“One of the things that COVID showed us is that so many people's buildings are not responsive to occupancy. So no matter how well you designed the building with efficient devices, not responding to occupancy is like leaving something on and walking away from it. It's basic sustainability of provide what's needed and don’t waste resources."
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Episode 102 is a conversation with Paul Maximuk and Donny Walker of Newcomb & Boyd, a company focused on smart building consulting engineering.
We talked about some major themes for our industry in 2022, including hybrid office and decarbonization, and the major themes showing up on their active project list right now, including converged networks, the independent data layer, and building operating systems.
Without further ado, please enjoy the Nexus podcast with Newcomb & Boyd.
Mentions and Links
- Newcomb & Boyd (0:36)
- Lee Hodgkinson (22:05)
- Electrify (24:25)
- Joe Gaspardone (34:19)
- Skyscraper (54:43)
- Ozark (55:23)
- The Waste-Free World (55:49)
- Defining Low Voltage (2:53)
- Newcomb & Boyd's background (7:55)
- IBcon and the integration of smart building and sustainability (16:55)
- Specifying the converged network (26:25)
- Specifying the Independent Data Layer (40:45)
- Carveouts (54:27)
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!
[00:00:00] James Dice: 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.
this episode is a conversation with Paula Maxima and Donny Walker of nuclear Boyd, a company focused on smart building consulting engineering. We talked about some major themes for our industry in 2022, including hybrid office and de-carbonization and the major themes showing up on their active project list right now, including converged networks, the independent data layer and building operating systems.
So without further ado, please enjoy the nexus podcast with Newcombe and books. Hello, Donnie and [00:01:00] Paul, welcome to the show. Great to have for you guys on let's start with you, Donnie. Can you introduce yourself and give us a little bit about your background.
[00:01:08] Donny Walker: Yeah, yeah. Thanks for having the song, James.
So I'm a Donny Walker. I'm a partner with nuclear min Boyd and I I manage our technology groups. So that includes our traditional it AAV and secure. But about 10 years ago we started our intelligent building practice and I lead that team and that that's really where I spend most of my time.
And my, my background is in communications design, put RCDD,
[00:01:35] James Dice: you
[00:01:35] Donny Walker: structured cabling network design. And part of the reason that we started our intelligent building practices, that by me seeing all of the systems that we design and the, how the depth that we go into AB systems and security systems, and really understanding how they all work and working with contractors to get it done.
Right. And then I saw the building automation world where, the [00:02:00] MEP puts a sequence of operations together. Typically a boilerplate spec and just throws it out to the market and hopes that you get success. And as I worked with our commissioning group and started seeing the repeat things that the commissioning group would say, if they would have only done this, this, and this we'd have a good performing building.
But then you go back to the design and when no one designed anything, they just kind of gave you performance requirements and a sequence of operations. Like we can't make them do that. We didn't tell them they had to do that. I really saw the need and said, we don't have any other system that we just kind of give up some boiler plate requirements and hope that it shows up to the project correctly.
The one that has the most input on how in that manner. And so, we really dug in and built a team to say, let's let's, let's get this done. Right. And that in the end, the team has grown from that, but it really started just getting building automation.
[00:02:53] James Dice: Got it. Got it. And one of the things that just dawned on me is that when, so if you look like before that transition [00:03:00] that you guys made, you were doing what, what a lot of people would call as low voltage, right.
Can you talk about, I know this has come up on the podcast before. That's a, that's a term that I think newcomers, maybe people coming from the broader tech industry into smart buildings, don't they don't know what that means when they say that. So can you talk about what low voltage means and why it's called that and then what systems that applies to?
[00:03:21] Donny Walker: Absolutely. That that is a very confusing term that people and they say, oh, who's, who's doing low voltage on the project. And soon we'll, we'll get, opportunities to, work with architects and, and provide our services on a project. And there's always a discussion of, who's going to do the MEP, so mechanical electrical plumbing, maybe we're doing fire protection, which includes,
[00:03:41] James Dice: you know,
[00:03:41] Donny Walker: the sprinkler systems and fire alarm.
And then say, okay, well, what about low voltage? And sometimes it'd be written security, AAV and low voltage. And so, when we think of low voltage systems, it's everything, that's less than 70 volts. So it's our Avi systems, security, fire alarm, and communication structure [00:04:00] cabling.
But what most people typically mean is the structured. So it's, who's going to do that. Low-voltage wiring piece, which is our communications and, used to be cable, TV, cabling as well. And now that, everything's gone IP to the point that it's really just structured cabling. Every other system becomes some specialty system.
Now in the healthcare market level, there's might include your nurse call your code blue systems, those kinds of things. So there's, there's other things that get lumped into low voltage, but we try to always spell it out. So that it's clear that we're going to do all these systems as a part of that.
[00:04:35] James Dice: Yeah. Well that was my follow up question. And I don't know how deep down this rabbit hole we're about to go. We'll see. Does it, then each individual silo have its own low voltage work. That's done to set up say a building automation system as well.
[00:04:49] Donny Walker: Yeah. Great, great question. Because that was actually one of the initial things that we started pushing forward with smart buildings is to say, they're typically.[00:05:00]
Th there was a network associated with each one of these things. There was the cabling requirement for each one of these things. And so we said, let's design it in a way that we can quantify all of that, have it all be known and then have one structure, cabling contractor on the project that runs cable for everybody.
Right. And that's where we've seen success in helping to drive the costs down and helping everyone to understand their part on the project. The what cause what we would see
like say what security systems, when everything went network based on IP security, contractors just wanted to hang cameras and card readers and program.
So they would sub out the cabling to the stretcher cable and contractor anyway, but it's all kind of behind the scenes and, you're, you're not necessarily getting exactly
convergence for the owner. So it was like, well, let's just design it that way so that everybody knows, and you don't have to have, third-party subcontracts between.
