Podcast
min read
James Dice

🎧 #131: Google's BOS Program & Creating Software-Defined Buildings

December 15, 2022
“To really operate a building at scale, you need to be able to know what's happening across everything in that building at any one time and manage it in the same way you would a smartphone. Everything end to end in the building needs to be managed in a way that's much more IT-focused as opposed to OT. And so coming up with complete management of that is really important and that's where it leads onto software-defined buildings."

—Kathy Farrington

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Episode 131 is a conversation with Kathy Farrington, Digital Buildings Lead at Google.

Summary

This is the 4th episode in our Google series, which unpacks different facets of their global smart buildings program and dates back to 2020. This one with Kathy is probably where we should have started because as she shares, she was involved from the beginning when it was just a side project she focused on with her 20% time.

She tells the story of how it started, how it’s going, and where it’s headed. Finally, she introduces the concept of software-defined buildings and talks about progress building out the application layer. Fascinating progress here in my opinion.

Before we dive in, did you know the Nexus Pro community is now almost 500 members strong? As someone recently said on LinkedIn, this is the best insider's network anywhere, where you can meet the people on the ground making smart buildings a reality. You can find more information or join here.

Without further ado, please enjoy the Nexus podcast with Kathy Farrington.

🏢 A message from our sponsor, Smart Buildings Center 🏢

The Smart Buildings Center Education Program (SBCEP) is a 501c3 non-profit organization that believes the smarter use of technology and practices in the built environment, particularly as they relate to building operations and management, will enable a cleaner, healthier and more productive future. The SBCEP seeks to establish thought leadership for smart technologies and practices within the built environment, and pursues its objective through the following pillars of activity: delivering training programs to educate the building workforce of the future; enabling industry leading demonstration projects; and connecting the industry through hosting and participating in smart buildings events.

Check out their body of work on The Essential Role of Smarter Buildings in the Clean Energy Transition.

Mentions and Links

  1. Darrell Smith (9:31)
  2. 🎧 #056: Sabine Lam unpacks Google's Building Operating System (BOS) program (12:34)
  3. 🎧 #067: Trevor Pering on 3 ways Google is enabling Enterprise IoT (30:48)
  4. 🎧 #029: Google's plan for smart buildings at scale (44:16)

You can find Kathy on LinkedIn.

Enjoy!

Highlights

  • Kathy’s background (3:00)
  • Technology stacks (5:55)
  • Review and status of Google’s smart buildings program (8:06)
  • Overview of the portfolio (12:46)
  • SBC conference keynote - Kathy's main message to the industry (14:51)
  • History of the BOS concept (17:52)
  • Status of implementation (25:31)
  • Lessons learned in recent new buildings projects (26:56)
  • The device fleet management concept and software-defined buildings (30:23)
  • Update on the application layer (38:10)
  • Update on the ontology effort (44:09)
  • Carveouts (45:06)

📊 A message from our sponsor, Altura Associates 📊

​​Altura is a mid-sized, mission-driven firm delivering impact and performance across the built environment and they’re looking for the best in the industry to join their team. From designing and implementing corporate sustainability programs, to manipulating systems in the field to achieve performance, to building the tools that support project teams, Altura is committed to solving our world's macro-level problems through tangible projects today.

If you are interested in working alongside passionate colleagues to make a lasting impact, reach out at careers@alturaassociates.com.

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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!

I know many of you enjoy the virtual smart buildings exchange conference in August. The team behind that conference is the smart building center education program. Uh, 5 0 1 C3 non-profit organization that believes a smarter use of technology and practices in the built environment, particularly as they relate to billing, operations and management will enable a cleaner, healthier, and more productive future. The smart building center seeks to establish thought leadership for smart technologies and [00:01:00] practices within the built environment and pursues its objective through the following.

Pillars of activity first. They deliver a training programs to educate the building workforce, the future second, they enable industry leading demonstration projects, and finally they connect the industry through hosting and participating in events like the smart buildings exchange conference. So check out their body of work on the essential role of smarter buildings into clean energy transition at the link in the show notes. And when you get in touch, tell them nexus labs center.

[00:01:30] James Dice: This episode is a conversation with Kathy Farrington Digital Buildings lead at Google. This is the fourth episode in our Google series, which unpacks different facets of their global smart buildings program and dates back to 2020. This one with Kathy is probably where we should have started because as she shares, she was involved from the beginning when it was just a side project she focused on with her famous 20% time.

She tells the story of how it started, how it's going, and where it's. Finally, she introduces the concept of software defined [00:02:00] buildings and talks about progress building out application layer, which we haven't heard before on this podcast. Fascinating progress here, in my opinion. So before we dive in, did you know that the next pro community is now at almost 500 members strong.

As someone recently said on LinkedIn, this is the best insider's network anywhere where you can meet the people on the ground making smart buildings a reality. So check the link in the show notes to join. And without further ado, please enjoy the Nexus Podcast with Kathy Farrington.

Hello, Kathy. Welcome to the Nexus podcast. So excited to have you on. Finally, can you start by introducing yourself?

[00:02:37] Kathy Farrington: Sure. Thanks James. And, and thank you for inviting me. So Kathy Farrington, I lead the digital building, uh, team and boss program at.

[00:02:44] James Dice: Yeah. And this is our, I think this is our fourth podcast, uh, about Google. So I'm excited to continue the series. Maybe at the end we should like put these all together into like a four hour documentary on, on smart [00:03:00] buildings like Google. Can you, before we dive into Google, can you talk about your personal back.

[00:03:05] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, sure. So I started to did electrical engineering and went into building services. So started out by doing, uh, you know, electrical design and buildings, lighting switchboards and other things. Uh, but as is the way in consultancies, we also were doing a lot of I c t, uh, things, and one of my first projects was intelligent transport.

And as part of that, we had to design you know, cameras, variable message signs, induction loops and other things for roads. And there was, you know, tens of kilometers or tens of miles long. So you couldn't do that without doing integrated networks because you're not gonna install multiple networks that are that long.

