Some of these companies actually just want to be the middleware, and I don't think that's a dirty word.
Welcome to Nexus, a newsletter and podcast for smart people applying smart building technology—hosted by James Dice.
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I’m super excited to bring you Episode 2, a conversation with Joe Aamidor of Aamidor Consulting. Joe and I talk regularly, so this was our chance to catch up on what we’ve been thinking about over the last several weeks.
We flow through a range of topics, including:
Joe’s career path and how Aamidor Consulting came to be (including how he helps bridge the gap between new software companies and the day to day operations of commercial buildings)
Joe’s experience building energy apps for JCI’s Panoptix platform circa 2012 and Why "the iPhone for buildings" isn’t a thing
Strategies for building owners to get started with smart buildings
Whether there’s room for more startups in the analytics space
Open data layers and automated point tagging
Scroll down for the companies and links mentioned, my top highlights of the episode, and a full transcript.
Thoughts, comments, reactions? Let us know in the comments.
Mentions and Links
Nexus post On the Merits of an Open Data Layer
The great data layer debate on LinkedIn
Automated point tagging discussion on LinkedIn
1. What happened with Panoptix?
I tend to see it as really a story of a large company that's very much a hardware, equipment, capital-driven, a lot of sales of capital equipment. That was the core business service. The trucks you see driving around another core business, and those are really, if you look at, even today. Building management companies, controls HVAC, probably fire and security and lighting is maybe a little less service oriented, but all of them are very, very focused on those upfront capital expenditures and then a service type agreement to keep it running. And what we were doing was really very different.
It was software as a service. It was data that will allow you to maybe extend the life of your equipment, maybe you reduce the operating costs you have. And it's tough in a large, I mean, at that time, JCI was a $40 billion company.
So it's a difficult thing to do because you have a lot of operational or organizational inertia of this is how we do things. And. I'll be the first to admit that the smart building story, I'm very high on longterm, the need for smart buildings. But I also recognize that if you're running a building today, there can be challenges in converting from, we buy equipment, we fix it on a scheduled basis, and we. Repair things or replace things when they need to be repaired and replaced. Switching into, let's use software to help us reduce all those costs, change how we do things. It's not an overnight thing.
I think the product itself was a pretty strong product. I mean, one of my colleagues was building a fault detection product and we were at the same time, kind of the early nascent stages of fault detection and dealing with a lot of questions like how is this different than a BAS alarm? What's the difference between a rule-based fault and kind of a statistical based or statistical analysis driven fault? And some of these questions I think are still happening, but I think it's interesting that all of the big companies have analytics platforms like this. But I think in general, and this is just what I've seen as an outside observer. They all struggle to some degree with how do we really fit this into our current business model? How do we transition people? We see the future and we know we want to be a part of it, and we know we need to be a part of it, but we aren't really sure exactly how do we get from point a to point B.
2. Was it the first app store for buildings? How did it work?
There was a fully functional app store, and I think there must've been 25 30 35 apps. Some vendors had multiple apps though, so it wasn't 20 25 30 actual vendors. I remember we actually had great feedback from the vendors because the problem we were solving, so one, you're putting a gateway of some kind, it could be different depending on what your setup and your billings was, but you had a gateway that sent all the data to the cloud. So we needed that in any of these companies that have their own platform need that because you're running apps in the cloud. But once you have the data in the cloud, you can through API APIs, make it available to anyone.
So the concept was actually very similar to what Apple is doing. You know, once you have an Apple ID, once you have an Apple phone, you can go in and any other vendor can put an app on there and it will use your contacts if it wants it. We'll use previous locations if you enable it or let it, and it's designed to do that. So all of that worked really well. I think that the, the areas that were somewhat challenging were one, a lot of the apps were not things that you can get for free or you can buy for a dollar, $2 $5. These were more enterprise grade apps. And. Also, if you're used to buying products and services from Johnson Controls or Honeywell or Siemens or any of these companies going online and just using a credit card to buy, it's just a different way of buying.
And I don't know that we fully I appreciated the fact that people aren't necessarily just going to make that switch, but the vendors themselves loved it because the problem we were solving for them was they don't need to worry about how do we get the data out of the building, which is a huge problem. Then the cybersecurity issues or the story or the concern there was not nearly as great. I actually think that is a very legitimate concern and having a vendor like a JCI or any of these large vendors. To some degree, solving the cybersecurity piece or being more confident or being able to be perceived as more confident in the eyes of the building owners. You're a JCI. You can invest in cybersecurity. You're able to spend the money that's required. Versus a small startup that may take security seriously, but may just not have the same resources. It seems like that story or that value proposition gets stronger, but it just figuring out how do you really do the buying and the selling and the transactions, I think is still, to some degree, an open question.
3. I think when you're selling a software product or any sort of product, you are happy if the owner's buying, obviously, but if the building owners jumping in without a strategy, it's probably not good for anyone longterm, from what I've seen, because that pilot projects probably not gonna work out. And most of it was just my sense in most cases. So what can vendors do to help with strategy?
I'll even add to that. You do find some vendors almost have, like pilot fatigue, right? Like we've done so many pilots, a lot of the pilots, it's just kinda been, been defined to us as the first step is a pilot. I don't think pilots are a bad thing and, or inherently a bad thing. I think the challenge can be piloting because you just don't know where's the next step here we aren't sure. Let's just do a pilot. I definitely think that there are ways that vendors can offer, and I've seen some buyers of technology maybe have the goal of a pilot as part of the process, but maybe are trying to, to have steps before a pilot that allow them to. Shortlist. It may sound counterintuitive, but if you're selling and it's a competitive procurement, it may be better for you to try to help the vendor or the, as the vendor help the building owner make a decision faster.
It’s very much like you have the fail fast concept when you're building technology, let's build something. Let's do it. Let's fail fast because if we failed faster, we've gone down that path fast. We found saw the right way. We can come back and go down a different path. So you could apply that to, as a vendor selling you want to help our clients make a decision faster, and even if they decide not to work with us. It's better that we know now than in six months because the sales team can move on.
4. What are your thoughts on the all start game vs. the home run derby?
I mean, I wrote a article two years ago, maybe a year and a half, I forget, but, I talked about. This idea of the technology stack, and I probably this, this is a theme I think that is stretched through a few different articles, but say did that a lot of companies were very much focused on the vertical full tech stack, if you will, maybe not deploying their own gateways, their own meters, I mean though, companies that have their own, at least white labeled meters and hardware, that is then, there's the connection to the cloud. There's the cloud based software, there's the analytics, there's the end, you as a user can log into. There are companies that offer that entire tech stack. I think that that model is maybe going by the wayside a little bit. In general... There may be certain verticals where it works, certain companies that have been successful, but it's difficult to do that, and it's especially difficult to do that if you're trying to do that across many different types of buildings, right? So you're doing that for hospitals. You're doing that for hospitality, you're doing that for office buildings.
But I think part of the reason it's difficult to do that is because there's actually now a lot of innovation at different levels. So there are companies that just have a stick on CT and the ability to get the data into the cloud. And once it's in the cloud, APIs allow you to do whatever you want with it. And that's all they do. It's even a good example. Companies that do this for utility bill data, one big challenge. A lot of companies in the building energy management space have, how do we get utility bill data when there's 3,150 some utilities, and even the IOUs, there's like 200 of them. So the investor owned utilities implement green button. Well, some of them do, but they do it in a different way, every one of them. So you actually. As a vendor would have to, if you're trying to sell the building energy management solution, you would have to build a hundred or more integrations just to get the utility bill data, not even the interval data. There is now a company or multiple companies that just solve that problem. They say, we just will connect to all the utilities. We'll only do that. We'll sell to everyone. And if your. JCI and your Siemens, you don't look at it and say, Oh well we don't want to work with you cause you work with our competitor because all they're doing is the piping, right? Getting the utility data. It's really a commodity and it's just become commoditized. So you have those solutions. You also have that with cybersecurity. We get your data in a secure way to the cloud and then you can do whatever you want with it. So because you have some of these emerging, what really are, you could argue, point solutions that can all fit together organically or neatly. I think it's leading other companies to say, do we really have to build that? Do we really have to build all that? I remember having conversations years ago where people said, Oh, we don't want to be middleware, but some of these companies are actually just want to be the middleware, and I don't think that's a dirty word.
