We live in an awfully smart world.

Our pockets today are laden with smartphones and smart devices; we drive smart cars and work in smart buildings that draw power from a smart grid. We even send our children off to smart classrooms to learn from smartboards.

This has been the decade of smart -- part buzzword, part apt descriptor, the ubiquitous prefix defines the technology of the day: adaptive, anticipatory and networked.

It does not, however, necessarily describe the users of that technology.

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As these tools expand their reach and autonomy, they are quickly exceeding the technical expertise of the users, putting us in the uncomfortable position of being consistently outsmarted by our own devices.

In most cases, this is probably fine. In fact, it's an essential part of the time-saving convenience these technologies are supposed to provide.

In an industrial setting, however, when investment in smart technology doesn't equal that of training for the workforce, the potential efficiency and productivity gains of the former will always be crippled.

And so as U.S. manufacturers navigate the slippery incline of recovery, they are beginning to look beyond "smart" and toward "intelligent" solutions that advance user understanding of their tools and how those tools work together in order to realize the full benefit of the technologies.

With manufacturers claiming 30% of the total energy consumed in this country -- a greater share than any other sector, including transportation, commercial and residential use -- nowhere is this movement more relevant than with energy efficiency.

There is a growing conversation about this in the industry today, moving us from a focus on device-level smart energy solutions to systemwide, integrated intelligent efficiency.

 
  Energy dashboards offer options to analyze data to track system-wide energy costs, identify patterns of use and optimize network capacity.