48 min read

🎧 #073: Michael Grant on the latest trends in occupancy data, IAQ, APIs, and Overlay Software

“APIs are like toothbrushes: everybody's got one but nobody wants to use anyone else's."


—Michael Grant

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Episode 73 is a conversation with Michael Grant, COO of software platform, Metrikus and IAQ rating system, AirRated.

Summary

We talked about the Metrikus platform, the latest trends in the industry related to overlay software and sensor hardware stacks. Finally, why Metrikus is releasing a new platform called Helix. Hint, it's all about flexibility.

Then we talked about AirRated and how it's different from other certifications and rating systems out there.

Without further ado, please enjoy the Nexus Podcast with Michael Grant.

  1. Metrikus (1:10)
  2. AirRated (1:11)
  3. Francesca Brady (3:56)
  4. W-360 (5:12)
  5. EFT Consult (5:18)
  6. Dave Kieft (5:57)
  7. Leaderless (6:32)
  8. The PropTech Ramble Podcast (4:57)
  9. LinkedIn discussion on Michael's Quote (29:45)
  10. Michael's LinkedIn video response

You can find Michael on LinkedIn.

Enjoy!

Highlights

  • Michael's background and COO role at multiple companies (1:07)
  • What is Metrikus? (9:24)
  • How Metrikus plays as an overlay and independent data layer (14:03)
  • Making the business case and whether technology providers should capture the full value their solution provides (19:14)
  • How Michael thinks about the data model component (26:28)
  • Reflection on our recent LinkedIn discussion on the quote "APIs are like toothbrushes..." (29:45)
  • Insights on the latest trends in occupancy data for office buildings (41:01)
  • AirRated and how it's different (47:26)

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: 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.

James Dice: This episode is a conversation with Michael Grant COO of software platform, Metrikus, and IAQ rating system, Airrated.

We talked about the Metrikus platform, the latest trends in the industry related to overlay software and sensor hardware stacks. Finally, why Metrikus is releasing a new platform called Helix. Hint, it's all about flexibility.

Then we talked about Airrated and how it's different from other certifications and rating systems out there.

Without further ado, please enjoy the [00:01:00] Nexus Podcast with Michael Grant.

Hello, Michael, welcome to the show. Can you introduce your.

Michael Grant: Thanks, James. Yeah, thanks for having me on. So I'm Michael Grant, I'm the COO and co-founder of Metris and air rated. So run operations for both businesses uh, internal and external operational strategy as well. Cool.

James Dice: Can we start before you got into the industry, what, what were you doing before you got into.

Michael Grant: Before I got into buildings, I was the COO for a group of companies in the UK. That one was a networking company. Then the other one was a wireless and a unified comms company. And the other one actually within the group was retail engineering delivery company. So, prior to that I had run, I'd been in operations.

I've been COO for, for multiple companies. If you go way back, I was an electrician by trade. Then I did electrical engineering, which I didn't stay in. And then it building data centers [00:02:00] and then got into proper prop tech slash the real estate space about 2000, probably 2016. I think I first got into it when Cisco asked me to come in and help the company that was asset mapping before I did a management buyout and created metrics.

Always been around technology, but not in, not in this kind of space, if you like. Yeah. You've been doing

James Dice: COO stuff for a long time.

Michael Grant: It sounds like quite a while. Yeah. Yeah. Okay.

James Dice: So what is metric is we're going to start there? What is, what is my

Michael Grant: metric is, is a smart buildings, software platform.

We are, and my head of technology, Sam and I had a discussion yesterday. He doesn't like to use the word middleware, but actually he's come to the conclusion that we are a middleware platform. So, just because of the new project we're having with another customer of ours we are, I would, anyone would say this is their company, that we are the smart buildings platforms with buildings and the middleware.

So. Customers [00:03:00] take us either via our UX and our UI, or take data straight out via our API. It's it's quite a flexible platform.

James Dice: Got it. Yeah. And obviously we're going to dig into that a little bit more in a bit. What's

Michael Grant: I rated is the global benchmark for indoor air quality. So what does that mean? We provide you with an air score for your building.

So Widescore do it for technology, you know, certified silver, gold or platinum cycle score in the UK. Does it the same sort of thing? The air score is about the air in your air and your building there that you breathe and what what's going on in the building. So three weeks certification, you get your air score.

It's an annual certification and it's taken off hugely. So lots of people everyone's become an indoor air quality expert because of COVID. Right. So.

James Dice: I know those, those are separate sort of separate

Michael Grant: companies. Yes. So we own the majority of it people started by Francesca Brady and myself, and a couple of other people.

We [00:04:00] came with the idea before COVID, we'd been building it prior to COVID because there's well fit, well reset and lots of others, but there was nothing that really just concentrated on, on air quality. And we were doing so much of it in metric S that the idea spawned from one of our customers actually saying we'd like to do the WellStar.

But it's all encompassing and it's a lot of money. And what we really want to focus on with our team is air. So that's where it started and where it came from really. And it kind of grew legs from there. So. All right. Well,

James Dice: we can circle back on that topic in a little bit more detail as well. When I talk to you on LinkedIn, as I do, there were other things that you're currently involved in as well.

Right? So there's, there's prop tech ramble w 360 and leaderless. What are the.

Michael Grant: PropTech. Ramble is my version of a podcast, James. So just like yours, I ramble on, but I get to speak to lots of very smart, very interesting people from the industry like you do, [00:05:00] and people who are actually now starting to send in questions that they'd like answered.

So we're bringing different people into answer those questions. So that's, that's the ramble and I'm Australian. And we generally like to talk a lot. So that helps w 360 is, is a joint venture partnership between metric S and a company called EFT consult. They're actually a global company, but they're based in Wales and they're a mechanical engineering company and they are working with.

The British standards to bring out a standard for, to monitor indoor environmental quality. So not just air, it includes light and noise and a few other bits and pieces. they're building a sensor with a company that we're also helping with, but they needed a platform to bring all of that data into one place and then give a scoring matrix on the backend that the customers can take as a report.

