37 min read

🎧 #038: Rajavel Subramanian on the 3 types of software silos and how the overlay helps

🎧 #038: Rajavel Subramanian on the 3 types of software silos and how the overlay helps
“Because that large scale technology transformation hasn’t happened, that’s probably the cause of outdated business models, lack of IT skillsets, lack of ownership of technology initiatives and leaving it to vendors, etc. It was once the same for other industries. I think the building owners themselves will be the champions of this change.”

—Rajavel Subramanian

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Episode 38 is a conversation with Rajavel Subramanian, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Facilio.

Summary

We've talked about the current state of software in the built environment, including the siloed software systems that plague the industry worldwide; and I like to say that there are two solutions to those silos:

  • We can rip everything out and start from scratch with the latest interoperable technology,
  • Or we can install an overlay.

We did a deep dive on the overlay option, including the types of overlays in the market and why I'm excited about Facilio’s hybrid overlay approach.

  1. Facilio (0:58)
  2. Episode 6 with Prabhu Ramachandran of Facilio (3:38)
  3. New whitepaper from Nexus and Facilio (9:42)
  4. Webinar: Unlocking the potential of buildings with IoT (14:10)
  5. Belimo (14:13)
  6. Metasys (24:51)
  7. BAS architecture of the future with Matt Schwartz (25:47)
  8. Comfy (27:31)
  9. Infosys, Accenture (31:08)

You can find  Rajavel Subramanian on LinkedIn.

Enjoy!

Thoughts, comments, reactions? Let us know in the comments.

Leave a comment


Highlights

  • why buildings are so far behind, and lessons learned from the paths taken by IT & telecom industries (4:05)
  • a brief refresher on the state of siloed software and the need for an overlay (10:09)
  • introduction to the overlay solution (17:28)
  • walking through the 5 categories of overlays: building, system, functional, data, and hybrid (19:29) and where Facilio’s solution fits in (31:57)
  • platform consolidation (35:54)
  • contextual integration (38:53)
  • customized user experiences (41:05)
  • Facilio’s plans for 2021 (45:13)

Music credit: Dream Big by Audiobinger—licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.


Full transcript

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: [00:00:03] hello friends, welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions that the leaders of the smart buildings industry to try to figure out where we're headed and how we can get there faster without all the marketing fluff. I'm pushing my learning to the limit. And I'm so glad to have you here following along.

This episode of the podcast is brought to you by nexus pro nexus pro is an annual or monthly subscription where members get exclusive writing podcasts and invites to members only zoom gatherings. You can find info on how to join and support the Without further ado, please enjoy this episode, the nexus podcast.

Episode 38 is a conversation with Raj super money and co-founder and chief product officer at Basillio. We've talked about the current state of software in the built environment, including the siloed software systems that plagued the industry worldwide. And I like to say that there are two solutions to those silos.

We can rip everything out and start from scratch with the latest interoperable technology. Or we can install an overlay. We did a deep dive on the overlay option, including the types of overlays in the market and why I'm excited about facilities hybrid overlay approach. Please enjoy nexus podcast, episode 38.

All right. Hello, Raj. Welcome to the nexus podcast. Uh, can you introduce yourself for us?

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:01:32] Thanks James. Pleasure to be here. Um, my name is rod Superman and I'm I'm on the co-founder of a facility and I'm also the head of products for a facility.

That's my role at facility, In terms of introduction. And I started my career as a software developer, and I worked for a company for 17 years, but, uh, I was working mostly in the telecom space. the previous company had a, network management platform that was used by like telecom companies, telecom service providers, and OEMs to build a network management obligations.

Which kind of, uh, when there was a telecom slum, back in, you know, 2008, we took the same platform and, practice all IOT, use cases, right. And it became an IOT application enablement platform. and a lot of partners would, come and build a various type of applications.

Right? So, cell tower monitoring, ATM sites, streetlight management, smart city projects, and buildings happened to be, one of those use cases. And, uh, that's how I got. You know, initiated into buildings and, uh, Scott, great surprise to find a lot of the barriers. And, uh, I will be application was, uh, you know, you have to go and deploy all these sensors and field devices to, you know, fulfill need in buildings.

you know, you have all that already there. You have all your field networks and controllers and sensors and actuators and whatnot. just that, that data is just. You know, utilized one lane, in a limited scope application, like a building management, uh, lighting obligation or something like that, or at a building level.

Uh, and certainly in the previous company, we also had, uh, it's known for its cloud based applications. So we could tap into a talent pool of, developers and, scales that were. quite a cubed in building large scale cloud based applications.

And also I will be, I will be skillsets. So we thought we could, uh, you know, stock facility and solve for this market, uh, where we can, you know, bring data that is useful data that is available and a bit of cloud based applications, for, buildings, to really transform the way operations and maintenance, has done in buildings.

Right.

James Dice: [00:03:35] Cool. And we had your, your co-founder, uh, Prabhu on episode six symphony. One wants to go deep into a history of facilities and more of what facility O does in the marketplace that can go back to that. We're going to talk about that today as well. but let's start with your perspective. So when you came into this industry, why do you think, buildings are so far behind?

I remember when we had probably on, I think his quote was 20 years behind, uh, the telecom industry or something like that. Uh, what, what was your perspective and why do you think, buildings are so far behind from a technology standpoint?

