41 min read

🎧 #093: Mesa's simple smart buildings kit

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Episode 93 is a conversation with Rachel Steinberg and Josh Chappell of the Mesa product team at Google.

Summary

We dove deep into the Mesa Smart Building Kit, including its history as part of Sidewalk Labs, how it works, how easy it is to install, use cases, business case, and who’s using it so far.

Without further ado, please enjoy the Nexus Podcast with Mesa at Google.

  1. Mesa (0:36)
  2. Sidewalk Labs (0:42)
  3. International Finance Corporation (1:32)
  4. Delve (7:35)
  5. Affordable Electrification (8:03)
  6. Pebble (8:37)
  7. Mesa case study on energy savings (35:28)
  8. Electrify by Saul Griffith (52:19)
  9. Culture Code by Daniel Coyle (53:48)
  10. God Equation by Michio Kaku (54:32)

You can find Rachel and Josh on LinkedIn.

Enjoy!

Highlights

  • What problem was Sidewalk Labs trying to solve when it created Mesa? (8:56)
  • Use cases for Mesa (16:07)
  • How Mesa collects tenant feedback to optimize the heating and cooling of buildings (28:47)
  • Mesa's success with schools and offices in reducing their energy consumption (33:22)
  • How Mesa delivers a quick ROI to buildings (49:27)
  • Carveouts (51:09)

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 Rachel Steinberg and Josh Chappelle of the Mesa product team at Google. We dove deep into the Mesa smart buildings kit, including its history as a part of sidewalk labs, how it works, how easy it is to install the use cases, business case, and who's using it so far.

So without further ado, please enjoy the nexus podcast with Mesa at Google. Uh, Rachel and Josh, welcome to the nexus podcast. It's been a long time coming and [00:01:00] glad we got this scheduled. Uh, Rachel, let's start with you. Can you introduce yourself please?

Rachel Steinberg: Sure. Yeah, we're excited to be here. I'm Rachel Steinberg. I'm the head of Mesa, which is now a product that joined Google.

James Dice: Cool. And can you talk a little bit about your background? Like how'd you how'd you get into the role you're in today? What's, what's your background, what's your training. And maybe some past jobs that you've had.

Rachel Steinberg: Sure. Yeah. I actually started off in impact investing at the international finance corporation.

So it was sort of one part of this team that was focused on these small and medium, double bottom line impact businesses and emerging markets and realized all, all scalable, uh, companies had a technology component. So I very quickly switched into tech after that, and then worked at big companies. IBM. And then a bunch of startups, all focused on products.

I was always [00:02:00] focused like very much on the product user experience side of building products and name and ended up in noble. I guess I ended up doing a lot of, you know, FinTech and then real estate technology and property tech and e-commerce, and it several industries, but all focused on the same, like how do we create.

Better products for customers. And I had studied urban planning in undergrad. So in the sidewalk labs product role came up, which was focused on running product for all of sustainability. It was, it was a no brainer to apply. And fortunately, I got the job, so I was focused on all of this sustainability products, wasteful.

And energy at sidewalk labs. And we saw a gap in the market and kind of pivoted our product to be Mason. I was focused a lot on the product side and grew into the manager of the team.

James Dice: Cool. And I [00:03:00] read on your, I think on your LinkedIn profile, you spent some time in India, is that.

Rachel Steinberg: Yeah. So I, I went to business school and picked up and went to India to build product there for four years, which was amazing and great.

And I miss it, but it was also an exciting opportunity to be able to understand what assumptions we're making that we had, that we shouldn't be making, just especially when you're building products for such diversity in language and culture and levels of technology use. So it was. I must be like bootcamp and actually building and launching technology for millions of years.

James Dice: Cool. Well, we have some, uh, India based listeners and subscribers. So shout out to all of them, Josh, over to you. Uh, can you introduce yourself and then give us a little background on how you got here?

Josh Chapell: Sure. It's great to speak to you. Uh, my name is Josh Chappelle and I am the head of engineering for the [00:04:00] Mesa team.

Um, and I guess my, my background started to preach traditionally studying computer science, um, and came out right around, uh, the past. Of no child left behind. Uh, so I got my crew extra Sergeant ed tech, um, to the time we thought that software could solve every problem, no matter what it was. And, um, I was at the kind of call that out because that was when I realized that one software can't solve every problem that you have to involve.

People involve processes and culture changes, and then technology kind of made all that stuff easier. Um, so that's what got my career started that, and, um, I was going to say we were so successful that everyone did the same thing that we were doing. And eventually that team was the product was bought out.

Uh, but I love that process. I loved the idea of building things and kind of adding to adding to things. Um, which means I really went to consulting. I got to see done with that. Um, and the global consulting was I got to workers for like some of the biggest brains in the world and to help solve technology challenges, also government to help solve challenges there as [00:05:00] well.

You know, pretty quickly you develop kind of a sixth sense for, uh, what will work and what won't work and how to solve problems quickly. It kind of de-risk that every stage of it. Um, and then once I left that world was I really kind of missed kind of that product experience of building and building teams and saw and challenges over time, I moved kind of back into kind of startup space, um, and kind of of the Rachel did.

FinTech did, uh, HRS software, which was interesting. Um, did some e-commerce stuff where, you know, it was, it was like, How do we, how do we create the next best thing that beats the next best thing? Um, and then, but the whole time I always had this kind of burning desire to work in a passionary, right? Like I always cared about the pre series.

I always want to work at sea. I was like really, really passionate about which in my case, was, urbanism, um, kind of the built environment. And I actually heard about sidewalk from, I was going to this meetup. It was like transit techies meetup. And it was like a lot of nerds talking about transit in New York city.