So, I went and uh, did some Cisco courses to sort of understand networking a bit more because I didn't feel like I was capable of designing that with more knowledge or there was obviously others in the company. But I wanted to make sure I had the knowledge myself. So, so yes I did that and then continued with the electrical, but then also sort of focused on intelligent transport systems cuz that I found that more [00:04:00] interesting.

And so I did roads traffic lights. Uh, and then moved into a little bit of rail. Moved into ports and so spent a couple years doing some fully automated ports in Brisbane and Sydney in Australia. And then, uh, we decided to move to the uk and I got a job leading a very small, uh, team that looked after sort of, uh, I c t, so networking, audio, visual security, and smart buildings.

And as part of that, I started getting more and more into smart buildings. And we did like smart data centers, smart shopping centers and. . Yeah. So it kind of just led onto, yeah, more and more on integrated networks, more into smart buildings, working with the controls teams and others to sort of understand what that meant and how it worked.

And then, uh, while I was presenting at a conference in Brazil and I got an email from a Google recruiter saying, Hey, would you be interested in a job at Google? And I remember I forwarded on my husband and I was like, Is this spam? Like why is somebody emailing me like this? Because I had never even thought [00:05:00] Google did real estate or smart buildings or networking.

and yeah, it was, it was real. And so I ended up in the net networking team at Google. And we did more infrastructure for buildings, so, deploying networks in buildings, the IDF rooms or comms rooms, uh, you know, what we needed to do, the cabling, everything, the infrastructure, cooling, mechanical, electrical, et cetera.

And yeah, one of the first things I realized when. Uh, within the first sort of six to nine months at Google is Google didn't have a global smart building strategy, and so sort of, yeah, started the boss program and moved slowly, more and more scaling up the program. And then last year moved into the real estate side of Google.

[00:05:41] James Dice: Amazing. So I actually didn't know, I mean, I knew your background in electrical engineering. I knew your sort of expertise in networking, but I didn't know about all of the transport and port experience. Can you talk about the differences in the sort of technology stacks and maybe the, the [00:06:00] industry, like what's different between buildings, real estate and you know, You know, traffic or import.

[00:06:09] Kathy Farrington: Yeah. So I mean, I can comment on what I did, but it was, uh, a while ago now, uh, since I haven't done it. 10, at least 10 years. But yeah, I think the main difference was yeah, they. Integration was sort of foundational then, uh, it was never a question on whether you'd have multiple networks. It just had to be a single network for things like security and other things because of distance and other things.

The, uh, there were, we did have multiple networks in the ports. For things like automation and, and other things for, you know, very good reasons. Similar to, you know, buildings. Sometimes there's very good reasons to have multiple networks, but, but generally that was key. Um, Ring networks are much more popular so, you know, rather than, you know, hub and spoke or um, so that was, that was interesting because you know, most it world very much frown on, uh, a ring network because one failure can take off quite a lot, but.[00:07:00]

But yeah, so, so yeah, that was, that was, uh, interesting. And then I think, you know what, their focus on their standards are all very different. And, uh, and it's, particularly in Australia, they, they had quite in, you know, where I was working, they had quite. Uh, strict standards already written around this space, which I think is quite interesting cuz it, that doesn't exist in commercial buildings still, I guess cuz commercial buildings generally aren't government run or, or other things.

But it was just really interesting to, to start from a place where you could then innovate. Whereas in commercial it's sort of still very fluid between different companies.

[00:07:34] James Dice: Hmm. Yeah. And, and what do you mean by standards in place in that, in that context.

[00:07:40] Kathy Farrington: Well, there would be like you know, this is how often you'd need cameras, and this is how often you'd need variable message signs or in traffic lights. This is how you would set up the traffic lights. This is how, you know, different configurations might be, or so yeah, so there was, there was a lot already built and written to quite a lot of detail, which wouldn't necessarily exist, uh, in, in [00:08:00] commercial buildings, except maybe in specific c.

[00:08:02] James Dice: Nice. Yeah. Yeah, totally. Uh, okay, let's jump into to Google. So you, you got hired at a, at a conference in Brazil. How, how many years ago was that?

[00:08:15] Kathy Farrington: So seven and a half years been at

Google.

[00:08:17] James Dice: Okay. And, and you kind of stood up the, the smart building strategy, for lack of a better term. I guess that's my term. I don't know what you guys call it, uh, internally, but can you talk about kind of the, an overview of that strategy?

What were the sort of business outcomes that you started with?

[00:08:33] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, so, so I was on the networking side. So, so as I said, one of the things we realized very quickly is that there wasn't a global strategy in place. And so from our side, we were getting requests from individual building about individual iot devices wanting to connect to the network. And inherently these devices don't connect very well, which meant there was a lot of issues that you couldn't scale.

And the. [00:09:00] The IT side is very much more standardized, very much more, uh, we wanna automate everything. We want things to be common and, you know, uh, global. And so it was kind of like two worlds colliding, but nobody had really put anything in place to, to come up with something. So, so I definitely started it from the, this is what we need from a, a networking perspective.

But what we did was, So when I first, uh, so I went across to the us met with sort of the leaders in, in my team, kind of got buy in on this concept. And Darrell Smith had just started from Microsoft in the facilities team There. In the US And so I met him, I think on his second day and like bombarded him with, Hey, we need to come up with a global strategy around smart buildings, are you interested, sort of thing.

And and obviously there was other people like Sabine who and others who were all working on different parts of the, the problem. And so the first thing I did was just write a charter and basically said, Hey, this is what everybody's told me that's happening at Google, whether it's in individual region, [00:10:00] individual company, individual parts of Google, et cetera.

We need to come up with a strategy. And that's where the sort of horizontal architecture kind of was first presented in that we need to look at this holistically. We then, at this point there was no sort of business outcomes. It was more like architecture and we had a workshop with all these key people and, uh, together cuz it was, you know, skill sets and people from all different backgrounds, all different parts of Google coming up with a, a plan.