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:04:11] Um, yeah, I've seen you ask this questions in various episodes of property, have all the flavors of answers.

Now I don't have anything new, but in my perspective, you know, the technology, it doesn't happen, you know? for the sake of technology or without, an underlying, driver, that is forcing people to adopt technology, uh, right at the look at any other industry like financial, segment banking or finance or.

You know, transportation and logistics or even IP, right. So, there was fundamentally something changed in the way they, you know, the industry sort of function, you know, customer behavior changed or their business was transformed fundamentally, and it forced them to actually adopt technology To kind of, uh, be relevant and, you know, solve the challenges that, that came along with it.

And maybe something like that hasn't happened in buildings, right? So the way you, you know, live and work and operate in buildings as in fundamentally change, you know, or, a few decades you wave. Use building to work out you the way you use a building in different, uh, whatever that building is for hospitals or, you know, retail or something, whatever it is, uh, that hasn't probably changed, fundamentally maybe the front of the house, operations in the way you, you know, stake office, for example.

Uh, the way you market your spaces, find tenants you know, that has probably changed a little bit, all the technology and internet and, you know, new, innovative ways to market and, uh, your spaces. so you've VC some software adoption there, but, uh, the way you operate and maintenance buildings, that hasn't been, A compelling driver for a wholesale transformation to happen.

So it's, it's happening in a very incremental fashion. Right. Having said that, I think, uh, we, uh, at a stage, Where some of these drivers are coming to be, you know, it could be the climate change and all the regulations, you know, for the entire building stock to be compliant with some sort of an ambition.

based initiatives and goals, from a governance perspective, or it could be the user behavior and people's expectation of how they want to experience, buildings, uh, even COVID itself, as probably bringing about change and maybe in the next five years, we will probably see a different role for technology to play in, in, in buildings, right.

Uh, that hasn't probably happened in the last a couple of decades.

James Dice: [00:06:31] Yeah, it's a unique answer. It's also builds on other people's answers as well around, you know, getting from this cost center, this, debt mechanism, and let's leave it in place to more of a, technology in the front of the house technology hidden the top line of the business.

Um, seeing that as trend, that's popping up in some comments lately, so very good.

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:06:53] Sorry. If I may add a lot of other things that we see are kind of, uh, symptoms of that, right? So, the vendor lock-in, or, you know, because there is no reason for the, technology to come and, you know, because that not skin transformation hasn't happened in the way that buildings are operated from a technology perspective, that's probably the cause for why.

the underlying skill set of people operating buildings are, you know, the way vendors operate and, you know, the, the very service heavy model. And a lot of these are probably symptoms of, uh, this. And once you see, You know, some sort of, large scale transformation in terms of technology and auction that happens in the building that will fundamentally change a lot of these things.

And you will see new, new type of, business models or, you know, type of players and new, new type of, people with the ID, skill sets and things like that coming into workforce and being a part of it. And, we want as an operators, taking begging ownership of a lot of this technology initiatives, other than leaving it to, vendors.

And, that's exactly the way it has happened in other other industries. And I can. Or from my experience working in ID and Telekom, you know, of these, it used to be the same for it, right? So that was me Ciscos and OEM supplying, uh, not just hardware, but also it shipped with the software that will kind of same like, uh, BMS or, you know, whatever system that we see in the building.

And see, it used to be the same way William will supply your hardware and software along with that, we'll manage. that windows hardware systems, right. And they will have multiple software systems to just manage falls and performance and configuration on each of those segments. and that basically changed in when data centers and things like that cloud, and, that took off, big players like Google and Facebook, uh, where, you know, because they couldn't.

Really rely on the hardware vendors like Cisco to Delaware, what they wanted. They started innovating and building their own hardware and technology and software defined networking came about and things like that. So we would probably see that happen because sector is so reliant on vendors for technology, the traditional vendors, and they wouldn't move so fast to catch up to what's happening.

A lot of the customers and the owners and operators themselves. Well, the innovate and, you know, be the champions of the change.

James Dice: [00:09:10] Totally. Yeah. I just got off the phone with a large, kind of global, developer owner operator. And they're one of those companies that's creating their own software, essentially in you know, they've just decided to reinvent the whole entire process from cradle to grave, in a digital way because The traditional vendors, the traditional design firms, the traditional architecture firms, the traditional, you know, technology firms. It was just too much of a mess. And so they just wanted to control the whole thing. It was fascinating conversation. so a lot of the themes you just said, you talked about, uh, you and I coauthored a white paper together.

And, today we wanted to kind of unpack that a little bit for people that haven't read it, but also. Add a little bit more nuance to how you guys are approaching, the concepts in the white paper. So let's sort of dig into that now. so. The white paper overall is about the concept of overlay software and everyone that follows this podcast understands, you know, that sort of concept, but can you, for the people that don't understand that start with, you know, what's the current state of software in buildings why do we need an overlay to begin with.

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:10:17] Yeah. I'm sure, you know, you were already ends and a lot of people are familiar with the problem, in buildings. Right. And we describe this as problem of silos in, our white paper. you know, it's, um, the different layers of silos in, buildings. Right? So if you look at a building, of course, there are multiple systems, in a building, and each has its own software.

