34 min read

🎧 #090: The democratization of building controls

“By making controls simple and transparent every day and for every building, you massively increase energy efficiency without even talking about analytics or AI."


—Alex Rohweder

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Episode 90 is a conversation with Alex Rohweder, CEO of J2 Innovations, a building controls and integration software company out of California and owned by Siemens.

Summary

We talked about the democratization of controls technology, Alex’s definition of a true platform, and whether or not he sees the app store concept taking off in the buildings space.

Without further ado, please enjoy the Nexus Podcast with J2 Innovations.

  1. J2 Innovations (1:12)
  2. Siemens (1:29)
  3. Jason Briggs (1:58)
  4. The Untapped 87% (Whitepaper) (22:17)

You can find Alex on LinkedIn.

Enjoy!

Highlights

  • Before the acquisition of J2 Innovations (3:20)
  • Why Siemens wanted to acquire J2 Innovations (9:23)
  • What separates J2 Innovations (12:44)
  • Where does fin stop and J2's customers' products begin? (16:09)
  • Democratization of building controls (19:11)
  • Alex's definition of "platform" (33:25)
  • What Alex is excited about this year (41:07)
  • Thoughts on mergers and acquisitions and how it can lead to more simplification (47:55)

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: [00:00:00] Hello friends. Welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions at 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.

This episode is a conversation with Alex Roeder, CEO of J two innovations, a building controls and integration software company out of California and owned by Siemens. We talked about the democratization of controls technology. Alex definition of a true software platform and whether or not he sees the app store concept taking off in the building space.

So without further ado, please enjoy the nexus podcast with Jay to [00:01:00] innovations. Hello, Alex. Welcome to the Lexus podcast. Can you introduce yourself? Yes. I nice to meet you, James again, and now on this podcast. My name is Alex. I'm the CEO of two innovations. We're a California based company providing an open software platform for smart buildings, smart equipment IOT.

And now what this is all about. We probably gonna talk a lot more throughout the call. I started my career in Siemens and work in the industry for more than I think it's 10 years and always with a focus on transforming this industry digitally and also what impact this can make to society. And especially also to the environment.

And yeah. Before joining J two I was VP of software IOT for Siemens spring products. That was my last job in Siemens. And then went to J two was first CEO of the company together with the founder and then CEO, Jason Briggs who then after [00:02:00] three years, three years after the acquisition through Siemens left the company.

And then I took over as the CEO

uh,

James Dice: yeah, a little bit about myself. I studied business. So to be honest, I really only came to understand the beauty of how automation software can make infrastructure more efficient later. My career. This hasn't maybe been my first plan. And also you've more important to how technology can, can create more energy efficiency and create a more energy efficiency running planet.

Alex Rohweder: And I've told submits over the years, my interest for the business side got a little bit lower. And my excitement for the products and technologies started to dominate. You know, business will always be a key pots for our partners, customers for myself, for the company, of course, but I found what really matters at the end of the day is the product to technology.

And how it can create value for customers and, yeah. So with a business background, but [00:03:00] having become a technologist over time and yeah. Really excited about being part of this industry and also for so long now, I can't even think about moving into another industry by now. Yeah. It definitely bites ya. You get the bug and you can't can't let it go.

Can you talk a little bit more about sort of history maybe before the acquisition? A little bit? J two was founded quite some time ago, actually in 2009. And it started really as a, as a tour to make existing building automation systems more efficient. Make the engineering easiest, simplify things.

Simplification is still today. A very big part of the DNA of . And the company evolved more or less as an R and D center. It was Jason divisionary founder together with a few others that co-founder the company. It was a team of great developers and evangelists almost, almost like a, like a technology incubator.

And less of a [00:04:00] company that was heavily focused on marketing and sales, operations, and professional services. So really a group of people that put the technology and the product first and yeah. Build something phenomenal. That's gradually evolved from being just a tour that can optimize existing building automation systems into becoming its own platform

uh,

Alex Rohweder: over time able to do all kinds of different applications

uh,

Alex Rohweder: in a birding from from the more complex BMS to simpler BMS, to also topics like plant management.

And yeah. Then the company grew technologically and found first partners. One of them was the big corporate Siemens, but not the only one. And the DNA didn't really change at that time because those big companies, they said to J to, you know, continue to do what your best and continue to build the technology, both the product.

And yeah, we want to benefit from your innovation. We want to benefit from [00:05:00] your creativity from your different way of looking at the market. What you need to know is that. The nice thing about two from the very beginning is you had a nice mix of the company you had. Jason, for example, was strong system integrator with his own system integration company, a big company in north America.