Note: transcript was created using an imperfect machine learning tool and lightly edited by a human (so you can get the gist). Please forgive errors!
James Dice: [00:00:00] Hello friends. Welcome to Nexus, a smart buildings technology podcast for smart humans. I'm your host James Dice. If we haven't met before, I write a weekly newsletter on the same topic. It's also called Nexus. Each week I share what I've learned, my opinions, and what I'm excited about in the quickly evolving world of intelligent buildings. Readers have called Nexus the best way to stay up to date on the future of this industry without all the marketing fluff. You can check it out and subscribe at nexus.substack.com or click the link in the show notes. Since starting the nexus newsletter, many of you have reached out to me wanting to talk shop, and we have. After a few weeks of those wonderful conversations, I realized I needed to record and share them with our growing community.
So here we are. The Nexus podcast is born. This is our chance to explore and learn with the brightest in our industry. Together.
I'm super excited to bring you episode two, a conversation with Joe Aamidor of Aamidor Consulting. Joe and I talk regularly, so this was our chance to catch up on what we've been thinking about over the last several weeks. We flow through a range of topics, including Joe's career path and how Aamidor consulting came to be. Joe's experience building energy apps for JCI's Panoptix platform circa 2012, and why he thinks the iPhone for buildings isn't a thing. Next, we get into strategies for building owners to get started with smart buildings and whether there's room for more startups in the analytic space and much, much more.
You can find Joe online on LinkedIn. And at aamidorconsulting.com both of these can be found in the show notes on nexus.substack.com. Without further ado, please enjoy Nexus podcast episode two with Joe Amador. Hello, Joe. Welcome to the Nexus
Joe Aamidor: [00:01:57] Hey James. Thank you. Yeah, good to be here.
James Dice: [00:02:00] So why don't we start by you introducing yourself a little bit.
Joe Aamidor: [00:02:04] Yeah, no, absolutely. So Joe Amador, a smart building consultant, product market strategy consultant. Really. And, specifically what I do that, that's a mouthful and it probably doesn't mean a lot to a lot of people, but, I work with a variety of different stakeholders or market participants in the smart building space.
Most notably software vendors themselves who need help on the product. Or market strategy side. So they don't have a product manager, they need more help on product management, or they just need somebody with a view of the market to help with some of those strategic things like competitive analysis, market sizing, go to market strategy.
And I've also worked though, and more so recently with investors who are looking at investments in the space and saying, you know, we really could use a third party to help us validate what we're seeing. What we're hearing. How will this company succeed in the market? What are some reasons why they might win?
Why they might not win? So I can do that. And then I've worked with some utilities, same idea, you know, they're trying to access more knowledge about the smart building space. And when I say smart buildings, I guess just, upfront to clarify, I tend to think of technology to operate the building, so not so much construction tech, not so much asset management technologies.
You know, let's move away from spreadsheets to manage the financial return of our building. It's more HVAC, lighting, maybe elevators, security, access control, all of the things that you know. In your great newsletter, you're also writing about and talking about analytics, data-driven software plus services.
James Dice: [00:03:25] Cool. So the way I was looking at your website and the way that, like if I would throw that back at you and summarize it, you were like the expert on this industry for software firms and investors. They're bringing the technology side of things, but they don't necessarily understand the boots on the ground, how buildings are operated, that sort of thing.
Joe Aamidor: [00:03:48] Yeah exactly. There can be a number of scenarios of how a company or why a company would call me. It can be we are launching a new product or an adjacent product and it's a space that we in house don't necessarily have a lot of domain expertise or don't have as much as we would like. You clearly, Joe, have that knowledge.
You can help supplement our internal team. It can be, you know, we're a small lean team and we're just falling behind on certain things we want to get done. I'm the founder. I was doing some of this. Our company has grown a little bit. I have more responsibilities. I want to bring you on to help support. in many cases it looks a little bit like what a standard kind of management consultant would be doing.
So I'm very focused on this industry. But yeah, it's a good kind of read back.
James Dice: [00:04:33] And I think this is a good segue into kind of the next question, but what is a product manager?
Joe Aamidor: [00:04:40] Yeah, so. It's funny. I mean, product managers are pretty common in the technology industry. They're pretty common in a lot of industries, and they're not as maybe common in buildings and real estate technology.
But really what you're trying to do is on one hand, be the customer advocate or the user advocate. So you're trying to be as knowledgeable as you possibly can on what the person deriving value out of the product or the solution. Cause it could be a service, for example. But you're suppose you're trying to be an expert on what they actually need? Want? What has value? you're also trying to balance between technical capabilities. Can we build this market viability? Can we sell it and kind of figure out where is the balance there, if you will. So you, sometimes there are cases where companies will call me and they'll have great development team, great salespeople, and not much in between.
And that can be a difficult way to develop product because. Every customer. If you just ask them, what do you want? What features do you want to buy? They might all have different features. If you turn it around and say, this is what our product does, this is where our product is going. This is why there's value in what we're doing.
All the salespeople might be able to go to all of the prospects and sell to all of them, or many of them with that message. But if you don't have that message, it kind of falls back to, well, these people, this client says they want that and this prospect is, they want that. So you're really trying to kind of be in the center of it all.
And there are cases where companies will come to me and actually need exactly that type of support. There are other cases where they have somebody doing that. It's just some of the inputs to help inform that. Because as a product manager, you're not just talking to customers and prospects on one side and talking to developers.
You also want to have an eye to what's happening in the market. What are the dynamics? We look at it right now, I think, and we'll talk maybe about this a little bit more, but given global pandemic, more investment, I think in in HVAC because. Being able to cycle more air ventilating, where that's just going to be, you have to do it.
So that's not something that individual customers might be asking for, or maybe they are. Maybe more will in the future. What does a product manager you want to look at? How does that impact our business? I mean, what are the positives? What are the negatives? And then even just a desire to cut operating costs.
If you're worried about cashflow, if you're worried about the revenue your businesses bringing in might be a good time to revisit cashflow, which we are operating costs, which could be energy savings and operational savings and products, in this space. Certainly can help with that.
James Dice: [00:07:07] Cool. Okay. So it sounds like you performed that role, that product management role at JCI, and then you went to lucid and then you started your own thing. So will you take us through that progression and kind of the origin story of amateur consulting?
Joe Aamidor: [00:07:25] Of course. I'd be happy to. So I joined Johnson Controls 2011 so almost 10 years ago now as a product manager.
They were, we were at the time building a cloud based building management solution. So now very common. We were one of the first, I would say, but not maybe the first, but one of the first to launch a product. The whole idea was let's sit on top of individual building automation systems across the campus or really across the world.
And provide a lot of the analytical driven or analytical type features that you're not necessarily going to put into a building automation system, or maybe they just don't make sense in a building automation system. So. Worked on that. I was specifically focused on energy management, energy reporting and measurement & verification.
So measurement & verification, very common kind of framework to monitor and really measure value, if you will, of energy improvements. But the product itself was wider than that. And we can talk a little bit more about that. I joined Lucid and I was the first product hire they made and they were. Okay. Building very similar products.