[00:06:00] And they used to hold it in the same office building and sidewalk. And then one day I was kinda like, what are they, what are they doing? They're like, what are they, what are they talking about? And the more I learned about it, I was like, well, I definitely have to work here. This is like my dream job. Um, and.

I have 27 slabs and then I joined Mesa about a year and a half ago, um, and really enjoyed it.

James Dice: Awesome. Well, hopefully. Hopefully none of our listeners, uh, believe that software can solve every problem, because I feel like that's, that's one of the main themes of this entire show, the entire series of almost a hundred podcasts.

Now I think that's one of the main lessons. Uh, that's great. Um, so Rachel, can you talk about just like give people context on what sidewalk labs is or was, and then talk about the transition kind of getting swallowed up by a Google that was announced recently.

Rachel Steinberg: Yeah. So sidewalk labs is an urban innovation company, so we've been focused for our entire history on ways that we can [00:07:00] help create more sustainable and inclusive.

Urban spaces and there's several products as, as part of it. And that, for that moved over to Google all have some role to play in creating better urban environments.

James Dice: Okay. Okay. And then can you just talk about like, so there, we're going to talk about Mesa and go deep on Mesa. What is there besides Mesa?

Like what other products are there and what are those products?

Rachel Steinberg: Yeah. Happy to get you to give a little more color. So Delve, and I'll say all the names of the products. So first one is Delve, which is a digital master planning solution. So it's focused on empowering developers and architects to meet or exceed financial targets of a project.

Without me country, they're really understanding the master plan and what are all of the options that, that a [00:08:00] developer would have in creating a master plan and then affordable electrification. So a, and we call it a E so a E, which is a grid management solution, and that's designed to better manage home energy, to be able to reduce both the cost of electrification and paved the way.

For a cleaner energy future. And then third one is Pebble, which is a mobility management platform enabling and what that means is, is it enables it's a sensor that enables cities, developers, campuses. Any, you know, any big mobility space or curbside management to, to understand real time data on, on parking space, traffic and congestion.

Josh Chapell: Got it. Okay.

James Dice: All right. And so Mesa is kind of the [00:09:00] building's focused product in the suite. Um, can you talk about. Either one of you, you choose which one you guys can throw this back and forth if you'd like, but like go back to the beginning. Why did, why did sidewalk labs create Mesa? What problem was it trying to solve?

Rachel Steinberg: Yeah, so I can, I can speak to that, to that part because I was there through the whole story.

Um, but well, what we did at sidewalk was we were very much focused on how to create a, an inclusive, sustainable, diverse neighborhood, and that would have all been new construction.

And what that meant was like, you can figure out what is the cutting edge technology or most interesting. Pieces of technology that you could use, not for technology sake, but, but in order to enable the use cases that you want to solve. So we were very focused on being able to create a neighborhood that was just completely, you know, it could completely sustainable in all [00:10:00] aspects.

And so I was focused on. Helping to create the energy optimization solution there. So I looked at a lot of different products, a lot of different offerings, um, to try to see who we could partner with for new construction on energy optimization. And in that, in that review the team. And I realized that there was.

A big gap for like the older, you know, 90, 97% of, of like office stock, you know, some 88% of the real buildings out there. Um, the, like the older, uh, more budget, conscious buildings, smaller square footage. And so what we wanted to do is create the solution that we wanted to see in the. So we had, you know, we had tested a bunch of different devices, try to understand what was there and realized a lot of the solutions out there to be able to both optimize building [00:11:00] operations and building controls and, and overall energy usage are either siloed or really complicated, hard to install.

I mean, all the things you speak about on the podcast and just not a great user experience for. All the stakeholders. So when we think of a building, it's, you know, it's like the tenants in this space, the people that are actually moving around in the space every day. And then the operator is really managing the building, the asset managers, the owners.

And so when you think about all of the diverse. Stakeholders, it ends up being, you know, a lot of the solutions are built targeting one. And so what we tried to do is create the user experience across all of those gaps in the market to make something very simple plug and play and targeted to an underserved market.

James Dice: Yeah. I mean, I think this is another theme that's come up time and time again, which is most of the products on the marketplace. [00:12:00] You know, historically have been products that were built for an integrator or someone that's been trained in a specific brand of products or someone that has a proprietary tool that only they have access to.

Like, those things are like deep, deeply integrated into the history of this industry. And so what, what sort of stakeholders were you guys thinking about? I'm assuming it's like. Uh, an office manager for a tenant or like a nontechnical property manager or facility manager, someone that isn't well briefed or certified or licensed to operate these more technical tools.

Is that right?

Rachel Steinberg: Yeah. So, I mean, I like to say we've, we've built it in a way that they're, there's that the high tech components for people that are. Interested in that, but in terms of installation experience and end to end user [00:13:00] experience, it's built for like the non technical user as much as possible just to make every aspect of it, both interesting and a no-brainer at the same time.

James Dice: Okay. All right, let's go into what, what is it now that we've sort of set the stage and drawn up the context? What is it? What use cases does it enable? What does it do?

Rachel Steinberg: Okay. Yeah, I'll speak to it. It is. And I'll let Josh speak to some of the use cases and, and we'll probably point back and forth as we, as we trade off a little bit, but Mesa is a lightweight building control solution.

That's intended to help buildings optimize. On operations on costs and especially on sustainability. So it enables all buildings to be greener, more affordable and cost effective as well as increased value and just more comfortable for the tenants and a little more [00:14:00] specifically. Cause I feel like a lot of times when you read websites, they all sound the same.