And we came up with a straw man. This is what we want to deliver. All worked on it in sort of 20% time. So Google has like 20% projects and we all worked on it, not as our day job, but as a, like a, let's get this worked out. We managed to get a concept design put together across all the teams, and once the concept design was in place, we had another workshop and then that led.

Proof of concept where we were able to get more resources and with like a very focused, very narrow use case, which we were trying to solve, which was just like ticketing, you know, getting data into a ticket system, sort of from a device straight into a ticket. Very [00:11:00] simple, very basic, but used all end to end of the stack.

And that was successful and that really just kicked off the, okay, we actually need full-time resources. We need to focus on this. And we obviously did it slowly as far as. more use cases infrastructure and, and looking at individual buildings. Trialing it. Piloting it before we, we scaled it out, but that's sort of how it started.

As far as the, the business use cases, they've changed a lot over the, the sort of six years since boss started. And that was kind of core to why we designed it the way we did is that we knew stakeholders would change and if we didn't build the flexibility in from the start, it was always gonna constantly change and we'd probably never.

Deliver sort of the outcomes and a lot of the stakeholders have changed and moved a lot of the people who've asked for the business outcomes, COVID changed and reprioritized things, and we've managed to adapt to all of that because the infrastructure's.

[00:11:53] James Dice: Absolutely, and that's, that's a underappreciated. You know, value of the, [00:12:00] uh, value proposition of the horizontal architecture itself. And I don't, I don't think enough people talk about that as like, you know, you might not know what you're gonna be doing tomorrow. And I think we've seen that over the past two years, especially what you mentioned with c Yeah, I think that's happened with a bunch of different organiz.

You know, as soon as a, an organization sets a really aggressive carbon target, you have another reason to maybe shift your focus as well. And so I, I think the horizontal architecture is just a perfect way to set things up to allow that flexibility. You mentioned Sabine Lamb. For those of you that haven't listened to that episode, we'll put that link in the show notes.

You can go back. We, we talked about a lot of these same themes, uh, just from a different angle in the organization. So can you give us a reminder, you know, we've done this overview with Sabine, we talked about Google in the past, or just a reminder of what types of buildings, just an overview of, of the portfolio itself.

[00:12:57] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, sure. So, so Google [00:13:00] has sort of hundreds of buildings across the world in lots of different countries. We have everything from owned infrastructure to, uh, fully landlord run infrastructure and everything in between. Some of which. Landlord runs, some of which we, we run. The variety of the buildings is, is vast.

Because a lot of them we've, you know, you get what you get when you get a lease or you get um, we bought a building, uh, we've got. Lots of different manufacturers, lots of different types of devices. And the other thing that's, uh, quite fun, I guess at Google is that we also have things like fitness and health and food and and a lot of, uh, fun spaces as well.

And all of those have their own systems and their own unique challenges in them.

[00:13:40] James Dice: Absolutely. And when you say scalable, when you say, when you started with and just started looking at operational technology and you said, this isn't scalable. , uh, that's, that's what you mean by scalable is as many buildings, many countries, many regions, many different consultants and service providers and [00:14:00] contractors all over the world.

And if I try to like repeat back what I've learned from you, talking to you and listening to you over the years, it's you, when you're trying to enable these business outcomes, you need to be able to enable them in all these different settings, in all these different buildings. Is that sort of the focus of, of your guys'?

Okay,

[00:14:19] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, exactly. So, you know, uh, uh, Specific team in a specific country may have you know, a unique, uh, cuz you know, Google's such a wide alphabet, such a wide company. We have lots of different companies in them. So we might have a very focused engineering team that wants a very specific experience in one building.

And then in another building we might have a sales team who wants a completely different experience. And so the way the workspaces, you know, Google does all the workspaces uniquely and, and that means a lot of systems and other background infrastructure can sometimes also be unique.

[00:14:49] James Dice: Totally. Totally. So speaking of hearing, you speak a lot, and I know you, you talk a lot, you have a lot of keynote, a lot of, a lot of presentations at conferences. Uh, I haven't seen you for [00:15:00] like six months though, so like what's the, the main message you've been, you've been trying to get out to the industry in, in 2022?

[00:15:06] Kathy Farrington: I think it's um, similar message to, to I guess what we've, we've always been saying, which is obviously build the flexibility and and that also we all have to do this together. Like, you know, the, the key thing that everybody always talks about is the silos. But solving the silos doesn't mean one company comes up with a strategy to turn things horizontal.

Everybody needs to work together to, to, to solve this. So we need open standards, we need standards across companies. We need people to, uh, to. Yeah, go past business models and say if we want a digital building or a software defined building or, or whatever, we need to be in a completely different state in five years.

And so that's really the main message that when you're looking at scale, when you're looking at hundreds of buildings and hundreds of countries, you can't. Be bespoke to a single manufacturer because it's, there's just not one manufacturer who's gonna do everything from fitness to [00:16:00] food, to heating, you know, to, uh, lighting, et cetera.

In all those countries and all those spaces.

[00:16:06] James Dice: Brilliant. Yeah, I, I, I had a similar message at the conferences that I spoke at this year. So, I spoke at Greenbuild and I, it was the, I was talking to the green buildings folks about what it means to transition to a horizontal architecture, basically saying all of the outcomes you want. Over the next decade, green building folks, it would be really good if you, if you just decided that this is how you're gonna do it right now.

And I had a IOT sensor company come up to me afterwards and they were like, well, how do we fit? And I think that's a great question for everyone to ask. How do, given that future vision that we're promoting, how do I fit into that, that vision? And for them it was you. value of your data versus the value of needing to have this full vertical stack that you sell your customers.

Right? So I think everyone needs to be sort of asking [00:17:00] themselves that question. In this new world of horizontal, how do, how do you fit? What do you think about that?

