February 2019

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Nicolas WaernAnto BudiardjoEMAIL INTERVIEWNicolas Waern and Anto Budiardjo
Anto Budiardjo, "Facility IT Evangelist"

Contributing Editor

Nicolas Waern, CEO, Go-IoT
"The Building Whisperer" - Making buildings talk to people

Contributing Editor

Reflections on Cybersecurity Summit @AHRExpo

 Closed and proprietary systems don’t mean secure. Open systems approach doesn’t mean insecure.

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Anto Budiardjo:  Good seeing you at AHR, what was your big picture take?

Nicolas Waern:  Great seeing you! Good question. The big picture was that people seem more open to change than last year and the overall discussion was on a different level. It seems that the importance of data is creeping in more and more in the building automation realm as well. Analytics not so much, yet, and also that the building is getting more focus from one player in a larger city ecosystem.

Paradoxically, I also asked a guy working with boilers, how much the industry had changed the last 30 years.

What did he say?

“Hm… nothing I guess. It’s pretty much the same”.

And that tells me at least two things. It can’t be that many industries that have stayed the same for the last 30 years, and how great that must feel. And wow, there are so many opportunities in getting things connected that we don’t have to worry about things to do!

Anto Budiardjo:  What was your take on the Cybersecurity Summit

Nicolas Waern:  It was really early. Inhumanely so… but once I had booted up my system after the trip from Sweden, I really thought it was a great summit with a lot of interesting perspectives. Closed and proprietary systems don’t mean secure. Open systems approach doesn’t mean insecure.

Not realizing the difference between the two might make people insecure, and that’s basically where the industry is today. Most companies and people know that they need to do something about “it” (IT), But not necessarily how, when, or even why. And coming from a BAS standpoint it is evident that the building automation community can, and also should, only do as much. We need a collaborative approach in order to understand, detect, and to solve important issues.

Jim Lee from Cimetrics always provides thought leadership at its finest, and grimmest. Will tech companies learn BAS first? Or will BAS learn IT first? There is an overall mindset that building automation is fighting a losing battle against tech companies. If we are on the Titanic, should we jump into the water and start swimming or take up an instrument? Right now, it feels like there are a lot of people that want to join the band, instead of diving into cold water, holding hands with people from other backgrounds, learning IT, and coming out stronger in the end.

Most of the drivers in getting things connected lie in the 90% legacy buildings and not in the 1% of new construction. The refurbishment market probably takes up 9% of the buildings that exist, if that. Adopting security strategies for buildings that aren’t connected, even in the slightest, might be a moot point. And I’ll come to the point what that means for the future of BAS and building automation.

Getting buildings to a level of connectedness also means that more security aspects have to be taken into consideration. And it’s also about keeping buildings up to date. Overall, security and ethics discussions, as well as spending, within building automation is pretty scarce. Unsurprisingly so considering the fact that we are now starting to really see a movement of connected buildings. But we better learn fast, because lives depend on it.

Anto Budiardjo:  Any observation of US-Europe differences in cybersecurity?

Nicolas Waern:  Good question. I think it’s largely the same in the fact that buildings are not that connected, yet. There’s still a gap in both markets in that there’s a lot of movement with “top” solutions considered more Proptech. And then there’s the more traditional building automation segment that is getting more and more connected.

It’s actually a definite advantage of having one vendor supplying systems because it means less fragmentation in an already fragmented context. Providing that unified experience, somewhat sacrificing openness and flexibility, might work in favor of a more secure building. I haven’t seen the dragons talk about it that much, but I definitely see this as a plus. We have the GDPA (General Data Protection Act) seeping into almost every conversation that revolves around data, which might slow adoption down a bit. Otherwise, no, not really. Buildings are quite insecure, and even though I love BACnet, it might have some security concerns due to its inherent openness. Something which I know is being addressed in the upcoming BACnet/SC (Secure Connect) and BACnet/IT. I know it is not finalized yet, but as far as I know, it will address security challenges such as.

For us, at Go-IoT, we see this as a welcome addition and extension to our already powerful adaptation of BACnet/WS (Web Services). Getting data in and out of buildings will happen more and more, and it’s important that it’s very secure. This will most likely drive down cost and complexity in buildings, paving the way for more robust, useful and powerful edge gateways, acting as universal boxes in buildings.

Anto Budiardjo:  Do you see the MSI movement in Europe?

Nicolas Waern:  That’s a really good question because I do not see it that much. I could be wrong here, but no, I haven’t seen it that much. I was very impressed by the MSI (Master System integrator) movement and the SSI (Super System Integrator) movement in the US. And I am surprised by my own answer considering that the Nordic scene is much more fragmented than the American one, due to the lack of BACnet dominance in the market. As such, MSI’s should be more visible, but then again, their work would be much more difficult if they can’t stand on a BACnet/IP foundation for harmonization.

I could be wrong here, and if you, or anyone reading this, know about any MSIs who think I am an idiot for saying that the MSI movement is not that present, please let me know. I’d love to know who they are and to learn what their needs are.

Anto Budiardjo:  I saw you talk about the future of BAS. Highlights?