The it's a mix of sensors and smart devices with a really smart. Backend engine that helps to optimize HVAC and plug loads and surface any issues within the building as well.

James Dice: Josh, I want to ask you about news cases, but first I want to hit back on. So you mentioned lightweight, Rachel, what do you mean by lightweight, but what's that?

Rachel Steinberg: So when a customer gets. Uh, Mesa kit. What they get is a set of very tiny, almost like scrabbled piece size or stamp size sensors, plus smart devices with a full map of their floor plan. So all of all of these sensors have an ID on them and people. Kind of taking them out of the box and literally like going, sticking them on the wall at certain [00:15:00] places based on that floor plan.

So in some ways I, I kind of say it feels a bit like paint by numbers or, you know, as, as easy as just like follow this map. In fact, colleagues four year old and seven year olds did an install in their home office by themselves. So it was, you know, it's, it's intended to be quite easy. The most complicated thing is, you know, reterminating getting the thermostat wiring for the smart thermostats.

And otherwise everything is pre commissioned pre-op side. And so it really is. They like stick things on the wall, plug things in, and you look at your dashboard and everything is running. And then the system automatically starts to. Save on heating and cooling and ventilation as well as on outlets. Um, so what, what I kind of then was implying by lightweight is that it's a very simple and easy installation [00:16:00] process and gives a lot of information to the occupant and the operator.

Right.

James Dice: Got it. Okay. Yeah. Let's have a cup of questions on the install process, but maybe let's circle back on that. And talk about use cases. So what use cases is this? Can I call it a kit? Do you guys call it a kit? I'm like picturing what I saw on the website, which is like, I get this box of all these things that comes in the mail.

And then, like you just said, there's a map for how to install it. I have this kit. What does, what does this kit enabled me to do? What does it enable the end user to do? What, what value prop is there?

Josh Chapell: Yes, definitely. Definitely. You can call it a kit, um, easy to use kit. Uh, so the, the, the first use case and our, our number one goal is energy reduction reduction and by proxy energy reduction, carbon reduction, um, I think we've all seen the statistics of even as commercial office spaces, which count for as much as 40% of energy use, even as they were empty, 70, [00:17:00] 80% of the time.

The energy reduction was only 30, 40%, which means that a lot of energy was being used for essentially empty spaces. And the problem is in order to see that energy, you have to understand the space in ways that many current technologies either don't allow for, or don't allow for easily. Um, so, you know, you think about what comes in the kit.

Have spatial sensing in terms of occupancy, where people in the space, when did they get there and kind of what patterns emerged from that and, um, that lets you tackle a whole list of all the ways to optimize the energy, but basically you only need to make a space comfortable with. Um, another thing that gets in the kit is, um, the comfort buttons for feedback, you know, it's fascinating.

You ask everyone their experience in, in a commercial space. And the number of they always say is, my office is too cold. We office is too cold and that's because, you know, the, the feedback chain from a person actually occupying a space all the way through to an operator. Who's running it and in good faith, uh, it's actually quite long and quite complex.

And so if you say your cold Monday, they can't change it on a Wednesday afternoon. Um, but by [00:18:00] actually providing input mechanisms within this. For the occupants to provide feedback. Um, then it actually can say, you know, okay, everyone's saying they're cold, we've seen this pattern a little bit. Um, we can probably raise the temperature of a space and not only will it be comfortable in most cases, uh, electric save energy.

You can actually save substantial amounts of energy that way. Um, another thing since we used is, uh, Uh, detection of doors and windows, uh, where, you know, it's, it's actually amazing that, you know, in a positive pressure environment, a single window open a floor, it can affect the thermal characteristics of the entire floor.

So knowing what those windows and doors. Uh, you know, exterior windows, the doors are open. It's actually really, really important. Um, and you, you can imagine that a sufficient, large commercial space, let's say there's 100 windows, 200 windows. Um, one thing open is really, really hard to kind of troubleshoot, but the beauty of those really small, uh, long, long lived wireless sensors that you can have, you know, full connectivity to your space at all.

And that's another way of driving savings in the space. [00:19:00] Um, so, you know, and then the other piece of that is, um, once you have all the sensor data, the ability to consume all. And to use, uh, machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive better outcomes. So, you know, for instance, if you're seeing that everyone leaves roughly between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM and evenings, um, traditionally operators will heat or cool the space up until the very last moment.

They expect someone to be there cause you kind of have to be, but we can say, you know, actually you can begin raising the temperature of the space around five 30 and achieve the exact same outcome. We'll save. Um, or if you detect that most people arrive around 7:30 AM in the morning. Um, we're all feeling that with preheating and free cooling, but typically you have to, you know, the night before or on a fixed schedule basis, the term with those intervals, a timer and Mesa can actually say, well, actually based on the weather tomorrow and the predicted occupancy patterns, we, we can know the exact moment that the system should start heating or cooling.

To achieve a certain target. Um, and it's really hard to do that, you know, [00:20:00] at the human level, but, but, uh, computers are really good at doing boring things. Um, so our, our, our number one goal is always, always energy reduction and carbon reduction. But what you're going to find is, is, you know, saving energy.

Luckily often it goes for, uh, tenant comfort, uh, extended comfort as well, which is another use case for us. Um, And, you know, I think you combine all the pieces together and you get like a assistant that you'd install the kit. Uh, it learns from how people use the space and you just get more cargo space that saves energy, which is just really nice.

James Dice: Cool. Yeah. I mean, the way I'm hearing it, like the value I'm hearing is you have a bunch of these devices. And for lack of a better term, we got a bunch of devices in a space. A lot of, all of them are digitized most of the time. Right. So what I'm hearing is you can you have a low cost kind of easy to install way to just create.