So we met each other through a mutual introduction myself and Dave Keefe, the CEO, we had a [00:06:00] conversation. He said, what he was doing. He said, no, we need a platform. I said, actually we have a platform. So who showed him the platform? And with a couple of tweaks, we've managed to create the platform that they need for a go-to market around monitoring indoor environmental quality.

So. It made sense for us to join up because they will do all the mechanical engineering and the remediation side. And we will provide the software side for them, but one couldn't work without the other, really. So it was kind of a match made in heaven. So, and, and leaderless is something I do voluntarily.

So a very good friend of mine, who I used to work with in level three, many, many years ago, James he has decided to help people in South Africa get communications and decentralized comms and banking and, you know, schooling because I don't know if you know about all the problems in South Africa, there are, there are quite a lot going on.

So we'd been, it was, we had been [00:07:00] doing it in stealth for many years. So I'd been working on it for a long time, but we never kind of really talked about it. It was being done in stealth. We've run five. Thousands of kilometers in South Africa to get communications out to people. And I help with the network and infrastructure design on how we're going to build many data centers in all of these villages to help people have their own community.

And we're building schools and universities and shops, and all of that will decentralize and everyone will have their own little data centers. They can run all their own villages and schools, and then they're not, they're not relying on anyone else to do so. And everyone in those villages is involved in all the projects to help grow in a mini economy in each one and, and get comms out because they're disconnected and we're trying to help them be connected.

And it's it all stems from education really? It's all of the education. No, no one involved makes any money off it. No one charges for anything it's just to help people out. Very interesting.

James Dice: We have a couple members of the nexus community from South Africa. And I haven't heard about [00:08:00] any of that like comms related issues.

It seems like that would also get in the way of, you know, beyond education that would get in the way of enabling technology in buildings.

Michael Grant: Yes. Yeah, it would. And it does. I mean, to the point where we're building a data center, the data centers are container ship containers. So a shipping company has, is donating a ton of containers for us to build data centers, which will be the shipping containers, which we need to put air conditioning in.

And then some of those huts might be some of those containers might be turned into shops and lots of other cool things, but it's because everything is controlled by the government there and you can't really communicate unless it goes through the government. You know, we know the control of they are the controlling faction in the country.

It's trying to give the power back to the people that they've, that they don't have

James Dice: interesting. Well, I wanted to ask you about all those things, because it sort of provides context on sort of who we're listening to, who we're talking to [00:09:00] here. Lots, lots going on in your life.

Michael Grant: It seems like, yeah, there is, there is a lot going on.

Yeah. At some point I'll take a holiday. All right.

James Dice: So let's zoom in, on, on metric. What, what can you go deeper into besides middleware layer? What you guys do who your clients are, how do you go to market that?

Michael Grant: Yeah, so we've got quite a wide and varied customer base. We, we, because we're hardware agnostic our platform can adapt to anything.

So we have finance and banks, insurance companies. We have, you know, public sector organizations like the met office that monitor the weather and. Sell that information to people like sky and BBC and others. We also have done a big stint in smart agriculture, where we were monitoring chicken sheds and the, you know, the environmental of the chickens.

We do energy monitoring for people. We we're doing stuff in hospitals. We're doing stuff in warehouses, really that [00:10:00] there's a building as a building to us. It depends on the customer requirement because we're hardware agnostic. There's generally a solution to a customer's problem that the platform and technology can solve together.

But the big space for us is obviously commercial buildings and commercial buildings. It doesn't matter if you're an owner occupier and you've got a lot of space post COVID. You're trying to work out how much space you actually need. You really need, you know, beforehand buildings were kind of 70 to 80% for, since COVID that, you know, it is really ramping back up.

I've noticed in the last week if, if I don't get the really early trains, now I'm not getting a seat. So London is London is back to being very, very busy. Is it, is it, is it back to a hundred percent of where it was postcode of it? Not quite, but you know, our occupancy index is showing that it is ramping right back up.

But for us commercial real estate people wanting to understand how much space they actually need. It is a big play cause there's huge cost savings to be made there. And occupancy, [00:11:00] indoor air quality and energy monitoring kind of in the commercial building space. That's where we're seeing a lot.

And it depends on what we're doing for customers. As an, as an example, we've got a, and we're working with more landlords than we ever have before pre COVID. It was all owner. It was all occupier slash tenant, 95%. But now a lot of landlords have really, you know, had a bit of a kick I think, and realize they need to do something about proving that they've got a smart building or looking at the indoor air quality and doing their common areas.

So people, you know, when you need it, when you want to get a lease, you want to charge premium rent. So we've got great indoor air quality. We've got a smart building and this is how we monitor it. So we're doing, we're doing a lot there globally, not just in the UK, but our landlord in Canada, they started and they said, number one, we want to use your API.

No problem. So they want to pull it into their. Reporting module for their management, which is power BI. So they take it out via our API. And it's all about energy monitoring start with that's it, the guy that lovely guy [00:12:00] guy called Ken he's like Michael, just do energy for me. And then I'm ticking a massive box in my, in my organization from our reporting.

Cause we don't currently have it out of all of our buildings. Then you've got the met office who started with indoor air quality and then they went to capacity monitoring and then they came to us and said, we've got radar stations where we've got a radar dome and we've got building kind of the size of a shipping container, most times 40 foot shipping container size, roughly.

And they said in there's a lot of expensive server equipment. And then we've got the radar station. And at the moment we don't know what's going on in either of those. So we send someone there once a week in a car to take readings, they write it down, they go back to their, you know, they do a few radio stations in a day.

They go down and they write it down. They put. And they put it on an Excel spreadsheet, whatever it might be. Can you help with that? And so once we understood what they needed out of those sites, instead of them spending roughly $16,000 a year to maintain those sites, we provided a software and hardware solution that was [00:13:00] $12,000 over three years.

And now for them that the overhead costs, the operating costs have come down and they only send someone to site when they need to. So, because they're getting the energy readings, they're getting the temperature, they're getting the humidity, they know when someone enters site and when they leave. And that's, that's great.

That's a quick, easy win. But then also from an ESG carbon emission reduction, they're not sending someone out in a diesel powered car and driving hundreds of miles every week to go and check these sites. So. It really is varied. You know, that the commercial building space is generally occupancy capacity, indoor air quality and energy.