And you had people in the company that were very much focused on software, didn't know a lot about building automation, system integration. And then you had people in the company that knew the market very well from the different anchors and the trends. And so it became a nice mix. Really, really a group of people that know software understands digital transformation and what can, what it can do to a building, but also with the down to earth.

Yeah, on the complexity of all markets, I've often seen people underestimate how complex our market can be beyond just the digital stuff. And I think this company has managed very well all the way up into the point of the [00:06:00] acquisition and hopefully continues to do so after the acquisition, with a different focus or with the, maybe not even a different focus, but with an extended, with an extended for.

Got it. So if we think about the smart building stack, which I like to talk a lot about, it started as kind of like an overlay on existing building automation systems. And then now it's evolved to a, more of a full stack entire control system. Plus the platform for different applications is that. Yeah, kind of.

So if you, if you take a betting automation system, that's, let's take the big learning first. You have the, the room controllers, you have the unitary equipment controllers you have meet us everywhere. And and then there's something that needs to be on top that brings all of these different things to.

The system level controllers and the visualization which many referred to as to building management software. So where are we positioned in this state? We are [00:07:00] basically the integration controller and the building management software in one. So we, we cover both parts of both the parts in the stack and we do it all in one software, one engineering We yet are only a software only software company.

We, we don't create our own hardware. We don't build our own hardware. So either we run on a server or an IPC, something similar to a server, or we run on someone else's hardware, we're hardware agnostic. We run on anything. That's windows, Linux based, and therefore we take different pots of technology also at different points in time, depending on what our customers use.

Got it. And I just wanted to clarify this. I know these answers, but I wanted to make sure everyone knows what technology you're talking about. The software you're talking about. Like a, like an operating system for one building or is it more portfolio focused? Yeah. [00:08:00] Very good question. And that's what many people confuse with us actually, and we try hard not to have people kind of use that anymore.

We, we live on the edge, first of all. So we are focused on one building on one building automation system and really taking in there, the system level integration and the building management software case. Now because we have beautiful graphics, we have nice data management capabilities because of haystack tagging, which we also, as a company co-founded as a, as an idea, as a non-profit idea and people also use us above on the higher level and integrate multiple instances, multiple instances from, from other building automation systems into let's say one common view, whether it's a campus.

Or a fleet of wordings, but we traditionally really, because we run on the edge mostly. And on the server, we come from the single building management. Yes. We can expand also to a mighty birding management fleet, building management, but we're not cloud native. We utilize the [00:09:00] cloud for remote access.

We utilize the cloud for edge management. But we are not a cloud application. We're not there to, to do the crazy analytics or enterprise service business around the traditional building automation systems. We have other redefined or traditional building automation systems should look like then to add something to traditional building automation systems.

Got it. Very cool. So you were at Siemens before the acquisition. So can you talk about why Siemens Big huge mammoth controls company wanting to hire or acquire J two innovations, small software company in California.

uh,

Alex Rohweder: So I can, I can speak about this quite well because I've been part of the, of the group of people that has been these.

So of say the acquisition team on the Siemens side and on the Siemens side, the idea was. I would say threefold one was the technology. [00:10:00] And framework was utilized an existing product already does ego control point a, which is a room room supervisory H my base system, and also a plan supervisory system running most HMI, but also on a web server.

So he Siemens already utilized our technology, the fin framework technology quite extensively on a, on a key product that they sell globally into the market. And, and somewhat Siemens felt that it's a good idea to make sure that the company maintains, you know, goes on and that was maybe the, the, the security part.

Let's make sure the company exists and, and can continue to perform no matter what happens in the future. The second part. Was that also Siemens is understood like every other company into control's market. The mid market is heavily growing. It's the most simple buildings the most simple commercial buildings to mid market.

It is experiencing heavy [00:11:00] growth. And we with our technology because you can, we can take over different parts of the architecture because we are fully browser-based because we can run on a controller. We are very well fit for this mid-market application because we have simplified things. We have simplified the workflows.

As significantly, because remember from what I said in the beginning, this has always been origin how to simplify engineering and how to simplify operation in buildings. So we're strong in the mid-market and there was the second reason. And the third was the, and, and this was also to a good extent.

My, my, one of my key points when I was under Siemens.

Uh,

Alex Rohweder: We wanted an independent company that can go independently to market and provide a technology, not only to Siemens or provided to anyone who has a sincere interest to utilize our technology and bring it into their own portfolio. Bring it into their own state.