And we are talking about just software and buildings, right. But not going into the hardware and the tech stack, behind it, uh, technology behind it. But, uh, from a software perspective, you have multiple software systems in a building, in a given building. Or you see a bunch of software that property managers and the engineers and technicians will use.

and then the building itself is a silo, right? If you, if you're an owner or an operator, you know, on new valuable, a bunch of buildings, each of these buildings are sort of, deployed in silos and operated in silos, you know, very readily, you have visibility over what's happening across buildings.

Maybe you have that data. You know, you're going to be consumption level, maybe consolidated and as a reporter, you know, your report, on a monthly basis or something, but very rarely we see anything other than that. even in terms of, simpler data that is, available for owners and operators, from any of these systems.

so you have systems silos within buildings and then the buildings itself are silos and themselves. And then, in our portfolio scale, you also have, to use a lot of, software systems for different, functional needs. Right? So it could be for. Engaging with your occupants or tenants or customers.

it could be for energy management, energy benchmarking, and you were, you know, GSG reporting and whatnot, uh, ESG go in and stay a thing. Uh, it could be, You know then and billing automation or anything like that. So there are various functional needs, work order management and maintenance management, and how you engage with vendors.

So a lot of, software, requirement and functional of agreement around which you, you ended up using different softwares. You know, those are like functional silos. so have a. When I give software in the field, look at a portfolio, that is used at a various level. And that adds to the complexity of this whole, state we are in.

right. So the systems are not, Built to, interoperate with each other. So the data is not easily available, to be shared with any other obligation, not to any other stakeholder, a portfolio stakeholder will not have any visibility into any of the softwares deployed on the building level.

And the same goes the other way. So that's basically the state of software and it's complicated by the siloed systems that we have. And, uh, lack of interoperability between these applications and it leads to a lot of inefficiencies, uh, you know, lack of visibility are in a lot of operational efficiency in terms of how, you operate and maintain a building.

Right? Yeah.

James Dice: [00:13:06] And I really liked these three buckets. So, I think when people often talk about silos and the word comes up a lot and they talk about the status quo in buildings, but they're really talking a lot of times about maybe. One or two of those layers, but not all three. And I think when you and I started collaborating around this, it was really an light bulb moment for me with it's really that the entire, all three levels, right.

Systems you have HVAC lighting, fire, access control, you know, metering, you know, all different. I mean, Joe Gasper, Joanie says over 30 different IP connected systems and buildings, right? Different systems across every building. And then you go to the next building and those 30 could be different.

The people who provide the service on those 30 could be different. Right. And then you go at the cloud level again, we have totally different, you know, CMMS could be at the cloud level, could be at the building level. Right. Uh, and it could be for some buildings and not others. Right. really is a multilevel.

chaos from a software standpoint. Yeah. okay. So, this question kind of hits at what we, we did a webinar last week on this topic with the limo and facility O and. this problem of these silos really is sort of stunting people trying to implement, what we call smart building use cases.

Right? so you need data from two of these silos. Now you're in this integration phase and the systems weren't designed to be integrated. And so how are you seeing that sort of stunt, innovation with your, customers and, what sort of created the need for the overlay? Yeah.

Um,

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:14:41] the barriers for, technology adoption, as we see it with the current, solutions, uh, that are too, Two layers at which this happened.

Right. So for any company or any vendor trying to solve for a particular use case or, you know, Buddha solution around the particular need in, smart buildings, first of all, they did that has no place, they can go to, get relabeled data from buildings. There is no standard around, these things.

there is no system that they can relay on. Do you actually get to labor data, to build, and solve for a particular need, and because of that, they either have to really think about themselves. Every single vendor has to solve for that, you know, design what the data model should look like, decide how they're going to integrate with the systems, what a model would have to use, what connectivity to use and how are they going to, you know, make sense of all the data that they went to.

You know, come to them from different buildings, without any standards around it. That takes a lot to develop, these solutions, right, from a vendor perspective and from a customer perspective. And they're trying to deploy, any solution, Because you can't expect all of these vendors to have solution that works seamlessly.

It's not like plug and play. Right. And that adds to the, you know, Time to deploy a solution, the cost to deploy a solution and a reliance on maybe your third party vendors or contractors to, help out in, seeing, you know, for this project to see the light of the day. Right? So that is just the starting point.

that adds a huge barrier to deploy any of these technologies, both for the vendors, but also for the customers.

James Dice: [00:16:15] Totally. Yeah. I like to think of it as like a tax. That's just hitting everybody in the whole industry all the time. Every time someone tries to do something, they're just paying this tax.

And I guess you've got to do some integration and it's like, when is this tax going to stop? And you know, when's it going to stop going up?

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:16:33] Oh, I can, I can speak from a vendor perspective. Right? Because the initial few. months, even the first year of it was all about solving for this in, facility, we didn't actually go and develop for the applications are the platform side of things.

We were just, you know, writing Niagara drivers and, uh, BACnet agents and, you know, looking at all things and trying to see how to shorten the integration process and all of that. So that is the barrier for the, for the vendor side of things. for anybody coming into the, uh, it was a shotgun.