Data right. And the ability to control stuff. So you're, I heard, I think I heard plug [00:21:00] loads, lighting circuits, um, thermostats. Right? So those, those three end uses the primary energy consumers in a building. The ability to quickly get data from those and control of those sounds extremely powerful. Um,

Rachel Steinberg: we don't yet have lighting, but it's on the roadmap like HVAC and plug glows and lighting to come. And then there's a couple other use cases we've just started testing or we've just actually launched, are around air quality and even leak detection. Okay.

James Dice: Yeah, I was going to say the other piece of that is not necessarily devices, but adding data.

So, um, you mentioned occupancy data, and now you're talking about indoor air quality data. The ability to have all of these things sort of pre-integrated together sounds super valuable. Um, the other piece of this is like the, like the status quo in our industry right now is to install a bunch of point [00:22:00] solutions for all these different things we're talking about.

Right. So it seems valuable in terms of just, this is one kit that covers occupancy IQ, um, controls over certain things, uh, windows status. That sounds like as well. Um, is that kind of the idea that strategy is. Number one digitized stuff that isn't already digitized, but number two, kind of make it pre-integrated and not need an integrator.

Rachel Steinberg: Yeah. And overall, the way that you described it is accurate. As we continue to add more or serve more use cases for customers, they won't need to install a new gateway or they won't you to install a new system. If a customer that we're already serving says, Hey, we actually want your air. Solution. We can just send them that piece of the stack and they same install process, and it's all right there on their dashboard and ready to go.

So they don't need to go through a whole new [00:23:00] process, but yeah, all pre integrated.

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

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

Yeah. Can you guys talk about just maybe some examples of, of the install process? Like, I mean, I already said it, you get a kit in the mail and you have instructions, but like talk about some of the, some of the actual users and the people that are actually out there installing this today.

Like, do you have any good, good [00:24:00] examples or good stories?

Rachel Steinberg: Yeah, so I'm happy. Do you want, do you want us to share more on the installation process or kind of what some of our customers have been experiencing? Yeah,

James Dice: I think both, I think just what I'm looking for is context around this new way of installing stuff.

Like I think this audience is sitting here and going well, I got to call my MSI and get my design engineer to draw some drawings up. And like all this stuff, like talk about how it is instead of

Josh Chapell: that.

Rachel Steinberg: Yeah. And that's definitely a pain point that we were trying to solve with them with this. And especially because people are.

Doing a million other things. And we wanted to make it as easy as possible for, for everyone to have access to cutting-edge controls. And so what we would do as part of the sales process is understand the HVAC equipment and the systems in the building to, to vet and make sure that it's [00:25:00] compatible as a start.

And then it, it really is as simple. We, we have the floor plan for the space. Sometimes we also do a video call with them and draw up the floor plan if they don't have a preexisting floor plan. So we try to make that process as simple as possible to then we'll show the customer exactly where each sensors placed so they can talk through like, okay, does this make sense?

And then that's the floor plan we go with. So all of the. Sensors are pre laid out with certain IDs. So you could see, let's say the proximity sensors on the windows. It could, it'll have a certain two number ID on it. So everyone knows, okay, this, you know, this ID goes in on this window and things are organized in the box and they just stick it on the window and then they'll go to the.

The motion detection, detection, sensors, and do the same thing and, you know, place those in the [00:26:00] spaces that we allocated. Same with the smart, uh, smart plugs, same with, you know, really each of the sensors it's as if you, I mean, I kind of feel in some ways to not. Not at all to diminish the process, but it kind of, to me feels a bit like a game.

Cause you're kind of like looking at a treasure map and placing things on your space and it's intended to just be that easy because buildings have a lot of other things that they need to be worried about and not worried about an installation. And so that's why we do all the work on our side to precondition, to pre integrate, to put everything, all of these siloed, otherwise siloed devices into one place for the customer, and then start them right away, meaning energy, optimizing the space right away.

Okay,

James Dice: cool. Can you, Josh, can you mention, you mentioned tenant feedback. [00:27:00] To to comfort. Um, and then you also mentioned AI for, you know, sort of optimizing energy usage to sort of behind the scenes. It strikes me as those two things kind of could be in conflict. Right. Um, how do you sort of. Well, first of all, can you talk about how that works?

Some assuming there's like a, the tenant has some sort of application that they can give feedback to the system on, but then how does the control work? It sounds like there's a thermostat that you can then take control of and change the set point on that. Is there any other integration with any other systems that sort of, um, optimizes

Josh Chapell: things?

So. So for, in terms of the tenants, providing the feedback, um, there's both a, an application as well as physical hardware buttons that are kind of deployed in the field, uh, where they kind of say it's too hot, too cold. Um, and that provides [00:28:00] a kind of. Tactile way within the space to kind of provide feedback on it.

Um, as you can imagine, um, I think the best way to think about the kind of the optimization system is, you know, we get into a series of a lot of signals kind of coming into it. Uh, and then we try to those signals for the greatest effect. Um, so for example, you know, if, if you're, and we've seen this a lot right in the real world where, you know, if 10 people are saying we're hot and we're saying we're cold and we kind of see that, uh, over time, You say, well, which direction you go to.

And then in that case, we may say, well, we'll actually, we need to provide feedback to the user space and say, as an insight, you know, folks who are saying they're cold, they're actually a warmer spaces within the same floor or in the same building, approximately are warm. That here's the, the opposite. Um, what'd you do to find is that the trends do seem to show up, right?

