September 2017

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The Evolution of the Master System Integrator (MSI)

A new breed of folks called MSI are rapidly evolving to help us with the process of "Getting There from Here."
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What do Master System Integrators (MSI) do?

They make sure all systems communicate properly, collaborate with building owners to ensure systems information will be accessible and usable, and they develop software layers responsible for integration, aggregation, and communication of the building systems.

In this interview Scott Cochrane the President and CEO of Cochrane Supply & Engineering provides this further definition of, Who are MSI?,

MSI’s are service providers. They typically provide a common data view for the systems they control within a building, campus or enterprise. Their purpose is to connect the building stakeholders to their systems and provide useful, meaningful, and important information and control. They make sure all systems communicate properly, collaborate with building owners to ensure systems information will be accessible and usable, and they develop software layers responsible for integration, aggregation, and communication of the building systems.

To achieve this, it is an MSI’s responsibility to educate the construction team, look for synergy to save money, review progress, collaborate with IT Departments, and connect subcontracted systems and provide the interfaces required to run and advance the building. We work with MSI’s, and many are contractors that have evolved from Mechanical, Electrical, Data/Telecom, Process, and now Database companies that are getting into analytics.

In a second interview this comment speaks to the evolution of the MSI

Blomberg: When I first started K&S Ventures Inc. in 1990, I could not have imagined becoming an MSI, because no one really had done it before. As technology had become more evolved and advanced over time, the business opportunities were becoming endless. So, when I say I had no plan to become an MSI, I am honest

Cochrane: As an MSI, what percent of your time is spent in the following categories? R&D, Consultations, Field Commissioning, and Software Programming.

Blomberg: R&D: 10%, Consultations: 20%, Field Commissioning: 30%, Software Programming: 40%.

In a third interview the disussion goes on to explain how MSI were forced into business

Cochrane:  How did you become a MSI?

Napieralski:  Despite having an automation contracting background, Smart Building Services started as more of a technology consulting company.  Our focus was on understanding our clients’ operations and building challenges and helping them utilize all the available technology to simplify their operations.  As several of our consulting projects entered the implementation phase, we encountered significant resistance from traditional systems contractors on implementing what we had designed.  Not because it couldn’t be done, but because many of them looked at it as additional risk and more labor intensive than a typical project.    We disagreed and took that resistance, coupled with several clients who valued the relationship with our team, and dove into the MSI role.  We now almost exclusively work in a design-build MSI services model where our focus on understanding our customers’ operational challenges is critical and where our final product truly makes an impact and delivers on the design promises.  It is a highly-satisfying role that keeps us working with customers who value our services as a partner and not just a transactional relationship.

To help convey this concept of a MSI to the industry we have added this panel disussion to our AHRExpo Education sessions in Chicago

Panel discussion, "Are Master System Integrators Becoming the New Building Data Architects?"

Industry thought leaders will provide their perspectives on this concept and will then continue the discussion based on audience questions and open conversation. 

Topics addressed will include: Defining an MSI and their role as service providers, how MSIs can maximize the evolving intelligent edge, unlocking the power of people to generate new data, strategies to accomplish working data designs, embracing online convergence to achieve valuable end results, and more.

Some discussion on evolving roles ‘big data’ engineers and ‘building performance data engineers.’
Moderator; Ken Sinclair Founder, Owner, Publisher 


Once we provide a vision of the design, it is difficult to find contractors who can implement that vision. Even when the good ones sign up to a project, the MSI needs to project manage, inspect, and generally babysit the process to ensure it is finished with quality control. So many loose ends are common, and projects are regularly left coasting along, rather than performing at the design intent. Performance commissioning is a really import aspect and is a completely different role than 'compliance' commissioning that occurs on many LEED projects.

Yet we want MSI to be more or evolve more new identities Building Data Architects?, Master Data Integrators?, Data Engineers?, Data Gods?, Definers of the edge and the middle and cloud? etc......big smile

This article talks about the evolving roles of data engineers

The Wouda, Couda and OODA of Building Performance Data Engineering As part of the Project Haystack open-source community, I’m learning that small can equal big, and less can be more, and that ‘big data’ engineers and ‘building performance data engineers’ have important but different roles in the coming era of the IoT and machine learning.

I believe that Master System Integrator will hurry the transformation that it needs to occur in the "Getting there from here" and Autonomous Actions on the Intelligent Edge discussions.


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