[00:17:05] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, I think we're very well aligned. And that's very much why we focused a lot on like device functional standards, security standards and how, you know, we interface or interact with those devices as opposed to, it must be the specific device from the specific manufacturer or. And, and yeah, so the new companies that come up with new sensors on, on how they fit in, and, and I think the, exactly what you said about the sharing the data and you know, the, the one thing I've always said is customer needs to own the data in, uh, in these sensors.

And if if that's not the case it makes it very difficult for a company like Google to to wanna scale with with them because it's our space and our.

[00:17:45] James Dice: Totally, totally. Okay. So this program's, like you said, like six years old, then can you give a sort of an overview of maybe walking from the device up what is it, right. Can you give an overview of, of what a BOS [00:18:00] is, what is a horizontal architecture? And kind of talk through each, each of the different.

[00:18:04] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, sure. What I would say though is, is boss and, and maybe programs are more, boss is a portfolio on how we deliver digital buildings at Google. So there's a boss technical architecture, but there's also bosses used as the term to cover the whole portfolio. So that's everything we need to do as far as policy.

Uh, and standards, it's everything we need to do as far as technical products solutions. And then it's also processes, transformation, actual installation of that. And then finally the outcome on, on how we work with the, you know, operations team to actually deliver that. And that's across all organizations and all aspects.

So it you know, facilities and, uh, real estate as well as, you know, cybersecurity, networking, et cetera. So it's. So as far as boss, that's, uh, kind of the, the breadth as far as the technical architecture itself. As I said, we uh, try to, at the device layer, we've tried to be clearer more about functionality and [00:19:00] standards, and this is how we want it to, to function.

So, you know, naming and like physical naming. Talk about ontology later, but physical naming and how we wanna, uh, you know, what are the different types of devices? Uh, what are the alarms and what, what are we interested in in each of those devices? How should we connect those devices to cloud, et cetera.

And in particular, cybersecurity. So a lot of we've released, uh, like partner with Google iot security standards which is a, a link on I, uh, we've done, you know, dark, which. Trevor and Sine both mentioned, which is our open source qualification tool. So really about like how do we pick the right device.

And then the next layer is connectivity. And so that's our networking layer. So as I said, that's where sort of where I started and, and we started the program is we need, nothing works unless we have a way of connecting all these buildings. So, so really. What does that mean? Moving up the stack is then the data platform.

And so that's everything from ingesting the data to how we organize the data, the ontology spatial. So understanding [00:20:00] how the space is used and what that means and then, uh, being able to output that data in a way that can be made sense of. And then the application layer. Uh, and one thing I would say is, you know, one of our big drivers.

we wanna use third parties for all the, you know, the hardware is pretty much all parties, most of the applications are also all third parties. And it's, it's really about just making sure, as I said, you know, we have control over the standards and what we are doing and what the data is and, and less about the the, you know, ownership of the silly end to.

Yeah.

[00:20:31] James Dice: Got it. Got it. Very cool. So your last six years have been not just defining those layers, but also like you said, building out this portfolio of the program. Right. Policies and standards, processes, change management, all these different teams that are sort of coming together interfacing between people that don't have people in your team on them, but other teams that sort of are, are affected by.

What would, what would you say to people that are sort of just starting down that [00:21:00] journey of sort of creating that program from, from scratch?

[00:21:03] Kathy Farrington: I think the, one of the problems we've constantly struggled is it's, has been bottom up. And that has, that is, is great in the sense in that, you know, we've able to drive change which is, which is exciting. But getting, uh, you know, Cross VP buy-in at an earlier date, I think would've been a lot more useful.

We, we had individual VP buy-in, but they wouldn't necessarily, you know, meet and, and align with each other. So I think, yeah, being able to get senior leadership cross org buy-in would've accelerated things.

[00:21:32] James Dice: and

for you that would be it. Facilities. Real

[00:21:37] Kathy Farrington: Uh, so, so it for us is split into like networking you know, system administration development cuz we, we do internal and, and working with Excel development. Then also cybersecurity. So sort of all those different teams. Uh, and then, yeah, in the real estate side it's also the, uh, we. The workplace services or the, the team that actually operates and, and manages the buildings.

We [00:22:00] have the team who build the buildings, and then we have other teams who sort of support that. And we have, you know, food program and health and fitness and all these other teams. So essentially all of those stakeholders have to be involved for us to be successful at the end. And over time we've learned more and more people and more and more teams and more and more impact and.

It's, it's exciting in that, you know, things grow and the vision gets more um, input, but it is harder unless you've got that alignment between organizations. So yeah, definitely definitely say that. I think, you know, the other key is you know, starting with clear business outcomes, at least for, you know, the first initial buildings.

Uh, and then the last thing I'd say, The, you know, every company has this balance between security and business. And I think being clear on how much of each you wanna solve from the beginning is really important because you could build an entire program and just focus on the cybersecurity part and, and do all of that.

Or you could do a whole program on the business outcomes. But if you don't do [00:23:00] both, you're not gonna be success.

[00:23:01] James Dice: Mm-hmm. . Okay. And you're saying there's a, there's a balance there. You need to strike between the two.

[00:23:06] Kathy Farrington: Yeah. I mean, if you're not gonna, there's sort of little point in having the sensors in the building and the equipment in the building that's super secure if nobody can actually use it to, to do anything. But in the same token, if you are, you are scaling globally, unless it's hit cybersecurity policy, your IT team's not gonna be interested.

So,

[00:23:24] James Dice: Got it. Got it.

Altura associates is a midsize mission-driven firm, delivering impact and performance across the built environment in north America. And they're looking for the best in the industry to join their team from designing and implementing corporate sustainability programs to manipulating systems in the field to achieve optimized performance, to building the tools that support those project teams.

Altera is committed to solving our world's macro level problems through tangible projects today. If you're interested in working alongside passionate colleagues to [00:24:00] make a lasting impact, reach at careersatalteraassociates.com. That's careers@alturaassociates.com.