But again, the building is a building, but the biggest play at the moment is commercial real estate. Cool.

James Dice: Very interesting. So it sounds like you guys play in too many of the different categories that I use to sort of analyze the marketplace when going back to like the middle where it was kind of set those applications and use cases off to the [00:14:00] side, going back to the middleware concept, I call this, like, I typically call it the independent data layer where you're sort of independent from the applications.

It sounds like you guys play that role in some cases, but then you also have software applications as well. Am I hearing that

Michael Grant: correctly? Yes. Yes. Yeah. So. At the moment we have V3, we have metric as helix coming out next year, we're, we're doing some beta trials with, with some customers. But yes is the answer.

So we can, we are the UX and the UI with. Digital twin and the alerting and the data views and the analytics, or we are the API. So you can pull it into other systems. And that, that is growing more and more. It's the reason that we have created metric as helix as well is because we realize as a middleware platform, we need to become even more flexible than we are at the moment, because the industry is changing.

People's [00:15:00] requirements are changing. You know, this space is evolving, although it's still very immature from, you know, I come from the network routing and switching and then unified comms world, which has been around for 20, 30 years. This space is, you know, the PropTech space is still quite immature, but it's growing up quite quickly and it's evolving.

So you need to evolve your platform in the same way.

James Dice: Got it. And what's driving that. It sounds like. If you look at like the history of our industry, right? You have the software applications that sort of provide the full stack and they're providing an application that they might have that data layer integrated into it, but they're not intending to provide that to anyone they're providing the integration for themselves, database, data, model, everything that sits on top of that, so that they can provide that one application.

What's driving this shift towards, you know, flexibility as you just

Michael Grant: call it. I think part of it is because [00:16:00] customers need different pieces of hardware to provide them different solutions, whether it's connecting to an existing building management system or our HVAC system, that that's one thing.

Then if you want to overlay capacity data and then indoor air quality data to understand what's really going on in your building. There's a lot of point solutions out there, as you just mentioned, like just here's our hardware, here's our software, Mr. Customer. You don't need anything else, but actually that's really not true anymore.

And it's an expanding, we, as an example, some, some of our customers have got hardware from five or six different hardware partners. And that's why that's where metric has comes in, is that bring all that data together, whether you want to overlay that data and do the analytics and metrics, or put you into another platform, that's completely up to you.

That's the flexibility of who we are and what we do. And then the next part of that for us is allowing people to develop third party applications, as well as not just here's [00:17:00] our API go and put it into power BI, Tableau, Looker, anything else, you know, or, or an IWMS or, or calf em system it's other people we've started to talk to.

We'd like to develop third party applications against the data that we're getting out, whether that's ESG reporting or SCCR, which in the UK is streamlined energy and carbon reporting. People want the flexibility to do something else with that data. And as a software company, we don't want to do all of that heavy lifting all the time for people.

We want to continue to adapt the platform. So it's as flexible as possible, but we don't want to create all of those third party applications around, you know, You know, 12 engineers that we have to 30, 40 or 50 will be permanently creating connectors if you like. So for us, it is giving people an API that they can connect to.

So if you, the customer comes up and says, you know, I've got this new sensor and I want to connect it to metric as platform. We say, [00:18:00] no problem. Here's our API. If that hardware partner delivers the data in this way, you can plug it straight in and you don't even need us happy days in a way you go. And then the next part is we'd also then like to develop an application using that sensor in your platform, but put it into.

No problem. There's there's metric as helix. Go for it. No issues. And you just pay for API calls. So we will have to change our billing model because at the moment we charge per data point there will still be a mix. They'll still be an, a a data point model, but we'll, then we'll have to have an API model as well.

And we'd get onto our API is like toothbrushes thing and a little bit, I suppose, but from my comment last time, but it's then working out what that, what that charging model is because we don't want to create a platform that's just charging for an API because it's charging for an API. It's the value that it brings to.

James Dice: Yeah. And that's, that's what I was just going to ask about. Right. You led me, let me write to my question. So typically in that old world, the point solution world that we're [00:19:00] coming out of, and I totally agree that we're coming out of it. You would have that point solution provider and they would charge based on the value that their application is providing.

Right. And then now we've had like this independent data layer and middleware concepts come on board. They might have a different pricing model, but they're, but they're not. Usually that pricing model is not designed to capture the full value that could be captured by an application that sits on top of it.

Right. And then, so you guys are like doing both. And so your pricing model needs to reflect whatever value is being given

Michael Grant: by your platform. Correct. Exactly. Right. And we're still working that out, right? Metric us helix isn't out yet, but it's something we're working on, both from development and a commercial standpoint, because if the customer to take metric as today, because customer through our API at the moment still has the same charge from a data point because we're still storing all the data in [00:20:00] the platform.

So there's still a data point charge. So it's still actually quite easy. But if we go to full API model and people are just making the calls and they want to store the data somewhere else, and we don't need to store the data, do we charge in a different way, but at the same time, Having all of that data in our platform and attaching machine learning and AI to it then creates its own value.

So you can start to predict how busy buildings will be. You know, the world thinks Mondays and Fridays, it's going to be a ghost town and it'd be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday when everybody's in. But trying to figure that out, that, that the hardest part, I think for everyone in this space, and this is, this is why also, and last time we spoke, we're looking for sensors that don't have that API and platform costs themselves is because otherwise you've got platform cost and platform cost and platform costs.

And the customer looks at their invoice. I've got my metric host platform, and then I've got my, a, B, C, D, and E platform cost. But Michael, we only want metric as, and it's like, well, I know, but these other hardware providers, they've got a hardware platform. I've got a [00:21:00] platform cost, whether we like it or not, whether you like it or not.

And a lot of our customers. Are asking us to go and look for these senses. So we are actively in the market looking for our customers to help them solve this problem. And then you've got one platform cost that'd be metric. So if they then use all of metrics then great. But if they take it out of metric and put it into power BI or Looker or Tableau or whatever else it might be, then they've only got one platform cost for us, which is minimal compared.

Any other charges they're getting. So the value is in the data, but the value is also in our platform and aggregating sensors. You know, James Jim Whalen from Boston properties is someone I speak to a lot and he's in at the same moment. He's like, Michael, I'm not using a sense of company that has to charge me for sense of platform.