And then bring it to market under their own brands or OEM business. [00:12:00] And this is where we also then become a platform play. We are able to work openly with the market and therefore also, yeah. Maintain creativity, maintained us innovation speed, but also get so much in palaces from different parts of the market.

Get so much input and that all comes along with the trust. Every company has an us, whether they are maybe even a competitive Siemens, that they can rely on us to be an independent partner for them. And, and not not a department within Siemens and therefore the independence piece and that idea to really let the company exist in the open market with anyone who wants to work with our technology.

That's been really the third, the third key strategic topic that Siemens.

James Dice: when I think about everything you just described, I think it's, it, it rings a bell to me, which is like a. No innovative controls company starts up, they do integration and a [00:13:00] software layer. They get acquired by, you know, huge company. And I'm thinking of tritium obviously. So can you talk about the, the differences and the comparison to what J two innovations is and what Tridium is, or was in the marketplace?

Alex Rohweder: So. Yeah, that's part of probably skipped.

I think, I think with everything that I described I talked about simplification. I talked to about how we are very modern technology that has been purchased a few years ago. There's, there's things that you can find in our technology. You can't find in any other technology. It's not just about Tridium RJ too.

We believe we have our distinct unique USP. Tridium has desks and many others in the market also have their own we really focus on the simplification piece on the one side and the great UI, great UX. That comes along with it. You hardware agnostic weakness of it that we really don't want to push our own heart, went to the market.

We, [00:14:00] we, we, we leave that to our partners or OEM. So our customers basically and then if you look at it from an OEM perspective, what makes us so unique in the market is with us. You don't get. A platform that is always the same, more or less with different ones. But if you see how our customers have utilized the platform and how they have customized it, oftentimes you don't even know it's fin framework because we give so many.

There's so many options to, to make it your own, to make it your own workflows and engineering, to make it your own color palette, of course your own brand anyways, but also really bring in your own IP. And that's what we always say to OEMs. Look, you don't necessarily compete with any other OEM that utilizes our technology because eventually you have so many opportunities to be creative.

You have so many opportunities to do your own thing with it. That it's really up to you. It's a foundational technology for you to use, but what you then make out of it is [00:15:00] it's really your job. And you can still be a company that is excited about their own innovation, their own creativity, their own ideas, and, and you don't have to force yourself to make or buy.

You can actually say I buy and make. And, and that's where we really get a lot of positive feedback. One, one. As an equipment company one of the leading HVC equipment manufacturers in Europe comes from Italy as part of the media group from China. They have for right. Evolve the platform and their product entirely plants.

So far, they have started with what we've given them with the professional services Dio, but then they have built up their own team. And to be honest, now I sometimes wonder when I see how far they've taken it. It's it's, it's always positively surprising to see how much innovation they have created on top of the platform.

And it's not any more, what it used to be in the beginning when it was [00:16:00] just fin framework, it is really leave it in tele plant it's unique in the market, and it will always have its own use piece that can be sold. Cool. So small technical follow-up to that question, which is so where does fin stop and their products begin?

Can you talk a little bit more about that technically for that plant controlling? Yes. So, and again, simplification, because we know in the building automation world, everything can happen. Everything can be about everything. And then underneath technically you have the equipment that can be a chiller or an alley unit and coal unit the distributed equipment.

And you have on top of that, usually the, the. The controls at the unitary controls. Oftentimes that is also deterministic. So, fast, high reliability processing, and then. On top of those controls of those [00:17:00] different equipments. This is where fitness puts. It integrates the different equipments in the plant room.

It's brings all the things together. It optimizes the whole thing and optimize the whole plant room. It gathers the data from the whole plant from maintains it. And this is. Cleveland, for example, we within tele plant has built lots of different applications for energy efficiency, for maintenance optimization, for better user experience from the installer to the facility manager, to maybe even an end user at some point in time.

So, so it's, it's above. Primary controllers, some quality. There's so many different names for these controllers, but I'm talking about the lower level controllers that most people refer to as unitary or primary. And it's above that. sometimes to bring it back to the BMS. So you might think no.

Okay. But then, whereas to BMS in this, so in some cases to, is it BMS and that might then just coexist with a plan management solution. And other cases to [00:18:00] plan management solution maybe evolves towards the BMS by taking over other, other parts of the building. And many other cases we can talk about this later, the BMS, right?

But they're still expensive equipment that produces or or consumes a lot of energy. And and even more so in this case, it's really needed to have something that brings an overarching view on all the different equipments and controls in the building. Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor nexus lab, and then we'll get back to the show.