I, you know, probably underestimated this. we started, but, you know,

James Dice: [00:17:07] everyone does, everyone does. Uh, cool. So what we talked about in the white paper was sort of the. Solution to all that and not just the solution, but all the solutions that are coming onto the marketplace that can be sort of grouped into this sort of umbrella term that I like to use of the overlay.

Right. So, can you just sort of introduce like what an overlay is, for people as a solution to the problems that we just laid out?

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:17:34] Sure. I would like to describe overlay as, a software system that can solve for, for the silo problem, right. It can be, you know, across one, not multiple silos.

but it's also for a silo problem in a particular business context, right. It could be on a building level. It could be typically it does on a portfolio level. but in some cases it can be on a building level too. but you create a, this worldly system that can, uh, there are two aspects to this.

This one is the data aspect. The other is the functional aspect. any worldly system has to, integrate with the existing, systems and buildings for, data, right? Yeah. It offers some sort of, uh, functionality, either replicate the functionality that is available at the system level and make it available at a portfolio scale are, you know, uh, consolidate functionality.

Yeah. From multiple systems into a single, software system. So that is some sort of a consolidation happening that solves for the complexity that we see in silos today. Right? So you are consolidating either multiple building systems into one, at the building level or you are taking, Multiples, softwares that are deployed at a link level and applying one system at a portfolio scale.

So and what would lay solves for the silo problem? Uh, one way or the other, and a key competence do that in terms of architecture is of course that is data and function. aspects to it, but also it typically involves an integrated for the data you have to integrate with, uh, the building systems, right?

So, you need an agent, not a connector, a driver that can be deployed in buildings. And, the functional side of things usually, as you know, sits in a cloud. Uh, type of, infrastructure. It can be a public cloud. It can be a private cloud doesn't matter. but you know, it's a cloud-based, software, that offers any of the functionality that you are trying to achieve.

James Dice: [00:19:20] Got it. Yeah. I think that's a great, that's a great overview solving the silo problem and it's at multiple levels, usually in the building and in the cloud. Um, so one of the things that was fun about doing the white paper with you was that we created these categories of overlays that I haven't seen anyone published before.

I think it was a novel way to kind of categorize the market. and we had five different types. And you guys are faciliate was kind of the fifth type, kind of the hybrid of all of them, but I thought it'd be fun to kind of walk through each of the different types and talk about examples of each type.

So, let's start with the building overlay. Uh, what is that? And, what makes, specifically a type of overlay?

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:20:04] Uh, sure. Uh, building overlay is, an overlay software that solves for the sinal problem within a building. right. So you have multiple systems, your lighting and HVAC and metering and, access control and occupancy and whatnot.

and you create an overlay system that can, you know, integrate and get data from all of the system. And consolidate, functionality around this data for building level stakeholders. Right? Typically see this in, uh, large buildings, class, a multi story, office buildings and things like that.

and, uh, this is something that is probably, you know, has been done in the past, right. Just to. You probably wouldn't have come the door, lay out. It was probably not a cloud-based system, but do you see those huge MSA projects, that go into a building and, uh, they try to, integrate all the building management and lighting and all of that into a single Niagara supervisor or something like that.

Software and also, you know, integrate that data with maybe a powered by VA based or visualization or reporting graphics and whatnot, or maybe, you know, hook it up to sky spark or some other FDD system billing system. And usually done not like a big MSA project. And that is an example of a building overlay and a lot of the digital twin systems that we see these days.

you know, that get deployed with, you know, 3d visualizations and whatnot. and these systems that, are probably an example of a building overlay, right? Data hooking up to different systems and trying to visualize an offer, like a new, you know, a better, monitoring and visualization than what the typical BMS would do for a building.

James Dice: [00:21:42] Got it. Yeah. The monitoring and visualization piece is what I feel like is descriptive here for this, this first category. It's like bring every, sometimes people call it single pane of glass, bring everything into one screen, essentially with graphics and the data's there. And you're able to just view.

The entire building happening at once. so what are some of the, the sort of drawbacks at this, level? Um, maybe it solves some of the problems of the silos, but it doesn't really go all the way. What are some of the ways in which it stopped short?

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:22:16] Yeah, the obvious shortage there, because you are deploying this at a building level and, uh, you know, and it, might work, quickly for, uh, you know, in some business context, you only, maybe I, have a smaller portfolio and I have just one building, you know, that is different from others and we need a system, right.

So. Maybe it makes sense in, some business context, but if you are a portfolio, a big portfolio with multiple buildings, then you're kind of repeating the same process in each of the building and creating, like independent building level systems. Yeah. So it's not a corporate wide system. It's a building level system.

So maybe it's not solving for the building silo problem. It solves for the system silo problem within a building itself. And that would be the, I wouldn't call it a drawback because it can really be the solution, in ideal solution for, you know, in some contexts.

James Dice: [00:23:08] Okay. Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor nexus labs. And then we'll get back to the show. This episode is brought to you by nexus foundations, our introductory course on the smart buildings industry. If you're new to the industry, this course is for you. If you're an industry vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.

This course is also for you. The alumni are raving about the content, which they say pulls it all together, and they also love getting to meet the other students on the weekly zoom calls and in the private chat room, you can find out more about the course@courses.nexus lab. Start online. All right, back to the interview. All right. Let's second calorie.

