January 2018

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Rick RolstonEMAIL INTERVIEW – Rick Rolston and Ken Sinclair

Rick Rolston, CEO and Founder, BuiltSpace Technologies Corporation, Vancouver BC, Canada. 

Rick has over 20 years of experience in building information management, and in 1998 launched one of the first successful building related Software-as-a-Service applications on the internet.  Find him on LinkedIn at

BuiltSpace provides building information management, integration, and related services to the facilities and construction industry.   The company launched the industry’s first integrated, collaboration FM platform in 2012, and now manages assets in over 17,000 buildings .  For more information, please visit our website at

There’s no such thing as the “IoT” in Buildings

BuiltSpace’s role in the “IoT” is measurement, verification and accounting for services, whether performed by people or machines. 

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SinclairIn last month’s  A Perspective on the IoT in Buildings, John Petze proclaimed  ‘that there is no such thing as the “IoT.”’  Do you agree with John?   How does BuiltSpace fit into the IoT, (if there is such a thing)?

Rolston:  Great question, Ken.   I think John’s comments confirm that we are all trying to get our heads around what exactly the IoT is, and how IoT technologies should be implemented.  John’s right in that the IoT is a concept, not a “thing.”    A lot of the buzz in the industry is about connecting everything in buildings, but personally, I think that’s putting the cart before the horse.   I believe that IoT is the transformation of business processes, and that process improvement and collaboration are necessary prerequisites to connected devices in buildings.   If successful, this transformation will provide large cost savings, not hard drives filled with incoherent data.    BuiltSpace’s role in the “IoT” is measurement, verification and accounting for services, whether performed by people or machines.  

SinclairMeasurement and verification of services.  I can see the need for that.  What IoT technologies come into play? 

Rolston:  If an IoT device can trigger a service intervention alert in milliseconds, but it takes months to close the react, you are looking at an IoT process that can’t be effectively managed.  

Manual labour costs are the big-ticket items in buildings.   We want to minimize these costs, sometimes with sensors in the buildings, but more critically with efficient business processes.   Measurement and verification of services will calculate the savings achieved by automation of building processes.  This is not at all unlike M&V for energy, but only labour costs at $4 for every dollar spent on energy in the same building.   We are replacing traditional work order processes with digital, asset-centric, processes that provide standardized operations and maintenance procedures, whether the work is completed by in-house staff or external contractors.  

SinclairStandardized processes with cost data should let facilities operators better gauge the cost of future repairs.   That’s pretty useful data for operational analytics.  Do you see a role for AI in your database?

Rolston:  Yes, we’ve been working with IBM Watson in this area.  It’s very exciting to think about the potential savings from better understanding operations and maintenance across an entire facilities portfolio.   AI analytics will combine operational data (for example, the pressure drop across an air filter), with analytics to determine the most cost-effective strategy, which will likely still be bulk filter changes, based on similar operational environments.  It’s simply cheaper to do many changes in a single trip.

SinclairWhat other roles do you see for AI?

Rolston:  We are working on conversational service requests.   Buildings are still designed to meet the needs of people, so why not have building occupants talk their building.    Amazon (Alexa) is doing it for single-family homes.   Commercial buildings are much more complex, but why not?:   “Watson, I’m cold.”   It’s quite possible that having Watson take the first “Hey Watson”  request, and act on it, could save people a lot of time, and even provide an enjoyable experience for building occupants, even optimizing building set points based on AI cognitive reasoning.

SinclairYou’ve talked about bringing financial and operational data together, for use in operational analytics, and using cognitive services to make it available to people.  Will that all be on the Builtspace platform?  How do you get the data?

Rolston:  Gartner calls the digital twin, a digital representation of a physical asset, to be “the” technology of 2017.  Digital twins, which bring OT & IT data together across large facilities portfolios, are the killer app for cost-effective building operations.  We’ve built over 17,000 digital twins so far, and that pace is accelerating. It’s here that we can apply cognitive services and take facilities management to the next level.

contemporary SinclairSo what kind of cost-efficiency savings are we talking about?

Rolston:  Facilities services are a $1.12 trillion annual spend globally, and that doesn’t count self-managed buildings.   A survey by found that as many as 66% of employees in the UK workers believe their time is wasted on a daily basis because of the inefficiencies of business processes and systems.  They found that 32% of workers estimated waste of 2 – 3 hours of their workday as a result of these systemic inefficiencies.   If, as the survey suggests, systemic inefficiency in facilities management means that 2-3 hours per day, per employee, is wasted, this suggests that global facilities operators can potentially save $400 billion annually.   This may be the world’s largest data-mining opportunity, and the rewards will go to those that capture and mine the best operational data.   

SinclairBuiltSpace has a very interesting take on the IoT.  You’re saying that automated buildings need to be managed by IoT compatible business processes that focus on building assets rather than work order tasks.  You provide digital business processes that digitally include building occupants, tenants, facilities staff, and all your service partners, as well as your IoT devices in a single integrated solution.   That’s a big idea, and it looks like you guys are doing it.   Good luck.


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