“In order to bring on additional real estate and enterprise customers, we’ve really leaned on Urjanet’s ability to share bill data.” – Josh Wentz, Product Manager
For more than a decade, software company Lucid has strived to simplify building management. Lucid’s most recent product, BuildingOS, accomplishes this goal by providing a universal data platform that centralizes complex data from across the entire building to enable more informed decision-making. Ultimately, Lucid aims to bring every commercial building online, including all 5,000,000 commercial buildings in the United States as well as buildings internationally. To date, Lucid has brought 10,000 buildings online (on average, customers manage 50 to 200 buildings) and its customers span universities, cities, government bodies, enterprises and real estate companies.
Lucid always looks for ways it can evolve its software to better meet customer needs. Most recently, Lucid found that this evolution meant incorporating cost data alongside energy consumption data, the latter of which had traditionally been the focus of its software.
“Our customers care about 500 kilowatt hours missing…but they really care about dollars. Everyone understands what a $20 bill is and if a $20 bill is missing from what you think your utility bills are, then you pay attention and red flags pop up. When we started to bring on dollar data, we got a lot more eyes onto BuildingOS,” says Josh Wentz, Product Manager at Lucid.
Once Lucid recognized the value that adding utility bill data could provide, it found that bringing in the necessary data and ensuring the quality of it might be easier said than done.
“Utility bills don’t come through in a perfect format. They also don’t come through from January 1 to January 31, they come from January 5 to February 6. There’s a lot of variability among utility providers, which makes it difficult to present those bills to customers in a uniform way,” Wentz explains.
Nonetheless, Lucid knew bill data was a gap it needed to fill. Wentz adds: “As we bring on new customers, they want to centralize all of their building data and make sense of where they’re spending on energy, but many don’t even know they can get their utility bills in an electronic format. And as we started to bring on more real estate and enterprise customers, including Fortune 500 companies, they really cared about the bills that come through.”
As a result, Lucid set out to find a third party who could provide the necessary expertise. Specifically, Lucid needed a solution it could integrate directly into BuildingOS that would be able to gather bill data from any number of utility providers and deliver it in an accurate and easy-to-understand way.
This search led Lucid to Urjanet, whose Utility Data Service product automatically collects and standardizes utility bill data from a variety of formats, including PDF, HTML, XML, CSV and EDI, and delivers it to any application. This solution can capture data from thousands of unique providers across four continents and integrates directly with BuildingOS to provide a seamless user experience for Lucid’s customers.
Lucid originally integrated Urjanet into its software in 2014. While Urjanet offered around 150 columns of data at that time, Lucid decided to integrate a scaled-back version, using a custom driver to only push data regarding bill start and end dates, consumption, costs and demands.
Recently, Lucid began to field customer requests for even more data, such as itemized bills and the original PDFs of bills. Based on these requests, Lucid is currently working with Urjanet to expand the integration in order to bring its customers more in-depth data about their utility bills. Wentz shares that this process is going extremely well, thanks in large part to Urjanet’s outstanding customer service.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a partner as responsive on the integration side,” he says. “They are so sharp in answering our questions, even ones I would’ve expected only the most technical of engineers to be able to answer.”
Equally as important, Lucid is confident that it is providing the best possible solution for its customers with this latest Urjanet integration. That’s because Lucid knows what else is available. At one point, Lucid developed a new integration with another company, but it halted these efforts when it determined that both the quality of data and customer service provided by Urjanet far exceeded that of the competitor.
Lucid also considered developing its own technology to bring in utility bill data, but once again it decided to move forward with Urjanet in order to save time and effort.
“We did not want to go through the effort that Urjanet had already done, and which it did very well, of writing utility integrations for every provider across the nation, and now internationally too. That would take us a very, very long time… but Urjanet cracked the nut of being able to jump online to a brand new utility provider’s website and pull in the bill data quickly,” Wentz shares.
Having already realized significant benefits following its initial integration with Urjanet, Lucid is anticipating even more impressive results once the expanded integration goes live. In fact, Lucid already has new customer contracts that hinge on the latest Urjanet integration.
According to Wentz, the value that Urjanet provides for Lucid comes down to three major points:
Meeting Customer Needs to Understand Cost Data
“The main benefit of Urjanet is bringing the financial aspect, of what dollars a building is spending, to the eyes of our customers,” Wentz states.
As Lucid found out when it experimented with other solutions to collect billing data, gathering this information and ensuring its accuracy isn’t easy.
“Bringing the bill data online in a way that we can trust was important. That bill data is the only source of truth for our customers… and bringing on that source of truth, that dollar amount, was an important gap for us to fill and Urjanet helps us do that,” Wentz continues. “Urjanet has helped us expand the coverage for buildings and has made the process of bringing on bills for new buildings much easier than it would have ever been if we had to write the integrations Urjanet has for thousands of utility providers.”
Expanding Interest in BuildingOS
“By having this integration with Urjanet, we can catch the attention of a lot more building owners, which has been important for us,” Wentz says.
The inclusion of bill data in Lucid’s BuildingOS has proven especially attractive to real estate and enterprise customers who prioritize cost over consumption.
“What Urjanet has really helped us do is expand the number of customers who care about bringing their buildings online,” Wentz adds. “Our core mission is to bring all commercial buildings online, and some customers just didn’t care about on site metering, until dollars were involved. To expand the number of customers that do care, we’ve realized we need bill data.
Additionally, Wentz points out: “Every building has a bill, so from our perspective, using Urjanet gives us the ability to touch all 5,000,000 commercial buildings throughout the nation.”
Fulfilling the Goal of Simplified Building Management
“The goal of our company is to take this really complex idea of a building and everything that happens in a building and to make it simple for anyone to understand,” Went reports.
And Lucid has found that Urjanet’s solution aligns perfectly with this goal.
Says Wentz: “Urjanet has made it possible for our customers to make sense of their buildings using the simplest common denominator ― a dollar. Urjanet lets us do is translate really complex building data into dollars, and everyone understands a dollar. When you say that a building spent $40,000 last month, people care. When you say something like this building spent 300,000 kilowatt hours, it’s abstract. Urjanet sources the data that people care the most about, and that’s the bills and the dollars.”
- Created a single source of truth for customers to manage utility bill data across their entire portfolio of buildings
- Saved time and effort by using Urjanet’s Utility Data Service rather than developing a homegrown solution for each utility provider
- Added value for customers by including the detailed cost data about which they care
- Expanded potential interest by adding data points (utility bill costs) that affect all buildings
- Increased simplicity by sharing data in a format that everyone understands – dollars