5 min read

#68: Zapier for buildings, CBRS networks, electrical contractors’ role, and how to evaluate new technology

Plus: a new pod and the place to start with making a building smart
“This sector, you know, built world and building tech, I think really demands: yes, disrupt; but also respect certain things. And the respect is just fundamental motivations, like a lot of the financial dynamics.”

—Scott Ellison on the Nexus Podcast

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. 🤔  On my mind this week: Teaching smart buildings requires walking a very fine line
  2. 💡 Insights: CBRS networks, electrical contractors’ role in smart buildings, and the pitch deck used to raise $8M for analytics
  3. Brand new stuff: A new podcast, how to evaluate new tech, and more
  4. 🧱  Foundations: ask not how a building can be smart, but how is it currently dumb?
  5. 🌎  Diversions: Is there a Zapier for smart buildings?

If you missed last week’s edition, you can find it here.


1. 🤔 On my mind this week

We’re halfway through Cohort 2 of our Nexus Foundations course and we’re receiving great feedback so far. I’ve realized that teaching smart buildings requires tiptoeing a very fine line between exposing the reality of the status quo and not scaring newcomers away.

It’s embracing the fact that yes, things are messy, AND yes, we can do this if we’re strategic and we work together. 🙌

2. 💡 Insights

Only the best smart building resources we consumed this week…


NY real estate investor bets big on CBRS—Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which refers to 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz range, will soon be available to enterprises to potentially build their own 4G or 5G private wireless networks. In addition, CBRS is also expected to outperform Wi-Fi for in-building use.

"Buildings have always had a heart -- engine room, boiler room, that's where the pumps and fans and motors are. Now we’ve created a brain with Nantum. Now the question is: what's the CNS that goes out through the building, grabs data and feedback, and brings it back to the brain to make sense of it? In my humble opinion that’s what CBRS will be, because now you have ubiquitous, wireless broadband connectivity."

—Rudin Management Company’s John Gilbert


Smart buildings impact on electrical contractors—This is a great deep dive into smart buildings from the perspective of one of our major silos, electrical contractors. Our sparky friends are in an amazing position to knock down silos.

“Electrical contractors are at a tipping point to pursue more roles and opportunities in the growing market of smart buildings. The industry is going through the same hesitation as it did when ECs debated entering the low- voltage systems market in late 1990s.”

Today’s reality and vision:

“Lighting and HVAC have many overlapping features, such as zone occupancy sensors and schedules, front-end visualization software, tools for setup and configuration, Ethernet and fiber-optic cabling, and communication protocols. These similarities present an opportunity to remove duplications and minimize the number of devices required to accomplish the same goal; automation tasks can also be streamlined once the systems are live. All of this adds up to eliminated waste.


Similar observations can be made in other smart building systems, such as access control, closed-circuit TV, life safety, utility metering, and solar and energy storage. The importance of eliminating inefficiencies and minimizing waste in any building is no longer a value add. Today, it is a necessity for the long-term lifecycle management of any smart building.”



The pitch deck Clockworks Analytics used to raise $8 million—Great look at where one of the leading analytics providers is today and how they want to accelerate their growth.

If you haven’t read our whitepaper co-authored with Clockworks Analytics’ Dennis Krieger, check it out here.

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, a private chatroom, and all past deep dives.

Join NEXUS Pro

3. Brand new stuff

Everything Nexus created this week…


PODCAST—🎧 #043: Scott Ellison on smart building startups, mistakes to avoid, and why the time for innovation is now


DEEP DIVE—My (updated) framework for evaluating new smart building technology (Pro members only)

“This framework is incredible for understanding the difference between technologies.”


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:

Planon—Another big player with big traction in what I see as a convergence between “digital twins” and “integrated workplace management systems”.

4. 🧱 Foundations

Bite-sized learnings for newcomers to the smart buildings industry courtesy of the Nexus Foundations course. To be notified when we launch Cohort 3, join the waitlist here.


One of the best places to start when setting out to make a building “smart” is to first figure out how the building is currently dumb. This week’s most popular lesson was our detailed look at how the existing silos in a portfolio can be like landmines for smart building project teams.

5. 🌎  Diversions

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


Bringing It All Together: How Zapier Makes Your Productivity Apps Even More Productive—The state of the art today is a bunch of disconnected smart building software applications. How is this solved in other industries? One way is with tools like Zapier.

“Zapier looks to help users build their own personalized, code-less workflow automations, serving as a digital super glue to combine a variety of web and mobile apps.”

I use Zapier to make Nexus Labs more efficient.

Here’s the thing… I don’t know of many (any?) companies playing this role in the smart building space. If you are, I’d love to hear from you.

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