They had just raised a series B round. And so obviously we're hiring a lot and I saw it as an opportunity just to one work at a smaller company. I was generally, I had worked at small companies in the past, even much smaller than lucid. I tended to like it. I tended to not be so worried about the, you know, am I going to have a job next week or not?
Which I think now. Is maybe just a concern all of us have in some way or another, but I was there for a couple of years, had a good run, but when I left, I was actually organically, all of this came, came about Aamidor Consulting. I was calling around to my network just to figure out, you know, what opportunities are out there, what jobs might might there be, and a lot of people in my network, which at the time were, were more the vendor side solution provider side.
A lot of people said things like. I don't have a job for you, but I have a project or there's a project you could help me with it. And that at first just sounded like a good way to make some money, keep doing something other than just looking for jobs and, just staying in the industry, staying connected.
But what I found was I actually was finding really interesting projects, really interesting work. And after, you know, maybe nine months of doing this, I thought, well, all this is right now, me just calling people. I know we're getting referred to by people. I know. There was no outbound marketing whatsoever.
So I. Put together a website. I'd written a couple articles, but it was not in any way, like a strategy. It was more just, yeah, I have some time. I have something that's on my mind. I'll write it down, maybe I can get it published. And then the newsletter as well start came about maybe a year end, and I found it was a bit of a lag time, but I started finding companies reaching out to me and saying, you could help me or I have, I need some help.
Of course, it was never 100% or even 75% of people who contacted me led to a project. But that's the nature of sales. I also had cases where. Conferences would say, are you interested in speaking at our conference? Or, I read this article, or I read something you wrote, or I heard you on a podcast. That's really, your points are really interesting.
I think I also had the advantage of being fairly independent, right? I'm not selling, I'm selling myself to some degree, but I'm not selling a product and speaking about the market from the perspective of this is the product. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but I think, for example, one of the things I do now, moderate panels.
It's kind of a unique position to be able to moderate a panel when you're in an independent position like this.
James Dice: [00:10:27] Right, right. Cool. Yeah, so taking it back to, I want to key in on Panoptix a little bit. Yeah, and before we pressed record, we were talking about how I've worked with JCI's three analytics platforms since Panoptix but I don't have a lot of knowledge about what happened there. So we kind of take us through that.
Joe Aamidor: [00:10:48] Yeah, I would say that it was a very good experience. I tend to to see it as really a story of a large company that's very much a hardware equipment, capital driven, a lot of sales of capital equipment. That was the core business service. The trucks you see driving around another core business, and those are really, if you look at, even today.
Building management companies, controls HVAC, probably fire and security and lighting is maybe a little less service oriented, but all of them are very, very focused on those upfront capital expenditures and then a service type agreement to keep it running. And what we were doing was really very different.
It was software as a service. It was data that will allow you to maybe extend the life of your equipment, maybe you reduce the operating costs you have. And it's tough in a large, I mean, at that time, JCI was a $40 billion company. They've, they've since spun off the battery business, the automotive interiors business, they bought Tyco.
So I think there are around 30 billion now. It's still just one of the hundred biggest companies in the world, and I think Honeywell would be on that list. A hundred biggest Siemens definitely. Carrier Trane maybe not any more. Now the Trane is independent. Carrier will be independent, that these are massive companies.
I mean, they're all billions in revenue, maybe all above 10 billion even. So it's a difficult thing to do because you have a lot of operational or organizational inertia of this is how we do things. And. I'll be the first to admit that the smart building story, I'm very high on longterm, the need for smart buildings.
But I also recognize that if you're running a building today, there can be challenges in converting from, "we buy equipment, we fix it on a scheduled basis, and we repair things or replace things when they need to be repaired and replaced.", switching into, let's use software to help us reduce all those costs and change how we do things. It's not an overnight thing. I mean, that kind of brings us, one of the things we want to talk about is the iPhone platform and then the smart building platform, and I don't like that comparison just because even just the transition looks completely different where you actually can.
Go buy an iPhone and all the data is stored to the cloud. If you enable it and you can buy a new iPhone and really you can just convert over within a couple hours, depending on how fast your internet is, how fast you can do all those things, and with a building, it's just so much different. It was a good learning experience.
I think the product itself was a pretty strong product. I mean, one of my colleagues was building a fault detection product and we were at the same time, kind of the early nascent stages of fault detection and dealing with a lot of questions like how is this different than a BAS alarm? What's the difference between a rule-based fault in a kind of a statistical based or statistical analysis driven fault?
And some of these questions I think are still happening, but I think it's interesting that all of the big companies have analytics platforms like this. But I think in general, and this is just what I've seen as an outside observer, they all struggle to some degree with how do we really fit this into our current business model?
How do we transition people? We see the future and we know we want to be a part of it, and we know we need to be a part of it, but we aren't really sure exactly how do we get from point a to point B.
James Dice: [00:13:54] Yeah, and so for people that don't know, like Joe said, Panoptix was kind of an overlay software over the top of the BAS.
It sounds like they were also in, this kind of gets into the iPhone comparison, there were also many other apps, and so you're bringing data into this central repository, and I think now they call it data vault or something like that, which I don't like that name at all, but it sounds like there were a bunch of other apps and was the app store concept something that was on the roadmap Panoptix?
Joe Aamidor: [00:14:25] There was a fully functional app store, and I think there must've been 25 30 35 apps. Some vendors had multiple apps though, so it wasn't 20 25 30 actual vendors. I remember we actually had great feedback from the vendors because the problem we were solving, so one, you're putting a gateway of some kind, it could be different depending on what your setup and your billings was, but you had a gateway that sent all the data to the cloud. So we needed that in any of these companies that have their own platform need that because you're running apps in the cloud. But once you have the data in the cloud, you can through API APIs, make it available to anyone.
So the concept was actually very similar to what Apple is doing. You know, once you have an Apple ID, once you have an Apple phone, you can go in and any other vendor can put an app on there and it will use your contacts if it wants it. We'll use previous locations if you enable it or let it, and it's designed to do that.
So all of that worked really well. I think that the, the areas that were somewhat challenging were one, a lot of the apps were not things that you can get for free or you can buy for a dollar, $2 $5. These were more enterprise grade apps. And. Also, if you're used to buying products and services from Johnson Controls or Honeywell or Siemens or any of these companies going online and just using a credit card to buy, it's just a different way of buying.
And I don't know that we fully I appreciated the fact that people aren't necessarily just going to make that switch, but the vendors themselves loved it because the problem we were solving for them was they don't need to worry about how do we get the data out of the building, which is a huge problem. Then the cybersecurity issues or the story or the concern there was not nearly as great.
I actually think that is a very legitimate concern and having a vendor like a JCI or any of these large vendors. To some degree, solving the cybersecurity piece or being more confident or being able to be perceived as more confident in the eyes of the building owners. You're a JCI. You can invest in cybersecurity.
You're able to spend the money that's required. Versus a small startup that may take security seriously, but may just not have the same resources. It seems like that story or that value proposition gets stronger, but it just figuring out how do you really do the buying and the selling and the transactions, I think is still, to some degree, an open question.
And I don't know that anyone, there are definitely other companies that have launched platforms, maybe there's a way you can get around around that. .I would also say there are some companies that simply focus on getting data out of each building, getting it into the cloud, having an API, and you really just pay a, almost like a data as a service model where if you're the vendor, you can go to them and say, can we pay you to bring the data to the cloud so that we can then sell the combined offering to our end customer. That makes sense.
Or the and customer might say, we want to buy just the ability to get our data into the cloud. Once it's in the cloud, we can then go select vendors. We want. So there's still a variety of, I think, models that not no single model has taken over. Whereas if you look at phones, there is a model for, we want to develop mobile apps.