What about system overlays with us?

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:23:48] Uh, system overlay, you know, solves for you. You have, Multiple buildings. And you have these systems, right? Say building automation system, you have 20 buildings and each of these buildings have different, vendor systems, different versions of building automation system.

And it's deployed at the building level. and only we're building technicians probably have access to it. and at the portfolio level, That has no visibility into our connection and each of these things, right? So maybe when you create an old lace software or when your deployable relay software, that is focused on a particular system, it could be hatchback.

It could be metering. It could be, you know, uh, indoor air quality or, you know, access control or sideway lands or whatnot. But when you, when you deploy a system that can work across buildings, For a given system and it can be more than one system to, uh, you know, and that would be a system overlay, a create an overlay system that addresses a particular system.

Uh, well, not two systems, but makes it available across, the portfolio.

James Dice: [00:24:49] I like to think about this one in terms of like, JCI Medicis that's across the portfolio, right? Um, where you're pulling all your buildings in, but you still only have that one, viewpoint that

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:25:01] one silo. Exactly can work really well in campus scenarios, right?

So I'm glad you have, that is a, required to work across buildings and maybe you have different building systems and really complicate, uh, if you have to log into different BMS systems or different lighting control systems to manage each of these buildings, right? So creating a campus, or layer, uh, uh, system only at a campus level can really solve for this.

James Dice: [00:25:30] Yeah. And sometimes you'll see it with, like, if you have, you know, 20 different vendors, like you said, across the portfolio, you might put like a Nagra on top and sort of normalize everything. You're still only looking at the. HVAC, usually silo, but it's the HVAC across the whole thing. And that's one of the things that Matt Schwartz and I, in our, you know, BAS architecture of the future interview, he goes into like what that looks like, um, at the portfolio level.

Cool. Um, what about functional overlay?

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:26:01] Uh, functional overlays for a, specific functional need that you have, uh, typically at a portfolio level. Right? So because when you're deploying, functional systems at a building level, That does not really overlay you. You're just using a point solution in a building to do energy management, our building or whatnot.

But, when you deploy the same solution at a portfolio scale that can work seamlessly across multiple buildings. And so it solves for one specific, functional need. It could be, you know, automated tenant building art. It could be fall diagnostics. It could be energy management and reporting and benchmarking.

Yeah. Things like that. Um, even in all of these indoor air quality solutions and, occupancy type solutions are getting deployed these days and they are deploying across portfolio and they come with their own, software that provides analytics around, air quality, monitoring and whatnot.

So those are the functional, lower lays. It's for a specific functional need. but it can work potentially work across buildings across the portfolio.

James Dice: [00:27:03] Yeah. An example of this that I've seen is like, with you might have fault detection, diagnostics, right?

Where you're collecting HVAC from. Or meter data or lighting data, or, you know, whatever from a bunch of different types of buildings are doing centralized fault detection. And then example I like to give is like that company that's setting up that FTD is doing that integration at all those different HVAC or, you know, metering systems.

And then you also have another functional relay. like, like. Comfy like the tenant experience app it's also going in. And those people are then going in and integrating with all the HVAC systems. Right. And now you're, you have basically two functional needs that are being solved. You know, two different integrations.

They're doing the exact same thing in some, layers of the stack, they're doing the same stuff. Right. So I think what I think of the drawback of the functional overlay is that there's not a holistic view. Like, what can we do with this data? And can it serve multiple use cases? Right. It's, it's a very like one or two use case focused type of overlay.

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:28:04] Right. That's right. And, uh, it's typical, very typical for you to look at that particular portfolio. And Dave will have like a, asset record. Uh, somebody who does asset regarding their say, for example, they are seamless, which will look completely different than their central card and their fault diagnostics.

That is because these are two independent systems probably deployed in different times and had their own integration into these, you know, breathing systems and all of that integration happened, you know, You end up with the functional silos, but, uh, that's the all back

James Dice: [00:28:37] then.

Yeah. With this, I, I like to think of it like, I have obviously believer in things like FTD, like that's what I've been doing my whole career, but it also does create another silo in a way. Right. You're, you're pulling together data from different places, but then you're providing a, another place to go along into, so, um, Okay.

What about data overlay? And sometimes I like to call this concept, the independent data layer, right? So what is, what is the data overlay type?

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:29:07] the data overlay exactly solves for the problem that we just was talking about the functional thing, right? So you, you know, of course you have multiple functional needs at a portfolio scale and all of these functional use cases need data from your, buildings.

Uh, if you can consolidate all of the data in a, in a single data Lake, uh, other, an overlay software, Which mediates data between these functional, applications that does what I would call a data overlay, uh, and the data overlay itself may not provide any functional than not solve for any functional use cases may not provide any functionality may or may not.

Uh, but the key thing is that system integrates, into your building systems for whatever data you are. Functional applications will need and for that to happen, it has to have all the certify APS and interpret will be features. It needs to support to enable all these applications to consume data from a single place.

James Dice: [00:30:04] Totally. And the challenge that I've run across with that implementation. And I know I'm going to get like emails from people that have this solution, uh, and correct me here. I welcome that. Always people can always email me, but I know I'll get emails on this one, but the, challenge with the independent data layer is that when you don't know the use case that you're implementing, then it's really difficult to represent the data in the right way.