So usually you will see a, an 80, 20 split of cold or hot. Uh, and those cases, we take that as a signal to the system. Well, we can, you know, reduce the temperature, raise the [00:29:00] temperature, and in most cases, believe or not, usually you'll save energy. So, uh, you think about traditional operations, you kind of have to overshoot your target because, you know, if you want a space to be warm in the morning than an operator needs to set a set point at night, uh, and vice versa for cooler.

Whereas Mesa can say, well, we don't have to kind of overshoot in order to have a comfortable space. So, you know, people get into an office in the morning and it's really, really cold. Cause it knows there'll be more people later in the day. Whereas we can actually say no, let's actually progressively cool the space in a really intelligent way, based on our knowledge of occupancy.

And based on the feedback we're getting from people to say, you know, this section comfortable. So there actually isn't as much, um, Disagreement because it is tends to be the more energy efficient solution to the thing that people want. Um, and the, the missing piece that that makes it provides is, is that really intelligent, uh, control authority where we can say we can achieve a better outcome, a more, more efficiently.

James Dice: Okay. Yeah. So can you guys also talk about the [00:30:00] tech stack? So I'm thinking about like, if I have. You guys talked about occupancy sensors, just as an example, what if I already have some sort of IOT occupancy sensor stack? Can you use that data in everything else you're trying to enable? And then the second question would be like, If there's something, that's say you have Mesa installed in a tenant space, but you need to provide data up to the bigger, larger building and maybe even the portfolio.

Can you talk about how this sort of stack that you've described sort of sits in context with other other technologies?

Josh Chapell: Yeah, so four, it sort of turns the heart integration piece. A lot of your really. Um, one of the things that's really exciting is we're always adding new partners and compatibilities.

Like we, we view. Success to us is the greatest amount compatibility within most of our places and most number of users. Um, so we're always looking to add new partners, um, in, in terms of getting data out of the system. Um, that's when we were also physically working on is [00:31:00] we don't want to be kind of this siloed, you know, locked vault of, of spatial data ideas that should be providing value to you.

Um, so it was someone asked, it's like, okay, well we can provide this data in a report or an alert, but if we can't then how can we actually read the data? Um, to third-party systems because we think that's another, you know, historical, uh, difficult in spaces. People don't want to lock up data. Whereas we view it as we hope that we're going to do such a great job, optimizing your space, that that data piece of it is more a, it should be evaluated for you.

James Dice: Okay, well, let's talk about the go to market. How is this thing sold? It sounds like what I'm hearing is it's a definitely an option for a tenant that like only has control over their own space and they have a thermostat and they have plug loads and they have windows. Right. Um, it sounds like something that they could easily install in their space.

The P the part of the blend that they own, and sounds like a great fit. Are there other. Applications for say the landlord, or how [00:32:00] does that, how does you guys sort of go to market?

Rachel Steinberg: Yeah, so most of our customers are actually the landlord, so it is very easy and simple for the tenant to install it. And we do have some.

You know, some, some great like tenant customers, but all like landlords have been quite interested in offering this as an upgrade for their tenants, to their tenant spaces, being enabling their tenants, to both be more comfortable. And regardless of who pays the bill, because in both cases, it ends up working out, either saving their tenants more on their electricity bills and just overall making sure that, especially with work from home.

In places where there's less, you know, just like a less nine to five Workday where generally making sure that people are not just overspending and literally like throwing money out the window. So, so yes, offering for landlords offering [00:33:00] for tenants and overall it's scale. So what landlords have been enjoying is being able to put it in.

You know, a floor or one of their buildings and then extend it to other buildings as they, you know, as they want to upgrade some of their other spaces and then they can see everything on the same dashboard.

James Dice: Cool. Another application here, I feel like is for smaller buildings. Can you talk about, like, I like to like, sort of like, sort of start to separate out the conversations that we have on this podcast.

Cause it's like, some of them are only applicable to the biggest, most expensive most well-funded buildings. It sounds like this can apply to the smaller buildings as well.

Rachel Steinberg: Yeah. We love smearing our smaller building customers. So in, in general, it's intended to be completely. Modular. So it can serve like the big fancy buildings, but in many ways, the sweet spot of, of where it works [00:34:00] nicely, especially cause it's quite affordable is, is those smaller buildings so that the smaller buildings can have controls maybe even more controls and more data than some of those big fancy buildings.

Josh Chapell: I actually guarantee that

Rachel Steinberg: I know. I mean, we've seen a lot of, a lot of examples of both buildings, so we,

James Dice: well, let's talk about examples. So do you guys have stories that you can share on. I don't know how long this product's been on the market, but I haven't been in a building where this has been installed yet, but can you talk about some stories of some sort of traction you guys have so far and getting this installed and some results?

Josh Chapell: , one interesting installation example has been in actually. , for instance, where it's a lot of enclosed zones, uh, they're very sensitive to energy use. , they have, uh, kind of a regular predictable cadence on, on when people going, gonna be there.

And, you know, that's another example where the ease of [00:35:00] installation is a huge time saver for them, because if you're not going to pollution where, you , in one case it was literally a librarian doing it, doing the install where. Um , she's like, I'm not really big and technology, but , you can, if you can follow instructions, you can kind of install it, which is really useful.

And yeah, and they save energy, right? Because most schools are operating roughly the same every single day, which obviously, you know, Saturdays and Sundays, no, one's there. And then, , the nights and mornings, and in, another case where we have a published case study for which is in a building, , with Hines where.

If that is a, , 100% of the class they building, they have a sophisticated EMS there. But what we found is that there's still whistles gaps, in the kind of, , In, in the ability to optimize the space there. So, , for example, you mentioned, you know, everyone you see now pretty commonly, um, lights, AKI, you , operate , with, motion sensing.

