July 2013

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2013 IBCon Observations

The message I received, as well as countless others I spoke with, was loud and clear – cloud-based computing, open architecture, data analytics, visualization, and mobility will forever be a required participant in high performance buildings.

Chip Pieper
Chip Pieper
Environmental Systems, Inc. (ESI)

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In celebrating its 15th year as a premier conference serving the real estate and intelligent buildings sectors, Realcomm/IBcon 2013 was a watershed moment for the organization. Not only did the business achieve a significant milestone in influencing the commercial real estate industry through technology awareness, they also removed any doubt that “convergence” is here to stay. The general acceptance of cloud-based computing, open architecture, data analytics, visualization, and mobility will forever be a required participant in our industry. Fortunately, it appears that the days of proprietary “products” are coming to an end.

Although Realcomm and IBcon are marketed as one event, they actually focus on two different segments, Realcomm targets the commercial real estate industry and IBcon focuses on intelligent building technologies. For purposes of this observation, we are going to center on IBcon. Even though IBcon is a new entrant in the intelligent buildings conference series (2nd year), it is nevertheless, regarded as one of the leaders in providing insight into smart building innovation.

Jim Young’s (Realcomm/IBcon CEO) vision of a REvolution — a point in time where things will change so radically that there is no turning back to the old ways, appears to be spot on as it relates to this sector.

The RevolutionThe “new” REvolution will be more than televised, as evidenced the second you walked through the conference doors. The peculiar absence of Johnson Controls, Siemens, Schneider, United Technologies, Trane and Honeywell (other than a booth to showcase thermostats and cable wraps) was immediately noticeable. Tridium was the only organization from that sector that brought a large presence to the show.

If Tridium’s new President, Nino DiCosmo, is any indication of the business’s commitment to leadership, I think they got it right. DiCosmo has 20+ years in the enterprise software industry. His view of this market and Tridium’s ability to uniquely impact its addressable customer-base, is more aligned with the vision Young paints than any other competing solution.

Nevertheless, what makes this observation interesting is that fact that if the enterprise software industry was holding its leading conference on thought leadership, you could bet your bottom dollar the likes of Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, IBM and Cisco would certainly be there in numbers.

Whatever the reason the big automation players within our industry decided not to show a “leading” presence, emerging players such as Microsoft, SAP and IBM sure did. The Microsoft campus case study still remains one of the leading examples of the transformation that is taking place in our industry. Mention Darrell Smith of Microsoft and everyone knows who Darrell is. Question: who’s leading JCI’s intelligent buildings initiative, or Siemens, Honeywell? I have no idea as they sure weren’t at the show.

IBM’s attendance was very visible at the conference as well. Niall Brady, IBM’s Senior R&D Engineer, provided a look into IBM’s smarter buildings research and development efforts which illustrated the commitment and investment the business is making in this industry. Furthermore, the IBM GSA case study was widely viewed during the showcase. Johnny Clemmons from SAP demonstrated thought leadership during panel discussions, and Oracle also had a booth and made themselves visible as well.

Furthermore, countless clean tech solutions (ISVs & Professional Services) were driving the innovation curve throughout the two day event. SkyFoundry, ICONICS, Clockworks, Ezenics, Switch Automation, JLL’s Intellicommand, DGLogik, Environmental Systems (ESI), and many others provided undisputable evidence that the REvolution is indeed upon us.

Acting like a telescopeActing like a telescope, IBcon provides visibility for where the market is headed. If you look hard enough, you can see the development of a new “industry architecture” beginning to take shape. It appears this emerging force is relegating the “legacy” automation players to the role of simply providing “plumbing.”

Their hardware/services act as a data pump which allows the clean tech providers to expose their results to the enterprise software companies, who in turn, surface “business value” to the organization’s leaders to make more informed “systemic” decisions regarding their real estate portfolio. It will be very interesting to see the investment patterns emerging from the largest software companies as they fight to capture the last bastion of the enterprise (the building).

Best Practice ShowcaseNot only was there quality information available throughout the exhibit hall, the Smart Building Best Practice Showcase had to be one of the most effective sessions I’ve come across at a conference. There were 30 case studies on display along with representatives who walked you through the engagement from the business opportunity, the solution, to the results that were attained.

The format was not only diverse and informative; it was a great networking experience as well. Actually, it was probably the most impactful session of the two days.

In terms of the breakout sessions themselves, there were many worthwhile tracks to attend - from Building Cybersecurity, Building Network Design, NextGen FM Team to Extreme Operations – Connecting Everything to the Network. The general feedback was that the mix of single speaker presentations and panel discussions was balanced and effective. Furthermore, I heard numerous comments that both the speakers and panelists were successful in conveying their message.

contemporary One of the most talked about tracks was the PRE-CON IB Boot Camp. The five hour program was designed for those organizations interested in converting their existing buildings to smart, connected, high-performance, intelligent buildings. The word was that the return was substantial. The information provided by the panel of experts apparently achieved its objective of empowering the attendees with good industry information to act on.

Another highlight of the event was the Digie Awards. This annual challenge which highlights top performers throughout the industry, from Best Real Estate Technology to Most Intelligent Building Award, is not only entertaining; it’s also pushing the industry forward. This year’s winners included Kohl’s for Most Intelligent Building – Retail, Microsoft for Most Intelligent Building – Corporate Campus, Project Haystack for Best Intelligent Building – Technology Innovation, Paul Oswald for Intelligent Building – Digital Impact Award, as well as many other deserving providers of industry solutions.

ExhibitsHowever, there is one component of the event that is in need of improvement. My observation is not just limited to Realcomm/IBcon though; it also applies to every conference I’ve attended in the intelligent buildings sector for the past five years… Exhibits!

I think we’d all agree that technology has evolved so fast during that period; it has almost forced a much needed “REvolution” regarding the practice of exhibiting. Everyone I spoke with who had a booth felt that “relevant” traffic could be improved and more networking opportunities would help increase the overall value of the event. There has to be a way to maximize both the investment and the return so all parties feel the value is there.

Nevertheless in the end, the event was successful in driving the vision of REvolution home (a point in time where things will change so radically that there is no turning back to the old ways). The message I received, as well as countless others I spoke with, was loud and clear – cloud-based computing, open architecture, data analytics, visualization, and mobility will forever be a required participant in high performance buildings.


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