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Realcomm Live Interview

Image of Ian McFarland
Ian McFarland

10 minute Q&A with Realcomm moderator and Ben Bradford, Buildings IOT’s head of product, and Ian McFarland, BIOT’s sales leader.

 Q: I’m struck by this term “adaptive buildings” that I saw at your booth. Can you describe for us, what is an adaptive building?

A (IAN): Sure – it’s a theme that comes up in almost all of our customer conversations these days. People across the built environment need their buildings to do more for them, they need them to adapt to new demands.

The demands are wide-ranging, they could be demands to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions, or demands to comply with new regulations, demands to increase asset value amidst a challenging economic climate, demands to reduce op ex without huge capital outlay.

An adaptive building makes it possible for portfolio owners and those who work in and around buildings to do any and all of these things.

Ultimately, adaptive buildings are connected, automated, interactive and aware which makes them able to do more while requiring less of the people who care for them.

Q: We’ve been facilitating a lot of learning around AI for buildings, obviously we’ve co-located with an entire day dedicated to BuildingsAI. Does an adaptive building utilize AI?

A (BEN): Definitely. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have a huge place in the built environment broadly and in our technology specifically. It all comes down to data. In the consumer sector, AIs have the entire world wide web to use as training ground and some really interesting commercial applications are starting to unfold as a result.

For buildings, data has been locked away in proprietary systems, inaccessible to any aggregation entity. Without that trove of real-time data, it’s difficult to gather enough material to train AIs to make any meaningful inferences or draw any valid conclusions.

Adaptive buildings absolutely utilize AI, which makes data accessibility and standardization so critical.

Q: Tell me more about data accessibility and standardization. Is that the Independent Data Layer I keep hearing about?

A (BEN): Yes, for the most part. The independent or integrated data layer enables scale for all buildings-based initiatives. Everyone at Realcomm events is familiar with the number of systems and equipment it takes to run a building – it can be up to 20 different systems connected to, monitoring and controlling hundreds of equipment and devices. It’s hard enough to unify each of those systems and that’s just one building. The data problem multiplies exponentially across a portfolio.

So what does it mean to enable integrated data access at scale? It means that a user can query (through an API or a visual front-end) for Zone Temperature in 1 building or 1,000 buildings and the result will always be zone temperature. It means that Occupied Hours can be analyzed across time zones, regardless of the sensor manufacturer. It means that energy consumption metrics can be automatically normalized for square footage and weather.

And it means that portfolios can finally be better prepared to adapt to what’s thrown at them.​

Q: So what is the value of all this to the portfolio owner?

A (IAN): We all love to quote the phrase “every building is a snowflake.” From our perspective that may be true, but it’s our view that their data doesn’t have to be. When building data is interoperable and accessible, the value really becomes endless.

The query examples that Ben gave are just a few of the use cases. Customers are using our adaptive buildings suite to incentivize operators to fix the highest value issues so that automated demand programs can achieve the highest possible cost savings. We’re also finding a lot of customers are using their access to integrated, standardized data to right-size operations across their portfolio for everything from maintenance to energy to occupancy.

Buildings are bringing up the rear on the data train, to be sure, but the value is starting to crystalize and the technology has come far enough along that it’s affordable for portfolios to try a few different things in a few handfuls of buildings and see what works for their needs.

Q: Can I buy an adaptive building?

A (IAN): Ha! Not yet, but give us a few more years and we hope to have created hundreds if not thousands of them.

It's more about the journey at this point. Others in enterprise software are talking a lot about digital transformation. That has particular meaning in buildings because so many buildings have so far to go before they can even start thinking about being digital. Meanwhile, others have all the pieces in place and are just waiting to be optimized.

An adaptive building is the result of a concerted effort to harness and make useful operational data. It will be a dream to come back on this stage in a few years and discuss the acquisition of the first adaptive building that our technology helped to create!


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