It's not like, Oh, we have a completely different concept of doing this, and it's called "we're going to develop our own phone that you can buy to use our app." I mean, no one's going to do that, right? I don't think, maybe, maybe.
James Dice: [00:17:29] We'll get to the data layer concept in a little bit. The reason I wanted to bring up Panoptix is because what year was this? What year was this concept deployed?
Joe Aamidor: [00:17:38] This was, I mean, I started 2011 I think a lot of the planning happened before that. 2011 1314 2011 2012 2013 2014. Yeah,
James Dice: [00:17:49] I wanted to bring that up because there are platforms out there that are announcing app stores. They're announcing these marketplaces, and I think there's a lot of reaction that's kind of like, finally, or it's like these companies are being very innovative by offering this marketplace.
But if you look back, the idea has been around for a long time and the challenges that come with the idea have been around a long time. What I'm thinking about is if I see a new marketplace pop up, I'm thinking, man, have they learned from the ones that have come before. Right. So be interested to hear what you, what you're seeing on that.
Joe Aamidor: [00:18:25] It's a good question. And you could argue that just the Niagara framework is maybe the first or one of the first that has kind of this idea of a marketplace, even if it's not as much of a transactional store, if you will. And it's just the ability to build and develop apps in terms of, has anyone learned, I mean, it's a good question.
I don't know. I think. One thing to learn certainly is just, and I tell this to really, everyone I work with, or I just meet. This market, it's difficult to accelerate sales cycles and having an easy transaction, right? So one of the things about the app store that's great, or really any computer like consumer software for your computer, it's very easy to buy.
It's very easy to purchase, whereas it wasn't necessarily so easy to do. 10 years ago, right? You had to buy a disc. I remember when I had, the first Mac I owned was probably 2005 2006 you actually went to the store and bought a CD and you have to load it up and do everything, and it was, you know, people talk about windows updates being so painful, you don't have to do any of that.
So it's really easy to transact now. Within the building space, the smart building space. I don't know that making an easy transaction or a complex transaction is really the difference between you buy now, you buy later. I really think there's a whole host of other challenges. If you go down the list of, I'm a buyer, I'm a building owner, building operator, why I'm not buying?
I think there's a lot of other reasons why an individual might say, I'm not quite ready to pull the trigger yet. So I think, yes, there's probably some learning. I don't know that that alone is going to put you into that hockey stick of growth if you're a vendor.
James Dice: [00:20:00] Got it. Yeah. I think that's a really great segue to what account does it dive in to next.
So you wrote a really great piece for Propmodo about how to get started with the smart building solution, how to get started with a smart building strategy. And that really hit home for me because I was an energy efficiency consultant and analytics consultant before joining NREL. And one of the things that we struggled with most was we would see building owners and they would, I called it like a whack-a-mole approach or shiny object syndrome is another way, like to call it where a vendor knocks on the door. Nice salesperson knocks on the door and you're like, Oh, I like your message. I like your product. Let's do a pilot. And then two weeks later, another vendor walks in the door and you're like, Oh, I like your message. Let's do a pilot. This is just what I've seen. And all of a sudden you have 30 pilots going on and no one pilot is strategic in the grand scheme of things and all of them kind of die on the vine. And that's really cynical story, but that's kind of what I've seen as far as what happens when there isn't a strategy.
What do you see when owners jump right in without a strategy?
Joe Aamidor: [00:21:14] It is a good segue. The challenge with that. So one, there's so many vendors. I remember even a couple of years ago, writing an article. There's so many vendors. It's very fragmented. The vendors all have been historically flushed with cash for salespeople for marketing. So you will hear from them, and I've talked to vendors or not vendors, up building operators, facility managers, let's say energy managers, where it sounds like on a daily basis they're getting calls, or even at least on a weekly basis. If you work for a company that's known either fortune 500 or a large commercial real estate firm, it's just known who to call.
You can find people on LinkedIn now, easy enough. You're getting a lot of phone calls and there's this, I think I described it as kind of the vendor churn issue where you as a buyer of technology may get to a point where you say, I'm ready to do a formal procurement process, and maybe when I say formal, it's going to vary how formal you are in your organization, but you're going to have a list of vendors that you've already vetted.
You've already said they at least check enough of the boxes that I want to dive deeper. You go through that process. That could take a month, it could take three months, it could take a little longer if your company just has other procurement requirements. By the end of that, you might find, Oh, there's three other vendors that have just launched new products, or I've just heard about them.
Do I restart the process? Do I? I not. So the challenge there, I would say you lead to that. Do I need to restart the process if you don't necessarily already have a really solid grounding of this is the problem we're trying to solve and to figure out this is the problem we're trying to solve, it takes a lot of internal work, a lot of internal discussion, different stakeholders, different teams, understanding what does success look like?
Are we really just trying to save energy? I mean, one of the examples I gave. In the article talking, I interviewed a variety of different folks, both operators of buildings, some vendors, just to get their perspective, but one that really hit home for me, and it's not energy specific, but it was a director of facilities.
He was saying that they like leak detection software, not because they're worried about wasting water. Water's pretty cheap. I mean, obviously from an environmental stewardship point of view, they don't want to waste water. The goal is not just waste water, but the more destructive part of the business or the more destructive thing to the business is if it leaks in a area, we may have to close that space.
If we're renting the space out, what that means, the tenants are disrupted because they can't be in the space. That also means a lot of equipment was damaged, a lot of things were damaged. We have to fix all that. That's a really big problem for us. Not only from a cost point of view, more so it's, I mean, it's more costly than just wasting water, but also just.
We're serving our tenants by giving them a good place to work. Usually work, maybe live. This is really disruptive, so we want to avoid that at all costs. So just looking for at leak detection. You might, if you just said, Oh, leak detection, that's the new thing. We want leak detection. You might look at all these vendors when really if you did a little bit more kind of work internally to say, what's the real problem here we're trying to solve?
You would only look at the companies that can help you. Not only just say a month later you wasted a lot of water, but actually detect leaks in real time or near real time and actually say, here is where the leak is. Here's what you need to do. The detailed level of how actionable is this? How insightful is this?
You can compare platform to platform.
James Dice: [00:24:18] Yeah in article you gave maybe three or four other specific examples. Use cases that you've seen people select? I think one of them was utility bills. So if all you're trying to do is analyze your utility bills, that's a totally different procurement process than leak detection or you know, a broad platform like Panoptix like we were just talking about.
Joe Aamidor: [00:24:39] Yeah. Or something more energy analytics focused. You know, maybe we want to do cost analysis to actually not just look at our bills month to month and figure out where are there some abnormalities you may be want to invest in. Right. Deploying meters or connecting to existing meters, pulling out much deeper analytics could get into even fault detection.
You know, we're looking to reduce our HVAC spend. We're looking to extend equipment life. We want to reduce the capital we spend on our HVAC systems in general across our enterprise. This software, we believe, will help us do that. So yeah.
James Dice: [00:25:09] Yeah. And one of the things that I've kind of struggled with when I've, like I've seen a lot of pilots happen, for instance, and one of the things I want to get your perspective on is when you advise an owner, for instance, they're going to do a pilot and say it's leak detection, that they're, they're going to pilot, they selected their platform or they've selected their technology.
And. I think the question I have is how do you make sure that initial pilot aligns well with their longterm strategy? So the short term strategy, and I'm just making up this owner cause I don't know them, but their short term strategy is I want to dip my toe in the water, dip my toe in smart building water essentially, and detect a leak.
Right? But I believe like the longterm strategy is fully digital facility operations. Right. So if you're starting with one little use case, how do you get to that longterm total transformation?