James Dice: 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. 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 in the private chat room.

You can [00:19:00] find out more about the course@courses.nexus labs.online, all right. Back to the.

Cool. All right. Hopefully that sets a good context. What we're talking about here. So before we hit record, you said, I want to talk about the democratization of building controls and I love this topic. So I got a lot of follow up questions, but first, can you just talk about what you mean by, by that phrase?

Alex Rohweder: For me, democratization of building automation or building technologies starts with the challenge the, that we have today that is first of all, the challenge of climate change buildings are the biggest energy consumers in the world. Something that people in your podcast, probably your first many times already.

And the other challenges that if you look at most even commercial buildings, not just residential, let's talk really about commercial only. Most of these buildings do not have a building automation system in place. Edwards, many of our, many of us in the industry talk [00:20:00] about on a daily basis is privileged to the big commercial buildings to the big hospitals, the airports.

But there's not something that is usually accessed by. The smaller buildings, not a small school sometimes, or maybe small hospital, small commercial building. And sometimes even about the size, it's also about the complexity. It might also just be a very big hospital, but a pretty old hospital. And so we think that roughly 80% of all commercial buildings, that's the number.

Everyone discusses do not have anything like a building automation system. And for me, democratization means how do I get this? Into the other 80% of buildings. And for me, that doesn't mean we just enforced that through legacy. By just saying, oh, you have to put in a regular building automation system now.

No, we have today means with new technologies to simpler things, dramatically simplify our technology from ethically, also in the engineering, which is even more important, probably initially Allston the operation. [00:21:00] So you don't need a highly sophisticated facility manager, but maybe just for example, the mass.

Who was also then taking care of the heating system in a small village. Right. So, we need to simplify things dramatically and through this. And other means through utilizing the cloud part through utilizing smaller edge controllers instead of bigger service. So this really bring building automation into the other 80% of buildings.

And this is for me the main theme, because I've believed always that digitalization has the biggest impact. Not where it's created the peak on top of the highest sophistication, but where it actually made something accessible to everyone that was previously only accessible to. That doesn't want to downplay the peak innovation that's also necessary.

We always need to do on innovation always as well. And that's something also J two does. So for example, Siemens does. But I think it's very important also to look at the other [00:22:00] 80% and discuss how, how they can get access to building automation. That's for me, democratization of building automation.

James Dice: Yeah. Yeah. And I love that word simple. So anyone that's read our white paper that we released in December about small going controls. We'll recognize that, that you read it too. Simplification is what we need. And so I, in that white paper, I laid out all the different ways. I called it layers of complexity, all the different layers of if you were going to basically take a.

Complicated building automation system from our bigger buildings and try to apply that to smaller buildings, all the different ways in which that's just too complex for that market. So I'd love to talk about how you guys see that simplification happening and from what I've heard so far from you, it sounds like the ability to take a simple, to use software layer and put it on a simple, [00:23:00] small.

Low cost, edge controller is a good place to start. What else am I, how else are you thinking about the simplification?

Alex Rohweder: so where we started was also the typical integration, just trying to as J two, is trying to simplify. The typical integration. The nice thing is that we spoke about this as a new technology.

It hasn't been bird 20 years ago, but it has literally been built as a platform five, six years ago. The nice part is fin framework separated the backend, the service side from the client side. That means you have. Everything related to the backbone of building technologies on the one side of technology and you have everything customer facing on the other side of the technology.

And, and we have started to build user interface concepts and implemented them with OEM customers where. That user interface is dramatically different. From what we know from traditional building [00:24:00] management software, traditional building management software always assumes a certain level of complexity to deal with.

And because generally, generally, traditional building technology is not customizable to that extent. You basically have to give it out in the market, like, like a Swiss knife. And we basically say, yeah, it's a Swiss knife underneath, but we can simplify it to be just one or two things by changing the user interface.

So for example, let's take a simple school. You have a bunch of boilers and pumps in the basement. Quite well, what these boilers and pumps look like there might be deviations with the manufacturer with with the firmware version of the controller that's on the board and so on, but it is predictable.

And you also know. What the facility manager would want to do with those boilers? What are the three, four key things he really wants to, she really wants to operate on versus what may be an installer needs. So then we [00:25:00] build a UI that, for example, in the engineering integration process, it's just the way.

Where it says, okay. How many boys do you have? Oh, I have three boys us and then always asked you okay. More than number one. What is the controller underneath? What is the firmware version? What mode do you want to run it in? Oh, I want to run it in the equal and the high efficiency and the high comfort mode.

