December 2021

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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Edge-Native Strategies & future-Ready Real Estate

nicolasNicolas Waern
"The Building Whisperer"

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This article will be about the rise of edge native approaches and how taxonomies speed up the journey towards FRR’s, Future Ready Real-estate. And an attempt at demystifying taxonomies to try to make it less academic and more hands-on. Like I say at the very end of this article, I have written about this for the last couple of years. But it’s a difference to writing about what others are doing and actually implementing it yourself.

And it clearly shows that it is important to update the tool-kit of solving ancient problems with more modern tools. Where it’s equally important to understand what ingredients go where, and in what order.

The article will also cover some of the interesting things we are doing in one of the innovation projects I am leading. Such as:

-        Edge-first strategies

-        Minimal vendor lock-in

-        Wireless Modbus/JSON conversion

-        Separation of hardware and software

-        Real-time energy optimization strategies

-        Remote-controlled actuators for radiators

-        Path Creation instead of path dependency

-        And the use of taxonomies and ontologies

-        From RS-485 to MQTT/Graphql/Kafka – any API

-        Road-map towards self-learning Digital Twins on the Edge

-        Full-stack developers being able to innovate with buildings

This is part of a project in smart heating systems that I have been leading since May this year.

i. Self-learning smart heating system at the Lillestad school in vxj sweden



i. self-learning smart heating system at the lillestad school in vxj sweden


i. Self-learning smart heating system at the Lillestad school in vxj sweden

Taming the beast before you let it out of its cage

“To develop a wireless, self-learning, platform-independent, open (software, API, hardware) control monitoring system that in a continuous optimal way can handle the contextual situation of the building. The system must be flexible and optimize the heat supply with considering the room (the individual radiator) via the house (the in-house system) to the energy supplier and energy producer. The system shall strive for the lowest possible CO2 emissions for the existing heating system.”

This was
the innovation tender I responded to a year ago, “The call of the Wild”, and the video at the beginning depicted how far we had come in the beginning of October (video of the latest progress will be released mid-December).

It was fairly easy to install an edge gateway, connected via cellular connectivity, and drop out wireless mesh sensors in the small building. We had some hurdles, as always when doing something new for the first time. But the good thing is that the we can deploy these sensors, and have them connected in hours now.

The actuators on the radiators were trickier because there was some Modbus configurations we had to do and to pair the settings with the actuators. And they also required installation since they needed to be powered. But once we did that right, we could also get bi-directional control of the actuators remotely.

The actuators in question were from IMI. Digitally configurable actuators for Bus communication with BACnet MS/TP or Modbus RTU, with or without change-over. A wide range of setup options provide extensive flexibility for on-site parameter adaptation. Fully programmable binary input, relay and adjustable max. stroke of the valve bring new opportunities for advanced hydronic control and balancing.

These actuators are really powerful and they can provide really granular insight into what is happening in the actuator and also if the actuators themselves are malfunctioning. Which is good from a circular economy aspect to understand how/if they are working, instead of just replacing all of them at a certain time.

But these could not be controlled remotely, nor wirelessly 4 months ago. But now they can.

Since we took an approach of separating hardware and software as much as possible. The open-source software stack came from Conectric Networks. They were selected because of their open source approach, their IoT tool-kit, many patents in the real-time smart grid optimization area, and their knowledge into anything IoT/Smart Building related.

We put 1+1 together and now had something that could talk Modbus/BACnet at the edge, and wirelessly transfer the information from the legacy realm, into the gateway, and then being able to send it out through MQTT, Kafka streams, RESTful, Graphql, etc.

We can do that now and it’s basically a plug and play offering that we have created. Which is cool on its own. But now we needed to map the sensor MAC addresses to the rooms, so that we knew which sensors were sending what, from where.

The practical use of taxonomies and open-source standards

Conectric already had templates of Haystack tagging so that was great. But it was not until we were going to map the data to their rooms in the big school where it really hit me. The ultimate power of taxonomies and ontologies.

