January 2015

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Is This a Solution Looking for a Problem?

We’re going to take a look at what the most recurring business and technical requirements are regarding technology adoption for multi-site enterprise facilities.
Chip Pieper

Chip Pieper


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We all know that there is an enormous amount of confusion in our industry as it relates to available technology applications that address building efficiency objectives. Actually, some would argue that this confusion has created market noise. Value propositions, which in many cases, sound identical to competing offerings (energy and operations efficiency, connected assets, energy dashboards, building data integration, normalization, visualization, intelligence, actionable data, better decision making, etc., etc.). Each provider is vying for the attention of customers that are looking for some type of solution that will address the unique needs of their business.

ChoiceHow does an organization make a choice under these circumstances? 

Darryl Benson, VP of Strategic Solutions at Intelligent Buildings, suggests that, “end users must identify their distinctive needs profile and match it with a solution provider profile to achieve meaningful results.” Unfortunately, this match can be overwhelming for clients that may not have the resources on hand to properly align their needs with the best technology and people available.

Therefore, we’re going to take a look at what the most recurring business and technical requirements are regarding technology adoption for multi-site enterprise facilities. Given that there is such market confusion, we’ll explore these customer requests through discussions that we had with three CEOs from and Lucid, Blue Pillar, and Switch Automation. All three have seen increased adoption throughout the market by aligning customer needs with their respective platform solutions. For purposes of our analysis though, we’ll identify their sub-sector as “Integrated Energy & Operations Information Platforms. (IEOIP).”

Our investigation will not examine customer requirements relating to Fault Detection Diagnostics (FDD) adoption, however. Nor do we take into consideration integrated workplace management systems  (IWMS), or even computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) inquiries. Rather, we’ll focus on the presentation of energy and operations information platforms that are provided to customers via the cloud, which is actually the first criterion on our customer checklist.

ColleaguesObviously cloud is an overused descriptive. Nevertheless, the delivery of IEOIP solutions, according to customers, has to be consumed via a cloud-based set of services. Matter of fact, that’s all I ever hear from my former Microsoft colleagues, “It’s all cloud these days.”

Microsoft has bet the future of the business on their cloud, Azure. Clearly, if the enterprise has moved to this model, the building facilities business had better get on board as well. I kid you not; I had a FDD company tell me they sell “DVDs” not even a year ago. Seriously? Are you sure it wasn’t a fetzer valve?!? 

We are all aware of the fact that each building is seemingly unique. Regardless, “onboarding a facility to a (IEOIP) platform has to be easy,” says, Vladi Shunturov, CEO of Lucid. Customers are so tired of hearing the extremes. On one hand, we hear that integrating multi-site building systems is “seamless” through our gateway device, while on the other, customers are confronted with an army of mechanical engineers, which they are told, are necessary to assess their facilities for onboarding. Which is it, somewhere in the middle, we suggest.

Thankfully, IEOIP technology has matured over the last five years, enabling facility Building Automation Systems (BMS), Metering, Lighting, etc., to be integrated rapidly. With proper preparation, Switch Automation on-boarded nearly 50 buildings (multiple BMS, and meter makes and models) on their platform and started generating reports in less than nine hours.
Tom Willie, CEO of Blue Pillar states that, “security has always been a top priority for us.  Consumers are calling for cloud technology, with security as a top priority.”  Obviously with all of the recent customer security breaches, security is going to be a significant requirement for all customers that are requesting network access and support from their IT departments. This in part, is why Independent Software Vendors (ISV), like Switch and Blue Pillar chose to build and deploy on Microsoft’s Azure Platform. It’s a lot easier to have a conversation with IT decision makers when the solution you’re about to adopt is built on Microsoft’s leading industry initiative. Although the facility management team may not be aware of the fact that Microsoft bet the farm on Azure, rest assured IT is.   

Enabling better business decision-making through the analysis of massive amounts of normalized data is another condition for IEOIP adoption. Customers are looking for ways to empower everyone from the CEO to technicians with relevant, actionable data.  Deb Noller, CEO of Switch Automation, provides us with a little more insight into what customers are searching for in a solution, “Let’s assume an average hospital would have 5000 monitoring points – energy, water, IEQ, temperature, etc. If those points were posting at 15-minute intervals, then you would have 480,000 points a day and 175M per year.  Now imagine you are the services company with 50 hospitals on your books…..
That’s too much data for anyone to trawl. Big Data has to be smart enough to tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it. And it has to be relevant to the person. The CFO needs to know where to spend her budget next year, the COO needs to know which service contracts to renew and which to replace, the Head of Mobile Services needs to be able to dispatch the appropriate technician to the right location in the right order of priority and the FM needs to understand where that technician is headed, and what they need to address.”

Tom Willies says, “It’s all about access – consumers are wanting accessibility anywhere and everywhere.” Mobility is of paramount importance. However, mobility is just one piece of the functional requirements. Extending the platform through wearables is the next phase in facility-related technology. “Knowing where a technician is and pushing data and information to them based on location and priority, which in turn enable them to correct the issues right the first time, is where we’re going,” continues, Noller.  

contemporary Although there are additional customer requirements that we haven’t addressed, nevertheless the last topic that we will discuss in this article, centers on whether there will be a IEOIP platform that will rise to the top? Each of these three platforms has their strengths and weaknesses in attempting to accommodate their customers’ needs. Yet, according to Benson, “the market will be supportive of multiple solutions types from companies with varied approaches.”

We agree. There are plenty of customers that need the benefits associated with ALL building efficiency applications. However, we strongly suggest that when evaluating the right solution for your organization; consider some additional CLARIFYING areas to explore such as: vertical segment focus/experience, vertical subject matter expertise, enterprise-wide application integration, a plan on how to leverage wearables, is the application solution built and deployed on a leading cloud platform, is the provider a controls company turned software developer/integrator (this rarely works in the enterprise), does the business have access to leading building systems expertise?

Truthfully, you really don’t need a lot of RFI inquiry to determine clarity and if the solution is a fit is for your organization. Just ask the obvious questions.


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