May 2017

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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Steve NguyenEMAIL INTERVIEWSteve Nguyen and Ken Sinclair

Steve Nguyen is the vice president of product and marketing at BuildingIQ – a company that is bringing a suite of cloud-based energy intelligence service to the commercial, healthcare, education, and other building markets. Steve joined BuildingIQ from Bidgely, where he ran marketing and helped utilities to better engage consumers with their energy use through the power of disaggregation. Prior to Bidgely, he ran corporate marketing and embedded solutions product marketing at IoT pioneer Echelon – helping shape the market for today’s smart buildings and early markets for smart homes and the smart grid. He holds a B.S. from Brandeis University and M.B.A. from Boston College.

IoT-Enabled Buildings

What does the future of IoT-enabled buildings look like and how do you think this will impact the role of a facility manager?

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SinclairWhat is your definition of an IoT-enabled building?

Nguyen:  We define IoT-enabled buildings as buildings with a core HVAC/BMS that has been extended using non-traditional BMS-sensing or control devices. These devices can have two basic architectures. One would be a dedicated network (wire or wireless) that puts control, data logging, and interface capabilities at a gateway. In this scenario, data analytics would be performed in the cloud as an extension of any BMS-related data analytics performed locally. The second basic architecture would have the sensors/actuators each reporting to a cloud back-end managed by the manufacturer. This cloud would typically have the ability to integrate with other cloud services via a simple API. Functionally, though, we’d be seeing the same result – a traditional BMS extended in capability by an IoT-type device.

In the case of BuildingIQ, we’re already leveraging the existing BMS as an incumbent IoT sensor network and processing the data in the cloud, as would any native IoT solution. What the real difference between pure IoT and us is that we recognize that the BMS is a smart sensing and control IoT infrastructure already.

SinclairAre there any barriers holding back the adoption of IoT solutions within buildings?

Nguyen:  The main barriers to adoption of IoT solutions are inertia, security, and control. Security and control go hand-in-hand. If you’re doing control, you better have your security house in order. If you’re not doing control, then it’s more an issue of not introducing new vulnerabilities into the data infrastructure. Where inertia is concerned, the barrier is much more nuanced. Emotion, fear and education play large roles. We’ve run into instances where the building management team is simply not interested in adopting cloud-based control. In such cases, we take a measured approach to building trust over the course of months. Overcoming such a barrier is about proving that we know what we’re doing – actually improving rather than complicating the lives of the building team. And at the end of the day, demonstrating value. Along this journey BuildingIQ is also educating, providing value, and eliminating fear and doubt.

SinclairWhat impact will IoT technologies have on the traditional BMS?

Nguyen:  An HVAC system is already an IoT system in my opinion. We do see “pure IoT” plays in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market where BMS’s aren’t typically found, and we see the IoT extending the BMS with less expense and faster ROI. The real impact is in how we look at the systems and devices. In BuildingIQ’s world, it’s all about the data. How much can we get it? How do disparate data correlate? What insights and predictions can we make from seemingly unrelated data?

To support this, the primary function of the BMS evolve to be a data source and on-site proxy for implementing cloud-control. Outsourcing the intelligence to a cloud-based platform allows a building to utilize machine-learning models that require more computing power than is resident in the BMS itself. To us, this is where the value of IoT will truly impact buildings.

contemporary SinclairAre there any segments that can benefit from IoT technologies more than others?

Nguyen:  Certainly. The fastest adoption should be in the SMB space due to a pressing need to optimize operations and curtail energy spend when often there is no resident professional facility staff. In the large building market, we’re already seeing a lot of interest in extending the BMS for the obvious reason that it's hugely expensive and disruptive to rip and replace. Where we have customers that have already made the commitment to “rip out and replace” an out-of-date or poor performing BMS, we see great interest in going the IoT route.

SinclairWhat does the future of IoT-enabled buildings look like and how do you think this will impact the role of a facility manager?

Nguyen:  Facility managers have the opportunity to get ahead of the IoT curve. They stand to directly benefit from the adoption of the IoT by understanding and leveraging the value of cloud-based solutions like ours. We see that there is a lot of value in the facility team and utilizing human expertise. This is why we have Human Capital as one of the five pillars upon which our 5i platform is built and why we work very closely with the facility team to augment their capabilities. In fact, most of the services that we provide – services which are crafted into solutions for our customers – are hybrids that combine cloud-based, machine learning-driven software-as-a-service and human expertise.


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