Okay. And then you go on and say, what other equipment? And then how many rooms do you have? What do you have in the rooms? I have, I have lights here in this room. I have here a meter. And then through going through this wizard, click, click, you then just generate the entire building management system.

And how does it work? It basically works through us building that wizard, but also through creating templates, which just something where we basically pre-integrated. The devices that then a facility integrator engineer or installer integrates on [00:26:00] site. We pre-integrated this in the factory, in our factory, in our R and D center.

And then it's very easy for the installer to perform that engineering job.

James Dice: Cool. And just for people that aren't controls nerds, that is a huge improvement to the status quo, which is like, You need a licensed technician. That's been heavily trained in a certain vendors tools to then use those tools to then set up.

The system in a sort of bespoke way, kind of like they're doing it for the first time, each time heavy, heavy engineering turnover costs. Versus what you're describing is this boiler is very similar to this other boiler that we've already pre-configured for another building. And we'll just apply that same template here and then walk the user through that.

With a wizard.

Alex Rohweder: Yes, exactly. [00:27:00] Exactly. And the key here is those buildings. They don't see in a systematic, right. They usually they see an installer on the HVC site. And they sometimes. Actually always see also an electrical installer. So it's installers that do this business and installers have lots of competency about the mechanical equipment or the electrical side of the birding, but they are not trained for, for software integrations.

They're not trained for the more complex engineering. So. Bye give bye. Building those simplified with some templates, we enable installers where anyways, in the birding, anyways, bring in the big equipment, for example, the big boilers to also perform that job. And this is a key this also, when we talk about democratization, when we talk about simplifying, it also means to enable.

It [00:28:00] is . Already going to those markets to basically implement those jobs and not to try to bring a different type of channel the system integrator necessarily in all the various simple application.

James Dice: Yeah. Yeah. That's important. That's an important point to stress. Is that just like you said earlier, when we're talking about technology, a lot of what we're talking about is for the biggest, most complicated buildings, same thing with a lot of our supply chain players, as I call them, right.

MSIs typically don't play below a certain, you know, a certain square footage of building a certain portfolio size typically. Down in that small building area, you know, smaller buildings you're talking about maybe contractors that also do residential, right. They're used to working with. Smallest smallest.

What systems heat pumps you rooftop units, right? Probably aren't networked together. They're used to putting in a non program, both thermostats and they're used [00:29:00] to shop at Lowe's or like those in the U S right. So you're in Germany. There's probably an analog to Lowe's in Germany, but it's a totally different person that is then setting up that controller as well.

That's key important point for that market.

Alex Rohweder: Absolutely. That's exactly right. The simplification of the technology, first of all, enables it to go through the channel. Of installers and make this, make those paper be able to then integrate pretty sophisticated technology, building management software at the end of the day.

And then if we take it on from there let's talk also about the person who then manages the birding If it's an airport or if it's a huge commercial building, you've probably seen that also yourself, you come in a room that has multiple monitors and a big building and desk. As someone sitting there who has a very distinct knowledge about the software [00:30:00] that is running there and everything that's around the technical infrastructure.

And so the software can be complex and very feature rich for that person because that person has it as a full-time. To make sure that the birding is running in the right way. And I would also not say we can simplify things to that extent that all of the sudden managing an airport, it comes easier than what it is today with the software that that customers gets.

Maybe there's some optimization potentially, but it's not the disruptive optimization potentially, but let's go to the small school. It's it's it's maybe the person who also takes care of the garden who fixes and who fixes the blind who maybe even runs classes right in smaller schools, like my elementary school back in Germany, it was dissuaded.

That the person that's provided the sport to the, to the school sport teacher was [00:31:00] also the one taking care of the facility. So you want to bring in a user interface for such a facility manager that's let's do that. That makes sense for them. And, and then the question is a different one. It's maybe not to drill down in every detail, but it is, what's the status of.

It's to any significant problem. My building. The faces as they are a significant alarm that I need to take care of. Do I need to call an install? I may be to get this fixed. What is the energy consumed in my building? Is it on level with typical other buildings at the current point in time? Or do I consume more energy in what could be the three, four main reasons for that?

So. I think also here it's the same as a Noah homes. If we give more transparency to the more average user of a building, also in bigger buildings like squirts. So non-residential schools, you don't have experts, but if you give those people more transparency and more simple [00:32:00] access to the information, they can do a far better job in optimizing and managing debating correctly.