[00:05:49] James Dice: Exactly. Okay. We'll get, we'll get back to that topic in just a little while. Paul. I want you to introduce yourself though. Can you start with, what, what your role is at Newfoundland Boyd and then give us a little bit [00:06:00] about your background.
[00:06:01] Paul Maximuk: Absolutely. Thanks James, for having me on I'm Paul Maxima from Newcomb and Boyd.
I'm a senior associate on the intelligent building. Two. I've been with army over a couple of years now. We were engaged with and some other conferences and had an opportunity to bring me onto the team. My background is different than Downey's. I come from mechanical controls and operations background been in the, that background a long time, many, many years.
I don't even want to say how long I'm back in the pneumatic days, where things evolved into the, and then into eventually IP controllers and other connected systems. I did work for a large automotive I'm based out of Detroit remote. For the team. I did work seven years, about seven years in a large automotive and Detroit.
Working with all the control systems, BMS systems [00:07:00] for the organization and had a lot of challenges. Right. I mentioned earlier when we were chatting, it's always a challenge because specifications, as Danny mentioned, Are not real clear. Things change, when it goes out to bid, it's done few years before this facts change, and now you're bidding to an old spec, so you don't get delivered what you really are looking for.
Other things I saw, the equipment's evolving, right? We, used to be putting controllers on equipment. Now the equipment can be a direct integration to those devices, which changes things. Right. So, I'm really excited to be on this team. We have been engaged with something different all the time.
We see some really crazy technology out there. It, it gets to the point where we look at everything, it pretty much is going to be IP based, in the near future. So really enjoy that. And just looking forward to digging into your question.
[00:07:55] James Dice: Yeah, I got lots of let's start with they're coming Boyd itself though.
So can you guys talk [00:08:00] about dining, start with you, the, the role that you guys play on new construction projects and then the role that you play in the operation of the building start there and then, and what type of clients do you guys typically serve?
[00:08:12] Donny Walker: Sure. Yeah, I'll start with the clients. As it relates to our intelligent buildings team.
A lot of the work we do is in the commercial real estate. So, corporate headquarters large multi-tenant office buildings, but we also do a lot of campus and institutional work. So universities large healthcare systems S and T type buildings. High-performance buildings.
A lot of times that's in the university sector, universities like to build high-performance buildings hopefully a, a lot of those catch on into the commercial. And we are seeing that as well, that, a lot of the commercial products we've been associated with here recently have lead platinum there they've done well certification.
So they're, they're, they're pushing in that direction. Our role is multifaceted, like I mentioned earlier sometimes [00:09:00] we're the, the MVP consultant on a project. But on a lot of our national work, many times, we're not. So our role is we're, we're brought in typically as the the, the holistic technology consultant.
So, we're, we're going to provide all of that. Yeah, converged network design, the the actual building operational technology network, the structure cabling, AB security, and then be the entity that is responsible for division 25 and collaborating with the MEP. Whoever's doing their controls to kind of, help take it to the next level, help make sure that we have the right points of data associated with everything that needs to be captured.
So we do a lot of design reviews kind of gap analysis and then provide feedback of, let's get these types of systems in let's, get meters at these locations and, and tie that back to sustainability goals or, things that might be needed for fault detection and diagnostics to say, if we have the right [00:10:00] amount of days, We'll have a much better opportunity and operations to really understand how the building is operating.
Got it. So that at that point we're specifying all of that. And then we'll work throughout the project. Getting into the construction phase. We will typically lead the low-voltage coordination meetings, which brings all those technology vendors together and then help everyone along the way, understand their adjacencies and overlaps in schedule and scope.
And, and then bring that all the way through commissioning at the end to, get all the systems commissioned to make sure that they're working properly.
[00:10:34] James Dice: Okay. So you're playing like a, a role in the design phase as the designer, that's responsible for division 25, but then you're also playing kind of like an MSI master systems integrator role on the project itself during construction.
[00:10:50] Donny Walker: So, yeah, it's it's funny that, sometimes people will say, well, you guys are the MSI. And, and, and we, we think of the MSI as the one that's actually standing up the class. [00:11:00] Okay. And, and doing the integration of all the different things. And so there we, we will say we're responsible for the MSI scope, but we're going to bring it down.
That's going to actually deliver the platform. And then, sometimes, maybe people aren't saying that those companies are the MSI. It's like, no, they're the platform provider, you guys for the hidden bias. So it's a confusing terminology, but we think of the MSI is the one actually delivering the product.
And in that case, we're not the MSI.
[00:11:26] James Dice: Okay. And when you said products, what are you, what are you talking about? What kind of, what, what are the capabilities of.
[00:11:32] Donny Walker: The software, the platform, the, what everything is integrating to and um, in there, I know we'll, we'll chat on this later, but there's uh, there's two sides of the software and operating environment that we've been working on.
There's the operation side of, typical building analytics, building data metering and all that, but there's also in a lot more of our projects these days. There's that employee facing mobile app that is getting the building and the amenities into the hands of the [00:12:00] occupants.
[00:12:00] James Dice: Okay. Okay. So you're, you're talking to me about those two sort of what I would call like app, like user centered you're user-focused software applications.
You're not talking about like an integration platform, like a nag. Like what, or maybe you are, or you're talking about all three.
[00:12:18] Donny Walker: Yeah, no more. The first two that, that, the Niagara environment or, or some other platform you know, that that's typically being routed through the division 23 and, someone that's on the project as the controls controls contractor.
Okay. So where does the integration of multiple silos, including controls, which platform is that happening in, on, on most projects that you're working on, on a, on an Agra based project, we see a lot of that happening in Niagara. Cause it's a great platform for that. So, bring things in. But we see, when you get into the IOT world and in some cases maybe the mining controls and we, and there's a smart building platform there.
That's got, data, normalization [00:13:00] analytics and all these things going at that point, unless you're using those points of data in your Niagara system for control. Why, why pay to bring in points twice, so, directly to the platform.
