5 min read

#61: The Digital Twin Conundrum

Plus: API strategy deep dive, my Realcomm article, a new podcast, and more
“If I’ve learned anything from the ten years of my love/hate relationship with smart buildings, it’s that many of the reasons these projects fail are actually quite avoidable. By reverse-engineering these failures perhaps we can better understand and avoid the obstacles in the first place.”

Top 5 Ways Smart Building Projects Fail

Good morning!

Welcome to Nexus, a newsletter, podcast, and membership community 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. 🤔  On my mind this week: a new free email series
  2. 💡 Insights: the digital twin as infrastructure, the BAS design process is too f*ing complicated, and an exciting investment in refrigerated retail
  3. Brand new stuff: A new podcast on the new era of energy efficiency
  4. 🧱  Foundations: Realcomm and Nexus partner on an article outlining the top 5 ways smart building projects fail
  5. 🌎  Diversions: APIs all the way down


1. 🤔 On my mind this week

My energy, excitement, and anticipation are gearing up for Cohort 2 of Nexus Foundations! Registration closes on February 17th… one week from tomorrow.

If you’re interested in the course, we’re providing a free email series on my approach to keeping up with the smart buildings industry, finding my unique role, and how I’ve designed the Foundations Course to help others do the same.

If you missed that, you can sign up here.

2. 💡 Insights

Only the best smart building resources we consumed this week…


The Impact of Digital Twins on Smart Buildings—Anto Budiardjo on how the digital twin is a central repository and once it starts getting viewed as an essential asset like a book of accounts is for a business, it will really take off.

As industries start to view the Digital Twin as a consistent category of information equivalent to what a book of accounts is to a business, it will become the natural way for professionals to manage the phase of a building they are involved in.
Padi Presentation Assets

I agree and think it also needs to be tied to the use cases that do humans’ jobs-to-be-done better and have an ROI. This really gets at what I’m calling the Digital Twin Conundrum (thanks Joe Aamidor): it is both essential infrastructure *and* it solves a specific problem for a specific human with a specific ROI. So where do you start?


Integrating a BAS into design—This is a good article on how mechanical design engineers can design a control system with key checkpoints. This is a fairly novel concept, as we’ve covered in our series on why the BAS industry is broken. Most engineers don’t actually design the BAS.

“Yet many times, engineers rely on building control system representatives or generic sequences of operation from master specification providers to cover the critical nature of system operation intent.”

While I enjoyed this article, I must admit I’m torn. Yes, designers need to take more ownership in the BAS process. But does it really need to be so complicated? If we threw the whole process out and started from scratch with new technology, what would change?


Ice Cream as a Thermal Battery: Why Powerhouse Ventures Invested in Axiom Cloud—I did some consulting work in the refrigerated retail analytics space last year and find it fascinating.

“For retail grocery stores in particular, this cost carries a major impact on their bottom line: refrigeration makes up 40-60% of energy costs in an industry where overall profit margins are less than 2%. Unplanned refrigeration downtime further impacts these slim margins.”

Refrigerated retail has large, engrained, and slow-moving incumbents with proprietary, lock-in-driven offerings and service-driven business models…

Sound familiar?

This installment of NEXUS is free for everyone. If you would like to get full access to all content, join the NEXUS Pro community. Members get exclusive access to the Nexus Vendor Landscape, monthly events, weekly-ish deep dives, and all past deep dives.

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3. Brand new stuff

Everything Nexus created this week…


PODCAST—🎧 #036: Josh Adams on digital twins and partnerships (and why we need both)

  • We talked about Josh's long history in the buildings industry, which provides a great jumping-off point for: how the big 4 can approach innovation, how startups can partner with these incumbents, how building service providers can digitize their offerings, and much more.
  • Then we took a bit of a deep dive, as we do, into digital twin software. I liked that part because it was grounded in actual use cases, which is a rare thing in the digital twin world.


VENDOR UPDATE—Even though the Nexus Vendor Landscape has 150+ vendors on it, I still learn about new companies/products to track every week. Here is this week’s discovery:

Iota Communications—IoT network provider with sensor and analytics offerings that can form a full stack

4. 🧱 Foundations

Bite-sized learnings for newcomers to the smart buildings industry courtesy of the Nexus Foundations course


One way to ensure success on your smart building projects is to reverse-engineer them to avoid the most common obstacles and rookie mistakes. I recently partnered with Realcomm on an article outlining the top 5 ways projects fail.

These mistakes (and the resulting pain!) are exactly what the Nexus Foundations course is designed to help avoid.

5. 🌎  Diversions

Technology resources from outside of the built environment. What might we apply in our industry?


APIs All the Way Down—Packy McCormick on what good strategy looks like on the internet and why most companies should just be API Frankensteins with one main point of differentiation.

“API” is one of those acronyms you hear a lot. You might know that it means Application Programming Interface, and you might even know that APIs are the way software talks to other software, but if you’re like me, you’ve never really gone deep on them.

There’s even a smart building use case if you read all the way to the end. Great to pair with the recent podcast episode with Brian Turner and an older one with Andrew Rodgers where we discussed the three parts of an open API.

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