November 2018

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Cheating “Death by 1000 cuts”.

The technological approach to a more sustainable future will most likely lie in harmonizing BACnet and IoT underneath a BACnet umbrella, utilizing Haystack and the likes to get things to talk together in a better way and to make it easier to apply analytics as well.

Part 1 of 2
Nicolas Waern
Nicolas Waern

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The last couple of weeks have been extremely interesting on all accounts. Global giants are taking an interest in what we do, insurance companies, AI/ML companies, Telecommunication companies with 650 Million subscribers and the Maker Space movement are keen on getting started.

The traditional companies are moving upstream, trying to capture more value from end to end solutions. Whilst newer companies who are keen to talk benefits instead of tech are taking more ground at the top. A lot of them are okay with offering cool solutions that scale well, but they are not really talking to the core tech that is the building automation segment. It might also be the case that they are creating new proprietary solutions from end to end, getting the job done in a rather seamless way, albeit not always future proof.

All in all, there are a lot of things going on now which usually means a lot of possibilities but alas, there are some dark clouds out there on the horizon as well. I am of course talking about the severe integration challenges to come.

Are you talking to me?

Harmonization and future proofing are some of the main challenges for companies on all sides of the building automation industry. Individual vendors see it when they try to integrate their solutions with existing infrastructure. Most of them lose momentum altogether due to the lack of integration and arduous configuration needed.

Real estate owners are starting to see the problems with the APP-approach inside buildings and have stricter demands towards companies selling them solutions. They too are starting to see a cluttered environment where everyone seems to be solving everything at first. But in the end, it just adds to the complexity and amount to nothing but the buzz and not real value.

Solution providers for Real Estate owners/Managers as customers say that they have a real hard time selling their solutions if they can’t promise two things:

  1. Their solutions become a part of someone else’s umbrella platform
  2. Encapsulate other companies’ solutions, creating an umbrella platform.

Which basically means one thing. We see a shift from single source solutions to a platform economy for buildings. Or at least the urge to get there.

The value of being lost in time

Real estate companies are also worried that a lot of the value is being created by others, and they are missing out big time right now, but even more so in the future. There is a constant worry about companies like WeWork, who can go in, digitize buildings, and create exponential value for tenants by offering more flexibility and comfort, where traditional players have a hard time keeping up. There’s a lot of brain scratching going on, trying to figure out how they can innovate faster, without becoming a tech company themselves. Because that is the question of the times. The question if tech companies can learn Real Estate faster than Real Estate companies can learn Tech. And right now, Real Estate companies are fighting a losing battle.

Maybe it’s a battle they should be losing?

Inviting others to innovate

Maybe it is a battle best fought with the help of others? What if Real Estate owners could get their buildings connected, up to a point. And then let others innovate with their assets in a standardized way? Being locked in has its charm and proprietary has its perks as well. There is usually ONE company to blame, to ask, to glorify, and there’s usually more or less a seamless experience. Mixing and matching from different vendors and technologies, utilizing the API-economy can soon enough become a nightmare, and the API economy might not be the end solution after all.

However, most players do believe that freedom of choice, open standards, and service transparency is the way to go.

The death by 1000 cuts

With freedom also comes a huge responsibility.

Michael Johnston, the Lead Solutions Architect at CBRE, LEED AP, made some fantastic comments when asked about the current lay of the land in the IoT/API world. He agreed that everyone wants to get their gadgets into their buildings with what he referred to as a “low cost,” “peel and stick” approach to sensors with fantastic benefits to… everything! Companies will not only get energy consumption down by 105%, but they will also make your whole life a great deal better. Throw in a lot of exciting business models with recurring cost, and it slowly but surely ends up being “Death by 1000 cuts”.

He also adds that newer sensors might not even offer any actionable information that you can use to improve control or save energy. The gap between the old and the new is everything but new, but it is becoming more and more of a problem considering the explosion of sensors out there on the market.

This might be a classic “gimmicky is everything but gold”- situation and Michael sure comes with a viable critique on the cool end user-centric solutions that don’t necessarily add any real value in the long run which are a nightmare to manage.