[00:13:12] James Dice: Got it. Okay. And then, Paul, it sounds like you, you had some operations experience before joining a nuclear boy.
So what's, what's, nucleon Boyd's role in like operations after the commissioning process, after handover all that.
[00:13:27] Paul Maximuk: So a lot of it is getting the training for that team that is using the application. We, a lot of times are engaged with the whole process from when the project's awarded to delivering that contract and closing out the project with the owner.
We act more on the side of the owner, obviously and help them understand the processes internally and help them develop those processes internally to have long-term support management of the devices.[00:14:00] The ongoing enhancements that they may want to look at it day two, there's obviously it's a new toy in the toy box, right?
They play with that for awhile. And then all of a sudden you start to get tired of it. So where can you go and buy them? Usually the operation team has an idea of where they want to go and what they want to use the platform for
[00:14:20] Donny Walker: w we are working on spinning up a new really operations based product around monitoring based commissioning.
And the reason for that is, when, when we first started working with, fault detection and analytics, our assumption is that the operations team was just dying for this information and that they were going to get their hands on it and be like, it's just what I've been waiting for and, and start operating the building in a different way.
And, and it was, really the opposite. It was. That's just a, a bunch of additional noise. I couldn't even keep up with all my alarms now I've got my analytics. And so we want to help with that transition and say, look, let's put an [00:15:00] engineering team that is helping to optimize the building. As, as part of that recipient information to, kind of, like Paul said, what the training was, work with the operations team to slowly hand that over to them and to the point where they're comfortable with control of the building, the normal process of, here's your new control system, because there's a bunch of alarms that, Hey, operations team, you probably didn't even have any input on what alarms should be.
The design B gave you that. So now all of a sudden you've got things alarming. Like, I don't know why it's alarming. I don't know why that's bad. Right.
[00:15:33] Paul Maximuk: I mean, obviously you're handing the keys to the car, but you don't know how to drive. Right. So, it's helping with that guidance and ensuring that the MSI.
Provides those level of details. We include that information in our dev 25 spec. We get a lot of pushback sometimes, and we just say that needs to be part of the project because you just can't hand it over and say, thank you. And then, then you're gone. So,[00:16:00] and as Donnie, I just want to expand a little bit more that conditioned risk-based maintenance that we've been working with.
There's so many different systems out there right now, but the reality is all that technology is only going to be good if you didn't know to take action on things. So we, we start to drive that value, right? One, what's going to make sense when you put in technology that you're going to take action on it.
If the dampers. Are broken, they need to be replaced. So that helps them prioritize what repairs and capital expenditures they're going to take when they move forward. Because if it's a big ticket item, obviously that's going to take a few years to get a process. So
[00:16:40] James Dice: got it. Well, cool. That that'll be I've I'm, I'm obviously a huge believer in monitoring based commissioning, having been a lot of podcasts around it.
So we're not going to dive deep into that topic today. I feel like we've hit it hard in the past. I did want to, so we're going to hit, we're going to hit converged network and different software platform plays in a second. I did want to [00:17:00] circle back on this podcast is going to come out right before I become in June and.
I feel like it was just yesterday that the, like the three of us plus the rest of the Newcomen board group, we were sitting around the table having drinks after the last conference. I feel like that was like just yesterday. So I wanted to ask you guys, you guys put a lot of thought into the conference you're heavily involved.
What do you think? Like the theme of this year's conference is Paul and that
[00:17:30] Paul Maximuk: I actually. That there's two parts of this question. What I want to see is more about the data, right? Because the, the reality is, understanding the data points, the data sets required to deliver your use cases. And I think that's where there's a big misconception.
When you ask people, what do you want to do with the data there's sort of that blank stare. So, we're really trying to get to that point. And I really want to see more of that. I mean, obviously we're going to see, technologies, we're going to [00:18:00] see different software platforms. I, I think the biggest focus this year is we're coming out of that COVID lockdown.
And I think there's going to be a lot of questions from a lot of the operators of the systems and owners of these systems. My whole thing has changed at my campus. How am I going to support a hybrid work environment? We see this everywhere because all the data they have. Prior to two years ago is useless now, right?
Not operating the buildings the same. There's a lot more opportunity to look at other integrated systems to bring value to how you're going to manage your building in the future. And nobody has the answer to it because nobody really knows unless you're going to be back to a hundred percent on campus.
You really don't know how many people are going to be there at any given day. And that's a challenge. I hear that. In our engagements
what's the answer. If anybody can figure that [00:19:00] out, they're going to be a multi-billionaire right. But,
[00:19:04] James Dice: and the question is how to operate a hybrid workplace. Is that what you're saying?
[00:19:09] Paul Maximuk: And that, and the on that obviously is the operation of the building, the operation of your melodies in the space, the transportation back and forth, the user experience, as Dani mentioned with the app, it's basically the operations of your space and the user experience. There's such a focus on that user experience, right.
And the amenities offered. So.
[00:19:31] Donny Walker: I think one of the areas that we're keying in on is the convergence of sustainability and smart technology. And one of the things that COVID showed us is that so many people's buildings are not responsive to occupancy. So no matter how well you designed the building with efficient devices, not responding to occupancy is lik e leaving something on and walking away from it, it's basic sustainability of, provide [00:20:00] what's needed and don't waste resources. And so, now that we have the ability to have our buildings be so responsive it's got to change the, the design, the implementation and the operations of of buildings.
Really it needs to even change the codes in some ways, our codes are all based on rule of thumb and kind of worst case scenarios that like, if you don't know what's going on in your building, then at least do this to the point now where, why don't, you know, what's going on in your building?
Why does it not change? When it's completely empty, versus when it's got 5,000 people.
[00:20:33] James Dice: Absolutely. Yeah. And, and it's codes, it's also the rest of the business itself, right? That's now trying to integrate sustainability integrate de-carbonization that, that's what I feel like, you know,
Paul, you said, what should be the theme?
