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August 2019
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“The BB-cycle”

Building Buzz Breakdown

Nicolas Waern

Nicolas Waern

The Building Whisperer

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Building Buzz – Innovation all around

Metadata tagging, Cloud computing, Digital Twins, IoT, wireless, smart buildings, 5G, augmented reality, virtual reality, predictive maintenance and a partridge in a pear tree. It’s a jungle out there, which is why I tried to jot down some of the things I’ve seen lately and put them in the Building Buzz-cycle depicted below. The perspective is that from a more traditional building automation perspective, and that’s why it might differ to other frameworks. However, everything in the BB-Cycle is doable today, quite easily if you know what you are doing. But it will take time to reach mainstream adoption, if ever, and there’s no time like the present.

Figure 1

Figure 1. The Building Buzz Cycle - "The BB-Cycle"

BB-cycle Discussion

If you want more detail, have comments, critique, please reach out to me directly. I’d love to get some feedback on what I missed out on, what was the most interesting part etc.

Starting from right to left, in terms of energy efficiency and getting the most of existing systems, metadata tagging such as Haystack, and Brick Schema are here to stay. Skyspark, Coppertree, Finstack, and these kinds of analytics platforms, tools and application stacks are utilizing Haystack, Brick schema to increase semantic interoperability today, and it makes everything so much easier. In fact, it is a downright necessity for increased interoperability and speed to value creation. If it’s not a new way of working already, it will be soon.

The Trillion Dollar opportunity is still here for the taking, and it’s probably even more important now due to climate change, electrification, rise in complicated systems, data-overflow, cloud computing and useful implementations leading to predictive maintenance. But I also agree with Ken Sinclair (I always do) in asking if, or maybe how, all these platforms can co-exist without crashing? My answer to that lies in the real-time streaming platform below.

The need for present and future data strategy and that the future revolves around a security mindset is being discussed in this illuminating article by Scott Cochrane. Tridium is also asking the right questions when it comes to data advantage. Buildings aren’t that connected yet, but they will be. And I agree that it will be a hacker delight if we can’t do this in a smart and secure way.

Judging by the BB-cycle, we see that the race to IP (Basically enabling connected buildings for real at an IP-level) will hit mainstream adoption in 2-5 years’ time, if not earlier. During that process, it’s key to have a data strategy and an understanding of cybersecurity risks and how to coordinate responses when something happens, because it will.

Seeing the 3/30/300 rule and focusing more on the productivity and well-being side, I think there’s a lot of talk in some places, but no real adoption in the traditional side of the business. There’s still a big divide between HVAC-R, BAS, BMS, and the more “prophecy”-side, but companies are definitely doing well in their respective fields. Smart workplaces enabled by companies like Yanzi and Envoy that are focusing on wellbeing and productivity, albeit from different perspectives. Cloud computing, Real-time streaming platforms, and so on. There are a lot of things happening in this industry, and perhaps even more, outside it.

The more buzz-worthy Blockchain, AR, VR, and even 5G I can definitely hear a lot of things, but there aren’t that many things happening yet, especially not in this segment. Regarding IoT (internet of things) in the sense that it is directly connected to the cloud, I don’t think it will ever take off within the building space. It might, but I believe more on the Internet of Buildings where local control is the norm and wireless sensors instead of IoT in the traditional sense.

Harmonizing sensor data with BMS data and creating a bi-directional data pump to and from buildings to the cloud utilizing BACnet/WS and BACnet/SC is real today. This means that merging “new” sensor data, with existing BMS data, sending everything automatically to a dashboard for bi-directional control is doable, and this is what I mean with a Wireless first initiative. However, even though most of the things in the BB-cycle can be implemented today, there are a lot of barriers from getting to new ways of working.

Everything is here, and the convergence of all of the technologies can be implemented as others also agree. But it will take a lot of time. Mostly because of people and not so much from technology. Getting younger people into the industry, also looking elsewhere, and making it more diverse are some valid points from the legend Pook Ping Yao. And if we are to create better spaces, niche companies, as well as traditional ones, should know about the importance of selling the way buyers buy, which is a great article by Kevin McCaughey. And of course, also find time to have some balance in your life is a must. After all, we want a life that is perfectly balanced, don’t we?

My belief is that people and companies are still trying to take buildings to the cloud, and that they are stuck implementing wireless, and that smart portfolios are of the future. However, after reading Luke Dalskes spectacular article, about what they are doing at the edge, and also knowing what Marc Petock and Lynxspring are doing, I might change the Edge analytics timeline to within the next 2 years. Everything is possible, and there are companies like theirs doing amazing things. But to say it’s the way of working for most people in the industry? Doubtful.