[00:24:10] James Dice: So six years. What, what I like to tell our students who take our foundation course, the. They're not gonna set this up in a day, first of all. Right? Right. You're not gonna take our six week course and at the end of that, be like, have everything that you've just taken six years to produce.

But we like to, we do like to say, like you just said, you, you need, do need to go find the people that are responsible for every piece of the business that's gonna be affected here. So that's such a great piece of advice to. Uh, probably higher in most cases in the organization to try to get, get buy in because you really, you're, you're changing things.

You're changing how everybody's doing things and without sort of buy-in at the top, you might get a little bit of traction, but you're not gonna get a long-term progress like you've made.

[00:24:58] Kathy Farrington: Yeah. [00:25:00] And, and actually one more piece of advice I just is also Taylor it to the audience. I think one of the things that took us a while is when you're talking across all those different organiz. The, the senior leaders wanna see completely different things. Like, you know, what the IT team are motivated about is very different to what your real estate team, which is different again, to what your networking team and others are, are motivated for.

And understanding those leaders, what they wanna see and what their objectives would be, really helps by get the buy-in.

[00:25:30] James Dice: Amazing. Amazing. So where are you at in terms of sort of rolling this architecture out? Is it in every building worldwide? Is it in all new buildings? How, how, where are you guys at with it?

[00:25:42] Kathy Farrington: So the answer is it depends. Um, So everything you know, over the six years what we are trying to deliver is not just something that's static. It's constantly changing. And so initially within all areas of the stack, but also all parts. Those areas of the stack we needed an MVP and something that actually enables the end to end.

[00:26:00] So what we are delivering, uh, is MVP in most cases, but we have some that have more advanced. So, you know, it might be on a slightly more standards or future version of standards and, and we wanna constantly evolve that as well. So it's never gonna be, I think it's everywhere. It's gonna be, it's everywhere in its MVP state.

And then we need to enroll the next one and the next one. . So, yeah, so, so just on that the, as far where we are, so all our new construction doing it, so all our new buildings are following this and, and it's, it's part of that, uh, that doesn't mean all our new buildings are gonna be smart, it just means they all have the infrastructure in it and at least meet our compliance standards.

and some of them are, are ready to be part of the, the smart E. When when they're connected and, uh, as far as the existing buildings we're, we're kicking off a program, well, it's been going for the last couple years, but the at scale part should start next year as far as working on our existing buildings.

[00:26:54] James Dice: Got it. Got it. And On the projects that you've done this on. So besides sort [00:27:00] of managing up, right, finding the leadership support, what are some of the lessons learned? You, you've, that, that have popped up on projects where you've sort of rolled this out on, on an MVP level?

There's

probably a lot of 'em, but maybe there's a top three list or something like that.

[00:27:15] Kathy Farrington: yeah. So I think the, the key thing we learned early, uh, more just our pilots, is just that we needed to remove the complexity within construction. And that's part of the reason we, we came up with Smart Ready in the first place is. The amount, if you deliver a lot of software, particularly if it's development with under, underneath the, you know, general contractor, it's very difficult to be successful because of the rigidity of construction.

And so, so trying to reduce the complexity so you're not adding extra complexity to a very complex process already. And, and, and that I think, Continuously evolving for us. We're still learning on how can we actually simplify it and, and do more later or after the building or automatically or whatever, as opposed to having to, to build it into the, the construction [00:28:00] itself.

I think another big

one is,

[00:28:01] James Dice: like the minimal things that you would expect out of the construction process. Uh, in order to enable what you're trying to set up later, and maybe when you guys take control of the building, you're actually setting up most of the infrastructure.

[00:28:14] Kathy Farrington: Exactly. And, and that's the constant balance that we're trying to, to work out. And, and I'd say that changes quite a lot. And we're, you know, we're still constantly challenging it and saying, can we make this easier? Can we simplify? So, so yes, that's always been hard. And I think especially some of the initial ones we did a lot of. End to end delivery delivered applications that weren't ever utilized to their full capacity. And I think, I'm sure all companies have that as a, as a lessons learned. But when you're delivering something for an individual building but operating at a global scale, it, it doesn't really work out. So, so yes, that was one um, skill sets is a, is a big one for us.

So because we're doing. Across so many different countries and so many different markets, the skill sets don't exist in all places. And then people [00:29:00] try and deliver it from another country. And, and even then it doesn't necessarily scale cause there's unique requirements to specific countries. And then, you know, even then, We hit capacity when you're looking at that many projects.

So, so skill sets and, and how we solve that, which is, you know, some of the training that nexus Labs is doing and other things can really help, I think, because the faster we can get more people into the market, the the better. Uh, and then the last one really was just sort of a, a more dry for standardization.

So I think we, we wanted to keep it completely open. Initially other, and obviously you had to hit this bar, but if you hit that bar that was, that was fine. I think the more we've deployed, the more we realized that it's still not. O operationally the same. So over time even if they've hit the same bar initially, that doesn't mean they are able to be operated as easily.

And so being able to standardize, not necessarily to one, but you know, a handful of companies that you can work with would really help the [00:30:00] operational side. Especially when you start looking at fleet management and software defined buildings and, and sort of continuously pushing the, the trend.

And so if. Constantly pushing changes on what we want. If we're trying to do that with hundreds of manufacturers, it obviously is a lot of work for us as well as them.

[00:30:16] James Dice: Yeah. And you're talking about mostly around different devices that are coming onto your networks, right? In that case. Okay.

[00:30:22] Kathy Farrington: exactly.

[00:30:23] James Dice: So since you mentioned fleet management and software defined buildings, these are the, the two concepts that last time you and I spoke in person. Those are the things that you were sort of excited about right now.

I, I'd love to hear, just dig into those a little bit. So let's start with like, what is, what is fleet management, uh, from your perspective?