If I've got multiple sensors, I'm just not doing it anymore because the price, you know, when you're talking about thousands of senses, that there's a hell of a lot of costs there. If you're you're paying for platforms that you're not actually using, so they're not actually adding any value to [00:22:00] them, they still have to pay for them.

That's hugely frustrating. Totally.

James Dice: And I know Jim listens to the podcast while he's on his bikes, hopefully it, and just hear his name while he's biking and sort of rec so yeah. Cool. So you talked about helix and how it's a change from, I think you said B3 is the platform today. What is that new? What's the new platform bring,

Michael Grant: As I trying to touch on a little bit before, more flexibility than, than we currently have.

So, you know, we, we've got more hardware partners and software partners integrated than any other platform and a competitor of ours in the market. We're at 28 now, I think the first time you and I spoke, we were at 22 or 23. So we're doing two this month, we're doing three, I think integrations. And we're doing two and one to two software integrations every month.

So that will continue. The big change, as I mentioned earlier, is you, hardware partners will be able to integrate against us rather [00:23:00] than us doing all the heavy lifting people will be able to integrate into us. And if, if a customer says I've already got metric or says my middleware platform, whether they're using the UX UI and everything, or whether they're taking out by the.

If someone tries to sell a sensitive to a customer, and this customer says, great, I've got metric guests, you plugged into metric S and you show me that it works happy days. We'll use your sensor. That's that's one of the big changes. No one in the market's doing that. That's that's no, no, no. One's thinking about that.

They may do. Now. I've said it and trying to have a race with us to do it, but that, that, that I think needs to be done because it exists in other industries. So it should exist in our so they wouldn't need

James Dice: a gateway for every new type of sensor. They would just install the sensor. You guys would pull it in

Michael Grant: locally.

And then yeah, if, if it's, if it's a hardware sensor that has a platform. And needs an API, then there'll be API to API, but this, this is our API. You develop against this, join it up and then push the data in and pull it out. [00:24:00] Whichever way you want. The other part is the the ability to develop third party applications.

We think that's quite big because we're not the experts in every field, you know, like in industrial warehousing, industrial factory, you know, industrial factors, one, one in the same thing, but you know, industrial automation where we're not that we're not the experts in there, but if there's a sense of that needs to be connected and you want to overlay lots of different datasets, we can help, but there might be a third party application that you want to develop that needs to be on an app rather than in the web browser.

And it's, you know, it's monitoring critical. You can build that and just take the data from us with whatever connected sensor you need, whether it runs through an existing building system or it's an additional sensor. So there, there, there are a couple of the big ones. The other one is that we're working with lots of.

Tenant experience at partners as well. So, you know, Equian was the first one we developed with, we've got a great relationship with [00:25:00] them and Gavin, her team office out HQO, you know, we're talking to Microsoft as well. The ability to have data go natively into a mobile app is also very important.

So that's at the moment we have it. We have, we just have to change the web browser version of the platform to do that. But having it native into an app is, is one of the other big ones as well, so that it can literally plug into anything and, you know, away you go. So as the tenant experience app, the value add to their customers, if they're already in not having to have metric, but having that certain parts of our platform or our datasets with the sensors in their apps, natively is, is, is one of the things we, when we know we need to do as well.

So

James Dice: you mean someone else has experienced. You just being able to connect and for there to their cloud so that then they could push the data to the

Michael Grant: users in the app, correct? Yeah, exactly. Right. Yep. Got it.

James Dice: Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor nexus labs. And then we'll get [00:26:00] 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

Okay. So a big piece of this is obviously the, with being the independent data layer, a big piece of that is the data model, right?

So the ability to marry all these disparate types of data together and, and to a common model, how do you guys approach that conversation and that product decision?

Michael Grant: Do you, do you mean the data output? So standardizing the data output. So, so it's, it's something we we've talking about at the [00:27:00] moment, actually, we've, you know, there's brick, there's haystack.

One of the things we are doing because we are moving across to Azure, we're using D TDL, which is a big part of what we're doing, which is, you know, Jason on the backend essentially, but. We are standardizing on that, but the output of how you want to take that data and transform it through the API is, is, is up to you as, as the end customer or the, or the partner that might be supplying to an end customer.

But, but yeah, naming convention standardization is something we're doing through D TDL which is Microsoft obviously. But haystack and brick. And that there is, there is another one that we were talking about. I was talking about with Sam, I have talked about this the other day it'll come to me is an hour.

I think hour, I might be completely wrong but that's something we're trying to figure out now. And we're almost there with, with, with helix, but that's hugely important because when you connect to an existing building and [00:28:00] whether it's energy data, or building management system data with all due respect to the FM world and the building management engineers, there's, there's not a lot of standardization from naming conventions in these things.

So. Generally when we're doing it at the moment, it's either brick or haystack that we push it out as but again, the DTL will be the overriding and then we'll put it out that way. But there's not a lot of standards. I come from a networking world where every router and switch, there are global naming conventions for everything.

When I went into the BMS world and started looking at like one floor is different to the next floor, to the next floor, to the next floor, there's literally no standardization. And is this

James Dice: something that, as you're thinking about, you know, we talked about the transition in the industry from point solutions to flexibility.

Do you have building owner customers asking you about data modeling at this point? Or is it not a

Michael Grant: concern? We, we do. It's, it's not a huge concern at the moment because we're normalizing the data for them when we give it to them. [00:29:00] But it's, it's not a big concern. So as long as we can normalize the data and give it to them out via an API, if that's the way they choose to take it, if we're, they're putting it into the platform and then we're visualizing it for them and we're giving them the live data and the historic data that we normalize, that data, how we normalize that data, if it's temperature, it's vibration, it's fan speed.

It's anything else we call it what it is. We take the bastardized naming convention on the backend, we normalize it and then we pull it out as, as something that people can understand. If. Interesting.

James Dice: All right. Well, let's talk about API APIs then. So your quote that we put on LinkedIn so you and I had like an introductory conversation and we started talking about data mostly talking about occupancy data.