Joe Aamidor: [00:26:07] Yeah. I think that what I hear from some of the leaders in the space, and these are people even that I just know I've met, I keep in touch with, because it's great to compare notes, but they're not necessarily clients of Aamidor Consulting, I tend to see a little bit more focus on understanding what the longterm strategy is or understanding the business dynamics first. Even before you start saying, let's identify problems we want to solve. So that can be, you know, if we're a buy and hold commercial real estate firm, you're already kind of embedded into the way you do business going to be more concerned with the longterm. If your looking to reposition an asset in general, your business model is buy an asset that is distressed in some way or just has a very low occupancy, but you believe there's upside by adding, putting capital into it and proving it in a variety of ways, and then selling it again in five, six years, you're probably going to look at shorter payback periods because really you want to realize the payback in three, four years maybe, but you also are probably going to be more focused on, does this really hit my bottom line or does this drive more tenant activity, right? More people leasing the space because really the end of the day when you're selling a building, if you bought it, you bought it, and then five years later you want to sell it.
The metrics, the NOI, I mean, that's the number that people are going to look at in terms of valuation. So you need to get more tenants in the space. If you understand kind of those bigger, broader dynamics of how our company wants to function, I mean, I'm sure you do understand those, but figuring out a way to connect your smart building investments to that.
And that's not to say. We can't do anything else, but I think it's to say there should at least be some linkage. So right now, if you look at a lot of solutions in the market, the reason energy savings continues to be pretty prevalent as a value proposition and a way to build a business case is because it's just really clear.
It's accepted that certain types of solutions will save certain amounts of energy. There's great research from various labs like NREL, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, probably the other one that that does a lot of this where you can point to it and most people accept, if I deploy a solution like this, I'll say five, 8% maybe a little more than 8% and you can build out a business case.
It's trusted. It's believed. It's not challenged. Whereas if you look at does this really make our tenants more productive or not? Obviously that has a bigger benefit if you can get every tenant in a space to be slightly more productive. The overall revenue difference is greater or revenue impact is greater than we've saved 10% of energy, but it's just far more nebulous.
It's just more difficult. So even if you're a firm that really, you want to get more tenants into this building and you want to look at investments that get more tenants into the building, I think there are ways to look at energy savings solutions that maybe make the business case. Make it , you know, give you the appetite for that business case.
But they also allow you to check some of these other boxes and maybe it's a little open ended, just how much is it going to help us? But there's some trust or some belief that they will and if they don't, it's not like we've wasted money.
The other thing I was going to mention, in kind of the premise, I don't think I really touched on this in the article cause it was already, this was actually the first article I wrote for Propmodo and.
I remember talking to the editor when I pitched the article and he said longer is better, and I thought, this is the first publication I've heard from in years that has said longer is better, but I still didn't want it to be too, too long.
James Dice: [00:29:18] I agreed with that, by the way. I thought it was excellent. Yeah, I liked the length and the interviews were great.
Joe Aamidor: [00:29:25] I've noticed other publications, which are great. Again, great place to publish in general, have been trying to get things shorter. Not. Half as long as they were two years ago, but there's definitely a little more push to be shorter. But I didn't put this in because it was just. Even longer, but really what came out of, or where this idea came from.
I last fall, I went to a couple of conferences. I was speaking, I, there was one in Australia. I was actually doing a workshop one day and then speaking, other days, and there were people at the workshop, some of them workshop plus just sideline conversations who said, you know, I'm here, I'm speaking. It's a good event.
But I've been here for three years now, four years now. And I gotta tell you, I'm happy to talk about what we're doing and what we're investing in, but I'm personally not getting a lot out of it anymore. I mean, I know I'm a leader. I know I'm at the forward edge or the cutting edge of smart building development.
So I'm giving, and it wasn't like a quid pro quo. I only want to give, if I get, it was more just, I don't know that I. I'm moving ahead. I'm happy to speak, but at some point it's like it's just becoming kind of repetitive. On the other side though, you see people attending the event who said, this is great.
I don't know where to start though. And so there's a Gulf, and I think that Gulf might be widening even.
I one hundred percent agree with you.
Yeah, no, no, I know. I mean, the goal here though was for people who are in that, we don't know where to start. We don't know what to do. Does this at least help you. Maybe it can be something as simple as take it to people who you work with to say, you know, guys, there's somebody who wrote an article that he might have some ideas here.
He might be a good example, or it could be something more deeper than that. Like, Oh, this is actually a process we want to follow. Or some tips that we want to follow.
James Dice: [00:31:02] Yeah. Well, whoever is listening that hasn't read this article, I'll put it in the show notes. It does offer a process to follow, which is actionable, which everyone loves, which is great.
Joe Aamidor: [00:31:12] Yup.
James Dice: [00:31:13] So one thing that I, when I was reading it, knowing your business, I was also wondering what vendors themselves can do and where I'm coming from. There is. I think when you're selling a software product or any sort of product, you are happy if the owner's buying, obviously, but if the building owners jumping in without a strategy, it's probably not good for anyone longterm, from what I've seen, because that pilot projects probably not gonna work out. And most of it was just my sense in most cases. So what can vendors do to help with strategy?
Joe Aamidor: [00:31:48] I'll even add to that. You do find some vendors almost have, like pilot fatigue, right?
Like we've done so many pilots, a lot of the pilots, it's just kinda been, been defined to us as the first step is a pilot. I don't think pilots are a bad thing and, or inherently a bad thing. I think the challenge can be piloting because you just don't know where's the next step here we aren't sure.
Let's just do a pilot. I definitely think that there are ways that vendors can offer, and I've seen some buyers of technology maybe. Have the goal of a pilot as part of the process, but maybe are trying to, to have steps before a pilot that allow them to. Shortlist. It may sound counterintuitive, but if you're selling and it's a competitive procurement, it may be better for you to try to help the vendor or the, as the vendor help the building owner make a decision faster.
It very much like you have the fail fast concept when you're building technology, let's build something. Let's do it. Let's fail fast because if we failed faster, we've gone down that path fast. We found saw the right way. We can come back and go down a different path. So you could apply that to, as a vendor selling you want to help our clients make a decision faster, and even if they decide not to work with us. It's better that we know now than in six months because the sales team can move on. The marketing team probably isn't moving on, but the sales sales people can move on. In terms of how you do that, I mean, I've seen examples of can we do, not a pilot, but can we kind of test, like go visit some of your buildings and just give you an assessment of how much it will cost for us to implement our technology in these three buildings.
Let's say. And every vendor can say, this is how much it costs. You can compare them. That right. There might be a really interesting stage gate, if you will, because you might be sensitive to upfront costs and you might generally know what the upfront costs are only to realize later, Oh, they're higher than we thought, or they're more expensive, or the timing takes too long.
That could be a way to shortlist. And then if you're doing a pilot, the pilot can be based on one. You've already gotten to a point where you're more confident in this. Particular vendor, the vendors themselves might get some value out of it by understanding why they didn't get selected. That might give them feedback from the market of how to improve.
that's the type of question that I would get from clients. You know, a win loss analysis, help us understand where we're winning, where we're losing, where we're losing deals. We want to know so we can start winning them. So I think the vendors aren't, I'm not saying be pushy. I'm not saying the push is probably the best word.
It's more just, can you think about. A more incremental approach to get to the end state without trying to take over the process. And that can be at an early stage. I mean, you can advise on developing strategy. Some of these vendors probably aren't going to be involved in developing the strategy. If you can be a seat at the table, that's great.
You know, you may or may not actually in reality, be a seat at the table though. But I think doing that and then thinking about how do we make smaller decisions more quickly, more often that that can be helpful. One, I think that there could be a better relationship that is built, and there are all kinds of cases where, I mean, some of the best relationships I have with not really clients, but with facility managers are firms that when I was at JCI or at Lucid or elsewhere, trying to sell to that, regardless of if that worked out or didn't work out, I simply have maintained the relationship.