[00:30:43] Kathy Farrington: Well, yeah, so the, I, I kind of group them together and we're kind of looking at them together. But really uh, and Trevor sort of touched on this as far as the pieces that are necessary to enable this to happen in, in his podcast. But really to be able to operate a building at scale, you need to be able to.

[00:31:00] Know what's happening across everything in that building. At any one time, no, uh, update that, manage it in the same way. You would, your phone. So the number of, you know, messages you get to update your applications, the number of times you have to update, you know, Android or your iPhone or, or other things.

How many times are you doing that in your building? And and that. each manufacturer, each, uh, you know, device, each software, each piece of software, everything end to end in the building needs to be managed in a way that's much more IT focused as opposed to as opposed to ot. And then also understanding the life cycle of those.

So a lot of times we do like plant replacement or life cycle management in buildings, and it's all focused on the electrical, mechanical systems, but actually the controls parts of those are go end of life before the other systems. Have a shorter life cycle are out of support for things like security vulnerabilities or patches or other things.

And so coming up with a, a complete management of that is really important. And really that's where [00:32:00] it leads onto is software defined buildings is the way that you know, some of us feel the future is, is we should be able. rezone a space without having to manually reconfigure every single device with a unique engineering tool.

We should be able to do that in one piece of software and push it to all the other systems and they just sort of configure themselves. So you can have a, a model. Of the building, call it digital twin or whatever else you want, but it's actually understanding down to manufacture and firmware and being able to actually push those changes into the firmware, update the software, do everything sort of like you would in a software defined network or, or other things.

So you're really understanding how can we drive that flexibility. And Google's doing a lot of that with the actual workplace itself. So a couple years ago we released the jack rooms, which are these rooms you can kind of build and move around in the building. But then the system side of that takes so long that it isn't actually more complicated.

So we need to try and catch up. But you know, if we're [00:33:00] trying to make physical walls more flexible, why can't we also make the systems more?

[00:33:05] James Dice: Totally, totally. There's so much here. I don't, I don't know where to start. , what are sort of the steps you see in transforming. kind of the way things are done now. Cuz this is a, we talked about all the different horizontal layers of the stack that you guys are trying to build. Well, there's those same horizontal layers inside of each device stack, devices stack, right.

As well. And a lot of times you're talking about defining standards for how those layers are done. Is that It sounds. How, how do you foresee sort of like the industry or maybe just in in your guys' buildings, what are the steps to getting to that point?

[00:33:44] Kathy Farrington: So it's a, it's a lot, definitely a long road. And as I said, it's all of us you know, we all have to say, this is where we want to go. We all have to work together. Together. So I don't think it's something that, You know, it's, it's at least 10 years I think, of planning and changing and, and how we do things.

Um, So the, [00:34:00] the goals behind Udm I were, were this, so initially, you know, it was just MQTT and how we structure and how you connect the device to cloud.

Then it looked at right back.

[00:34:08] James Dice: talked about.

[00:34:09] Kathy Farrington: exactly. But the kind of plan and why it's called universal device Management Interface, is it supposed to be a way that you can actually manage that device remotely?

So sort of understanding how you can. Do that across manufacturers. And there are, you know, at the moment, most manufacturers use proprietary ways of updating their devices. Some manufacturers are starting to use some more open source ones. And again, it's just kind of coming up with, is there a. You know, a place store for buildings or, you know, something that everybody agrees to is a way that we can interface with this equipment.

And so the manufacturers still own the update. They still own the d, you know, the device themselves. It doesn't change their business model, it's just how you interface that. So an enterprise can actually manage that. Choose when the updates are rolled out, choose the flexibility that they wanna build in between manufacturers.

[00:34:58] James Dice: Yeah. Yeah. I think [00:35:00] maybe one of the ways in which we could provide a little bit more context here is describing how it's done today. So like you mentioned, changing around zones in a building. Can you, can you talk about what's required that you're trying to change and, and avoid moving forward?

[00:35:16] Kathy Farrington: Yeah. So, um, so in the sort of, Today, and obviously it depends on the, the building and what's in it, but you would typically have to reprogram the individual devices and put it into a new zone. You'd have to, you know, change the ontology. You'd have to understand the new zones and how that all maps. And you'd have to do that in each individual system.

So you'd have to do it in lighting, in the BMS system, you might have to do an energy metering system, blind control, et cetera. And each individual one would need reprogramming, new floor plans, new maps, new zones if you were to do that. And a lot of them also, Bespoke engineering tools if you're actually like reconfiguring some of the devices themselves.

So being able to take, even just that one example, if you moved like two rooms, you'd still have to do all of that. If you simplified that, you could, [00:36:00] as I said, you could just draw it on a map and say, these are the new zones. Push it out and it should just auto program across all those manufacturers.

If everybody's bought into you the open standards and the, the interface way of doing it as I said, it's still a long way off and uh, it's just a concept really that we wanna work with others on. If, if others agree.

[00:36:17] James Dice: Yeah, yeah, totally. I think the thing I would add there is sometimes that you would even need to do a site visit, or those individual service providers that represent each product itself would need to do a site visit. So for you guys, With, you know, worldwide presence, it's even more difficult, right? It's not always, it's not always available for you, even if you wanted to change it from the cloud.

[00:36:41] Kathy Farrington: Yeah.

[00:36:42] James Dice: That's, so, that's such an exciting topic. I, I hope to hear more about that as you guys, as you guys make progress. What's, what's sort of the next step with that, sort of, that 10 year march?

[00:36:54] Kathy Farrington: so, so the boss program itself has kind of three main areas and So we [00:37:00] talked about sort of business outcomes and the objectives and, you know, what do we wanna achieve as a real estate business and what do we wanna optimize or reduce or, or, you know, plan for the future or, or other things.

There's cybersecurity, which you also mentioned. So there's goals we wanna do that are specifically around cybersecurity, nothing to do with the other two. And then the third pillar is this manageability and how do we get to a place where we're able to manage all the infrastructure? in a way that is global and scalable and more akin to like an it system.