I feel like de prioritization should be the theme. Maybe that will be a next year's theme or something like that. But I feel like a lot of building owners and you guys do a lot in office, but like [00:21:00] across the board need help with what are the technologies that can help us get from where we're at today, to where we set our target that in 20, 30, 20, 40, 20, 50, whatever, I feel like that roadmap needs to be dug into a lot more because I'm not sure people have the we're going to do this, and then we're going to do that.
And then we're going to do that. And, and the electrification piece for me is I feel like this big elephant in the room that. That's what we have to do to get to these targets. And I don't feel like I've seen, I, I, it's not a feeling. I haven't seen any electrification plans out of the big, companies out there at this point.
I don't know if you guys have,
[00:21:41] Donny Walker: we have we we've started this. Electrification of campuses we we've started to see, more companies that are based in areas like New York and California that have already started pushing for more of that electrification of them, kind of getting that seed planted that, we're going in this direction and then that type of thing.
[00:21:59] James Dice: So, [00:22:00] yeah, I guess what I met was there's seeds planted and there's intentions. I saw a really good one of our pro members, Lee Hodgkinson. He works at dream out of Canada and their portfolio. They have an amazing plan. They're basically like reduce electrify and then report. I, this really nice framework.
What I'm saying is there the plans aren't to a point where I feel like they're like, well, this exact system has to flip over to this, new system. Heat pump, whatever.
[00:22:28] Donny Walker: I got five minutes in new construction that were, were, were nice electrification. But I agree with you that that someone that's got, a heavy reliance on natural gas is not saying, oh, let's go swap that out because basically that you want to get your, your, your lifecycle investment out of what you've done and maybe going forward or you're looking at electrification.
But yeah, I think that's more of a, of a step two to get to, to say, we're going to take out this working system because it's not sustainable.
[00:22:58] Paul Maximuk: Right. I think a [00:23:00] lot of it's geographics too, right? I mean, we see a lot of that on the east coast, the west coast, the Midwest, not so much yet, but there are some companies that are really starting to put their teams together and try to really capture this and say, this is coming.
We have to have a plan. Right. And when you, when you tie investment dollars and. Funding for those projects. That's a big deal, right? I mean, we hear about it on wall street all the time. All these large financial organizations are forcing these companies to do something, right. So I think that's going to be the theme the next few years that will help drive that change in other regions.
[00:23:41] James Dice: Totally. 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. If you're an industry vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.
This course is also [00:24:00] 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 email@example.com labs.online. All right. Back to the interview.
Yeah, I've been harping on this. I learned this concept of committed emissions a couple of weeks ago. I'm reading this book, great book called electrify Committed emissions or all of the, basically when we install a boiler, a new natural gas boiler tomorrow, right? The committed emissions are all the gas that, that thing's going to burn for the next 20 years before it's replaced.
And what I'm not seeing is like, oh, a plan that says when we have a go-live breakdown tomorrow in XYZ building, we're going to replace it with electric and here's how we're going to do it. And here's how we're going to fund it. And here's what the electrical upgrades are going to look like. Accommodate that.
I feel like we're not there yet. I'm going through that in my house right now. I need a new water heater. [00:25:00] So it's the same thing for all of the buildings out there that I feel like we haven't, I haven't seen that level of planning at this point. And I feel like it's like this thing elephant in the room, like I said, right.
[00:25:11] Donny Walker: They're the real elephant in the room in that regard is the electrification of. Automotive industry. So we were designing out of the buildings right now, where we've got these big parking decks. We're going, maybe a 20% UV charging, 20% Evie ready, which basically just means there's some, there's some conduit in the deck, but when you look at the service size, you're, if you plan for 40% of a large deck, your service size of your parking deck is now rivalry, service, size of the building.
And so that that's a huge investment.
[00:25:44] James Dice: Um,
[00:25:44] Donny Walker: I'm not sure how ready the industry as a whole is, the, the, these projects that we're doing like that are more one offs where, the code is more kind of 5% and 500. But when we start getting hit that tipping point, all the manufacturers have their their, their, [00:26:00] at least their plugin hybrids, if not a full electrification coming the ability to distribute that power and to control it in a smart way is something we're all going to be dealing with.
[00:26:11] James Dice: Well, there are a lot of listeners that potentially could have seen electrification plans that I'm happy to have flood my inbox. Now, if people have those out there um, okay. Let's jump into a couple of the topics that we kind of like hinted on a little bit earlier. So Donna, you mentioned, 10 years ago, you guys started doing converged networks or whenever that was, can you talk about kind of where we're at today?
In terms of maybe start yeah. The number of buildings that get built today, how many are being designed and then built with a converged network, presuming a lot of the ones that you guys are on are using converged networks, but how much has that as is the norm today? Yeah.
[00:26:49] Donny Walker: I, I do not think that it is yet the norm.
I think that some of the more progressive forward thinking developers have put that into practice as a standard and they have an it team [00:27:00] that supports it. And then a lot of developers out there that, you know, when, when we raised the question during the early design process and say, this is the route that we want to go, we hear, why this isn't the route we went on the previous project for cost and those kinds of things.
And so, I've, I've kind of got a, a canned response that I give now. And that is that, the building, you just. Has a network. In fact, it has multiple networks and usually what those are shadow networks that the controls contractor puts in lighting controls your elevator. There's all these vendors putting networks in your building.
And by it not being purposefully designed. They're typically unmanaged, unsecure. And then at some point they have to be connected to the internet, so someone could remotely patch it and update it and all these kinds of things. And so now you've got this fully exposed, vulnerable building.
And the only reason you haven't had a problem with it yet is it just hasn't happened yet. And so we also have worked with clients that have come to us and said, I know [00:28:00] exactly what you're talking about because this building got hijacked, this building got shut down. It's a big problem.
And so once you kind of expose that vulnerability I I've yet to have someone go, no, no, no, no, no, no. Just give me the vulnerable building. And so, and then the other thing with the convergence is, there is cost savings and unified structure cabling. There is cost savings and having one network done right.