I remember two, two nice anecdotes. One is in, in France, we, we looked at squirts and try to understand what is their challenge and one of the key challenges they had to stay with. During the summer break, not turn off the HVC system, they would just forget to do that. They weren't aware they were running.

They were maybe not running at full steam. So no one realized, but they were running silent. The other one was that heating and cooling were kept on at the same time. And no one knew so the cooling system was on. Okay. That's that was pretty obvious to most people because it was. The units blowing in the air, but the heating system was also on and these are things they happen because the technology in those buildings doesn't have the user interfaces that provide an immediate and more simple and integrated way to understand the situation of the building.

[00:33:00] So I making that transparent every day and for every building. You may, you massively increase energy efficiency even without talking about analytics or artificial intelligence.

James Dice: I just, I'm continually fascinated by that market. So anyone's listening that, that is also interested in the small buildings market. If you haven't reached out to me yet, I want to hear what everyone's doing. Super, super cool.

Let's talk about platforms. So you've mentioned. Platform play. You've mentioned the white labeling of people like building apps for, let's say plant controllers. Can you talk about what you mean by, I think a lot of people and you and I have talked about this in the past, a lot of people throw around the word platform in this industry when they don't actually mean like a software platform to build other things on top of it.

So can you talk about what you mean by platform? Like what's the definition of a platform to you?

Alex Rohweder: Oh, that's a, it's a very tough [00:34:00] one. I think it's essential that we start to start to agree what a platform is. I totally agree with you. Because there's so many different views. My, my view, my, my post-it viewers, the festival, a platform is something that is.

Commercially openly accessible and to some extent. So, it's something that's that people can get from different parts of the markets. It's something that is openly accessible. The other one that's probably most people can more immediately charitable is technically open, meaning it brings you foundational services.

It brings you foundation technology and you can add on. So technical openness. Yes. Key. What does it mean practically, for example, our platform, it can integrate different systems. It can normalize them against the project haste extended, and then we have services on top of it for reading, writing, alarming, trending and so on, but then you can build your own application, for example.[00:35:00]

Dashboard that takes the data from here, takes the alarms into the dashboards and then has a little command to what they can action on to the system. So pet four means there's foundational technology and services and others can build on top of it application. So commercial, openness, and technical openness, and then platform is also a little bit about standardization.

It's a little bit about reuse of common components. For example, because you say, I don't want to reinvent the wheel for everything. As a, as a manufacturer of my own system, I want to utilize. The piece of technology that someone else has for me and others. And then really on that platform start to create my own value add.

So really it also, again, tied to the commercial openness the, the ability to bring it into your own system, to not reinvent the wheel, to not do everything three times. And this is [00:36:00] something we have experienced. Many industries before we have seen it in the personal computer industry where there is now, I guess, two, three platforms, right?

Windows, Linux, apple. We have experienced it also in the mobile phone industry where there's two platforms, iOS and Android in the building market. I think it will look a little bit different. I don't think that it's so. Because the building market is so heterogeneous, the use cases and the applications are so heterogeneous and different and the requirements are so different, but what it will still have in common with the traditional pet from plenty of other industries is you don't have to have every single company in the market rebuild everything from.

That is economically inefficient. And especially when you talk about new types of requirements and innovation speeds. Now you have no cyber security. You have cloud connectivity, you have new types of UX requirements. You [00:37:00] need an analytics. How has every single company always rebuild this from scratch?

Again, we will be the only industry left where this would happen. So I think also in our industry, what would happen is people would take. All of that and standardize it and make it usable for others. So also here, it's not about one platform. There could be a platform for data management and reading management, maybe that's where we are positioned within framework, but there could also be a analytics platform, even on top of it or next to it.

It says, I give you standard tools to create your own. There could be a platform that is just containerizing applications on edge devices. So like also on, on an iPhone is not just one platform. Iris is the foundation platform of a phone. Then there's a Facebook platform there isn't, there is a LinkedIn platform.

There are so many different platforms on platforms and platforms. So it's really always in the [00:38:00] belief. Someone takes the lead with something standardizes a little bit for the industry through commercial technical openness, and makes it available to others to can utilize it and then create on top of it, their own value at

James Dice: got it.

So you've mentioned so far, you've mentioned like the company from Italy that has white label fin and created their own app, basically. To me. I'm still missing. Like, is there an app store concept here where you can then install fin and then deploy anybody's app that has already built that app on top of Finn?

How does, do you see what I'm saying?

Alex Rohweder: Yeah, absolutely. That's a, that's a very good question. And we don't do that and we don't do it because we. We believe we understand the dynamics and all markets and what our role is in this market. We are not trying to, that's where I said where the differences to the to the personal computer use case or [00:39:00] the mobile phone use case.