What about integrations with existing systems in an easy way? It seems that companies tend to get stuck here a lot. Either you get amazing dashboards with some possible AI/ML algorithms on the side, telling you about workplace productivity and whatnot. But then, there’s no seamless integration to existing systems, and we end up with the death of a thousand cut approach.

Or you go the traditional route and try to get data out of existing networks, but then you are in the hands of system integrators, vendor lock-ins, and might get stuck between a vendor and a hard place. I am referencing Tridium and Niagara below, and it’s a bit scary reading the article and constantly being battered about the “You have to stay upgraded”- line over and over again. Dave Lapsley is also referring to this fact in his article, also arguing about the need for openness in the industry.

What actually happens when you try to create a smarter building. And you have taken data in from existing networks, you have bought into the “Data is the new gold” -mindset and maybe harmonized wireless/BMS data as BACnet objects, applied some meta-tagging. Now comes the sense-making part.

Where to start with all of these technologies in the BB-cycle?

I believe that the truly innovative stuff out there doesn’t come from the big dragons. But I agree with Ken Smyers 100% in that all of the technology necessary to make a building smart is here, and the ones attending IBCON probably saw the critical mass of technologies present. But will the largest innovation come from the realm of building automation at all? More on that later.

Smart cities as a concept will most likely happen before smart portfolios since the old way of working with a small percentage of the whole portfolio will take time to change. So, what’s the most interesting thing? Is there one? I believe there is. More below.

Streaming platform tech is the highlight of the BB-cycle

One of the most interesting aspects I find is that of real-time streaming platforms.

The short version is that it is a way to make slow systems to move fast. It’s done by putting connectors to existing data sources and storing all data in a log and connecting it to a streaming platform as depicted below. The article in question argued 1 year ago is event-streaming was the next big thing for Banking. Since then, event streaming is being adopted by most major banks in some way, shape or form, and the technology is applicable to all companies in all industries. 

Figure 2

Figure 2. Is event-streaming the next big thing for Building Automation?

Most of the new applications built for all fortune 100 companies revolve around these technologies since it eliminates past complexity in a rapid, scalable way.

As I wrote in my last article about helping a customer with a digital twin platform, I believe in taking cutting edge-technologies from other industries and seeing if they can fit into the BAS/BMS side of things. And I really think this does.

There’s a need right now to get all different data streams together, and we need to do it faster than ever in the realm of building automation. We need to be able to write applications that form solutions that are robust, useful and attractive without vendor lock-in and high switching costs.

Companies that choose this way of working enjoy tremendous benefits:

This right here is my new favourite area together with that of digital twins, and a lot of these benefits are the ones that Volkswagen Group are aiming for when starting to connect 122 manufacturing plants across their portfolio. They seem to begin with the manufacturing floor, but there’s a tremendous value in the building automation perspective as well, also creating an eco-system for the future, allowing suppliers and others to innovate with their platforms and the ability to monetize on data.

Metadata tagging can easily be deployed on the fly, instead of pooling it into a toxic data dump and that’s why this kind of Companies specializing in streaming technologies will be the bridge between the past and the future. They will enable any company in the world to become digital leaders in their respective field.

Era of disruption - Easier than ever to get ahead of the game

Control Solutions, Inc The reasons why I find data streaming and digital twins fascinating is because it can be done today, and it can mirror in real-time all events that are occurring, anywhere. And most importantly, it will predict what will happen in the future. The reason why this might be so disruptive for traditional industries is that existing companies use existing systems to get data out. There’s a challenge here when going at it in scale, where there are enormous data loads. It’s like trying to drive a Ferrari on a road that’s made for horse and carriage. Yes, it goes very fast. Into a ditch.

Utilizing modern technology and taking data out of existing systems is ground-breaking. And the thing is, everything is possible. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Smart cities, cognitive buildings, VR, AR, you name it. But it seems that no one really knows where to begin and what should be the focus and most importantly, WHY they should do it, and HOW they can make money out of it.

Because of my amazing network, I now have the ability to merge all these things together, and I clearly see what companies should do first, what comes second and what to think about for the future. That’s why I created this Building Buzz-cycle to show that anything and everything is possible, today. The question shouldn’t be who’s going to let you. The question should be, who’s going to stop you?

Well, in this industry, probably 95% of the people around you. But can they?

If you or someone you know want to get 2 years ahead of the game, or even 5 or 10 years ahead before technologies reach mainstream adoption, let me know. I’ve got a vast network with experts in all these fields. I’d be happy to do matchmaking and increase faster time to value creation. My main mission in life is to help create a better world for everyone if possible.

As always, don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything on your mind, and instead of just talking about stuff, just go out there and do it!

All the best,
Nicolas Waern
The Building Whisperer

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