And now, you know, I'm not really in a position of trying to sell to them necessarily, but it was never really in some ways where it started. Or being a participant of that sales cycle. Yeah.
James Dice: [00:35:10] Okay. So kind of last question on the owner side of things and strategy side. I want to preface this with, I just started creating a list of analytics software vendors, and you'd probably enjoy it, actually, there's 45 on my list, which I don't know if you have something similar, but I just keep adding to it and I just keep getting more and more surprised every time I hear about a new startup. so what are your thoughts on. That whole marketplace and are there too many startups and why do we keep getting more startups?
Joe Aamidor: [00:35:42] Yeah, and are you thinking you're kind of thinking analytics specific or, I mean the 45 number sounds about right. I would say you can definitely decide where you want to draw the line of analytics versus maybe energy reporting is the step before. Analytics is oftentimes used interchangeably with fault detection.
I think that makes sense. there's though definitely other analytics types of vendors that maybe do something other than just analytics that really, you could argue fundamentally the software isn't so different, but yeah, I think, I mean, there probably are too many though. Well I say that with a little hesitation because if you talk to all 45 of them, I think that they all see and maybe have a legitimate opportunity to be a a participant in the market. I would also say that when you look at different types of buildings, asset classes, different types of ownership structures, and many of them are going to focus in on one swim lane, if you will. Not all the swim lanes. Now, I think they also organically have been kind of founded out of this idea, we have something unique to offer to the market, and that is 100% there. Right? And in some cases they do have something unique to offer the market. The challenge may be they haven't figured out how to make it sound as unique as it actually is. In other cases, it could be, we have a different way of getting you to to the same position, so we are fundamentally different, but we're at the end of the day getting you to the same place.
Now, all that said, we have seen some startups that have merged together. We've seen some startups that, one buys and other smaller companies. There's a couple of examples of that. I think that will happen more, I think, especially now, just given that there's probably a broader economic slow down. You know, the economic expansion we've had for 10 years is probably at its end, at least for the near term, mid term. I think that will have some impact on the ability for some of these companies to raise new rounds. Might lead them to have to raise on a longer time horizon, the a little bit more sensitive to cash or are protective of their cash in the meantime.
And that might lead companies to say, you know, we have no other option than to merge with this other firm. I haven't. Necessarily seen on the buyer side. So is this a VC, is this a private equity firm that says we want to merge these companies? I haven't seen a lot of that happened yet. I haven't heard a lot of murmurs of that happening, but I think things are moving so fast that could change. And you could argue, there's an opportunity here. There's definitely some logical places. I think that that, that makes sense to kind of have some of these, these tie ups.
And then I also could see the larger companies, the incumbents, the OEMs controls HVAC and the like, say, you know, we're just opportunistically going to go buy some of these companies because we actually think there's enough upside and enough of potential IP here that, and the cost is there, the purchase price is going to be low enough that we might as well do it, and the purchase price now will be lower than it would have been a month or two months ago.
The other side of it though, is the buyer side, right? So I'm a facility manager, I'm a building manager. I do think their view is there's too many of these vendors. I wrote an article a couple of years ago where I talked about a lot of vendor churn, a lot of vendors, too many vendors, so I think what I'm getting at is it makes it more difficult for all the vendors when there's too many vendors because the buyers end up not making a decision rather than buying the wrong thing and then moving and buying something else a year later because it takes time to get anything in this space stood up.
If you talk to all 45 vendors. You'll probably, I talked to a lot of vendors, even if I don't work with them, I see good reasons why they are there as an independent company. It's a difficult situation. I mean, I think the investors and maybe even the buyers of technology, the building owners, might look at the, the current economic, headwinds and say, this is just a great opportunity for us to wait and see what happens.
You know, wait and see what companies survive, what companies end up merging, what companies end up closing down. I mean, I think we will, in six months, look back and see a cycle of that. Maybe not with all companies. I don't think the industry is doomed in any way, but with individual firms that could happen.
James Dice: [00:39:45] Yeah, I appreciate that. I feel like you just answered that from the perspective of a product manager that was like the perfect, you just like looked at it from all of the different angles when you answered the question. I think from the building owner, like what I've seen from the building owner is that there's that overwhelm and when you have overwhelmed you have decision fatigue and then when you have to finish fatigue, you have delays and months and years go by without action. And again, that doesn't help anyone in the marketplace from the owner to the vendor, to all of us trying to solve climate change.
Joe Aamidor: [00:40:18] Exactly. Exactly. Buildings work better. Reduce energy. Reduce carbon. Yeah. My sense is this problem is resolving itself is getting better. If we look five years ago, I've been working for myself for about four and a half years, you know, within Aamidor Consulting, and I think it was more of the wild, wild West if you think of it as that four years ago, four and a half years ago, I don't think that we are, what I say in my newsletter, for example, is the market is clearly consolidating. The market has not consolidated.
We're moving in the right direction. I think estimates of how long we might look back and say, yeah, we thought it would happen more quickly, but events like this, I mean really it's somewhat unprecedented. It's hard to forecast exactly what does this mean for these companies.
James Dice: [00:41:02] Yeah, we're, we're definitely in a time of uncertainty for many different reasons, but one big reason, right now.
I was going to say this to a later if we got to it, but, I think this is a great place to kind of throw in the whole concept of the all star game versus the home run derby. Yeah. So what are you seeing for so, just say we only have 45 vendors. I think there's probably more like something like 65. I've noticed this dichotomy in, this came from Rick Justis. We had a great discussion on LinkedIn about it, a month or two back. So I'm going to try to summarize the concept.
The concept is when vendors think they're in the home run Derby, they're going to try to be "the" platform, right? They're going to try to swing for the fences, and it's kind of me, me, me, versus if vendors think they're in the all star game, they're looking for what they can bring to the table. Maybe they're a great shortstop or a great, you know, centerfielder to kind of overemphasize the point. But if they're in the all star game, they're looking to collaborate with an open ecosystem of other channels.
What are your thoughts on kind of that whole dichotomy?
Joe Aamidor: [00:42:15] I mean, I wrote a article two years ago, maybe a year and a half, I forget, but, I talked about. This idea of the technology stack, and I probably this, this is a theme I think that is stretched through a few different articles, but say did that a lot of companies were very much focused on the vertical full tech stack, if you will, maybe not deploying their own gateways, their own meters, I mean though, companies that have their own, at least white labeled meters and hardware, that is then, there's the connection to the cloud. There's the cloud based software, there's the analytics, there's the end, you as a user can log into. There are companies that offer that entire tech stack. I think that that model is maybe going by the wayside a little bit.
In general... There may be certain verticals where it works, certain companies that have been successful, but it's difficult to do that, and it's especially difficult to do that if you're trying to do that across many different types of buildings, right? So you're doing that for hospitals. You're doing that for hospitality, you're doing that for office buildings.
But I think part of the reason it's difficult to do that is because there's actually now a lot of innovation at different levels. So there are companies that just have a stick on CT and the ability to get the data into the cloud. And once it's in the cloud, APIs allow you to do whatever you want with it.
And that's all they do. It's even a good example. Companies that do this for utility bill data, one big challenge. A lot of companies in the building energy management space have, how do we get utility bill data when there's 3,150 some utilities, and even the IOUs, there's like 200 of them. So the investor owned utilities implement green button. Well, some of them do, but they do it in a different way, every one of them.
So you actually. As a vendor would have to, if you're trying to sell the building energy management solution, you would have to build a hundred or more integrations just to get the utility bill data, not even the interval data.
There is now a company or multiple companies that just solve that problem. They say, we just will connect to all the utilities. We'll only do that. We'll sell to everyone. And if your. JCI and your Siemens, you don't look at it and say, Oh well we don't want to work with you cause you work with our competitor because all they're doing is the piping, right?