Cause I was writing an essay a couple of weeks ago about that. And you, you had a quote that I loved, which was API APIs are like toothbrushes. Everybody's got one, but no one wants to use anybody else's, which is hilarious. Obviously some [00:30:00] context is required. Um, And I probably should have put the context on LinkedIn before I posted it, but you'll learn this about me.

I like to just post really open-ended things and just see what comes out of the universe.

Michael Grant: I was very happy, you know, there were lots of comments. Th there were some quite funny ones. I didn't realize people took it as a negative comment, which is not, it wasn't meant as a negative comment of course, but the contents was just to give people context who may listen to this is we were talking about connectivity and it comes back to whether it's data normalization or a data model or connecting to another platform, API APIs.

There, there are some brilliant ones out there, you know, disruptive technologies, a partner of ours that make this tiny sensor here over my shoulder. Their API is fantastic. We have a partner in the UK that has got some really good senses, but it took us three months to develop against their API because actually it wasn't, it wasn't meant to be pushed [00:31:00] out via an API.

They built a closed solution essentially, but they wanted to, they realized they needed to partner with people to generate more sales. And they had a point solution that they needed to open up. So that took three months to develop against. And actually we almost ended up helping them write their API. So.

And there are like some of the comments that were on the, on the post that people charging a ton of money for an API that you didn't have that adjust is just pushing data to doesn't make any sense. Right. But they want you to use theirs, but you don't want to use theirs because they're charging you for it, but it's not giving you any value.

The context was around different, different API is the good, the bad, the ugly, the ones that are free, the ones that are charged for that's, that's kind of why my, my API, you know, analogy about toothbrushes is, is there but it's, you know, there are some great API is like some of the comments there that there are some, you know, another guy, which very funny, I can't remember his name now.

He just he's, his answer was another problem interface. So [00:32:00] that he's, he's felt the pain as well, obviously at some point. So, but I say all of this and I hope the API that we put out is great. And I expect some people to say, it's crap and, you know, come back at me, but I'm, I'm very happy for people to do that.

We're making are very open, so people can develop against it, you know, and, and, you know, there is, there is one other piece that I can't talk about with, with helix that will come out when, when the product comes out, that I think people will understand. Why we've built the platform the way we built it, because there is something very cool coming out as part of this as well.

That will make everyone happy. I hope, you know, it may not have, may not make some of our competitors happy, but it will make customers and end users very, very happy so,

James Dice: well, what struck me when I put that quote on LinkedIn was the, just, it feels like the word API. It's almost like it doesn't mean anything at this point, because when I say API and.

I get, [00:33:00] you know, 20 comments that are the exact opposite of 20 other comments. This happens quite a bit. It seems like there were different definitions being used for API. Are we in this like wild, wild west sort of phase in the industry where people are creating APIs and they be check a box, but then we have other peoples that are, that are designing them right.

To enable something else. Right. So where are we at? Like if we think about phases of the industry, when it comes, say PPIs,

Michael Grant: My personal view is a lot of hardware vendors are creating APIs to create recurring revenue models for their business. Okay. So, I won't name them, but there are lots out there because you, you can, we, we've got lots of hardware partners, 28.

We've now integrated with them. We're doing two more this month. Don't charge you for anything, but they've got an API or they give you the data directly via MQTT or backnet or mod bus or, or, or another [00:34:00] medium. And you know, that that's, you know, that doesn't really need to be an API in the middle a lot of the times.

So for some of the things by GRI that really does need to be, but for a lot of times that doesn't actually need to be an API. So some people are building an API to try and add recurring revenue and value to their business because they're essentially a hardware company. Others are just doing it so they can charge for it, which was one of the comments that was on the LinkedIn post that you put up.

So I think that will change, but, but you're right. It is a bit of the wild west at the moment is build an API, see whether I can charge for it, see whether people adapt, adopt it and then see how many people start to use it. And then I might start to charge for it if people start to use it. So, you know, bearing in mind, I am saying this while at the same time, we are building an API that we will charge for as well at some point.

So, you know, it's but, but in a very, in a very different, but in a bit of a different context is when we're not a hardware partner, but we are looking for all of those hardware partners out there globally that will deliver us the [00:35:00] data through, you know, through, you know, as I mentioned, MQTT backnet mod, bus OPC, whatever it is, and we can then push that out to the customers.

So it is a bit wild west. Again, people like Jim, you know, at the forefront of what he's doing as a CTO for Boston properties, I'm not doing this. And we've got another huge landlord as a customer, and they're already saying the same thing, Michael straightaway. We just were doing our first project with them.

We don't want to charge, we don't want to pay for any platform apart from yours done and dusted. So just bring a sense as to do that. So it will change over time. Lots of people building API APIs, good, bad, and ugly too, to figure out where their API fits. Can they charge for it? Will people use it? Is that, does that make them stickier to me?

Does that mean they can't pull away? Lots of different reasons. Yeah. Super

James Dice: interesting. It's something that I, I think, I think it is a phase of where we're at right now. I mean, if we use the example [00:36:00] of let's just pick one of the big occupancy counting platforms, you're providing a sensor and then you do have.

Analytics that help that sensor get more accurate over time. Right? So there is some justification for, you know, I'm going to update those algorithms over time and therefore you will pay me an ongoing fee to continue to provide more value. But if I'm looking at that from a historical industry perspective, from an industry, this used to just buying a sensor and having some, paying a contractor to stick it on the wall and that'd be it.

I think that's requiring a pretty big leap and the value ongoing value is not necessarily there, especially if no one is logging into the platform to like to use your software that you're providing with your sensor. It's just a really interesting spot that

Michael Grant: we're in right now. It is. And the occupancy capacity sensor is probably one of the [00:37:00] biggest ones, right?

Because we are now and we've installed them all. We were partnered with everyone, but we're kind of Switzerland on this, but we've got lots of, we've got lots of our partners installed. One of our biggest customers is saying, we just want to put all this into your platform when you attach machine learning and AI.

Will we be able to make the sense of smarter? No, but will we be able to inform the partners who make the census to make it smarter? Yes, we will. Where we do that. Yes, we will, because it will add value to them. It will add value to our customers and they'll enroll more of those out, which will mean more connections to our platform, which will mean more sales to the hardware partners.

