November 2019

BTL Mark: Resolve interoperability issues & increase buyer confidence
BACnet Testing Laboratories

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Nicolas Waern and Ken Sinclair

Nicolas Waern, co founder of Smart World consulting firm Winniio.
Some of his latest thoughts here about streaming platforms as the next big thing.
And as always, he urges everyone to change before you have to.

Contributing Editor

Netflix Experience

Yes or No?

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Sinclair:  Hi Nicolas, how are things going? What are you working on at the moment?

Waern:  Hi Ken, all good here. Trying to be as efficient as can be and I am focusing on three things in general;

  1. Crafting an IoT-platform strategy for a digital twin company
  2. Independent consulting as an external CDO for real estate companies
  3. Researching different forms of interoperability

All three are, of course interconnected. It’s more about asking customers where they are, what challenges they have, what they can/cannot do based on those challenges and then engaging in discussions on how to get to where they want to be.

Number one on the list is just me taking the Smart Building Recipe and applying it for a customer. I see more and more that nothing is really about technology, but instead about everything else.

It’s straightforward consultancy work, and the important thing is to teach customers how to fish, instead of just going out there and do the fishing. As we all know, it’s more of a mindset issue than it is a technological one. This model below helps in understanding what is going on and what is needed to get there, and how to get there for the customer and me.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Delta Model by Enquist - Change as a continuous process of freeze/unfreeze snapshots

Number three on the list is probably the most fascinating one considering the theme of sharing data, interaction and integration.

Going into detail about different levels of interoperability was supposed to be my contribution for this month’s article, but I couldn’t nail it down. We’ll see if it provides any interest, and it might be due for the December issue. Basically it takes the whole discussion about the handshake problem, and semantic interoperability to different levels, which I think are extremely applicable to this industry.

Sinclair:  Interesting as always. Can you tell me a bit more about the interoperability aspects? Do you have any more pictures?

Waern:  Absolutely. Let’s consider it a sneak peek of next month's article.

It was actually my wife that started investigating different levels of interoperability during her Master in IT Management.

“Even if technical systems were talking to each other, it was evident that people and organizations were not.”

She went through the process of what migrants must do to get access to the Swedish system from different perspectives. It was mesmerizing to see how inefficient processes there were on top. And it was crystal clear that even if technical systems were talking to each other, it was evident that people and organizations were not communication in an efficient way.  And I think that’s the case with building automation as a whole, that even if we can standardize the hell out of everything today, we are still working on the same processes as we have always done before. I believe that the organizational interoperability, as well as legal interoperability (who’s owning the data), will be a much more interesting topic in the immediate future, in getting things going for real in real-world systems.

Where is the data coming from, how is it being shared, by whom, and does everyone have access to the correct data? Should they? A lot of questions to be asked and answered.

Figure 2 

Figure 2. The Interoperability framework depicts different layers of interoperability, not limited to technical aspects

Sinclair:  Working in silos is what we have done in the past, and I suppose doing right now as well. Is it the same situation in Sweden, Europe? What can you tell us?

Waern:  Well, as I said in this Digital Twin podcast, Sweden is really behind when it comes to standardization. There’s no BACnet to be seen, really, and everything is happening on the bus-level. This makes it difficult for existing players to create future-proof solutions, but it sure does wonders for lock-in effects and proprietary ways of working. It also makes it challenging for new entrants since there’s no standardization layer to build value from. As such, there are very few Master Systems Integrators, if any that are operating today.

We are very much operating in silos where it’s a relay race and where everyone is winning and losing at the same time. The biggest losers are, no doubt, the tenants and the users having to work and live in sub-par buildings. But there’s also a huge “loss” from a monetary perspective for the real estate owners due to inefficiencies in existing ways of working, whereas the Trillion Dollar Opportunity is probably even further away into the future here in Sweden than that of standardized countries building upon BACnet and the likes.

Sinclair:  Is it all doom and gloom, or do you see some light at the beginning of this tunnel?

Waern:   That’s a good question, and it’s not so much doom as it is gloom. But I do see the light, and most importantly, I think I know how to switch the light on faster and more sustainable than ever before.

But to be honest, I’ve had a hard time lately finding the same motivation I had a year ago in digitizing buildings. Not because I don’t know how to do it. It’s actually the other way around.

Back then, I was na´ve in thinking that what I thought was groundbreaking information. But having talked to experts in the field with 30+ years’ experience, I now know that everything is yesterday's news. And it frustrates me that we are still moving at a snail pace when everything else is moving extremely fast. The technology is here, but it’s an industry problem where we need a whole new roundtable approach to things. Forget about waterfall thinking and relay-races.

We need to go at it from a more holistic perspective and need to re-think “industrial” so that new people can come in, thrive as well as excel at their job.

Sinclair:  It sounds like a lot of doom and gloom still to be honest. Any remedies?

Waern:  Actually, yes.

Some background first (of course):

I was in a discussion the other day with a technical company selling connectivity solutions. They were not selling as well as they should be, and I thought I was giving them some helpful pointers in creating a scalable and repeatable business.


What was going to be a friendly chat about future synergies, swiftly turned into a heated argument that got stuck in between Netflix – and traditional ways of working.

I argue that companies need a Netflix-mindset - in the industrial IoT-space, or industrial automation space, or any space for that matter in order to survive the next decade. And also a clear understanding of who the customer is and what experience should be provided for it.

Reliable Controls What I mean with a Netflix mindset – experience is that it should be super easy to understand what needs to be done. The customer should be able to figure it out without 10 days of training and continuous seminars once new updates are released. It must super simple from start to finish.

Whereas the person I was talking to argued that it needed to be complex. Actually, I don’t necessarily think that’s what he meant, but it came to a Mexican standoff where no one wanted to budge, which is a problem. It’s not so much about simplifying the ways of working behind the scenes. But companies need to put themselves in the minds of the customer and develop solutions with them, in order to get solutions that are made for them.

In short- the remedy is to simplify the user experience to that of a Netflix experience. Both from a User Interaction standpoint and User Experience for the different customers, any application will be used by.

Sinclair:  Interesting perspective and it’s got a lot to do with integration and customer interaction. Netflix experience, Yes or No?  Any final words?

Waern:  A question for your readers.

What do you and your readers think? Are applications in the world of BAS/BMS similar to that of a Netflix experience? Is there a difference between owners, FM-people, technical integrators, field technicians, and should there be?

What is a Netflix experience, really? Is it only from the technical side of things or also from the business standpoint of getting access to data, payments, upgrades, maintenance, support, customizability and ease of getting started? Will it help in bringing new people to the business as well as getting more customers over the threshold to new systems?

Should there be Netflix Experience or not?


Haystack Connect 2019
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