May 2014

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Frank RotelloEMAIL INTERVIEWFrank Rotello and Ken Sinclair

Frank Rotello is President of the InsideIQ Building Automation Alliance, an international alliance of independent building automation contractors representing common automation and security system platforms. A 30 year veteran of the industry, Rotello is also the CEO of Alpha Controls & Services in Rockford, Ill., a leader in delivering advanced technologies designed to make buildings comfortable, secure and efficient.

Contact Rotello at

“The Systems Integrators Role in Intelligent Buildings”

It is critical for the System Integrator to be on the team, have a seat at the table, understand their role, and utilize their knowledge and expertise adding value to the process.

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Sinclair: Is there a consensus on the definition of an Intelligent Building?

Rotello: The definition of what defines an Intelligent Building can be somewhat confusing for the market with many different product offerings and solutions that include existing legacy systems, emerging technologies, and new cloud based solutions.  The US Department of Energy launched a project in 2012, The Energy Management Information System (EMIS), to address the broad and rapidly evolving family of tools and services for managing commercial building energy use (  This is a great starting point to create a common framework and definition of Intelligent Buildings.   

The opportunity for Intelligent Buildings is transitioning from an emerging to a growth market.  Market drivers are based on increasing owner interests, industry trends, emerging technologies leveraging the internet and the building IT infrastructure, cloud based solutions, Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings, mobile apps, wireless sensors, building analytics, and enterprise wide solutions.

New disruptive technologies and new competitors are entering the market to compete with offering‘s from the traditional Building Automation System (BAS) providers.  Owners, faced with the challenges of operating their businesses,  are pushing change as well by seeking solutions that help solve their business needs by improving their effectiveness, efficiency, and competitive position in their specific industry.

Sinclair: What are the greatest opportunities for System Integrators?

Rotello: Owners are looking for solutions that provide the best ROI not only at time of project execution, but that also address the total cost of ownership over the lifecycle of their facilities.  If the owner does not value the benefits that an Intelligent Building can deliver for their facilities, then most likely they are not a candidate to work through the process to design, develop, execute, and support an Intelligent Building over the long term.  It is extremely important for Systems Integrators to qualify the needs of the building owner, but it is also critical to understand the core values that drive the owner’s business. 

At the beginning of any Intelligent Building project it is important to define which systems will be integrated into the Intelligent Building’s enterprise system: BAS; HVAC; Lighting; Access; Vision; IT, AV, Signage, Parking Systems, and Enterprise applications.   Systems Integrators realize the potential opportunity, and also the risk of impacting a long term customer relationship if the project execution is not timely, but more importantly does not meet the customer expectations.  Becoming a trusted advisor to your customers takes years of successfully executing projects and building  long term relationships based on solving each customer’s problems and adding value to their businesses. 

An important differentiator among projects is whether it is  new construction or an existing  building retrofit.  If you can start with a clean slate, building a new facility makes it much easier to establish standards, implement common designs, leverage the latest technologies to achieve the best possible ROI, and assure compliance to the organizations core values.  Unfortunately, given the current availability of existing buildings and excess capacity, most of the projects today are not new construction, but retrofits and/or upgrades of existing buildings.

Sinclair: What do System Integrators need to do to keep abreast of new technologies, and industry trends?

Rotello: If a System Integrator is only focused on technology, then most likely they will not be successful either leading or participating as a key player on a team working with the owner to create the vision of how an Intelligent Building can be part of their strategic plans for their business.  It is critical for the System Integrator to be on the team, have a seat at the table, understand their role, and utilize their knowledge and expertise adding value to the process.  System Integrators can also be helpful in the vetting of new technologies and solutions during the initial planning and design phase, and key players during the implementation of the project.  Finally, it is the System Integrators who will provide the required ongoing support of the Intelligent Building system. 

Each building is unique, and designing, controlling, and automating large building HVAC systems is a very challenging and complex process.  Buildings respond differently to thermal loads, external temperature, and humidity.  Types of HVAC systems, original system design, legacy systems, occupancy levels and occupant behavior all interact to constantly challenge the facility management team and push building systems to maintain optimum building performance.

System Integrators have extensive experience at the system level, BMS, HVAC, Electrical, IT, Access, Vision, and plant level to accomplish integration of open and legacy systems using standard industry protocols such as BacNet, LON, Modbus, and OBIX. Various proprietary systems exist below the network level each requiring access to system specific expertise and the necessary proprietary programming tools to be able to support the various building systems. 

Big data, analytics, and cloud based SaaS offerings are now commercially viable and leverage the BMS to provide an enterprise level solution that helps the facility management team identify, quantify,  and priortize system issues in advance by leveraging knowledge based systems providing fault detection and recommended plan of action to address the problems.  The System Integrator has to have expertise with the technology, but also must have the ability to deploy the system effectively for the owner while creating and documenting workflow processes and procedures for optimum system performance. 