Getting the utility data. It's really a commodity and it's just become commoditized. So you have those solutions. You also have that with cybersecurity. We get your data in a secure way to the cloud and then you can do whatever you want with it. So because you have some of these emerging, what really are, you could argue, point solutions that can all fit together organically or neatly.
I think it's leading other companies to say, do we really have to build that? Do we really have to build all that? I remember having conversations years ago where people said, Oh, we don't want to be middleware, but some of these companies are actually just middleware, and I don't think that's a dirty word.
When the edge or the end is so messy, you actually can deliver some value just by turning that into a more neat and organized the point tagging. I mean, one of the things that automated, you know, there are companies that just focus on that. We're going to help you tag all the points. Again, put it in the cloud.
You can build whatever app you want on top. That doesn't have to be an app store, a marketplace that can just be, we have API APIs, you can access them. We have a pricing model. So I think that the all star game analogy is really good, is a effective. You know? It makes sense. Winning the home run Derby, there have definitely been companies trying to do that in the past. I think maybe there will be companies trying to do that in the future, but I don't know. I think it's difficult.
The other argument you can make is the larger OEMs, I mean, if it's going to be a home run Derby, they have the big bats, right? So if you're a small company that's raised $10 million, it's kind of like little league versus, you know, Barry bonds, if you want to extend that analogy more.
James Dice: [00:45:35] We could throw steroids into there in some way.
Joe Aamidor: [00:45:38] Yeah. I guess, I don't know baseball well enough to know a good example of like the best home run hitter that maybe is less controversial, but yeah.
James Dice: [00:45:48] So we're doing good at just kind of leading into the next topic here, and I feel like I don't even have to lead us. The next thing I wanted to talk about was this concept of open data layer. So they are the part of the all star game that is, you know, like you said, cleaning up the messiness at the edge essentially. So abstracting away all of the different protocols and different configurations of controllers. And I haven't had much direct experience with these types of firms, but it sounds like the value proposition is, I'm going to hand you an API and that's going to be haystack or brick tagged data on the other end of that API, and it sounds really good from the building owners perspective, and this is another place where we've talked about this on LinkedIn and find details. and I wrote a blog post about the kind of the pros and cons of both sides. What are you seeing out there and what do you think about these models?
Joe Aamidor: [00:46:41] The model itself I think is great. I think haystack and brick and anything else, like it has a lot of value.
It's what we need. I mean, when I talk to people who maybe are, I mean there are definitely companies I've worked with where they. Are trying to learn more about the building space there. Just think of a technology provider. Doesn't do a lot in buildings, but thinks, we have an offering in buildings and you could look at Microsoft. They have Azure, not a client of mine. they have Azure and Azure. There are definitely product. Features. They have developed that orient very much to buildings from, you know, being able to build a digital twin on Azure, for example. So that's a type of company that might at the very early stages call me up to say, we're trying to figure this space out, we're trying to understand channels to market. We're trying to understand market dynamics. We have no one in house that knows anything about buildings. And you know, we're not sure we want to hire somebody because right now it's the strategy team figuring out this versus 10 other places we could be investing money.
So you certainly have a lot of investment in the open data layer. I think you need that. I think brick and haystack are certainly moving forward that market.
I think though, it's more difficult than a lot of people maybe make it sound like, I think that's, it's not the, I'm like a very skeptical and just to say this is vaporware. None of it works. It's silly. Don't do it.
But I also sometimes. Yup. See marketing material, see presentations, and I think just doesn't seem like it's that easy.
Now, what's interesting is I have just open conversations, not so much with clients, but we've just, I guess it could be a client. There's no reason why it couldn't, but we've just companies that are in this space, and oftentimes I hear a variety of different things.
If I just kind of. Aggregate everything I hear from at an event, at a meetup on a webinar conversation, and you hear, so it's clear to me, there are some people who have been in the space a long time that understand even far beyond my knowledge, how building automation systems work, how to connect to them, so on and so forth, and it's clear, you know, so, and they don't have an incentive to overstate the capabilities of their product.
Then there are other individuals who are very strong technologists. Clearly have a lot of experience building technology, but maybe don't have a lot of experience in buildings and what it's like in buildings. So you would think the people who are in the buildings a lot would be very, very, maybe measured is a word in terms of how easy this actually is, and the people who are the technologists would be a little bit more, Oh yeah, this is a problem only tech can solve and we can solve it. We have solved it. But I don't actually think that's the dichotomy I see. It's just, which makes it difficult because you talk to some individuals or companies or people or companies, or you hear from them and they kind of go through, this is why this is a difficult problem.
Here's some of the things we've done to make it. Simpler to get data to ha, to offer the open data in the cloud by API, you know, offer haystack for your building regardless of what your building is. So you see that and you think, okay, yeah, I agree with them because what they're saying at least makes sense because I know I've seen those problems in real buildings that I've worked with. But then at the same time, you saw me to talk to people in that same boat who say, yeah, we hired a developer. And within two days, every building we connected to, we automatically could tag all the points. And it was just, you know, and it's like, you think like, Oh, I mean, how? It's enough of a technical discussion that, or it's something that they're kind of sensitive about talking about because they see it as being some IP to the business. So that's, I think what makes it really difficult to kind of sort through what's real, what's not.
Additionally, when you look across the existing building landscape, there are buildings that have pneumatics that are, you know, a control system from 30 years ago connecting and getting that data into the cloud, in general is going to be more difficult than this building has a two year old Siemens or JCI or Honeywell or Allerton, whatever it is, system. And if you as a vendor have only connected to those one or two year old systems, you might, from your knowledge, might see this is actually pretty easy, pretty doable.
And maybe your business model is we only want to connect to those buildings. Say we actually don't want to touch buildings that are much older. You're being 100% transparent when you say how easy it is, and other competitors of yours might say, well, yeah, but our business is universities, and we just do a lot of business already in universities and yeah, there's a lot of university buildings out there that have older control systems and we're not going to.
Tell them, no, we're not going to do business with you because one, they already have a large contract with us. They like us. And if we told them, no, we don't want to do more business with you, not only would we not get the revenue, but that client might say, Oh, you're letting me down. I can do I need to go find a new vendor.
I mean, that's kind of a dynamic that once you get to trusted vendor status and do really good work for a vendor, that can be just a great, great client for you for a long time and feed it a lot of value. So, I mean, the open data concept, I mean, I've wholly support it, I think, as the standards mature more and maybe more, they're found more in the market, that might sort some of this out because it will be a little easier to say, can you get all my data into the cloud tagged under the the framework or the standard of haystack? And you could actually just let each vendor to the point we talked about with pilots, pick five vendors or 10 vendors, whatever it is, say each of you go connect to each of these buildings and you'll actually get a sense of who can do it and who can't.
And it's an area though, I think that, more discussion about it and more talking about it is a good thing because when people understand the core, why it's so difficult, and then more people have that kind of base level of knowledge of this is why it's difficult and these are the things to look out for that make me more educated as a buyer or as a developer of software.
James Dice: [00:52:07] Yeah. What came out of it for me, number one was the building owners need to understand the questions to ask for these types of solutions because you could easily over promise them so easily because they sound so good. Anyone that's done an analytics project knows that the hardest thing is getting the data out of all the systems that it's currently in, and for someone to come in and say, I'm going to make that problem go away. That sounds really great. It's just that we have to understand the questions to ask. And it kind of ties back to the strategy conversation, because a lot of the FDD vendors that, sorry, that's fault detection diagnostics vendors, that have added their 2 cents into that conversation. They've all come and said, well, you have to understand what you're going to do with the data.
Haystack is not something where you can just add some tags and now it's perfectly modeled for whatever future application do you want to do with it. Right. So understanding that use case is another question that owners need to be need to be asking of these, you know, open data layer vendors.