Uh, but believe it or not like the motion sensors in those lights, don't inter-operate with any other system in the building. So turns there, but your HVAC doesn't. Uh, so what we found was, you know, we deployed. [00:36:00] Window sensors windows, because what they found was people would leave windows, open spaces it's causing bills to go up.

, and then we deploy syncing for, for HVAC to only cool and heat zones when people were there. Uh, and then another interesting use case came up where, you know, if you actually monitor a physical space and all the equipment connected to. Over time. Things like fault tick will come a lot simpler. We can say, you know, actually your, this piece of equipment should be functioning more efficiently than it is.

Uh, let's take a look at that. Or, you know, this space, the air exchange rates should be higher than it is. And that's one of those cases where it's like, wow, we didn't, we didn't really know this. And then of course, and also, um, for plug control. That's also another great case of that came out of the work with Heinz where, you know, as in most modern office spaces, you know, you walk in there, there's 15 televisions on they're all 70 inches, there's hot tea brewing.

They're waiting on you. Once you begin to find, is that a lot of these workloads, It adds up really, really quickly where, , the, the energy it takes to keep water and near boiling all the time, or, , you walk into your television and you're like, wow, this room [00:37:00] is really warm. And he's like, yeah, the television is doing that.

, so doing plug controls, there has saved, um,, interesting make what hours, , of energy. And I think , that's kinda one of the exciting things that just, , the installation of smart plugs and kind of cloud smarts catch. , and we've seen that as well. The plug examples, as well as in schools as well, where, you know, everyone's using smart boards and doing installs there and it's in the beauty of it is, is that the screens turn off and everyone's gone and they turn on right before people arrive.

So no one knows that it exists. , so earlier you mentioned you hadn't seen, I was like, well, hopefully no one ever even knows that it's there because things are just in the background. Okay. Interesting. So you've done some comfort

Rachel Steinberg: ones. I mean, the other thing that I that's been cool for me, cause I am always cold in, in spaces to see is always on the comfort side.

Especially as Josh was saying, like, Um, most of the time it aligns with saving energy, but in some cases, for example, if there is a persistent problem and there's [00:38:00] one person within the space that complains and everyone else is comfortable, it makes it a lot easier to identify what are the changes within that zone within a day within different weather.

And once you can understand that granularity, you can suggest even like, okay, this is. We can do everything we can on the HVAC side, but the truth is you might just need to get an additional desk fan or, you know, uh, a plant in, in certain cases or whatever we're trying to control for. So it's been cool for us to be able to surface some of those insights.

In ways that then really do help the targeted help, like create more targeted comfort and in places where it's almost impossible to do it, HVAC solution comfort almost to do something like that, the greater equipment level.

Josh Chapell: Yeah. It actually reminded me of a recent case that came up where, you know, earlier I mentioned that technology kind of, isn't a end all be all solution to it.

It's kind of like a tool of. [00:39:00] And, um, as Rachel mentioned, in addition to the, the automatic optimization happening in the background, and of course there's like the Def the operational dashboard. Uh, we also have, um, monthly insight reports I out to customers. And one of them recently was, um, like Richard mentioned was a specific room in a space where they were consistently cooler than all the other spaces.

And the person kept hitting cold, too cold, too cold, too cold. And system is like, we're doing everything that we can. And the insert court was like, you know, we think there might actually be a airflow in know, issue into the space because you know, all the adjacent volumes are, are reaching the desired temperature really, really quickly.

And what we found was that during the summertime, the rooms being over cooled, cause it was pre-basin and they closed the, the, uh, that the vent in the room to keep it from being over cooled, but they never reopened it for the winter. And they went in there. They're like, oh my goodness. Like, we've been like boiling other rooms just to heat this one room.

And it was never really ever going to work. And that only works when you have sensors in every single space. [00:40:00] And, uh, in that case, we actually, um, were able to install more sensors, uh, to kind of have more kind of data around it. And those are the use cases I get most excited about where it's not just some machine making decision it's machine or pressing something and then informing kind of a human user and that kind of empowered.

Rachel Steinberg: And just to add on another, you know, other fun insights is like there's times when the system, like the windows are open, the windows are up the customer's like, no, they're not, no, they're not, but they're, they weren't really in this space. And then finally, when they checked, they're like, actually, yes, they are.

So as you know, there's all these like small things that come up in addition to just like the background, easy, just save money, save energy. That's gone.

James Dice: Yeah. Well, I'd love to follow up just a little bit on this story. Um, so you're, you're mentioning how it's coming up with different alerts, uh, related to whatever data you have.

Right. But the way I heard you guys talk about the stack, it's [00:41:00] not like you're collecting. You're not connecting into the, like the broader building automation system. Are you, you're just putting in sensors that you guys installed and then using those to sort of do sort of like a lightweight, lightweight, there's that word again?

Lightweight,

Rachel Steinberg: but it also.

James Dice: If it has a little bit, but yeah, but it sounds like you're able to do analytics. What I would call analytics, which is basically the data that you have available, what insights can you gain from this data? But you're not what you're not talking about is connecting in like the room you talked about.

You're not connecting into like a VAV box that's being, you know, that that's feeding air to that room. You're just putting in a sensor. Maybe other sensors that you guys install

Rachel Steinberg: and thermostat controls, but Josh can also speak to roadmap stuff of like increased integrations.

Josh Chapell: Yeah. But, um, but yeah, [00:42:00] so they'll put a platform on it.