Versus many networks done poorly. And so, when, when, when people ask us that question about how many times. Most of them. But that's where it goes. We're pushing for it. But but it's always, it's always rewarding to us when we see someone, either come back to us and do a second project and say, oh, I like what we did there.
We're definitely doing that. That's now our standard. We do that on all of our projects. And then of course there's some people that come to us that we've never worked with and they've already been there, done that, and they've got their own standards and we'll work with them to adhere to that and also try to improve the remote access side of
that and [00:29:00] implement zero trust and things like that.
[00:29:02] James Dice: Converged networks or a funny case study and how slow the industry moves. I think because. Cheaper. It's a change. That is, it doesn't involve adding any more costs. And yet it's still happening because this is the way we've always done it. Or in trance business models or the different fragmentation of the supply chain.
Like those are the reasons why it's being held back. But the funny thing is like, it's, it's actually cheaper to do it in the better way. It's just still doesn't happen costs.
[00:29:31] Donny Walker: But what it does that is complexity and complexity adds risk. And so, when, when you've got multiple entities that are relying on that, now, the general contractor is going, oh, now I've got this up responsible for something this sod is doing.
I like to keep everything in these nice flowing silos. It's very clear for responsibility. So that's the reason on every project, there is this push at first it's with the design team and then it's with the contractor team to [00:30:00] make sure that it actually happens the way that everyone intended, because everyone loves.
Risk mitigation. And the easiest way to do that is to carve out your own little world and say, I'm going to operate in this bubble. That nobody, nobody come mess with my fiefdom.
Yeah. I think what I'm saying is you can't blame the lack of innovation and the lack of technology in our industry on things cost too much.
[00:30:24] James Dice: Right. Because it's often, things just are getting caught up in the, and the way things have always been done a lot of times. So can you talk about cybersecurity? So cybersecurity has always been a big deal, but you mentioned it there. How, like, how's it showing up on projects today? It sounds like some building owners have been hacked had their system tied jacked, like you said, how, how does that sort of interplay with the like argument for a converged network and what are some of the best practices around securing the networks now?
Like you mentioned zero trust. Could you explain what that means?
[00:30:59] Paul Maximuk: Yeah. If [00:31:00] the zero trust means you trust nobody on your network. Okay. So you have, I mean, the bottom line is, is setting up the network policies, access policies, access control to the systems the security and what ports and protocols you do allow and, and do not allow.
Typically a lot of the engagements we are involved with, if it's an enterprise client, we're dealing with their corporate it team. So we help provide the OT side with their it side. So we're part of that it team. We sit in reviewing what devices go on there are, can they be secured? We see a lot of pen testing requirements.
Now when's the last, what is the last time someone even asked about a pen test and, and now they're actually doing pen test themselves. And having third party evaluation. So they asked for those reports and a lot of companies obviously don't want to disclose that.
[00:31:57] James Dice: Um,
[00:31:57] Paul Maximuk: They identify, we see a lot of [00:32:00] auditing on, on the networks, right?
So that's something that's new to a lot of system integrators or Ms. MSIs, where somebody is monitoring their devices. And then they also monitor the risk on the software platforms that they provide and look at the vulnerabilities because I mean, the past two years, I mean, we started working from home.
There's a lot of individuals that had issues, with malware or something, they got hacked and it was poor policy. So we we've developed the best practices, guidance, and a recent project I was involved with. We presented that and nobody saw that before. And the GCs like, well, why do we need that?
The MEP firm was there. Why do we need. Well, you need this, not only on our division 25, but you need across the board on all your divisions that you're responsible for. And here's why, right. It gives you the process, how to lock things down. It gives you what you [00:33:00] should and should not do. And when you work with, if they have an MSP in those facilities, we sort of coordinate those efforts because they set up the configuration for the zero trust network.
And they're like thrilled that they have somebody that's actually working with them and understands why you need to do this. And then, we get involved with the process management and so forth. How are you going to manage day to once everything is spun up in manage that long-term for change management.
So, okay. And what's an MSP, is that what you said? Yeah. Managed service providers. So an it organization that provides those services, we S we work a lot with them. You see them a lot.
Many of these developer projects. Yeah.
[00:33:45] Donny Walker: typically when we're working with a large corporation, like Paul said, we're working with our enterprise it group, but then you go to a developer led multi-tenant office building.
Maybe they've got a little small it team, but they're, they're looking for someone to [00:34:00] own and operate and manage that network in the building now that they know they need it. They don't want to take that on and hire.
[00:34:05] James Dice: Uh,
[00:34:05] Donny Walker: And so they're looking for, and there there'll be alert. A lot of these people that I become that have, realized that this is a really good business model and have spun up these MSP for OT provider services.
Yeah. Yeah. We've had
[00:34:18] James Dice: um,
Joe Gasper, Downey from Montgomery technologies. That's one example of those types of companies.
[00:34:25] Donny Walker: That's right. Paul was mentioning that, that we developed is cybersecurity specification kind of appendices for the different divisions. At first, we put all of our requirements in dif 25.
Well, that's great. Except for the, the electrician on the project was going to say, that's not my spec. I'm 26. And so,
and this meter was specified. So I'm putting that meter on the project. And and until you tie each one of those entities to purity requirements. So now, we've got this piece that says here's the cyber security [00:35:00] best practices and required.
For the dev 26, you've got ya. That goes into their specification and they realize they're a part of the cyber team. And not just someone installing a product that will specify. And you guys mentioned this, but it seems like to me, we need to kind of reiterate it because I feel like sometimes cybersecurity gets shrouded in mystery.
[00:35:22] James Dice: Right. There's a lot of technical terms that are kind of outside the buildings industry, but really we're talking about pretty simple best practices here. So when you guys said best practices guide, like what are some of those things like counting out your devices, knowing what devices are on the network username, password authentication, those types of things.
