Wi-Fi access points and CO2 sensors are fine to turn off, but devices like cameras and badge readers are not. We also need to be able to quickly activate the necessary applications in case of catastrophes or emergencies. So the many exceptions and the large number of access points bring great complexity."

Need for multiple policies

Given the number of buildings with diverse functions, one power-saving policy across all buildings was not possible. Het Facilitair Bedrijf asked Proximus NXT to take a closer look at the project. Erik Hendrix, General Account Manager for the Flemish government at Proximus NXT: "We have been working with the Flemish government for fifteen years, including the implementation of Cisco's network infrastructure."

"Both the Flemish government and Proximus NXT are committed to sustainability. As part of the bold2025 strategy, Proximus NXT monitors its progress in a science-based way. We made this measurement method available to the Flemish government. It demonstrates the potential of energy-saving networks and creates internal support."

Testing NXT extensively together with Proximus created a clear and objective business case.

Luc Verdegem, Team Head ICT, Network & Telecommunications at Het Facilitair Bedrijf

Representative testing ground

Luc: "The experts from Proximus NXT started a preliminary study with lab tests. This resulted almost immediately in a proof of concept (POC), during which we switched devices on and off to determine the savings potential. The Flemish administrative center (Vlaams Administratief Centrum) in Bruges served as a representative testing ground: among other things, it has variable hours of staff presence and security processes that must not be compromised."

Pilot project with screens in meeting rooms

Erik: "We started this project with the low-hanging fruit, namely the screens in the meeting rooms. Although meetings rarely take place after office hours, the screens always remained operational. This, of course, meant standby power consumption. Our team wrote the required scripts that ensured that the screens would no longer unnecessarily consume energy at night and during weekends."

Objective image thanks to testing

Luc looks back with satisfaction at the trial-and-error approach. "We obviously had an estimate from the supplier. As is often the case, the results of such technical documents differ from reality. By testing NXT extensively ourselves together with Proximus, we got a clear and objective picture."

Network visualization via SDN

After the successful business case, the project was given the green light for all buildings of Het Facilitair Bedrijf. This involves an intensive operation. "For each device, we have to determine whether we can disable it. To this end, together with Proximus NXT, we map access ports and connected devices with network visualization via the existing software-defined network," Luc says.

The custom scripting required an in-depth analysis of the existing network infrastructure.

Erik Hendrix, General Account Manager of Proximus NXT for the Flemish government

Analysis and dialogue with suppliers

Het Facilitair Bedrijf initiates separate protocols from the software-defined network center, customizing them per group of IoT devices and per building. Erik: "This form of customized scripting required an in-depth analysis of the existing network infrastructure, as well as a dialogue with the various suppliers to determine which devices can or cannot operate in standby mode. Proximus NXT acts as an indispensable link in this process."

Scripting specialists

"The scripting aspect is very important within this story," Erik continues. "We worked out eight basic scenarios with specific scripts based on the specificity of the buildings. Within my team that focuses on commissions for the Flemish government, we have various scripting specialists and expertise in infrastructure, which allows us to work out the appropriate combination of switches and access points for each setting. A close relationship with the customer is indispensable for such a task."

Our scripting specialists worked out eight basic scenarios with specific scripts based on the specificity of the buildings.

Erik Hendrix, General Account Manager of Proximus NXT for the Flemish government

2.000 new Wi-Fi access ports

The project also included the development of a hardware component with partner Cisco, requiring the replacement of more than 2,000 Wi-Fi access ports. As some hardware applications were at the end of their life cycle, Het Facilitair Bedrijf seized the perfect moment for this replacement. Luc consults almost daily with the Proximus NXT team. "You notice that the experts value innovation highly. I experience a great drive to bring this project to a successful conclusion together."

Energy and invoice savings in concrete figures

Het Facilitair Bedrijf and Proximus NXT are now rolling out the energy-saving networks across all buildings. The investment cost of €2,060,529.27 is offset by annual energy savings of 1,473,279 kWh or €323,922.81. This results in an estimated payback period of 6.36 years and significant CO2 savings. The project enjoys support from the Flemish government through subsidies.

Project as basis for other organizations

According to Erik, the successful rollout by the Flemish government illustrates the potential of energy-saving networks for other organizations. "This solution offers great benefits to any enterprise with multiple buildings and a wide range of access points. Obviously, our experience with this first project will supply rollout benefits to other organizations. Among other things, a first for us was the parameter consumption in megawatts per megabyte of data traffic as a benchmark. As an integrator, you always learn a lot from a project. That keeps you on your toes," concludes the proud project supervisor.

Luc Verdegem has worked at Het Facilitair Bedrijf for eight years and has been Team Head ICT, Network & Telecommunications since January 2022.

Erik Hendrix is General Account Manager of Proximus NXT. He leads a team of about 35 people and works for various service departments of the Flemish government, such as Het Facilitair Bedrijf.

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