4 min read

#48: Who is the trusted data broker?

How and why Microsoft builds smart buildings, the failure of big data, why we need to implement ASHRAE's Guideline 36, and Apple's healthOS strategy for buildings
In practice, data-driven transformation has been shown to be a journey that unfolds over multiple years, not without missteps and failures over time, and is a process that is complex and requires an alignment of business, technology, and organizational perspectives and practices. Operating as a data-driven business requires an organizational change in mindset, thinking, and approach.

The Failure of Big Data

Good morning!

Welcome to Nexus, a newsletter, podcast, membership community, and online school for smart people applying smart building technology—written by James Dice. If you’re new to Nexus, you might want to start here.

Here’s an outline of this week’s newsletter:

  1. 📚 What I’m reading

  2. 💡 New from Nexus

  3. 🧐 New to me


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1. 📚 What I’m reading and watching


Making HVAC Systems Efficient – The Case for Widespread Adoption of ASHRAE Guideline 36—provides an overview of the HVAC control sequences defined in ASHRAE Guideline 36, explains the advantages of implementing the sequences using case studies, and looks at the Guideline’s current state and expected evolution.

The most important component to unlocking energy savings in a building, the automation programming languages (the programming customized to each building’s unique sequence of operations), are proprietary and often locked down. The industry thus creates a barrier to energy efficiency because there is no possible peer review, no standard approach, and no way to apply pressure to improve the code.

This also pairs well with my interviews with Matt Schwartz on how to fix the BAS industry, which start here. The authors also used auto analogies, which Matt will love…

A BAS can run in a building on average for 20 years before replacements are considered. Imagine being locked in like that when you buy a car - you can only get oil changes, light bulb replacements and service done by the dealership. Don’t like the price of their service? You have to buy a different car to have the option of going to another mechanic. That’s how the BAS industry currently works because there are no market pressures to open their systems and to standardize.


Other pertinent reads from just (a bit) outside the smart buildings industry:


Digital Twin, Virtual Manufacturing, and the Coming Diamond Age—The latest long read from ontologist extraordinaire Kurt Cagle on how digital twins are shaping the industries built on physical things.

This is in fact one of the primary dangers facing established players. Even today, many C-Suite managers see themselves in the automotive manufacturing space, or the aircraft production space, or the book publishing space. Yet ultimately, once you move to a stage where you have digital twins creating a proxy for the physical object, the actual instantiation - the manufacturing aspect - becomes very much a secondary concern.


healthOS—This topic might seem like it’s outside our scope, but explore with me for a minute! Just read through this description of Apple’s health app strategy and tell me if it sounds familiar…

On one hand, we’re seeing a proliferation of health sensors that will only continue to accelerate. Today we have connected mattresses tracking our sleep and connected watches tracking our heart rate. Tomorrow we could have the aforementioned connected toilet measuring our gut health.

On the other hand, we have a healthcare system that isn’t making use of any of this data and isn’t exposing any of the data they generate in any sort of structured or portable way.
Apple’s goal is to connect these dots by becoming a trusted broker that stands in the middle.

Sounds a lot like operating buildings, right? The question is, which buildings platform is the trusted broker? Which is going to start the flywheel of the two-sided marketplace?

This relationship creates a feedback loop: the more users Apple can get in their Health ecosystem, the more likely new healthcare companies are to partner with them. The more healthcare companies partner with them, the more compelling Apple’s health ecosystem becomes for users who aren’t on it. Growing each side of this marketplace deepens the trenches of Apple’s health data moat, and since this moat is so uniquely theirs, it’s become their biggest priority.


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2. 💡 New from NEXUS

3. 🧐 New to me

Even though the Nexus Vendor Landscape has over 100 vendors on it, I still learn about new companies/products to track every week.

Here is this week’s discovery:

Blueprint Power—NYC-based advanced supervisory control startup aimed at the grid-interactivity play.

OK, that’s all for this week—thanks for reading Nexus!


P.S. Early bird pricing (25% off) for the Nexus Foundations course Cohort #2 is available now and will run until midnight on 12/31/2020. I recommend signing up sometime before the end of the year to reserve your spot… we’re capping cohort 2 at 50 members.