Like is it, it's those types of simple things that are just making sure that those best practices are done on each system, in the building? Yeah.
[00:35:49] Donny Walker: And the network segmentation right. Defining. Traffic flows and saying, this device needs these things. It doesn't need to talk to everything.[00:36:00]
So, when, when you start locking things down appropriately to the level that it can do what it needs to do, but can't do other things that now you're mitigating risk. And so now, you're, you're not allowing this camera over here to infect, these systems over there.
Cause that camera can only talk to that camera recorder. And that's the only thing that ever needs to be. Right, right. Got it. Okay.
[00:36:22] Paul Maximuk: The other thing I've just thought was going to add to that. It's also about security certificate management for your TLS certificates. As every product still comes through a port 80 and an abled.
And what we do is put a guideline in there and what ports should be disabled in the software configuration when they bring that online, before it goes live, and it basically shuts those down. If they need it, for some reason to configure, it needs to be locked down afterwards.
[00:36:50] James Dice: Got it. Got it. Okay. Yeah.
Still seems like simple. I'm not an it person, but I'm like, okay. Those are still pretty, like, it seems like basic. We don't [00:37:00] have to like shroud them in mystery, I guess. That's right. Yeah. Okay. Got it. How about with IOT devices? So, a lot of times when we're talking about converged network, Now, this concept has been around for a long time.
We've been talking about converged networks before this really proliferation of new IOT sensors. So indoor air quality sensors, occupancy counters on down the line, right? And leak detection, et cetera. Where does the, this proliferation of devices kind of interact with this concept of a converged network and what are the benefits of having it, given all of these new device?
[00:37:35] Donny Walker: Got it. Yeah. I think the term IOT is also up for discussion because when, when, when the IOT really hit the market, I think it was the commercial response to the, the home market. So, it's your nest thermostats, it's your ring doorbells. It's all of these devices that are network connected and, and basically managed directly from the cloud.
And there are [00:38:00] a lot of commercial devices that are still operating in that model. But, in a big commercial setting, is that really the best practice to have these devices, on, on your corporate network that are communicating with the cloud when really you need to use that data. And so, we, we try to separate that and say, things that are just network connected.
That's not really IOT. So, we'll, we'll put that over here in the bucket of just, everything's going IP and we've got new IP stuff showing up on the project, but then there are still the IOT devices. So indoor air quality sensors, and some of the people counting sensors really only operate in a cloud environment and they have to be treated separately.
[00:38:38] James Dice: And so, and these are, these are different because like, and I have one in my wallet right here for people that are watching on YouTube. This is a web server, right. It's a sensor, but it's also a web server. So that's, that's a different delineation, different type of device. That's right. And, and they need to be treated differently and, and secured in a different way on the network.
[00:38:56] Donny Walker: And so, a lot of times we're working with our clients to set up [00:39:00] IOT segmentation to say, that device is going to, go straight out the door and talk to its
uh, you know,
its cloud server. But you know, we're, we're not going to allow that communication to it because now it becomes a vulnerability.
[00:39:15] James Dice: Got it. Got it. Yeah. And so that, it goes to the same thing as it's basically just a routing question then where, where can this thing talk? What ports are open, that kind of thing. Okay.
[00:39:23] Paul Maximuk: In a sense. Yeah. If you ever want to have a great conversation and see a bunch of paranoid people sitting in meetings with cybersecurity guys or team members, right.
I said one of my clients, I'm in weekly meetings with they rely on me to provide the OT
the operations input and technology input on there. And it goes beyond most of these devices have gateways, right? You're going to communicate wireless communication protocol at MQTT transport up to their cloud.
And they, they are like to the level of how do I lock down the wireless [00:40:00] communication, because someone can hack into that. And there are some protocols obviously that are not as secure as others. And it gets to the point where they will. Really architected to a point where it has to go through some other security devices be spring before it even gets any data on their network.
And typically they segment those gateways in their own IOT zone. Right. Even though it's on their network, it's a secure, like DMZ that communicates out to the cloud and routes out that way. So, very interesting. It just, you can't just plug and play everybody's, from the operation side just wants to get the data they want to plug and play and get in, but it doesn't work that way, so,
[00:40:43] James Dice: yeah.
Yep. Okay. Let's talk about a new topic now. Independent data layer. So. This is something that I feel like has become a lot more maybe not important yet, but prevalent. And, and the smart buildings industry that there's a have 75 whole [00:41:00] minutes to talk about it at the integrator summit and a couple of weeks which is a bit, I feel like a big deal.
I'm happy to sort of have control over that much time with the conference. So can you guys talk about like the general trends you're seeing around the, the IDL on your projects to start with?
[00:41:16] Donny Walker: So one just a, a thank you to you of keeping this topic front and center. And so, it's funny how many people that I've talked about, the, the IDL two has said like, oh yeah, that I've been keeping up with that on nexus and yeah, so, so it's really good to see, but the, the need comes from we, we all understand.
Proprietary systems and, and, open protocol and all those types of things. But, as we all started deploying more smart building platforms and, places that you're taking your data clients quickly really. Now I'm locked into that. Yeah. Then you're locking.
Right. And that is it's a start-up and, and
uh, you know, uh, you know,
really cool and what they're doing right now, but, [00:42:00] odds are somebody who's going to create something really cool and even better in the next five years. And now, how do I get access to my data? And of course you have those conversations.
Everybody wants to say, oh wait, all the data's yours, or most people wouldn't say that some people actually can do hold the data hostage, but but they, they, they want to be able to tell you, this is how you would, migrate away from Mazda. This is that. But you know, that independent data layer opportunity to say, I'm going to normalize the way I access all of my data.
I'm going to bring it in through this layer. I'm going to set it up to stream to the platform that I'm using. Yeah, that is a clear need. And now, that you can standardize on that in a uniform way and change out that software that you may, or you may even have multiple software packages with streams going in different directions.