So that is mostly r and d stuff at the moment. Although we are doing things on the more manual side of things, you know, so we, you know, obviously know our assets and other things like that. But, uh, to actually get to that next step, it's, it's more around r and d, like next phase is at U D I and we ran a workshop a couple years ago with manufacturers to ask them their input cuz.

It's probably not gonna come from us, right? It's probably gonna come from them and what this needs to look like. And so we ran an r and d workshop with them, which was, which was great. But yeah, just with sort of refocusing and [00:38:00] prioritization, we're still very much need to achieve the business and the cybersecurity side.

So the manageability is gonna be the longer road of things.

[00:38:08] James Dice: mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , definitely. All right, so let's talk about, so there's two pieces that we've talked about in previous podcasts, just cuz we kind of wind, wind down here. One is the application layer. So in in past podcasts we've talked about. A lot of the work and a lot of the work that we've talked about so far here has been more about infrastructure enabling applications or enabling the application layer.

You mentioned something I hadn't heard before, which is the way that you guys are thinking about the application layers around third party applications. So do you have an update on kind of how you're thinking about that layer and sort of what sort of applications that you're hoping to enable and scale up?

[00:38:49] Kathy Farrington: Yeah. So, so what we've done a couple of times now is sort of engagement to understand the business outcomes. As I said, they've sort of changed multiple times. So I'll just talk about the most recent one which is, you know, [00:39:00] we, we hired an external consultant, worked with one of my colleagues to, who led it to, to basically build what our business objectives are.

So that was interview of sort of a. Stakeholders across all those teams that I mentioned to understand what are the business reasons for doing this. So, you know, around carbon or sustainability or future of work and hybrid work and you know, as well as, you know, health and performance and, and other things.

So sort of just looking end to end. What do we want to do? Use that to create user needs and requirements. Group those into business cases, prioritize those business cases through sort of a bottom up. And then uh, what we've done sort of since then is looked at sort of top down, gone to understand, you know, how does this align with, you know, higher level objectives as well as complexity and speed.

So trying to understand. How can we get this fast and to different places? So that's sort of where we're at as far as prioritization. And we've done that, as I said, sort of three or four times now. But this was the most formal. So the last two were the most formal and, and also most global. [00:40:00] Uh, the, we're still at the case where we have applications, but they run a region.

Or a building. We don't have, uh, applications that are everywhere yet because of all of those teams that sort of need to agree to be able to get it, we need to get sign off on a lot of different places, a lot of different buildings on, on that way. Whereas the infrastructure's slightly easier on that cuz it doesn't, uh, necessarily change sort of the output.

But, So, yeah, so that's sort of where we're at. So we're, we're doing proof of concepts that would be able to scale everywhere and, uh, based on those prioritized outcomes, trying to get as many of our sort of, I think we've got nine P zeros now, which we wanna deliver. Trying to get as many of those into the proof of concepts.

All of them have been tested somewhere before, pretty much with um, but we haven't necessarily looked. Globally and people that could, could be supported and, and yeah, as I said, you know, it is third parties we're looking to use it is third parties we're looking to leverage for the application layer in the, in the layer, unless there's something that doesn't [00:41:00] exist.

So it is, uh, and, and so there are, you know, multiple manufacturers we've worked with are working with.

[00:41:05] James Dice: Nice, nice. And this is what you just described, that, that sort of stakeholder engagement, use case development, business case development, that's as you know, kind of what we teach in our, our foundations course. One of the questions that we get asked a lot is how do you then, you go through all this work, you engage all these stakeholders, you come up with all these ways, technology might help you have, you know, many, many use cases.

And the question is, how do I then prioritize them? So how did you guys prioritize? I'd imagine there are, you guys are Google, there's many, many ideas for how, how technology might help. How did you get to like a top 10?

[00:41:40] Kathy Farrington: So it was um, not that complex. In that we, uh, got all the stakeholders to basically what, once we got the output and sort of how it all fitted together. Came up with sort of a, a long list of use cases, got people to just vote on prioritizing. So, but then the, the next part, as I said is the harder part is then mapping [00:42:00] it to top down.

So the, the bottom up or, you know, sort of understanding everyone's needs and then trying to understand, okay, how does this. Go to a, a top down vision. That's been the harder part. And then I think the last is complexity. Cause often the thing that people want the most is actually the most complex.

And. So being able to also communicate roadmaps, so saying, well, that's what you want, but that's gonna take this time, but actually we can give you this, which gets you, you know, 25% of the way there. And it'll be much faster. I think, you know, that's also part of the, the stakeholder communication. I think I internally did a presentation on this, and I feel like a lot of my role is marketing and sales of everything, like being able to present it in the right.

For the right stakeholders so they understand why we are doing things is is kind of key on all of.

[00:42:48] James Dice: Yeah. Yeah. It's one of those skills that you, you need kind of, wherever you're at in a leadership position, you're trying to create change. And so selling people on, on how to create change is important. [00:43:00] So, with those top prioritized applications, can you share, just like generally what type of applications they are?

Are they. , are they controls related? Are they fault detection, diagnostics related? Are they carbon related, workplace enablement related?

[00:43:14] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, so, so there's obviously the ones that we need in buildings anyway, so we still need, you know, building management and lining control and the systems that are still gonna need to be there to, to manage buildings. So we obviously need those and that, that will things. I think the other ones are things like asset management so being able to.

Fits into what I was saying with, that's obviously incredibly important for anything that we want to do on in the future. And then, yeah, there's, there's ones around the sustainability and helping to enable the 2030 goals both around what energy we're using and then how do we. What do we do and optimize that?

Uh, uh, there's obviously things around operations and what their focus are. And then there's goals around, yeah, future and understanding hybrid work and, and what that means. So basically in all cases, but what we've done is got a very narrow mvp which we're [00:44:00] delivering first end to end. Uh, and then as I said, the sort of roadmap of, okay, this is what we can do now.