We're not here to standardize the words. The world is too complex to be standardized anyways. We're not here to make us the platform and everyone else the ecosystem we're here to bring a technology. Openly into the market that others can utilize. They don't have to rebuild it themselves. That's for us, the foundation of all value.

And that's also where our customers appreciate who we are. We don't even mandate to our customers that they ever say that they work with us. Technically you might not even know. And therefore you would also not be able to code some sort of an app store. So no, we don't have an app store. And we're also not intending to build an ecosystem that way we're more intending to to let's say, enable an industry to get faster to this.

James Dice: Yeah. And that's a key, the key point I'm getting faster. Like how many times have people reinvented the wheel on [00:40:00] individual projects? Over and over and over and over again, the entire world and every market. So like you're riding a driver to connect to the boiler you've mentioned, or your writing a control sequence, or like the template you talked about for the board, for the guy running the school.

Right. We're doing those things in silos all over the world right now. And so if we could all just reuse passwords, that would be massive improvement.

Alex Rohweder: Yes, exactly. And this is exactly our value proposition. Don't reinvent the wheel on everything, but also don't force yourself to just white labor and also don't force yourself into a app store where you're just a.

We, we think that this is the most the most valid and most fruitful way for this industry. Especially also where it is [00:41:00] today and what stage it is.

James Dice: Cool. Yeah. Well, that's that has, we've reached the end of my questions. I'd love to ask you kind of, as we come out of the feels a little bit, like we're coming out of the pandemic, what are you sort of looking forward to moving forward in the rest of this year?

Alex Rohweder: So, I mean, we just came back from HR which was nice because you could meet in person again, I look very much forward to that. I think we've all learned to work remotely. That's fine, but I don't think it will ever replace entirely meeting people in person. That's definitely the number one I look forward to from a business perspective, also from a private perspective, to be fair meeting more people in person.

And also, by the way we realized as a company, we have digitalized all our processes, as much as we could. We've been always a company spread around the globe, almost being, not so big, but still being very spread out. And this has worked well, but eventually when it [00:42:00] comes to building partnerships with our customers, you know, long-lasting trustful partnerships.

See each other, you need to spend a day together. You need to have dinner together and breakfast together and meet again and Buddhist relationships. And I'm really looking forward to building more relationships. And also turning the online relationships I have created over the last year and a half, two years to turn them into real relationships Rio, meaning in turning them also into offline relationships.

That's what. I look forward to a lot. And then of course, I look forward to G2 to growth. We are a small company. We are really in, in the growth path. And I'm excited about this time that we're in, I'm excited about yeah, I'll do this company continues to evolve and continues to grow in this market.

And if I have a question for you also coming from Asia

Uh,

Alex Rohweder: I seen so many different things, then I'll also [00:43:00] start up companies trying different, different things, new things, which is great. I like to see the industry you've also seen with new players. So I'm just wondering how do you see that now? And why do you think that is happening now?

And what impact would it have on the.

James Dice: Yeah, it you might be the first person to turn the tables on me at the end of the year.

Um,

James Dice: So I'll, I'll preface this by saying that I wasn't at a HR. I had a another trip that I went, I went snowboarding instead full disclosure to everyone. We're in the middle of Colorado peak snowboarding season right here.

So conferences are tough, tough to come by for me. But yes, I think I'd second that, and I haven't seen it, but I also track all the startups in this space and there are.

Alex Rohweder: You know, the companies, no worries. You know, all of them, I, every, every single one of these companies I saw, I saw somewhat also on your block and so on.

So, you [00:44:00] know, those companies.

James Dice: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think it's a, it's a gift and a curse, right. So we have. So much innovation happening so much capital being raised so much excitement. And at the same time, we have so much fragmentation, right? So it's really, really, really confusing to go shopping. As I like to say, if you're a building owner, you almost need your own.

Smart building consultant, but we don't have enough of those. You almost need your own team. That's like, you look at the biggest building owners out there. They have digital buildings, people now they have their own teams and it's like, well, that's great that those companies are having that. And we celebrate that and we want those teams to grow.

But also, if we're thinking about democratization of intelligent buildings, we need the marketplace to simplify more and more and more to make technology easier, to buy, easier, to procure, easier to decide on what to [00:45:00] do, easier to install, easier to partner. Like all of those things are really difficult.

And I think that we in the nexus community are solving a little tiny slice of that, which is just like, Like network with people that are just like you and collaborate and decide how you're going to partner. If you're thinking about building something, maybe you could think about what has already been built, that you could then partner.

