June 2020

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Troy Harvey

EMAIL INTERVIEW – Troy Harvey and Ken Sinclair

Troy Harvey, CEO, PassiveLogic

"The Building Automation Industry’s Past, Present, and Future"

Our industry has accomplished a lot over the past couple of decades, but it still has several major problems including: stagnation, labor shortages, lack of scalability, and ill-defined terminology.

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Sinclair:  Tell a little bit of back story about how PassiveLogic began.

Harvey:  PassiveLogic began in 2016 with founders Troy Harvey and Jeremy Fillingim. Troy was previously CEO of Heliocentric, a controls and energy engineering firm that worked with architects, engineers, and developers to design and build next generation high performance buildings. In that role, he recognized that high performance buildings were not living up to their promise — the operational results were falling far short of engineered design criteria. He developed early concepts in physical model-based control to solve this critical problem, which provided the foundation for PassiveLogic.

Previous to PassiveLogic, Jeremy Fillingim was a founding engineer and chief architect at Fusion-io. While leading the engineering effort to create world-class hardware and software storage solutions, he grew the technical team from 5 to 900, through to a $2 Billion IPO and acquisition by SanDisk. When Jeremy hired Troy's firm to build a high-performance home. The two began discussing the technological stagnation of the building automation market — Jeremy came on first as an Angel investor, then two months later, joined as co-founder and CTO of PassiveLogic.

Since then, the team has grown and continues to expand rapidly. PassiveLogic came out of stealth mode in 2019 and has been engaging in partner meetings and events around the world as we prepare for general product release.

Sinclair:  How do you see the industry currently?

Harvey:  Our industry has accomplished a lot over the past couple of decades, but it still has several major problems including: stagnation, labor shortages, lack of scalability, and ill-defined terminology. Let's briefly discuss each of these:

Sinclair:  How does PassiveLogic approach building automation differently?

Harvey:  PassiveLogic addresses all of the problems we see with the current industry by reimagining building technology from the ground up.

We have introduced the concept of Deep Digital Twins as a model to fully describe a building and its environment for the first time, enabling buildings to become fully autonomous. This breakthrough allows buildings to determine their own control paths much like autonomous vehicles.

A digital twin is a virtual version of a physical object, system, or process — the link between the physical and digital worlds. The concept was originally created by NASA when attempting to answer the question, How do you operate, maintain, and repair a system when you can’t access it physically?

These digital representations of the physical world can be manipulated, simulated, and analyzed to help us understand systems, behaviors, and interactions of real-world objects that are either too difficult or too expensive to observe in the physical world. Deep Digital Twins can be used to predict the future, showing us the implications of a control or environmental change on the systems we are modeling.

 For PassiveLogic, it was important to take this advance in technology and integrate it into a package that addresses the needs of the installers. This will effectively democratize building automation, by enabling those who make the controls decisions and implement them in the field. Our Hive Controller guides installers through a “no-code” user interface, guided wiring process, and automatic commissioning and error detection of the building and systems. By reducing the time to deploy a BAS by 90%, PassiveLogic has overcome the hurdle that has kept building automation out of small to medium-sized commercial buildings. With a unique pricing model that starts at around $2000, PassiveLogic scales to meet the needs of any size building — providing industry-leading technology to every project.

Sinclair:  Tell us more about Fully Autonomous Buildings. What's the difference between smart buildings and Autonomous Buildings?

Harvey:  Fully Autonomous Buildings are important because they set the standard for how we talk about technology in building controls, providing context for where we've been in technology and where the opportunities lie in the future. To avoid the vagueness around the term "smart", PassiveLogic introduced a taxonomy for discussing technology in building automation (see the September 2019 issue of The taxonomy considers our industry in terms of levels of autonomy much like the vehicle industry, giving professionals a common language for discussing and advancing technology. The introduction of 8 clearly defined "levels of autonomy" for buildings finally allows us to communicate clearly when we talk about “smart” technology and products.

Fully autonomous buildings go well beyond what most offerings provide today, which is typically increasing connectivity and adding features like thermostatics — akin to adaptive cruise control for buildings. A fully autonomous building, on the other hand, can operate independently under any conditions without for human intervention. By aggregating data about the equipment, the building envelope, occupancy, the external environment, and more, an Autonomous Building can evaluate millions of possible control scenarios that extend into the future to ultimately choose the most effective path. In doing so, Autonomous Buildings are able to become more efficient, morecontemporary resilient, and more comfortable than traditional "smart" buildings.

Sinclair:  Tell us about some cool projects you are working on.

Sinclair:  What is your vision for the industry over the next 10 years?

Harvey:  In the next decade, our industry will finally level-up, and move on from PID-based control and static programming sequences to embrace the future of digital-twin based control. Using autonomous technology, buildings will have all of the information needed for optimized control and self-guidance. We will reach higher levels of autonomy in buildings, and pave the way for the emergence of fully interconnected smart cities. As the main component that makes up cities, fully autonomous buildings will open up a whole host of possibilities, driven by the need for cleaner, more resilient energy systems. These opportunities include improved demand-response management between users and providers, peer-to-peer interactions between autonomous buildings, human-centric occupant experiences, and distributed energy trading networks. At PassiveLogic, we see that the future is bright, and are excited to lead the industry.


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