So there's always this kind of disconnect. But at least it does solve the like integration problem for the most part. Um, yeah. So go ahead.

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:30:36] No, no, th th that's right then you can like, incremently, you know, it's, it's not like by definition, these data layer, data lakes will be flexible for you to model, our change, your modeling around the data that you are trying to capture, right.

You won't be like, uh, Plain solution type of an application, really, in a lot of cases where I've seen this being built out, you know, they are actually, Building this, in every single case, no, they're not even buying it from a vendor. right. So they, the data Lake, they probably brought in Infosys or Accenture to build the system for them.

So, but, essentially that will be flexible. And for, you, it, should be an auditable by definition. so I don't see that as a big problem.  but if that is for any, any use case or any vendor if there was this data layer  that I can really able to consume data from that will be a huge advantage that it can open up. Uh, it removes the innovation value of that we talked about for, for vendors to come all sorts. A lot of use cases. Yeah.

James Dice: [00:31:36] I mean, if a vendor is finding that, even if it's not tagged perfectly for their, use case, if they're finding that they're very, very happy.

So. Okay. So that's the first four categories of the overlay. The fifth is kind of like a hybrid between the two. Right.  And that's the category that you guys kind of fit in? So how can you explain how you guys approach the overlay problem at facili?

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:31:56] Yeah. So when I actually tried to kind of classify, uh, are trying to fit facility and do any of these categories, you know, it really, um, we build accessibility, uh, flexible data and application platform, right?

So, we have multiple ways to connect to building systems. And, we have our own agent and Niagara drivers, to connect to the systems, but any, anybody can develop their own agent. And the cloud itself is open to consume data in different ways. And that is this a flexible data model that can adapt to any kind of, standard that you want to follow our defined new categories and find new attributes and define the time series data that you want to capture for any of these, uh, definitions in the, in the platform.

So it's pretty flexible. And, on the application side we created a lot of, application modules, right? For around the common needs and real estate for work order management, occupant, tenant engagement, our customer engagement and portals and mobile apps. And, we typically do a bi-directional integration with building automation systems.

So it can actually build up a command and control type use cases. for scheduling NorthPoint or rides or energy optimization type things. So firstly it can be deployed to solve, for any of these, what would the categories that we talked about, right. And we have all examples in all facility deployments that can be described in any of these areas.

So we have. Um, the Festo deployed as a, building wireless solution, in a way even made, probably have a press release. Uh, so it's public information, so I can mention the name. So it's ICD Brookfield in Dubai. They, they picked fiscally or to build this building overlay a solution. and, uh, firstly I can, you know, can actually, we don't have any customers using it that way, but we have multiple when, uh, customers considering, I was solution to be used as a data overlay because they had building this data or land right now, they are engaging with the Accenture and the Infosys, Microsofts of the world to build this, uh, right.

So if a vendor can come in and solve, when the platform is open enough, uh, you know, there is no reason why, it can foster a great bank to market and time to deploy and whatnot. and also, That are customers that are using just the functional modules, just for the functional they have, you know, uh, for workout or energy management or FDD and things like that.

So it can really solve for it. You know, it can be categorized as any of these things. And that's, that is why, The hybrid later on was, defined, uh, it's not really, something, but, when you pick from, uh, from a customer perspective and they are trying to pick an overlay solution in any of these worldly solution you know, can be the solution for them, you know, depending on the context, but, uh, From a long-term perspective, if you have to future proof your system, maybe right now you, you are happy with the building overlay, but what happens if you add more buildings in our portfolio?

you know, uh, if you feel  system that is kind of, uh, future proofing for your, you know, What are your future needs for scaling or whatever, uh, future needs, maybe you are right now during the solve for one particular functional need, and you will deploy a functional overlay, but instead of probably deploying a, point solution, maybe if you picked a system that can expand into other adjacent, functional, needs that you may have in the future, you probably don't have to repeat this exercise, right.

From a customer perspective. I would, See hybrid over layers, uh, something that can adapt, as your needs changes, uh, all in a period of time.

James Dice: [00:35:18] Yeah. And one of the reasons I'm excited about what you guys are doing with this is the actual, ability to limit the number of new silos and, and even start to really consolidate them down.

Right. So you're talking about different. Opportunities for consolidation at the portfolio, like cloud level cloud applications. And you're talking about, potentially ways to consolidate software inside the building as well. And I like this word consolidation because I feel like what we need to do is simplify people's lives.

Right. And I feel like we're starting to head in that direction or you guys are starting to head in that direction. So which platforms are you seeing getting consolidated into yours right now? Um, I know you have a ton of different examples of, ones that are just basically saying we used to have these two or three or four different applications, and now we're consolidating them into one.

Yep.

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:36:13] Um, typically the maintenance management, work order management, and, energy management and fall diagnostics, the most common things. but as you deploy, there's a lot of, you know, control based. use cases, get automated, right? So that's, the beauty of, when, you know, say for example, you have a building automation and then, you know, of course you can do scheduling and set point changes and whatnot, but when you take building automation and, uh, Think about a deploy the portfolio scale and think about portfolio automation.