I think a lot of the companies right now that I'm working with, that I think are on the right path. I'm winding down my consulting business and I do a lot of consulting still and have done a lot of consulting. And a lot of what I say is. Yes. I know you want to build that, but I can tell you, there are 10 companies that have already built that thing that you're trying to build.

Right? So let me introduce you to them. Let me get that conversation started and [00:46:00] you guys can build what's unique and we can all kind of move forward from there. So interesting. I tend to push people in that direction and away from the we're going to build it all approach and we're going to be a full stack approach.

So I think, I think it's a gift and a curse, I guess, is the short answer.

Alex Rohweder: Okay, good. That almost introduces us once again. So,

and I agree with you, it's the, yeah, it's the gift and the crust. It's, that's also what I thought, you know, there's, there's a lot of money in the market, not only in this market but especially also in this market because people start to understand relevant. For the bigger picture, but also just the opportunities that this market has, but that also comes with the needs for people to educate themselves.

So the jungle there's a lot of great ideas I saw. But, but not, not every great idea then finally makes sense in a building and others yet make a lot of [00:47:00] sense. So it's good that we have people like you there. Try to educate the market and, and point P put a little bit more left rights so that they understand the jungle.

And finally it is a jungle. Right. So it's good to know.

James Dice: Yeah. Well, we're almost, we're almost two years into this podcast and I don't feel like I've fully educated myself yet. So we're still still on the road to being educated around here. I'd love to hear one more thought from you, which is when we're seeing a lot of right now.

And in fact, when this podcast comes out, the previous one will be about mergers and acquisitions. I'd love to hear from you. Maybe not talking about Siemens specifically, I'm not talking about Stevens. I'm talking about as a marketplace. When we see all these bigger companies snatching up those innovators.

How, how should, how should we think about this when we're trying to understand what's happening? [00:48:00] Right? Is. Because what we're seeing big companies swallow them up and combine them into one company or see big companies swallow up startups and say kind of like Siemens exhibit J to you guys, do your thing, keep going.

Right. How do, how do you think about the marketplace when it comes to these merger and acquisitions and, and how can it lead to more simplification? I guess?

Alex Rohweder: It's it's a very good question. I think, I think it really depends on the acquisition also a lot and what you buy, and this is also where companies like Siemens I think now smart enough to understand what they buy and what it needs to maintain, what they bought in the first place.

I think it's not a clear cut answer. You, you know, there's, there's been a consolidation move in the industry triggered by a bunch of bigger companies over the last 10, 15 years that has [00:49:00] led to let's say yeah, just bringing into create synergies. Typically and movement in the industry consolidation at some point, because there was a view of that one company could do what three companies currently do.

One, one case I then there's other cases where actually big companies start to even do incubators where they. Parts out of their own company because they realize they can flourish more easily and more strongly when they are outside, because. Every big company has a big legacy. And whenever you innovate, you always need to bring the legacy with you.

And that's, that's also something that market requires. If you are a customer of a big company and you get a next generation product, you don't want to be told, oh, by the way, it's not competitive with your previous generation product. And there's no migration paths. You need that. Right. So, so you need that, but then you need also companies.[00:50:00]

I think a little bit more disruptively. What if I had a Greenfield birding and I could do everything from spreads, different answer to a problem. And therefore that happens. And then also this is I think, where, where startup companies fit in the place. And I believe that he this is known to most big corporates, at least to Siemens.

With some of the stuff it's important that you keep it a little bit outside, whether it means it's its own legal entity, its own company like J two or whether it's its own project a little bit separated within the company. When you want to build something more disruptive and more new to the market. And again, that's not better than the other thing it's just different.

Then it needs to be separated a little bit from the main ship. Otherwise it will have to do also with all the complexities of the legacy and that I can tell you from my own experience in my old job is a lot of work. It pays off for the customer. They appreciate it, but there's a lot of. [00:51:00] And the smaller companies wouldn't even be able to do that work and still be innovative.

So I think there's no clear cut answer. And long-term, I can tell you because all my predictions on the long-term have so far been either, either. Yeah. Either things go much faster and stronger than you would have ever expected. Oh, they took way longer. Somehow. It's very hard to predict exactly what it would be like, but, but the direction I think is clear.

James Dice: fascinating. So thanks so much, Alex, for coming on the show.

Alex Rohweder: Yeah, it was fun. Good conversation.

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 [00:52:00] subscribe@nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well.

Have a great day.