Facility budgets are being stretched, and finding qualified experienced staff is becoming more and more difficult.  The right technology solution can help, but there is no silver bullet.  New challenges facing facility management teams include regulatory mandates, demand response, budgets, occupant comfort, the ability to attract and retain experienced facility staff, and energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives that require advanced systems to leverage existing building systems. 

How to get started?  A pilot project is an ideal way to start the process of moving towards an Intelligent Building solution for a single building, campus environment, or  multiple buildings located anywhere in the world. 

In many States the ROI for implementing Intelligent Buildings can be significantly improved by leveraging energy rebates and grants to replace existing equipment with newer more energy efficient equipment.  Federal programs such as Energy Efficient Commercial Building Deduction (179D) can also be utilized to provide an additional incentive to invest in Intelligent Buildings. Experienced Systems Integrators have the expertise and understanding to secure all possible rebates, grants, and tax deductions as well as understand how these impact on the ROI and financial hurdles for the organization.

The adaption of new technologies is expanding at an accelerated pace compared to other building technology transformations over the past 20 years. A large part of this is the emergence of new disruptive technologies and new competitors entering traditional Systems Integration markets.  This is both a threat and an opportunity.   

A key question for Building Owners and System Integrators to consider while evaluating an Intelligent Building proposal containing new technologies is whether or not the solution is commercially viable.  What about the costs for ongoing support and total cost of ownership? Is the technology solution provider commercially viable, and will they be in business in the future?  Do they have the resources to continue to invest and enhance their solution?

Sinclair: What are the greatest challenges for System Integrators entering the Intelligent Buildings market?

Rotello: Most System Integrators lead with a primary product line and also independently represent secondary product lines to supplement their primary offering. The System Integrator has a significant investment in training for their team with the product manufacturer to assure they can deliver quality implementations and factory certified systems. The owner also has the added benefit of working with a System Integrator who is usually an independent locally owned company with a reputation to protect in their local market. 

The above benefits can become a disadvantage for the owner, if the owner is evaluating new technology offerings and the System Integrator is not progressive and tries to keep the customer committed to their legacy systems. A better approach for the System Integrator would be to become a trusted advisor, solutions provider, and a strategic advisor for the owner. The System Integrator would then be seen as a resource to help the owner establish their needs and be part of the team that is assembled to determine the best solution to be deployed for the owner’s Intelligent Building project.  

The owner’s objectives, budget, and risk tolerance must be dealt with upfront during the project definition phase.  Selecting the right Systems Integrator gives the owner the best option to explore new technologies, assess risk, and assist with the design and construction process for their facilities.

Control Solutions, Inc Sinclair: What do Systems Integrators need to do to participate in the Intelligent Building market?

Rotello: System Integrators have an opportunity to ride the wave of Intelligent Buildings, but need to be ready and prepared to invest in their business to make sure they protect their customer base and are ready when new customer opportunities arise in their local markets.  It starts with a commitment and willingness to get engaged, assign the right resources, develop a plan, and invest in building a team and organization that is focused on delivering solutions for their customers. 

Building the team and the professional organization capable of partnering, designing, executing, and servicing the next generation of Intelligent Building’s presents a significant challenge for Systems Integrators.

Systems Integrators will have to:
Intelligent Buildings require a different approach: positioning the solution; procurement process, design process, construction process, and ongoing support. Opportunities exist for Owners and System Integrators if they are willing to step out of the box to embrace Intelligent Buildings.

Sinclair: As Systems Integrators, why is InsideIQ attending IBcon?

Rotello: As an exhibitor in 2013, InsideIQ was very impressed with the Realcomm/IBcon conference and InsideIQ member Environmental Systems Inc. (ESI) has been very active with Realcomm for more than five years. Since 2002 Realcomm has been a thought leader promoting Intelligent Buildings and the Realcomm/IBcon conference brings industry experts, and thought leaders, vendors, owners together to learn about Intelligent Buildings. The conference provides excellent  opportunities to network and attend the educational sessions.  At last year’s conference InsideIQ met Bruce deGrazia (CEO of GHS Advisors) who was presenting on liability and risks associated with cybersecurity issues.  Based on our meeting at IBcon, InsideIQ scheduled Bruce to make a presentation at the InsideIQ Fall meeting to educate our Building Automation Alliance members about cybersecurity risks and liabilities. 

Realcomm/IBcon is a great opportunity for InsideIQ to expose our Building Automation Alliance to the Intelligent Building market, and share information with our member companies to help them add value to their businesses and our customers businesses in our local markets. 

InsideIQ is an Industry Partner for the 2014 IBcon conference and a Boot Camp sponsor.  We are looking forward to participating in The Smart Building Integrator Summit on June 17 (Pre-Conference Event) to continue to learn about emerging technologies and solutions, but more importantly to interact and hear directly from high profile building owners and operators what they need to more effectively and efficiently manage their facilities. 


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