But yeah, I think there's a clear need for that. And, and people really do understand that. Now the interesting thing that we started having the conversation on yesterday is who provides the independent data layer. Yeah. If that's [00:43:00] provided through your integrator, that's also selling you your software platform.
How independent is the independent data later in the procurement side?
[00:43:09] James Dice: Uh,
[00:43:10] Donny Walker: Who do you have a contract with? Is it through your integrator or is it through the IDL provider? The, those, those are real world questions that we're helping our clients live today so that they can really be set up for success and use the independent data there as it's intended.
But also some of the IDL providers may not be ready for direct contracts and services. They may be thinking that they're going to market through integrators. So, the market is, obviously not mature yet in in response to.
[00:43:38] James Dice: Yeah. And so if I can phrase that back to you, just mirror that way, you said, instead of being locked into, and instead of the independent data layer, helping prevent lock-in with an application provider, you're saying it could also prevent lock-in with a vendor that helps set up like an MSI that helps set up the IDL.
And so then making it [00:44:00] independent of those people too, so they can be kicked off a project if needed. We went dark with it, but that's essentially what, what needs to happen,
[00:44:07] Donny Walker: but pick up a project. I mean that, yeah, that, that, things have gone bad at that point, but it's, it's opening up, the first project may not be all of your needs.
And so, now the next project you're, you're only gonna want one IDL. In a perfect world. And so if that contract is through integrator a and you're doing project number two with integrator B, right? How do you instruct integrator B to go back to that ideal? And now you've got multiple contracts for the same product.
[00:44:36] James Dice: Got it now. I mean, that makes perfect sense. I think that the go to market in my mind for the, for the IDL software provider is the biggest open question in my mind. Like, do they go to the building owner? What's the, I feel like what you're saying, and I agree with that. That's what they should do. But how many building owners are out there going, I need an independent data layer today, right?
It's really the [00:45:00] application providers are selling an outcome. A lot of times they're selling an outcome, selling you energy savings, or I'm selling you tenant experience. I'm selling you better indoor air quality or whatever. They're the ones with the salespeople that are going out and saying, Hey, I'm going to change your life, Mr.
Building owner, right. Independent data layer conversation to the owner as a, as such it's much more difficult. We're, we're, we're enabling all these potential future things. Right. And so the go to market for an IDL provider is such a, I think, a difficult question. Do they go to the application provider?
They go to the MSI or do they go to the owner? And I think there's a lot to shake out there still.
[00:45:36] Donny Walker: Yeah. And then you've got the mix of the digital twin conversation and, is, is, is the twin going to become the IDL and all that kind of get merged together?
[00:45:45] James Dice: Yeah. Which is a great segue if we want to continue our question.
So one of the things I also wanted to ask you about was if we take our conversation back to where we were earlier with the platform piece of this, so this [00:46:00] concept of a building operating system, or I think you guys call it a smart building platform, right. Maybe the first place to start with that theme is like, how is that different than an IDL?
And you and your guys mind.
[00:46:14] Donny Walker: Yeah. So when we're typically looking at a smart building platform, we're looking at something that gives you the ability to apply data tagging and, and apply intelligence to that data. Through analytics, through trending and graphs and normalization and all of those types of things.
And so it really is the application that's using the data. So,
[00:46:37] James Dice: you know,
[00:46:38] Donny Walker: again, we see in a perfect world, all of our data is go funnel through an ideal. And then location, that's smart building application. That's providing the, or providing, the, the intelligence and giving you the actionable data and the visualizations that help you interpret what's going on with the building all have the smart building platform.
The term building [00:47:00] operating system can be somewhat confusing because, like you mentioned with with a Nagra system, like, that's kind of your building operating system, right? That's, that's what people are programming and that's what is Really tied to your controls for HPAC and then integrating your, your lighting controls and other points of data.
And so, we, we like to really differentiate a building operating system from a spark when I platform now, in some cases where people's smart building platforms are doing full command and control and they're building out HPAC graphics, they're, really building out intelligent floor plans that give you lots of insights into exactly what's going on and there's no other tool needed to operate them.
But at that point, that's really a building operating system. So, some of our clients have gone that route and have a really cool building operating system that now becomes their standard. And any operator that operates the buildings within their portfolio only uses that software. And then the only person that's going to an underlying control system is maybe [00:48:00] a controls contractor coming in to reprogram something or add a new device, but then others, they come, they maintain an entire building control system.
And, and, some people at different technician levels only work in that platform. And it's more, the high-level building operators that are using the smart building platform, greater sustainability team, different people that have needs for that information layer are using the smart building platform.
But it's differentiated from the controls plus.
[00:48:29] James Dice: Got it. Okay. So it feels like a little bit to me like that the building operating system concept kind of like fits in between an IDL and what you're calling a smart building platform, which is smart building platform is more, application-based like I'm, I'm, I'm doing analytics trying to provide some sort of outcome with the data, using some sort of dedicated user interface.
[00:48:52] Donny Walker: Interestingly, the IDL is between the controls platforms and the smart building platform. Cause like, like the catheter we're [00:49:00] working with right now, they have to have the large proprietary systems on campus. And then they have a lot of network connected meters and that type of thing. Yeah.
[00:49:09] James Dice: So something like that, Agra is sitting above that and then IDL above that, that, okay.
[00:49:15] Donny Walker: IDL, just going there, your control systems going directly into the ideal. So normalizing how you pull data from those platforms to get it into this marketing platform. But in that case, there is no. And then there is that, that part of that ideal discussion.
And when you say now, instead of having the front ends of these different proprietary systems, I'm going to go all non-proprietary and bring it into Niagara at that point. Got it. Almost like an actress to come into your idea.
[00:49:44] James Dice: Yeah, well, this is a funny conversation to me because I feel like we don't yet have like definition on these terms.
We don't have convergence on what layers are, where in the stack. Yeah. From an industry standpoint, because I feel like you could go [00:50:00] find other buildings right now that are different than that. What we just described there. One of the things that I sort of feel, I sort of like feel ownership over the IDL concept.