Harmonization for the Nation

This situation will most likely become worse before it becomes any better. There will be a lot of integration problems and severe configuration problems moving forward. But this can be avoided if companies dare to think about disrupting themselves. If not, they are bound to get disrupted.

Inviting others from across disciplines is the way to go in order to bring future products to market faster. These insights and many more are being created when Ken Sinclair and John Petze are discussing the Maker movement, Edge-ifcation and what needs to be done.

Ken and John talk about it briefly that the key lies in the benefits such as “Comfort as a Service.” And that there must be a shift from a technology focus to that of end-user benefits.

I would take it a step further and post the question, what if end users could come up with the solutions themselves? We are already providing open modular hardware towards system integrators and the maker space, as discussed very briefly at the top. But what about the tenants? Is there a way to get them involved them in this space as well?

Avoiding the Death by 1000 cuts

The technological approach to a more sustainable future will most likely lie in harmonizing BACnet and IoT underneath a BACnet umbrella, utilizing Haystack and the likes to get things to talk together in a better way and to make it easier to apply analytics as well. We are working together with a couple of AI/ML companies in providing analytics in an easy, straight forward way.

In our eyes, the only way to cheat death is by harmonizing the IoT World and the Traditional BAS-world. Preferably BACnet and anything IoT considering the world dominance of BACnet as well as its inherent device to device communication properties.  Pook-Ping Yao at Optigo Networks talk about the fact that open, wireless and IP is on the rise, but there’s no doubt there’s a conservative approach in the business and wired still is the King.

Considering the growth of both the traditional BAS market and the booming IoT market and the “proptech” movement, companies have a 1,4 Trillion dollar opportunity merging both of these worlds.

The approach of getting data in and out via BACnet/WS and converting everything IoT into BACnet objects might be clear, and there are a lot of obvious benefits in doing so. Connecting IoT devices to the Internet, securely in a standardized way without losing functionality is the way to a sustainable future. Companies don’t need to worry all too much of what vendor they are using, what technology they are communicating with since there is the ability to make everything into BACnet objects. Great!

Smooth sailing when cheating death? Not yet, but there is hope. 

Making decisions

The big challenge seems to be to get people in the same room. On one side you have the system integrators who can utilize a more open, modular approach than ever before. They have the lego building blocks to create whatever needs to be created. Some wish to be at the forefront; others are biding their time, seeing what will prevail and are sticking to their proprietary guns.

There is a divide between R&D efforts and the people using the solutions, and this is also something that needs to be solved. Modularity is the key and robust solutions today might infer that they have the possibility to be re-configured and for firmware upgrades to take place. The maker space movement and the Edge-ifcation out there will certainly help in creating buildings that are robust, useful and attractive for the ones who need it the most. The walls need to be robust, but everything on the inside needs to become more flexible with people in mind.

In part 2, we’ll dig deeper into the business model side of things, and what companies can do to cheat death by 1000 cuts in terms of recurring business models. Because evidently, there are many things to think about and there’s no sure way to cheat death.

But I’d like to think there are many options out there which help. Platform thinking and an ecosystem approach with open standards, service transparency and a focus on people are in my opinion the best bet for long-term success. Think big, start small, but above all else, start.

The best decision is all about taking the right decisions.

The second-best decision is taking the wrong decisions.

And the worst decision is when you don’t take any decisions at all.

Go out there, get started, and if you need any help, we are here to make you make the most of the past, the present, and the future! Go-IoT!



About the Author

Nicolas Waern is the CEO of the fast-growing Nordic IoT company Go-IoT and is usually accompanied with the hashtag #Thebuildingwhisperer on Linkedin and Twitter. He loves what he does, and he knows he’s in this business for the long run, having the time of his life. Go-IoT makes it easier for others to harmonize data in buildings as well as simplifying the transfer of any data to and from the edge to any cloud, leveraging all that is BACnet with their dynamic BACnet server on the edge. Their offering consists of open and modular software and hardware solutions which form a powerful edge gateway under the name of DINGO and Go-IoT Cloud. Their solutions have the power of converting any sensor technology into BACnet objects, creating a BACnet umbrella for everything making SCADA systems, BAS, BEMS and anything in between, IoT-Ready. Why not take advantage of all that the API economy has to offer?


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