Nicolas Waern:  Since it is 10x easier to adopt security strategies if there actually is a network to work with, I’d say that smart will keep getting smarter in a faster pace than dumb will get smart. We’ll soon see a major shift, and eventual rift, between buildings that are “smart” as well as secure, and the ones that are not.

That will most likely lead to a higher value in “smarter buildings” because the supply and demand will be disparate to the pace of innovation. Would you expect your 200 people workforce to use a phone that is 20 years old? No. And the same will soon be said about any commercial office space.

Highlights otherwise, we have a lot of things to do in order to get buildings where they need to be. More than open hardware, more than open software, we need open minds. Jobs will be replaced and automated, but skills around legacy systems, if used correctly, will be even more important in the next decades. Don’t fear disruption, embrace it and become a master at what you do, focusing more on jumping into the chilly water below and hold hands with someone from the upper decks (IT) to create a better future.

The evident drivers from a purely monetary perspective are not here, yet. But companies are becoming more data-driven, and we all (most of us at least) know that data is the new gold. Real estate owners are sitting on gold mines, and the one who made the most money during the gold rush were the ones who sold shovels. There are phenomenal opportunities for companies with the right mindset, knowledge, and speed to market.

Anto Budiardjo:  What caught your eye on the show floor?

Nicolas Waern:  They are actually competitors of ours, but I couldn’t help looking at some of the great products that Contemporary Controls have. Zach Netsov and basically everyone else I talked to from CC impressed me greatly. You can almost see it in their controls that they are built with an insane amount of understanding of the market, and what people want to use. The sheer amount of people visiting them, and providing rave reviews of their products, was just wow, really inspirational. I think we are better in some ways (I need to say that) but certainly an inspiration for others in the industry. Security is in everything that we do at Go-IoT, but it was great to see it was also on their minds, and it’s becoming more important each day.

Enocean always packs a punch, and it is exciting to hear about new innovations in their energy harvesting line. Visual BACnet from Optigo is something we’ll try to introduce to our customers this spring, and the BACnet themselves, with Dave Nardone in the lead, are always great to talk to.

Anto Budiardjo:  You mentioned the lack of BACnet demand in Europe, do you see this changing?

Nicolas Waern:  What I said was that in the Nordics, BACnet is nowhere to be seen. Not really anyway. We are still on a bus level so to say, and that adds complexity to an already fragmented market. What I didn’t say was that there was a lack of demand. Far from it. I think there’s a growing demand for a device-to-device communication protocol that specializes in building automation. So I think one of the most growing markets might actually be here in the Nordics in the next decade.

“Forget about BACnet. It’s a legacy protocol, Haystack and wireless will replace BACnet” might someone less familiar with the ins and outs of building automation feel, and probably say.

I believe this is wrong. Haystack sits perfectly on top of BACnet, and yes it can take out existing BACnet data in an easy way, also providing much-needed tagging. However, getting data out, supporting BACnet top-down, left and right is nothing that Haystack can do today, and will have a slim chance of doing as well. And why should it?

Most people with in-depth knowledge agree that BACnet/WS and BACnet/SC will lie the foundation of taking data in and out of buildings, and haystack will be a vital piece of the puzzle, as an important component that is closer to the application layer. I feel that IoT and wireless are booming more and more here in the Nordics, and Europe, and this will drive demand towards standardization. This will lead to BACnet becoming more and more adopted as a standardization layer for IoT applications, where Alexa is bye-bye, and BACnet is… Hi hi. President of BACnet, Andy McMillan had an hour session dedicated to this trend, and that the need for security, and standardization, is exponentially higher with building automation than it is with home automation.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] In summary, I strongly believe that the demand for BACnet will see a great increase in adoption for the next decade.

Anto Budiardjo:  Any other thoughts on AHR in Atlanta?

Nicolas Waern:  Meeting my idol, Ken Sinclair, is always an amazing experience and it’s a blessing to be able to take part in his thoughts about the past, present, and the future.  

It was great to be invited to speak about “Open Hardware - Open Software” together with fellow panelists Zach Netsov, Calvin Slater and Brad White. These guys… the amount of knowledge they have on the industry as well as the passion? Wow. Inspiring.

And that leads to one more thing that I have to say. I think the people working with the more “traditional” aspects of building automation, and not management fluff, platform thinking services like me, are the unsung heroes of this world. Getting the right tools to them, utilizing their skillsets in a higher degree is of utmost importance. Not only because there is a knowledge shortage gap in the industry today, but because their skill sets are so important.

This is important since I think people got the wrong idea about the idea of open, and that it’s only about job destruction. Yes, the industry will shift towards becoming more digitally mature. And yes, we see more “IT” people coming into the industry, learning BAS as we go. But this doesn’t mean that people should be scared. Far from it. Embrace and adopt new technologies, or at least partner up with someone who knows about it. It’s all about collaboration and communication that will take buildings to the next level.

Ask not what you can do for your building, ask what the building should do for you. And if you have a hard time asking, or listening? Just let me know, and I’ll be happy to see if I can help out!

Nicolas Waern
The Building Whisperer


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