It takes a different dimension, right? . You're probably doing the same things, are maybe part of those things. but now you have a different dimension to it in the sense now because you are able to apply schedules, are set points, across the buildings.

maybe you can use the system to interact with, any other related system. You know, maybe you can open up to your Kartra system. You can hook it up to your tenant, engagement platforms to automate, some of these, control based use cases with these, which is right now not possible because you have to.

Do that building by building and, just not, you know, impossible to do it. Right. So once you've done this, uh, it opens up a lot of possibilities for the customers to think about and solve for that idea for different day use cases. But the common things that we see, at least the landing use cases that we see common VR around, energy management, fall diagnostics, you know, just than fall diagnostics, I would say, just having.

visibility into, all their data, right? So just, just reporting dashboarding itself is a huge across the building when you consolidated that data, uh, that that's a huge thing. And then you start layering. once you have the data, you can go and improve your energy, like, uh, maintenance processes. And instead of doing.

Maintenance on schedule. You can probably trigger condition-based maintenance and whatnot. Right? So, none of this is going to get done on day one. but I see this as like a roadmap, for any customer, you know, it's like a three to five-year roadmap, right? So they start somewhere and then they can actually layer things on top of this and build upon this.

James Dice: [00:38:15] Yeah. One of the things that I feel like is a nuance here that I don't know that everyone understands, and I've been trying to write about it as much as I can. Is that right now say we have two of those applications that aren't consolidated, right? So we have a FTD from X vendor and we have the CMMS from Y vendor and we're, creating work orders in the FDD and they're showing up in the CMMS and maybe there's integration the other way.

Maybe there's two way communication happening. but the, the integration is really kind of like a one-off I'm writing some code. and, and that's not what you have called like contextual integration. Can you describe what it means when these sort of previously siloed applications are now contextually integrated?

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:39:00] Yeah. Th that's the advantage of, uh, natively, building these applications on the same platform, right? So it's not a third-party application that we are integrating with. we designed this platform to host all these applications. Right. So, and that has a lot of advantages.

So you can think about, uh, All the application use cases when you're bringing in data. Right? So when say, for example, you are hooking up occupancy data, you are modeling occupancy data. Now we can actually think about ways. How does occupancy data can be now useful in different applications that you have and boom, our improved functionality around it, right?

So maybe you can improve your, scheduling process. Maybe it can include, or. Automated start-stop type optimization that you're trying to do with can improve, uh, gentle energy reporting, and energy normalization and,  metrics around energy that you're trying to, monitor.

Right? So there are a lot of different ways. It has implications on each of these areas. And because we, as a vendor that does, you know, offering all of these applications, that that gives us the luxury to. go and build specific functionality under that, but the tighter integration, tighter, everything, you know, it's just a work obligation, right?

but be able to work out an obligation on top of and data platform. so all the work order, UAS and functionality that we build is trying to see if we can leverage that data in some way or the other. Uh, which is not the case with any traditional seam on the system, right?

You, you can integrate your cm on the system with the, with, the BMS, but, you probably do the bag minimum possible, right? You probably just bring a what card or not an alarm or doing something, but infinitely. when you look at a work order, we are thinking about how can we follow the technician?

Click on a button and change something on the BMS are, you know, when you have the maintenance, UI design, we're thinking about how can we use, you know, apart from, schedules, how can we use the data that we have to improve the maintenance process? So it's becomes part of the, design thinking and it gets an early in the process and that completely improves the way these applications come out, and deliver value for the customers.

Right. Right.

James Dice: [00:41:04] Right. And talk to me then about if you have all of that contextual information, slightly more nuanced nuance here is that you can then start to tailor for whoever's logging in to that application. Right? So if it's a vendor, being asked to. You know, fulfill that work order, right. Versus an internal employee versus an energy management consultant.

You can now start to give these people different context for the workflow that they are trying to accomplish. Essentially.

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:41:34] That's right, because, uh, again, this, because we built a system, not just for one particular stakeholder, use, right. Did we didn't build this for like a building technician alone or they engineered alone?

so there are a lot of, modules that have, the user portion was that we are trying to, uh, cater to with different occupations and use cases, differ and, fundamentally that basically forces us to, architect, a system that, Can determine who has access to what parts of the, application and, you know, provide security and permissions and roles and scope, for anybody who has to log into the system, right?

So when you create the user itself, when you define a user in the system, you can really pick, okay, these are the modules, this is the permissions that they have, even within the module and then the scope of data. And, you know, maybe they can only do. Uh, all of these permissions are available only for a certain building or certain floor or whatever.

It's fine. Grained, access control, and scoping that you are able to do with the application. They answered the question, right.

James Dice: [00:42:32] yeah. Yeah, totally. And the part of that, that I'm excited about, like, just picturing my past self as this, you know, doing energy management and retrocommissioning and monitoring based commissioning I'm picturing like logging in seeing faults, but then.

On those faults, then being able to see like what's the status of that work order and really easily being able to navigate into that work order and see like what the status is. And we're talking about getting rid of entire meetings that are happening, just to talk about how we're engaging on these analytics.

Right. Um, I have meetings going on to this day of like, What'd you do since last time we talked about that fall. Right. Um, and, just having that context is going to save people so much time and remove so much friction around, basically getting stuff done. Yeah.