Joe Aamidor: [00:53:10] I mean, it gets back to, not to plug the article we were talking about earlier, I mean, it goes back to kind of figuring out what's the problem here? You're trying to solve it. Start with that and then figure out how to resolve or solve the problem. Right.
James Dice: [00:53:20] Okay. We have about five minutes ish. I want it to hit the, and we were kind of touched on just now, but automated point tagging. So you emailed me a couple of weeks ago and we kind of started this email chain. It's another thing that's kind of coming along with the open data layer, right? So there's a lot of companies that are pushing are becoming the open data layer company, and they're also developing this product inside of that, which is, I'm going to tag your data and it's going to take a, I've seen a lot of different claims lately, but it's going to take anywhere from an hour to four hours, and we've had a lot of great discussion around it. But I think what your email says is you're talking to people that say like, some people say it can't be done, and then you're having other conversations where they're like, Oh, we cracked the code. We can automate this in two seconds.
Joe Aamidor: [00:54:12] And it kind of fits into, I think we even had a great LinkedIn discussion about this where I, I think it was, I mean, a lot of your LinkedIn discussions are, there's like 30 people that are participating, which I've never seen that level of engagement, at least within our industry, around discussions.
I mean, obviously there are, you can find discussions on LinkedIn that go on for days, but this was one, and I think it's really one of the great, great services to the industry just because. Getting people to engage and talk about these things is exactly what I was talking about earlier, where more transparency, more discussion, more more kind of visibility.
I tend to think of it as very linked with the open data piece because if you want to offer an open data layer or in the cloud, the ability to get your data in a standardized haystack format. Let's just say, to give an example, you really need the ability to take whatever you have today in all the buildings and turn it into haystack tagged data.
So, but I mean, the email I sent you, I think I was reading something you had written, just kind of talking about this issue. And I said, I'll admit I am, I don't know that I have a, I mean, as much as I know about the space, as much as I live and breathe this space, I don't know how, what necessarily is actually doable versus not.
I mean, there's. People out there I've talked to that clearly know what they're talking about. Clearly are experts in the space that have said, yo, it's a day. It's half a day. I think really the guidance I can give is if you hear that and you're actually buying software, really just dig in on what do you mean it's a day?
Like what is a day. Is that you can get all the energy points, all the meters in the building. Can you just discover how many points there are and go through a name them that doesn't really solve all the problems because you really need to know is that a set point, a temperature set point is that a damper position. ,If you can name it whatever you want in a day. That's great, but you don't just want to name it, whatever you want to name it. You actually want to know what it is and then give it a name that allows it to be used more broadly and universally in the future. So it's a tough one. I mean, I'm glad we're talking about it.
I'm glad there's people talking about it on LinkedIn. I think even if you go into that LinkedIn discussion, I mean, it was clear there was no consensus here. Different people have different views of how this works. I tend to. Maybe trust the feedback I get from individuals who clearly have been in the industry for a longer period of time, and that could be a couple of years, 10 years, 20 years, and actually can point to a lot of buildings they've connected to just because there's so many different types of systems in vintages.
Really. It's not just types of building automation systems or types of other operational systems. It's also the vintages, I mean a 10 year old. Siemens system and a one-year-old Siemens system really could look different. Yeah, so it's difficult. I tend though to kind of listen to them a little bit more than we've developed something new and emergent and really revolutionary.
I'm not going to say on the podcast or anywhere else, you're wrong. That's not true. It's more just a, you know, maybe a little more skeptical of that. Just given that there's probably a lot you haven't seen yet. Right.
James Dice: [00:57:06] Well, I know you wanted to kind of, my thoughts on this topic, too so maybe this is a good time to kind of kind of let you know what they are.
Joe Aamidor: [00:57:14] Let everyone know. Yeah.
James Dice: [00:57:15] So first of all, in that discussion on LinkedIn, I kind of went through third 90 plus something like that. 90 comments on there. So I went through and I kind of. Categorize them into three themes, because I'm going to write a piece on this, for Nexus. But the first theme is it's not a day. It's not an hour. It's six months and a day or an hour. So there's, for most buildings, especially with growing cybersecurity fears and issues, there are a lot of, there's a lot of upfront work that. Anyone has to do to even get access to the data to begin to even start automated tagging. And so this came from a guy named Keith, Keith Gipson. He basically said, no matter what the claim is, add six months to it because there's tons and tons of meetings and getting everyone on that page that goes into making the networking connection, opening the firewall, like all these things that are required to even begin. So I thought that was a really good point.
Joe Aamidor: [00:58:14] Very good point. Yeah.
James Dice: [00:58:15] Another one is it depends on the type of analytics you're trying to do. I think with these claims, a lot of people have chimed in and said, yeah, you can get data into a dashboard and start looking at data really quickly, but to go through and automate the point tagging for a full FDD application with very few false positives, well, that's a completely different use case, like we were talking about earlier, then just throwing some data into a Tableau or PowerBI dashboard, right?
The third theme, is it completely depends on how the data is stored in the control system, and it sounds like you were hinting at that as well, but my original post was a screenshot of a controller at a local campus that has set points that are hard coded into the code on the controller, so nobody's going to be able to automate that, those particular points.
That's just not automateable. You can't see that data from the analytics platform. So those are the kind of the three big themes that popped up.
But then we're actually in NREL's developing a paper on this topic as well, and I had the chance to review it. I'm kind of in the middle of it right now, and there's actually been quite a few research projects that have been done research projects that have been done in this area, and it seems like there's kind of two approaches so far. There's looking at the point name, so you can develop rules around what the point names have stored in them. So if it says DAT, you're always going to tag that as a discharge air temperature.
That's an example of a rule. Yeah. There's also machine learning algorithms that can kind of do that same thing. They can take in a set of test data that's already tagged perfectly and apply those same tabs to the new new set of data that you expose it to. And there's actually also machine learning algorithms that are then looking at the actual trend data itself.
So I think you said in your email, if you see a. piece of data that's 72 degrees between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. Well, that's probably a zone temperature set point, right? So these algorithms can start to learn things like that about the actual trend data they're seeing. So I just kind of wanted to throw that out there as basically all I know at this point because I feel like it's good to kind of throw that out there and people can tell me if I'm wrong, people can add to my understanding, and there's a lot of people that probably haven't thought about it. Probably that would be a good intro for them.
Joe Aamidor: [01:00:53] Oh, I think it's a great intro. It's what I'm seeing as well.
I think, it's really what we need to kind of advance the discussion. cause people will add, I mean, what you write, people responding to this podcast will say, I agree, but did you think of this? And, and that's really, yeah, I agree.
James Dice: [01:01:08] Cool. All right. Well I think that'll wrap it up, but we got through pretty much everything that I was hoping to get through.
Yeah. As we kind of conclude this, I just want to say thanks for everything you do. Thanks for your newsletter, I think it's a great service to the industry and I'll put that in the show notes for everyone and thanks for coming on the show.
Joe Aamidor: [01:01:29] No, I'm happy to be here. Thanks for having me. And, your newsletter, I enjoy, I'm really impressed that you can write it once a week. let me keep it up. It's, it's good. I mean, mine's every other month. so, but no, it's great and I'm happy to be here. Happy to participate.
James Dice: [01:01:44] This was a good discussion. Well, thanks Joe.
Joe Aamidor: [01:01:47] Thanks James.
James Dice: [01:01:50] All right, friends. Thanks for listening to this episode of the nexus podcast.
For more episodes like this and to get the weekly nexus newsletter, please subscribe you can find show notes for this conversation there as well. As always, please reach out on LinkedIn with any thoughts on this episode. I'd love to hear from you. Have a great day.
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