And one of the opinions that it's growing on me is that I it's so much work to set up a data model to set up an ontology, right. That it almost feels like it should be part of the IDL. Instead of like basically not leaving that open to an application provider to define that. And then if you want to use a different application, you lose your data model at that point.
[00:50:34] Donny Walker: Yeah. I agree. I do think that that really your, your data tagging and your, your whole intelligi belongs at the IDL and that, if that's done well, these applications are going to be able to use the intelligence of that data model to really be able to do rapid deployment of what they're doing.
If they're having to take just raw data and do all the tagging and create the ontology in their system, then [00:51:00] you're, you're right. If you change out your providers to the next person, that's going to come along and have to do the exact same thing.
[00:51:04] James Dice: It's so much work to do. You wouldn't want, you don't want to lose that.
You don't wanna lose that piece. Cool. Well, any, any other uh, challenges and thoughts that you guys have from your current projects around, around those two types of software platforms?
[00:51:17] Donny Walker: I think the other challenge that we see is that there is a desire to have more of this data in the hands of the operator. And, and there's a lot more sophistication in the smart building market around these building operating systems that we're talking about, whereas that, mobile app and the occupant experience, user experience, patient experience, for the different types of buildings that you're in those platforms are still very much custom and, and extended.
Okay. And the odd thing is the user the use cases and user experience expectations from it, we're seeing are starting to get a lot more standardized. And there, there really needs to be more advancement around that, to the point [00:52:00] that, these modular applications can be applied in a way that you may be tailoring it for the specific user experience of that building user group, but your.
Re-inventing the wheel and going as custom and as expensive as we're seeing each one of those, that they're taking. So again, I'm sure someone will respond to the podcast and say that they they're doing it. They have that figured out. Yeah, I get that reach out to us.
[00:52:27] Paul Maximuk: Exactly. And I just want to add on that too.
It's also an, a, another analytic source for the business, right. It really provides some deep insights. It, it really helps drive your use cases. Isn't really, what's going to work. And if it, it doesn't, you can pivot and your, as you move on into your next appointments. So, very interesting. We, we see a lot of times that part of.
The business owners want to see as well.
[00:52:54] James Dice: Yeah. So you guys are talking about like occupant facing mobile applications, right. And those being, [00:53:00] it sounds like a lot of the ones you're seeing hit hit projects right now are more customized versus configurable that kind of dichotomy this, it still speaks to me as the, like the value of the IDL then would be to get data back from those applications.
Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. Okay. That's I don't think that's an aspect that I've heard anyone explore yet. I think what I think that should be explored further for sure.
[00:53:26] Donny Walker: Yeah. That's one of the things that we're seeing in this whole, next gen hybrid workplace is that, it it's amenity rich, the, the amenities and the social aspect, or the reason people are there.
We used to, you were there to get your work done. It's the only place you can get it done. And now, everyone's working from everywhere. And if all I need to do is go sit at a desk and do heads down work. Oh, I'll do it fine from home. But those, those amenities that create corporate culture is the opportunity to really bring people together.
So if that is the most important factor of [00:54:00] this location, yeah. You better make sure that it's being used and that you've got good feedback and that you've, you've hit the mark. And so those types of analytics can help you from a, reservation from occupant study and, and all that to really give you those insights and help.
[00:54:18] James Dice: Very cool. All right. Let's close this off. We can talk about this stuff all day. Let's shut this down and I'll see you guys at, at, at IB con, but before we do let's do some carve outs. So what, what a book podcast or TV show or movie. Uh, Do you recommend the audience checks out? Uh, It could be personal or professional start with Nepal
[00:54:37] Paul Maximuk: nexus podcast, without a doubt.
It didn't have to say that. And my movie, my movie is skyscraper. I think it's very relatable to what we're working in now. Technology-wise and very interesting, of course the rocks in that. So it makes it exciting. So nice.
[00:54:57] James Dice: Nice. What's the plot of skyscraper? I haven't [00:55:00] seen this movie.
[00:55:00] Paul Maximuk: Terrorist attack in the building and the technology that was able to save the buildings to the ground.
[00:55:07] James Dice: It's perfectly relevant. All right. Very cool.
[00:55:10] Donny Walker: So sounds like diehard to me. It is newer though.
[00:55:15] James Dice: There were like that. Also is it also a Christmas movie? Yes. All right. Cool. What about you, Dani?
[00:55:23] Donny Walker: Well, I, I wish I had something to to tie to the technical, but I'm actually still bingeing Ozark and I've got one and a half episodes left.
And so I'm I'm almost done with that.
[00:55:34] Paul Maximuk: I won't kill it for you then. I know that the ending, yeah, I was, I was asked one of the shows that my wife likes that I have never watched and I don't intend to get into it cause I'm like, I don't want to, I do not want to go down the rabbit hole life enough, enough rabbit holes that have gone down.
[00:55:49] James Dice: Okay. So mine is this book I'm reading right now called waste the waste free world. And it's really interesting. It's about the circular economy concept and about how, our economy is basically set up [00:56:00] to take, make waste, essentially. That's the linear old way of doing things, I guess. And it's about basically how.
It's really about innovation. So it's this business owner that wrote the book about all the different ways in which new startups are coming in and sort of making, different loops in our economy and, and creating circular, circular pieces of the economy. We don't have a circular economy, circular pieces are being built, which is super, super interesting.
I don't exactly know how the book ties into buildings yet, but we'll, I'm sure that I'll develop thoughts around it and get there some point.
That sounds cool. Cool. Well, thank you guys for coming on the show. We'll put all that in the show notes, including the skyscraper link. And I'll talk to you guys in a couple of months or a month or so a month.
That's right. All right, friends. Thanks for listening to this episode at 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 [00:57:00] date on the future of the smart building industry. Please firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well.
Have a great day.