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:43:23] And when I, when I actually show firstly, firstly probably you know about it because you've seen the product, you know, the, details, uh somebody's page from a piece of equipment, right.

An asset. Yeah. Um, we'll have information about the maintenance. So that was done in the past to plan maintenance and any unplanned work orders that are carried in order to have the. Uh, comments that are available for them to come and acumen the loose end point or rates that we'll have all the data from the building automation system and the reports that is accessible from there and, uh, the output of the fault diagnostics.

So they can go back in time to see what kind of, faults were, occurring on this particular equipment and the financial data that is, Captured from the work order system. So, you know, how much you're spending on maintenance, if the system was scoped up to a BIM, you can even, you know, we even have, uh, uh, that will actually show the visualization from the BIM, uh, the digital twin.

loaded up into the same system. so you have everything in one place, and you know, contextually speaking and I'm actually surprised to know that our meetings happening just to coordinate between this, uh, Oh

James Dice: [00:44:25] yeah. you know, it's called monitoring based commissioning. It's really innovative and it's really everyone sort of.

interacting around the list of faults that are happening and it's not connected to workflows at all. and it's not connected to the ability to control most of the time either. So I'm also picturing a fault like. You can have a fault and be like, okay, this valve is leaking, let's stroke it open and closed as well to like really get some more information and show more of the operation of that valve before we then, you know, assign the work order.

Things like that, that I feel like are just, these are spots where the, the processes breakdown, and they don't have to. Be like that. So that's what I want to do. Dig into this. I hope this is valuable to people to see these nuances, because I think they're super important.

Um, so let's kind of shift gears a little bit and talk about, so the last time probably when I talked and he sort of gave me an update on, gave everyone an update, it was last sort of may, May, 2020, I think on sort of where you guys are at, development wise and what you're excited about.

So maybe kind of update us on, you know, what are you guys excited about in 2021, as far as. global domination and, uh, in favor of, in the product.

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:45:41] Um, we, we are seeing a lot of different use cases and maybe we can do a, you can do an episode on all the different use cases that I would like to write.

So I'm learning every, every time a new use case that can be solved for, uh, right on that. And that's, uh, one, advantage, uh, as being a platform as a, you know, we can actually. go and solve for that use case and build that out. So we are finding a lot of use cases and, uh, the, the beauty of critters we solve for one particular customer, because they have that need people that, uh, out.

because it's an application platform, radio can build, go and build modules and create workflows and deliver for a particular use case. Uh, and then we are able to replicate that across multiple customers who may have the same need, rates are really helping us kind of scale across, uh, Customers, expanding, the accounts.

but I, that interestingly, we, uh, some of the partners who actually seen the platform and, uh, are digging it too? Like I just said, markets, right? So then platform is being used to now, solve for migrated refrigeration type, uh, use cases. And, uh, so we were initially focusing on like office, portfolios.

Now we out in hospitals, you know, retail, uh, refrigeration type, uh, uh, use cases, data centers, you know, I was surprised to learn that, uh, you know, that is one. Partner trying to pitch fiscal year for a central monitoring solution. Okay. Repeat it had happy memories because that was one of the problems we are trying to solve for in the previous company.

We didn't really think that, you know, when we brought it in, it will be used to solve those use cases. One of the problems on buildings, but, uh, Yeah. So there's a lot of things happening and, uh, we're constantly, you know, building a platform functionality. So, APA is and whatnot, to make it more flexible and available for third-party developers to, you know, come and build these use cases.

It's not still open yet. Uh, but, for anybody who interested, we are at a place where we can just, you know, give them the APS and documentation, they should be able to go and, build it themselves, uh, uh, particular, you know, they can go and build a custom mobile app or an application on top of

James Dice: [00:47:56] got it.

And, and yeah, so one of the things probably mentioned was more formal marketplace for those third party vendors. Are you guys still planning on doing that?

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:48:05] Yes, uh, that distill in the plants that, the natural extension of what we are doing, right. It's still not probably opened up, because one problem that we have as a, you know, we are a very product and engineering, heavy optimization, right?

So marketing, marketing wise, they, they struggled to catch all the things you guys doing. And the marketplace has a lot of, you know, marketing related. things that we need to take care of, right. To kind of market that and things of that it'll happen probably sometime, maybe in a year or so, but, uh, when somebody's available for any third party developers, uh, it's just not publicly announced.

And, we don't have a program around that and all the marketing talk around that, uh, the product is there. You'll see someone on sprint maybe later this year or early next year or something like that.

James Dice: [00:48:53] Cool. All right, Raj, it's been fun to chat with. You get an update and we'll put the links in the show notes to the white paper, which has your email.

Anyone can reach out, uh, and ask more questions around this. Uh, both of us are always willing to do that. So thanks for coming on the show.

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:49:11] No, I'm happy to be here, you know, since we collaborated on that white paper, I've always thought maybe, uh, fun chat like that.

We've talked about it. but something like this would have been fun and it definitely is.

James Dice: [00:49:22] Yep. Oh, it's always fun to nerd out. All right. Talk to you later.

Rajavel Subramanian: [00:49:26] Thanks for hosting me. Bye.

James Dice: [00:49:31] 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, which by the way, readers have said is the best way to stay up to date on the future of the smart building industry. Please subscribe@nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.