Yeah, indeed. So. Our sensor layer can measure. So typically for every incoming close volume, we will deploy some notion of occupancy, , humidity and temperature sensor. , and then if it's being served by a thermostat or a control mechanism, literary the control mechanism, , and, but believe it or not, you can actually develop a pretty competent.

Model of a space just with those. , if you, so , for instance, we can say, okay, the room is currently 70 degrees Fahrenheit. We want to be 72. And then if you measure how long it takes to reach that set point with no one in there and you measure how long it takes to reach that with someone in there.

If you look at time of day, you look at outside of your conditions, , then , You can kind of make a certain kind of informed assumptions around that. And then we also know about certain spatial adjacencies, , it's not a huge part of our model, but it's one of, one of these kind of working on.

, and that can also of tell you about like thermal leakage or rather than thermal transfer between spaces. We get kind of two signals, which is we know what we're attempting to do, and then we can monitor the space while it's [00:43:00] being done. And then in that Delta is actually really informative for us.

, and so then we can use that, both train the model, moving forward, as well as to create those insights and say , something is unachievable about this space and , and the cool thing is, , it's not just, we deploy a technology solution and we kind of walk away, we have a customer success team where we actually will speak with you to understand your space, understanding, use cases.

And that's where we kind of say like, Hey, by the way, is it closed here? Or is there some kind of funky going on? And that, I think that's actually the kind of the, that third piece that really adds a lot of. , and then we spoke to this earlier, but we do have the ability to integrate with, and we are continued to build out our stack so we can integrate with systems that have more complexity, such as VPs, H use units and things like that.

, and that's where those use cases around things like fault detection. Are interesting or airflow mixture. Interesting. , that's actually a good segue for it's for some of the IEQ work we're looking at, , because , our views are going to really integrate with just the most systems as possible.

Cause there's opportunities everywhere.

James Dice: Very cool. So what's next [00:44:00] then. So , I've heard more integrations. I've heard indoor air quality , can you talk about , the broader roadmap, , besides those two things?

Josh Chapell: Sure. So I always looked on all what's next, but, , so as you mentioned, so like, So for instance, air quality for us, it's not just the traditional static reporting of like here's the CO2 PPM of a space.

, cause , I think everyone's looking for how do we turn this data to the actionable. , but , for us, we also get it as another signal, right? Where, , during kind of , during a lockdown, uh, the behavior of most spaces where to listen was to let's just crank up our air recycle rate as high as it can possibly go.

And as a way of trying to reduce, , particularly as mayor, , whereas you can say, well, actually if you deploy, you , air quality sensing in the space, we can actually fine tune that. So you aren't wasting energy to achieve no effect. , so for us, it's about every sensor we add, we want to incorporate it to the broader picture of how to operate spaces more effectively.

, so in addition to your quality has recently. , we're also deploying, , leak detection. , and that's around, , folks are saying, , we love the dashboard, we love the integration, , [00:45:00] how can we also solve more and more challenges? They were like, , we understand all of a sudden bunch of space.

So adding things like leak detection and the presence of water is pretty straight forward. And it's so we can add it to your existing alerting stack. , those things are of coming up. Um, and then all the use cases around that. So, , for instance, people say, , if we have these rates smart sensors, where if we put them in refrigerators for cold chain, stuff like that.

So these are things that we're looking at, of rolling out in 2022. , in addition to that, , as mentioned earlier, like for compatibility, , with different types of units, , The glitches like BVS, but also , the QRS where we really just wanna be able integrate with as many systems as possible.

, and then the last one is for, , obviously deploying sensors into our space and making it really, really easy. It's like a kind of key part of the. But we also think kind of the brilliant, interesting pieces that that's really smart AI engine that kind of sits in the middle of it all. And we pair that with buildings that maybe already have a sensor strategy, right?

So let's say you are still class B, so you're not brand new, but you've already, you've already done kind of a rollout of smart sensors. [00:46:00] Your. What are we going to realize that technology alone doesn't actually solve much? We're like, we'll actually, let's integrate to your sensor fee. Let's integrate to your control plane and let's do all the operations pieces.

And that's something that's actually been, really interesting to build out because that's where you actually can start. , getting some of those kind of wins the spaces we couldn't to. Got it.

James Dice: All right. I think the last question I have is around the pricing model, is it a subscription based model?

And then can you also talk about it as a subset to that question? Like how your customers are thinking about ROI, how are they thinking about how to justify this investment? Um, And let me caveat that with like, this is one of the main questions I get from beginners. So we teach this foundations course it's for beginners to the industry or about to start a new cohort here in next couple of weeks.

And it feels like the students are like, They, they, their appetite for examples of the business [00:47:00] case cannot be satisfied. It's like,

so, yeah. I'd love to hear how you guys are, how your customers are kind of thinking about justifying.

Rachel Steinberg: Yeah. So in general, it's very straightforward because we do cut, um, cut energy bills. So it is very straightforward of, of a very clear payback within a couple of years. And so, and depending on the building, some buildings we've seen them save quite, quite a bit in certain cases. So there was a lot of, you know, there, there was a lot we could do and it could happen quite quickly.

So I think it, in that case, it's super straightforward ROI. The you get the, you get the money back pretty quickly, especially for a building technology product. And in general, what we've done to be able to make the ROI as enticing as possible is every single piece of the product [00:48:00] has been vetted for very high standards.

So what that means, like every piece is affordable by design and to get the biggest bang for the buck. Across the board. And so that's, that includes like, no, you know, practically no maintenance whatsoever battery lives, that it would spend several tenants, um, you know, 10 to 15 years, things like that, where it's just, it is, it truly is a.