But most importantly, it still means more value to the customer because we're storing the data as well. There's lots of, you know, everyone's got a data lake and everyone's storing data, but actually doing something smart with it. And if we're able to take all of that data from multiple different vendors and crunch it all together and then say to all [00:38:00] of them, by the way, this would help you sell more or, or maybe not sell more.

This would, this would help add more value to your. And the reason why is because we've got 50,000 of these and 10,000 of yours and 10,000 to someone else's and 10,000 and someone else's that's, that's where I think the value is for the customer. But if you're just doing that with one sensor, from one hardware partner, you can increase, you can make your census smarter, you can make your platform smarter.

But that's not the be all and end all because the other part of making a platform smarter, which is what we continuously do is take feedback from customers because no one in our industry, James has the silver bullet to solve every problem for a customer. No matter what it is, whether it's air quality, energy, occupancy, capacity, building management, maintenance from vibrations that no one has everything.

It's the flexibility of adapting to the customer requirements and building new data views and reports that they need to help drive value back to them. It's the same with the sensors. If [00:39:00] someone can aggregate all of that, give the data back to the customer and then give the data back to the hardware suppliers to help them make their sensors smarter, more efficient than that.

I think that's the, that's the place. That's what we would like to do. That's where we're trying to get to

James Dice: interesting. Yeah. The way that I teach this in our course there's each use case has like a certain amount of total value to the. Various stakeholders in the building. And if you're not capturing that whole value that you can't charge for the entire cost of that stack.

Right? Yeah. It's really interesting. Anything else around API APIs? I mean, it sounds like you're creating a video response to that LinkedIn thread, so we'll definitely publish that.

Michael Grant: Yeah. Caitlin who's our head of content came up with a good idea rather than like, you I'm, I'm quite busy, but I like to try and respond to everything that people write on LinkedIn or, or Twitter.

I'm [00:40:00] not on a lot of social media platforms, but I'd like to try and respond to them all. So Caitlyn just condensed everything for me. And I did a short video answering them all. So we're going to push that out soon and you know, the good, the bad, the ugly about it. So yeah, that, that will come out this, this, this week or next week, I think.

Yeah. We'll put

James Dice: that in the show notes. So the. Occupancy data piece. It sounds like you have just to kind of bring what we're talking about with API as home. It sounds like you've analyzed the marketplace for these providers. And there are certain sensor providers that are sort of just like hardware and data only.

And then there are certain providers that are like full stack charge. You SAS fee, all that. Right. So w w what does that kind of, what kind of insights and lessons learned have you gained from analyzing that whole marketplace?

Michael Grant: Number one, I think, again, this comes back to the customer, which is the most important person in our world.

Everyone's world is trying to find the right balance of price, whether [00:41:00] that's CapEx or OPEX. Everyone sells an IRR. Everyone talks about selling on ROI these days, but if a customer has a budget and you need to fit into that budget, you need to find the right products to fit. So the software, the software is always the cheapest part, but by a long way.

So trying to find the right hardware partners to fit the budget, to then try and get the accuracy that the customer needs for their requirements is something that we've learned. And we've, we've had some, some lessons learned, we worked with some hardware partners that have said they can do one thing.

They do one something very well. And they said, well, we can do that as well. And we try it with them, but it hasn't worked. So we parked them and say, right. Just an occupancy sensor for desks and meeting rooms and open spaces, but a capacity counting sensor that is something that people need. And that has to be super accurate because if you're during COVID you wanted live in and outs, then you needed a really accurate set.

So if you, if you don't need it as accurate now, because we're posts, we're not post COVID, but people, things are being a bit more relaxed and people are going back. If you [00:42:00] don't need 98 plus percent accuracy, and you just need 90% over it. So rather than be 98% accuracy, accurate minute or minute, if you need 90, 90 to 94% accuracy over a whole day, there's a different sensor for that.

And there's a different price point for that. So one of the things we've learned, fortunately, all of our customers are fantastic. They're very flexible. One of our customers is that Michael will be Guinea pig for everything. So just test everything with us, bring us new kit, bring us new technology. And if it works great, if it doesn't no problem, we've all learned something from it.

So that's a learning we've had and there are great. But one of the things we have learned is you need to test a lot of these pieces of hardware to understand what they really can and can't do, and then work out the value for your customer. In, in that respect, you need to be independent because we're not, we're not interested in the hardware really at all.

It's the software and the solution for the customer. So finding the right hardware partner is [00:43:00] important, understanding the value to the customer and then giving them the solution that fits their requirement. And budget always comes into that, right? Whether you're talking about ROI and potentially saving them, millions people don't have an open checkbook to say let's use the biggest, best, most expensive sensor in the market because it also looks cool, but it's going to cost me $50,000 to do a four story building.

That's a bit eye watering where, you know, you can get something for half of that price without any ongoing. That's something that we've learned. And I think the market is learning that as well. There's, don't, don't get me wrong. There's some of these guys are gonna make a ton of money over the next few years, but I think the longer this space goes on and the longer this industry, sorry, the more this industry matures, the smarter customers are getting in a smarter people are getting about what the, what the real value is that they get out of these devices.

Because one of the things that we've also learned is these devices that there needs to be flexibility, because I give you an example, we're working with a customer at the moment. Their lease [00:44:00] comes up in, in April 20, 26. So we're putting sensors in now and we're going to swamp, the whole building with those senses capacity, counting sensors at every entrance and exit.

And then we're doing desks and meeting rooms and we're using some battery powered. When we get enough data that the capacity counting sensors will stay in until they move out. But the occupancy data they'll have enough probably over the next two years because they, right. We know exactly how this building is being used.

How many people are in it, let's keep the capacity counting sensors in and move the occupancy sensors to another building because they're battery powered. The beauty is take them down, stick them in another building in the metrics platform, drop another floor plan in, leave the current asset pen. As we call it there with all of the data from that building, create a new one and stick it in there.

You've got all your historic data still from the other building, but you just move that sensor to another building. So you don't then have to buy. And this is our advice and Harbor partners probably don't want to hear this, but you don't [00:45:00] have to buy. Tens of thousands of these to put them in every building, why not take a stock and then move that stock around from building to building.