My development team had never heard about taxonomies, nor ontologies. Which made it into an interesting endeavour to explain to them what it was all about. And that the quite arduous task of mapping the data from the sensors, for the big school, could be radically improved. After all, we had installed hundreds of sensors measuring:

-        CO2

-        Battery-life

-        Occupancy

-        Temp/humidity

-        Windows/doors open closed

-        Return temperature on the radiators

-        And multiple measurements from the actuators

It would solve the idea of naming the data better in ways so that anyone else could make sense of it. And because we had taken the edge-first approach, it also meant that the real estate owner could “invite 2 innovate” with their building much easier focusing on distributed intelligence from the beginning, not just as an afterthought.

And for us, it also meant that we could just point to how we tagged the data, and others could make sense of it. But we didn’t stop there. Since I had interviewed some of the leaders in the taxonomy/ontology space last year for my podcast Beyond Buildings, I reached out to Erik Wallin. He is one of the masterminds behind Real Estate Core.

We had a chat and he of course validated what I had read about for years (but it’s a different feeling when you do it on your own). That if we just would tag the data in accordance with Real Estate Core, we could more or less automatically ingest it, and create a dashboard on top. From anyone that supports the standard. Which opens the whole Microsoft ecosystem, and that of their own solution from IDUN Real Estate, Proptech OS.

Which meant that not only would we save time on mapping the data. But the real-estate owner could install/uninstall any kind of dashboard solution they would like. And also create value from the data utilizing any system from any vendor supporting the standard.

Is this ground-breaking news? Not so much since this has happened at various stages ranging back to early BACnet days. But the addition of spatial data, graph-based ways of working, and also distributed intelligence and minimal vendor-lock-in makes it quite interesting for the future. And it saves so much time for us, developing new solutions. And it makes the asset more future-proof as well, and future-ready.

And it opens global possibilities for us in terms of eco-system enablement and it opened up a whole new world for the developers as well. And it showed the importance of working with vendors who can support any system/taxonomy as well as having a modular API of sending data out. This can work with the existing infrastructure and bridge the gap between the present and the future in very interesting ways.

That is exactly what we discuss over at Beyond Buildings, and what I help customers with at WINNIIO Consulting. 

And I invite you to join a deeper discussion about these topics at the AHR Expo 2022 in Las Vegas. So either you wait until then, or reach out to me if you want to find out what to do, and to truly leverage all that the future will offer, today!

Nicolas Waern


Taxonomies and Ontologies, is there a need to demystify them? I’ve written about taxonomies and ontologies now for years. About the problems with the handshake economy back in October 2018, One Protocol to rule them all. And it still holds true. That article tries to make it easier to understand the importance of metadata, and how to transfer knowledge between systems with a reference to the handshake economy.

I have interviewed some great minds in the space for my Podcast & Newsletter Beyond Buildings

- Healthy Buildings and Ontology alignment – Brian Turner

- Leveraging Interoperable Digital Twins for Manufacturing – Nicolas Waern

- Beyond Open APIs - Ontology Mastery – Terry Herr, Erik Wallin, Joel Bender

But it’s not until I have had real, practical experience with the innovation project I am leading that I truly understand the power of interoperable strategies. And what it does for integration and future ecosystems thinking. Thank you for reading and feel free to check out the new WINNIIO website!

Nicolas Waern is the CEO, Strategy & Innovation Leader, and a Digital Twin Implementation Specialist at the consulting firm WINNIIO. He is a firm believer that the Real Estate Industry needs more of a lifecycle focus where we need to go Beyond Buildings and come back with an understanding what tools and technology we could use. And to solve the jobs to be done, together, with an open mindset.

Nicolas is working with leaders in several industries to understand how they can succeed in the age of AI. Predicting what the world will do in a week, a month, a year from now and to best utilize strategies and solutions that pass the test of time. He does this through a Digitalization- on Demand approach for anyone that needs to change before they have to.

Nicolas is also a Podcast Creator & Newsletter Editor for 
Beyond Buildings
Thought Leader regarding Smart Buildings & Building Automation for 
Speaker and Influencer 
Event Streaming Platforms as the Holy Grail for Industry 4.0 Applications
Subject Matter Expert Real Estate Digitalization 
Proptech Digitalization Expert
Active Member of Digital Twin working groups 
Digital Twin Subject Matter Expert


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