Data-driven tweaks to corporate facilities can save millions of dollars in energy costs, and Microsoft hopes its own smart-campus software will help lead the way. That's the gist of an epic, 3,300-word multimedia feature posted today on the Microsoft News Center, which traces the evolution of Microsoft 's campus from 88 acres of grass and forest in bucolic, Redmond, WA, to the 500-acre, 125-building headquarters it became. Over the past several months, a team of engineers stitched together 30,000 sensors across the campus to report on everything from the ideal time to turn lights on and off to the "hugely inefficient [...] battles being waged between air conditioners and heaters." The result, the company says, is a system that applies big data to the "Internet of Things" in pursuit of significant cost and energy savings.

Make no mistake, this is a press release — Microsoft mentions but does not name three "vendors" who worked with its engineers to design the software needed to run its facilities program. But the story does point toward a growing interest in reducing the energy consumed by commercial buildings, which Microsoft says account for 40 percent of the world's energy consumption. For now, the project is mostly helping to reduce Microsoft's expenses. But as it starts selling smart-campus software and services to other companies and institutions, it could become a moneymaker.