And that's something we've learned and something that we talked to our customers about as well, because battery powered sensors that are out there now we're getting better and better. And then, then you, you leave in what you need to leave in and you move what you can move. That's the value for the customer.

So that's something we've learned. And actually, it was quite funny when we first did it, we were like customer said, well, let's move them out and put them in another building. Well, can you do that? Well, you actually can because they're battery powered and you know, there there's, no, you haven't run a hundred or 200 or a thousand power over ethernet cables to a sensor and leave it in a feeling.

And when you rip it out and they're like, wow, that's a lot of wasted money. So yeah, that's something we've learned as well. Make capacity counting sensors. I don't know to date anyone in the world that can do them. Because there are every second, right? We get the data pretty much instantly. So [00:46:00] counting people in our cars, you can have hundreds of people come through entrances.

So that needs to be powered. Someone will eventually create one of those how big the battery will be. I don't know, but until that happens, that's power over ethernet. But in meeting rooms like I am now battery powered is, is really cool because it becomes flexible for the customer. And if you you're getting rid of a building in 2026, stick, 3000 sensors in you rip them out.

And then you've got, you know, buildings with 6, 7, 800 desks and you can then spread those sensors out to three or four different buildings. That's a value that's value to the customer. Very cool.

James Dice: Let's shift gears to air it. And I said, we were going to circle back to that. Can you talk about how aerated differs from other IAQ certifications and, and second part of that is, is there like a performance aspect to it given that you guys are

Michael Grant: data platform? Awesome.

So I would recommend getting the really smart person who knows absolutely everything end to end about air rated [00:47:00] on, which is Francesca. So I would recommend you do that, but she is the environmental scientist. She is the science part of our rated on the operations part. That's how we kind of came together to make the company.

But the difference, I kind of mentioned it before. One of the differences is air rated is about air. It is just about air in the building. So it's not, you know, if you look at some of the other standards out there, they are, they are about health and wellbeing, portions of food, the size of dinner plates, you know, lots of different things in a building.

And if someone wants to do all of that great, but then there's a big cost associated with that. Where a lot of people who want to know what's going on with the air quality wants something simple. That's not going to break the bank and roll it out. Most of our customers for air rated are landlords and legal and general investment management in the UK.

Algin, they've put out some press releases. Air rated has helped them attract tenants. They're [00:48:00] able to still charge a premium lease because they've got air scores. So, so that's helping them, do they want to do everything around something like the well standard, which is great and it's all encompassing and it's huge.

No. And if they did that in 143 buildings, which they have, that's a hell of a lot of money. Definitely. Whereas air rated, it's a bit of a no brainer. People spend more on flowers in reception every year than they do on an escort because, you know, th th there's it's. I don't like to say the word cheap it's cost effective.

It gives you the data you need. We take the outdoor air quality. We take the indoor air quality. We do an RFI with the customer requests, for information, to understand how the boonies use what's going on. What's the regime with the BMS, how often the filters are changed. We monitor that we placed the sensor strategically in a building.

And then at the end of three weeks, we then write the S-corps reports and you either get certified silver, gold or platinum. So it runs the same way that [00:49:00] Widescore does. And then we run them through that with the customer. They get recommendations on what they could change to go from certified or silver, silver, gold, gold to platinum.

If we, if we first plug in and air quality is not great, we will speak to the customer and say, would you like to pause this? Because. We've got some recommendations that are quick wins that would, might help you with this. And if they say yes, great. We did that with the met office. They were one of the first people to take it up and they did remediate and they went from certified to almost go there at the top.

End of silver. And they'll get a goal of this year when they renew, because they've made some other remediations now for them, those remediations, those remediations didn't cost them a lot of money. But they've had a big impact on the score that they get. Now, when you're a landlord and you're in this world that they're in now trying to attract tenants and charges, still charge a premium rent.

You need something, you know, it's like metric. This metric is now we're working. When I didn't finish this earlier, we were working with more landlords than we ever have because they go, they [00:50:00] want a smart building and they want to say, they've got a smart building and they want to monitor capacity, energy, and indoor air quality.

And then when they get a tenant that says, wow, that's great. How do I get that? They recommend metric. It's a win-win with they're rated. It's pretty much the same. Landlords putting it in, putting the escort badge on the window and then publicizing it and using as much publicity as they can attracts people to their building, allows them to charge a premium rent.

And it just, and I say to just air that's the most important thing in the world is the air we breathe because without it, we wouldn't be alive. It's very simple, but it's very clear and it gives them a score and it gives it, we monitor temperature, humidity, CO2, VOC, and dust. That's where you get your score from.

They're all weighted differently, but you know, then you have a complete view and a complete. People publish it, you know, our gym shouting about it everywhere. We've just started. We've just launched in the U S we've got our first customers in the U S and it's, it's [00:51:00] like, you know, this is great. We, you know, we can do this all day long.

We've got hundreds of buildings and instead of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds per building, we're spending at a maximum 16,000 pounds per building, if you already have. Accredited certified sensors, like Katera aware air things. Then the cost is even cheaper. It's like 30% less because you've already got the sensors in and we just need the data.

And then we take the outside data. So it's very flexible. It's very easy. It's easy to understand, but it adds huge amounts of value back to the landlord and to the, to the end user. Now we have end-use Matt, Matt office the office group, which is a coworking space, you know, owned by Blackstone. They've got it because they want to show everyone that when you're coming and taking a seat or a desk in our coworking space where you've got a productive environment, the air quality is good.

It's conducive to good, good productivity for people. So it's different. So we take the main ones, well fit well and reset while there's an all encompassing [00:52:00] standard air Fitwell is, is again, almost all encompassing, but they both have an air quality part. And recently. They monitor for three months and it's either pass or fail.

So there, there, there is a, there is a difference there. So I was speaking to Rafa about how we could partner up, but it didn't actually ended up going anywhere, unfortunately, but that's the difference as well. Ours is three weeks. It's ongoing. We also do. What's called the S-corps DNO. So there's the S-corps for, for operating buildings in the built environment.

And then there's the escort D and O D and O stands for design and operate. So we go in at a RIBA stage two or three level four level, and we look at the design of your. And we can give you advice on it, and then you can get a certified silver, gold, or platinum from there as well. And we, we did a building in Brussels where they were going to get a gold.

