April 2018

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Deb NollerEMAIL INTERVIEWDeb Noller and Ken Sinclair

Deb Noller, CEO, Switch Automation

Next Generation Smart Building Software Solutions

are Fixing Broken Buildings Around the World

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Sinclair:  You’ve just introduced three new smart building software solutions. What drove you to develop them?

Noller:  Since 2012, we’ve been working with enterprises in a variety of industries and they all have one problem in common: broken buildings. No matter the industry; retail, financial, grocery, commercial real estate, etc., they all suffer from inefficient operations stemming from lack of visibility into building performance. We realized early on that this problem doesn’t just affect the bottom line and the environment, but the enterprise as a whole. Consider these statistics:

Sinclair:  Why are broken buildings such a hard problem to solve?

Noller:  As an individual, if you want to make a sustainable impact there is an array of solutions to choose from no matter your budget. You can recycle waste, bike to work, program your thermostat to use less energy when you’re not home, use LED bulbs, drive a hybrid vehicle, install solar panels and more.

Enterprise companies, however, have huge real estate portfolios with hundreds or thousands of buildings that often span multiple geographies. Each building within the portfolio is like a snowflake with its own systems, equipment and sensors that vary in age and performance. Factor in the recent wave of new Internet of Things (IoT) technologies collecting vast amounts of data and you’ve got a hypercomplex landscape of solutions that are extremely hard to differentiate.

Sinclair:  There are so many different industries and companies affected by this problem. How did you incorporate that diversity into your solutions?

Noller:  We spent years listening to our customers to truly understand the pain these broken buildings cause. Clients new to the smart building journey told us they were overwhelmed by a marketplace filled with solutions that looked similar but in reality had very different capabilities and features. They were fearful of making the wrong choice, thereby wasting resources and delaying positive results.

Customers with a failed smart building initiative or two under their belts confirmed this fear. They told us they wanted a solution tailored to their business that consolidates siloed information into actionable insights without costly rip and replacements or expensive customization later on.

We analyzed the effects of broken buildings at every level of the organization and developed our Building Management Hierarchy of Needs. This led us to the realization that regardless of industry or portfolio size, there’s a tsunami of disconnected data pouring into various silos with no way to consolidate, analyze or leverage it for insights. Our goal was to develop a scalable software platform that would meet enterprises where they are in the hierarchy, grow in tandem with their business and accommodate emerging technologies. So, we created Portfolio Intelligence, Performance Optimization and Enterprise IoT.

Portfolio Intelligence fuels effective building management decisions by saving time on data aggregation and delivering unparalleled visibility into portfolio and site performance.

Performance Optimization elevates building performance by pairing automated systems integration capabilities with industry-leading analytics, machine learning and user-configurable fault detection to enable real-time portfolio management.

Enterprise IoT is a holistic, tailored smart building program that enables enterprises to enhance building performance, streamline processes, lower operating costs and provide an exceptional occupant experience by moving from reactive to proactive to predictive maintenance.

Sinclair:  What results have your clients experienced so far?

Noller:  We’ve seen some outstanding applications of the Switch Platform and they are a testament to the innovative leadership at some of the world’s top companies. For example:

Sinclair:  What encouragement would you give to today’s innovative leaders as they embark on the path of optimizing building performance?

Noller:  It’s helpful to think of your smart building program as a journey. A successful journey involves preparation and planning, not to mention choosing the right people to accompany you. Each enterprise has their own unique starting point, but no matter where that is in the Building Management Hierarchy, it’s possible to dramatically optimize building performance and multiply efficiencies across your portfolio.

Be sure to ask key questions up front to avoid unexpected costs, delays and disappointment. For example, is the solution cloud-hosted or on-premise? If it’s on premise, prepare to spend time and money on future upgrades and features. Is the solution proprietary or open protocol? If it’s proprietary, you’ll be in for back-end expenses when making changes to your portfolio down the road. Is it interoperable with other systems and equipment? If not, you might close the door on future technologies or risk costly rip and replacements. Does the solution come with support? To fully reap the benefits of your smart building program, you may want experts available to help with integration, retro-commissioning, onboarding, training and building performance analysis. Finally, in lieu of multiple pilots which divest resources and are hard to compare side by side, consider a phased approach to demonstrate ROI before making a large commitment.

If you’ve done your research, asked the right questions and tested your solution on a representative phase of buildings, you’ll have a solid foundation with proven results from which to launch an effective smart building program.


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