As you know, everything is as, as high standard as possible without overdoing it. What an example of that too, is, is we looked at, do spaces, do most spaces, really need occupant, counting some spaces might, and they could ask us for that, but we we've generally we did a bunch of tests and in terms of being able to say, Money and save energy.

It seems like the prevalence of the motion sensing that we offer is, is [00:49:00] great for that. And you don't need to go to a much more expensive, you know, people counting type of solution. And so each piece of the care really is focused on how do we get the best ROI. The ROI really starts with the install process.

Like you don't need days of expensive installation to get it up and running. It's like right away. And, and that's part of why the installation process is so easy because we care so deeply about ROI and affordability.

James Dice: It sounds like it's not strictly subscription. There's some upfront costs to buy each sensor.

Is that how

Rachel Steinberg: it works? Yeah, so we haven't. Hardware cost. And then we have a monthly subscription fee as well. And frankly, it's. Honestly. I mean, I don't know if I should even say this on the podcast, but it's so affordable that most customers are like, yeah, we just want to pay for everything upfront. So, so, um, it's about,

James Dice: I [00:50:00] think we need to be talking about how much stuff costs, uh, more openly.

I've heard that a lot of feedback from our listeners, our readers, it's just like what. You know, like the, the broader enterprise SAS world, right? You, you go to somebody's website, Zapier. I just got done using Zapier, uh, use it to automate a lot of the backend of nexus, a company like Zapier. You just go to their website and you click on pricing.

Right. And how often do you see that for software tools and hardware tools and our industry? Um,

Rachel Steinberg: I'm a big proponent overall. So I won't even like start on this topic too much. I'm just, I've just liked the fact of, of like SAS enterprise SAS trends bleeding into especially commercial real estate offerings.

Like I do believe over time we're getting there. So I think that it, to me, that is part of the trend of like everything we've learned and seen in that industry will start to bleed into expectations.

James Dice: Yeah. And I think in order for [00:51:00] companies that do that, though, they have to like get all of the manual labor and the unknown integration stuff, sort of out of the process at some point.

So. All right, cool. This has been really fun. I learned a lot. Um, let's, let's close out by, uh, sharing some carve-outs so I'll go first. So I'm going to kind of. Recycle. Yeah. I'll give you guys some time to think of yours as I, as I share mine, uh, if you're listening on audio right now, Josh and Rachel are just laughing because they're caught off guard, but I think, um,

Rachel Steinberg: looking at each other on who's going to go first on it.

Okay.

James Dice: Got it. Got it. No pressure. This, this is supposed to be a fun way to end the show. Uh, So my carve-out is my hot water. Heater is dying. It's 18 years old and I've been having plumbers and electricians into the house to figure out how to replace it with an electric one electric key pump. So I've been going down the deep, [00:52:00] deep rabbit hole on heat pumps and specifically heat pump, water heaters.

And it's like, how noisy are they? Like, where do they get their heat from? How does it work? How big is it? Is it going to fit in my existing space? And what I want to send people towards is the book Electrify. So basically it's a book. It was written by Sol Griffith. I'll put the link in the show notes.

It was in this week's newsletter as well. It's a, it's a great book. It's not technical, but it's basically the it's arguing for the fact that every time someone. Natural gas burning device or other fossil fuel burning device dies in their house or building. He's basically saying that everybody then has to take that decision that I'm trying to make, which is to go electric.

Uh, and we have to do it at like 100%, uh, from here on out, essentially. So that's, that's my rabbit hole. We'll we'll share that book in the show notes. Definitely recommend it for. Alright, which one of you wants to go first?

Rachel Steinberg: [00:53:00] I'll do it. I'll go. When you were, when you started saying yours, I was wondering if you were just going to go like the cold shower route, like go, you know, the, the Wim Hoff style does it just.

Fully like cold showering.

James Dice: I do. So I do take cold showers, but not at the beginning of the shower, but you have to like start off with, but then switch it over, over, you know, halfway through or so, but I'm definitely Wim Hoff fan, for sure.

Rachel Steinberg: I guess a good, the, um, there's a book that I. Go back to in terms of just team culture.

And I'm a big believer in just like great culture for teams and creating supportive teams. And so the book that I like around this is called Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. And it's very much focused on like high performing teams and what they have in common. And so that's, that's my [00:54:00] go-to rec on.

James Dice: Nice. We'll put that in the show notes as well.

How about you?

Josh Chapell: Oh boy. Um, my, so just for background, as a team, we do weekly kind of recommendations in our meetings. It's kind of a way of like getting told people are doing, and I'm always comically the worst of this activity. We'll think of something later, like an hour later and think, oh, you know, I had a great relationship.

Um, I'm just going to completely contour on it and do what I'm reading this exact. Um, which a book called the God Equation by Michio Kaku um, and what's fascinating about it is like, there's a lot of like cosmology books around like the, the unifying theories of physics. Um, and you know, there's lots of interesting ideas around it.

Right. But I actually can split kind of focuses more on the pursuit of the question or the pursuit of the answer rather than the answer itself. Um, obviously it posits certain answers or possibly so, but I think it's like, it's interesting because yeah. It has kind of one, it has made me kind of fall [00:55:00] in love with the questions again, rather than the solutions for them, because I think sometimes like engineering, we're obsessed with solutions, um, and also enjoying the pursuit of them.

So I think that's kind of a, it's kind of a fun reminder to be, to enjoy the process of, of solution finding.

James Dice: Cool. We'll put that in there as well. Thanks. Thank you both for coming on the show and glad we did this. Uh, and we'll talk to you next time.

Rachel Steinberg: Thank you so much.

This was great.

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.