Nexus #4 (1/7/2020)

IoT sensors, getting closer to a single pane of glass, and an interview with Automated Buildings

Welcome to nexus, a newsletter for people applying analytics technology in buildings — written by James Dice.

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This is an experiment, and I’d love your feedback. If you have thoughts, questions, ideas or tips, join the discussion on LinkedIn or send me an email.

And by the way: if you missed last week’s edition, you can find it here.


My latest ideas

+ Check out my interview with Ken Sinclair at AutomatedBuildings.com

+ As I hoped, I’m learning a ton from all of you. For example, this LinkedIn discussion about my essay on Haystack 4.0 taught me some finer details on Haystack. Thanks to my colleague Cory Mosiman and Alper Üzmezler.


News worth knowing

The best of what I’ve seen on the web lately…

1. Analytics

+ InfiSense, an open IoT data service—I recently met with CEO Tim Guiterman and I really love their approach. They provide a hand-picked catalog of long-range, low-power (LoRaWAN) sensors and serve the data to any platform via an open API. My take:

This is different than many other IoT platforms, which are proprietary from sensor to analytics. In other words, Infisense isn’t trying to provide a full stack—they’re doing what they do best and focusing on integrating with the rest of an open ecosystem, selling interval data for a monthly fee that bolts onto other SaaS fees and makes the whole platform more valuable. 

This excellent article by Rune Winther highlights the future prospects of these kinds of smart building solutions compared to those that are trying to do it all. 

If you’re not familiar with LoRaWAN, this technology allows you to install a stand-alone, private mesh network of wireless sensors (with a battery life of 3-7 years) and connect them to a single gateway. Communication punches through walls and floors and you can measure just about anything—current, plug load power, temperature, humidity, light, occupancy, pulse outputs, door status, acceleration, leak detection, pressure, CO2, soil moisture, VOCs. LoRaWAN is optimized for lower data rates so it's a perfect compliment to other protocols known for higher power use and shorter range that deliver super low-latency readings. 

Wanna nerd out on LoRa? Peep this excellent youtube video (20 mins):


2. Smart Buildings

+ Switch Automation released a video showcasing their new integration tool Digital Device Discovery (Dx³)—Dx³ uses a Dell IoT gateway to easily scan and analyze the building’s network before undergoing a costly integration. While network scanners (e.g. Wireshark) have been around a long time, this is different. It’s not scanning for just one protocol, but Switch’s growing library of integration drivers: 

Which allows the user to audit and manage the health of the entire smart building—making it easier to connect devices together, determine what devices are connected and ready for analytics, and analyze the network for red flags such as communication latency. 

And while this isn’t a cyber security platform, Dx³ will certainly help with that. You can check for port vulnerabilities and scan for firmware versions on connected devices to ensure vendors are installing updates.

My take: 

Since Dx³ is integrated with their analytics platform, Switch pulls the industry closer to "single pane of glass” functionality, a one-stop-shop for: 

  • Network analysis and management 

  • Integration 

  • Analytics 

  • Two-way street / Supervisory control 

  • Cyber security metrics

Switch is putting the power in the hands of the user. Building owners can get this functionality elsewhere, but it’ll be pieced together using multiple software packages and requires diverse expertise (integration, IT, vendor-specific knowledge). With this power, owners can manage and work collaboratively with their vendors. 

Another unique aspect: Dx³ comes with the purchase of a gateway device. It’s not part of a SaaS subscription—meaning owners can purchase it before committing to the rest of Switch's offering. This is a win-win for Switch and the owner.


OK, that’s all for this week—thank for reading nexus!

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