And we said, look, if you actually just change the filters from the filters, you have to carbon filters that will get you a platinum. They got a platinum. And then by having that, people were taking, you know, people were [00:53:00] looking to lease the space before the building was even built because they had a platinum escort DNO when they finished the building.

If they didn't do what we've recommended, they obviously won't get an escort platinum, but these guys did and they got an escort platinum. And then, then, then they're away. So two sides to it, the DNO, the design and operate and the ongoing and the ongoing one. It's, it's, it's different to Wiredscore right?

Because Wiredscore technology doesn't change once you've plugged in dark fiber, once you've put 5g in once you've connected it all. You're not ripping that out. Cause you need to make as much money as possible, but air changes every year. If your facilities management company, your BMS provider, they're not maintaining your HVAC systems properly, your S-corps will go down and not up so that it is that's the other big part of it that I think it's hugely important and why it's, why it's gaining the traction that it has.

Cool.

James Dice: Super interesting. Thank you for going into

Michael Grant: that. Francesca we'll do a much better job than me by the way, but that's, that's, that's my take. All [00:54:00] right. You can connect

James Dice: us and we'll go, we'll go into that with her on the show, you mentioned w 360 and kind of taking it into from IAQ to I E what, what does that entail?

You know, I'm thinking of everything on top of indoor air quality, like daylight sounds,

Michael Grant: all those types of things. I'd say, what does that sort of look like? That's exactly what it is. Actually. It is light, which is a Lux levels and flicker and, and it's and it's noise. So those, those components are in there.

The other part that's in there. T VOC, but formaldehyde is pulled out completely separately as, as a measurement as well. And then what is the interesting part? What's also taken into consideration as part of this, which is what the guys at, at EFT and us have built together with another company called baker Stewart.

Taking into account the people feedback. So the people survey, so [00:55:00] as well as having the platform and when, when you're getting the data into the platform, there's a scoring matrix. That's been built to meet the British standard that's coming out, but there's also people feedback. So there is physical feedback from people in the building to get their views on what it's like working in that environment.

So as well as doing everything for indoor air quality, there is light, which is Luxem flicker. There is noise. And then there's the environment that they also are in. And it is not number one, it's doing a physical survey, but then the other is getting the feedback from the people actually working in that building.

And then all of that data together gives you your score rated against the British standard that's coming out. There is, there is talk that it will become a global standard, but at the moment, it's, it's a British standard that's coming out. And so that's, that's the difference, you know, and, and a lot of.

Is for the guys at EFT consult. And the reason they started that they, they actually wrote what's called the paths that has become the standard themselves. They wrote it with [00:56:00] Bre, the Welsh government, the UK government, like lots of other bodies. But the reason that they did this was you know, w you know, probably as well as I do James, given your background, building management systems are put in and installed and configured, but kind of left, and they're not maintained as well as they should be.

And I think that's going to change as well, but there's a lot of remediation that needs to be done when you start to put third party sensors in and really understand the environment in a building. So part of that is the remediation that needs to be done as well, which is spot the Emony side of that is for these guys to do.

Absolutely. Yeah.

The by-product of that is a tick in the box for ESG because generally, and this is not, this is not our expertise at all with the software company, but they're being the M and a guys and a building management or a BMS review can save you a minimum of 10% on energy generally. Right. So there's a, there's a big tick in the box there.

Really cool.

James Dice: [00:57:00] And what's that UK standard

Michael Grant: call? I think that when it comes out, it's BS British standard 4 0 1 0 2, when it comes out. Okay, cool. Wow.

James Dice: This has been a fun conversation. So what are you excited about? The rest of 2021 or 2022?

Michael Grant: Metric is helix is one of the big things that we're excited about.

Obviously it's being built. We've got beta testing going on through our API with some customers around indoor air quality getting more and more people signed up to that. And what we're doing with that is, is really exciting for us. And, and a lot of what's going into that. It's from our customers and what our customers are asking us, whether they're new customers or existing customers, or actually customers that we've spoken to six to nine months ago where we didn't exactly have what they needed.

And we may not have won them as customers as well. But we were asked about it enough by, by people we didn't win and exist. You know, when we brought it back and said to our customers, what about this? Would this, would this add any value to [00:58:00] all of the grew, the good stuff where everyone has lessons learned, right?

We've done some things wrong. We've done things that, that not in the best way sometime, but you know, the definition of a definition of insanity is doing the same thing every day and expecting a different outcome. We've, we've, we've listened, we've learned and we're changing because of those learnings.

That's the coolest thing. I mean, I, I'm probably the most excited person in the company, apart from Sam who's actually him and his team are building it to see it when it comes out because. I might be completely wrong here. Right? I'm I'm I'm Australian. And I generally think I'm right, which annoys my wife, but it's, it's everything we, we know from listening that the market needs and what customers have been asking for that we hope will change the industry and help accelerate the change in the industry.

So for us, it's about ease of use it's about adaptability and it's about openness and value. So that's, that's what [00:59:00] we're, that's what we're hugely excited about. And the other ones I'm hugely excited about is having a Christmas where I'm not in lockdown. So that's,

I'm excited about and getting to the U S I've been, I've had three events that I've tried to get to the U S for in the last couple of months that I, you know, Creattech, which is now right 13th and 14th, I'm supposed to have been there to meet a ton of people. Jim Whalen was number one, you know, on my list to go and probably cycle with and then go to meet and have.

Yeah, going, getting to the U S is the other bit, I'm excited about, we've got a, we've got a new partner in the U S that we're starting to work with. A lady called jewel Frey who owns a huge facilities management company and wants to do smart cleaning to get out, to see her to go and see her customers.

There's a ton of stuff I'm excited about apart from getting out of lockdown, but helix Christmas, Jill, getting to the U S and going to speak to our customers that we've only ever had video calls with.

James Dice: What are they cool, Michael? Thanks for coming on the show. Really appreciate

Michael Grant: you sharing all this. Yeah, no problem, [01:00:00] James.

Thanks very much for having me. I will put you in touch with Francesca and I'll send you the video on the API responses as well. Perfect.

James Dice: 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 at nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.