February 2019

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Why Are Big Buildings So Dumb?

Want to ask the experts these questions?

Scott CochraneScott Cochrane
President, CEO
Cochrane Supply & Engineering

Contributing Editor

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Most big buildings I walk into are currently dumb.  They leave the lights on all the time, they don’t care who I am or what I am doing there, and they don’t change the temperature until it becomes uncomfortable and I complain.  So why do we call them smart buildings when they are so stupid?  

The smart home industry has certainly evolved from a universe of temperature sensors, clocks and switches to a new world of microphones, mobile location services and open API’s or the “Works With” concept.  The smart home has enabled us to rethink how we function in our spaces and when I look at comfort, safety and security for my home, these functions have greatly changed in the last few years.  

Comfort was a thermostat display, now it’s an app.  Safety was a smoke detector, now it’s an app.  Security was a lock, now it’s an app.  The functions to control these facets of the home are now integrated to our mobile experience. Because of this, the way we operate our home has become a new frontier of opportunities and we are seeing the home automation industry explode because of it. 

So what about the big building?  Where is the explosion?

Here are some questions I think our industry has to answer before we can get off this boring technology plateau for big buildings we live in today. 

Question 1:  Where’s the App?  Why are there not more apps for big building controls?  We are seeing more and more projects utilizing smart home devices just for the occupant app experience.  The app not only helps the occupant interact with the building, it shares information about the occupant with the building.  For example, with a potential building app, when your mobile location service is turned on, the building will know you are in it and can adjust to your pre-set comfort level, light levels, and security privileges. These can all be utilized without the mobile device leaving your pocket, leading to new ways of experiencing a visit to a big building.   

Question 2:  Who’s in charge?  I have interviewed many Master Systems Integrators who have talked about the capability to install a complete smart building solution. A solution that encompasses HVAC, Lighting, Power, Lifting Devices, Security Systems, CCTV, AV Systems, Datacenters, Life Safety, Emergency Notifications, Process and Business Equipment, and the list keeps growing.  The MSI’s who are successful doing these integrations usually answer to the C-level directly because that’s how high you have to go into a big building to find the right person to control those systems—which usually reside in business silos.  This is a business challenge and big building owners who figure it out will find huge energy and business efficiencies along with higher occupant satisfaction.

Question 3:  What industry am I in?  Born into the BAS industry, integration has changed my view of the industry I serve.  No longer is comfort just HVAC. We are focused on how every digital device in that structure communicates and functions, how it connects to a network, how the network software connects the data to the right person, how the right person receives authorization, and then mapping data to a data lake for further analysis by a data scientist.  What happened to the good old days of just being a pipe fitter?  I’m thinking my future industry is as the Star Trek Chief Engineer, Scotty Cochrane. 

Want to ask the experts these questions? 
Then be sure to register to attend Controls-Con 2019 taking place May 2nd and 3rd, 2019 at the MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit, Michigan. This education-packed event brings together hundreds of integrators and end users from throughout the United States and Canada to discuss the latest technologies and possibilities of Building Controls and the Internet of Things (IoT) in commercial and industrial buildings. Learn more.

Controls-Con 2019

About the Author

Scott Cochrane is President and CEO of Cochrane Supply & Engineering, a leading industrial IoT and building controls supplier with locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky, as well as President of Canada Controls. Scott earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business with minors in Marketing and Finance from Eastern Michigan University and holds an additional minor in HVAC Technologies from Macomb Community College. In 2000, he took over the business from his father, Donald Cochrane, Sr., who founded the company in 1967. Scott is now an advisory council member for multiple industry manufacturers including Honeywell, Johnson Controls, and Tridium. He is also an IBcon Digital Impact Award Winner for going above and beyond to positively impact the smart building industry, as well as a winner of the ControlTrends Impact Person of the Year Award for his impact on continuing to move the industry forward.


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