This is what we can give you in six months. This is what we can give you in 12 months.

[00:44:09] James Dice: Beautiful. Beautiful. Okay. The other area I was looking for an update around was we had. Trevor and Keith on the podcast two years ago, which is crazy. December of 2020, talking about the, uh, digital buildings ontology. Uh, can you provide sort of an update on, on where that effort's at?

[00:44:29] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, so I think at the moment it's in sort of just scaling the, the number of devices sort of getting lessons cuz we're using it on some of our construction projects. Getting the lessons learned from a lot of different comp companies that are using it now, feeding that in, making sure it's adapted, adding things.

I think initially it was pretty much just HVAC getting, you know, energy and lighting and other things in there. So that's sort of where where it's at at the moment.

[00:44:52] James Dice: Great. Great. Yeah, and, and we'll put, we've mentioned three different podcasts now in the past. So there was Trevor Paring Trevor and [00:45:00] Keith, and then there's Sabine. Uh, so we'll, we'll put all those links in the show notes for people to sort of do a deep dive on, on Google and all the lessons they can learn from you guys.

Let's close out with some, some carve outs, Kathy. So what are some books or podcasts or other media that that's had a major impact on you? Lately it.

[00:45:18] Kathy Farrington: I think for me most of the major impact I get is from word of mouth or people I've met. So, so I constantly, uh, you know, get updates and I read when people post things on LinkedIn. with the sort of focus. We've had internally and I've also got a young daughter. haven't had as much time as I would normally like to, to do that.

But thankfully, you know, the, the Boss program and sort of everyone in it is, are all amazing people who are amazingly up to date with everything that's going on. And so we regularly share emails or chats or whatever around something new or something that's updated and that could be. Anyone from, you know, a newspaper to a podcast that you watch or to a, a new link or something someone's shared.

And that's [00:46:00] probably the way that I get or stay up to date on, on everything that's been happening. And then of course, conferences like IV Con and, you know, the, but again, word of mouth is where I, I think I still hear the most, you know, chatting and meeting it and using it for networking, finding out what other companies are doing.

And then you get great ideas.

[00:46:19] James Dice: Absolutely. Yeah. It's crazy that it's a free, free tool. . Uh, well thanks so much for coming on the show. I'm glad to finally, uh, get you on here. It's been a long time coming. Thanks for so, so much for your, your leadership for the industry.

[00:46:34] Kathy Farrington: no thank you for, uh, inviting me on and as I said yeah, it's, it's been a really exciting journey with lots of really interesting, exciting people who are all fantastic at what they do. So it's, uh, it's been really.

[00:46:46] James Dice: Awesome. All right. See you next time.

[00:46:48] Kathy Farrington: Thanks, bye.

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“To really operate a building at scale, you need to be able to know what's happening across everything in that building at any one time and manage it in the same way you would a smartphone. Everything end to end in the building needs to be managed in a way that's much more IT-focused as opposed to OT. And so coming up with complete management of that is really important and that's where it leads onto software-defined buildings."

—Kathy Farrington

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

The Nexus podcast (Apple | Spotify | YouTube | Other apps) is our chance to explore and learn with the brightest in our industry—together. The project is directly funded by listeners like you who have joined the Nexus Pro membership community.

You can join Nexus Pro to get a weekly-ish deep dive, access to the Nexus Vendor Landscape, and invites to exclusive events with a community of smart buildings nerds.

Episode 131 is a conversation with Kathy Farrington, Digital Buildings Lead at Google.

Summary

This is the 4th episode in our Google series, which unpacks different facets of their global smart buildings program and dates back to 2020. This one with Kathy is probably where we should have started because as she shares, she was involved from the beginning when it was just a side project she focused on with her 20% time.

She tells the story of how it started, how it’s going, and where it’s headed. Finally, she introduces the concept of software-defined buildings and talks about progress building out the application layer. Fascinating progress here in my opinion.

Before we dive in, did you know the Nexus Pro community is now almost 500 members strong? As someone recently said on LinkedIn, this is the best insider's network anywhere, where you can meet the people on the ground making smart buildings a reality. You can find more information or join here.

Without further ado, please enjoy the Nexus podcast with Kathy Farrington.

🏢 A message from our sponsor, Smart Buildings Center 🏢

The Smart Buildings Center Education Program (SBCEP) is a 501c3 non-profit organization that believes the smarter use of technology and practices in the built environment, particularly as they relate to building operations and management, will enable a cleaner, healthier and more productive future. The SBCEP seeks to establish thought leadership for smart technologies and practices within the built environment, and pursues its objective through the following pillars of activity: delivering training programs to educate the building workforce of the future; enabling industry leading demonstration projects; and connecting the industry through hosting and participating in smart buildings events.

Check out their body of work on The Essential Role of Smarter Buildings in the Clean Energy Transition.

Mentions and Links

  1. Darrell Smith (9:31)
  2. 🎧 #056: Sabine Lam unpacks Google's Building Operating System (BOS) program (12:34)
  3. 🎧 #067: Trevor Pering on 3 ways Google is enabling Enterprise IoT (30:48)
  4. 🎧 #029: Google's plan for smart buildings at scale (44:16)

You can find Kathy on LinkedIn.

Enjoy!

Highlights

  • Kathy’s background (3:00)
  • Technology stacks (5:55)
  • Review and status of Google’s smart buildings program (8:06)
  • Overview of the portfolio (12:46)
  • SBC conference keynote - Kathy's main message to the industry (14:51)
  • History of the BOS concept (17:52)
  • Status of implementation (25:31)
  • Lessons learned in recent new buildings projects (26:56)
  • The device fleet management concept and software-defined buildings (30:23)
  • Update on the application layer (38:10)
  • Update on the ontology effort (44:09)
  • Carveouts (45:06)

📊 A message from our sponsor, Altura Associates 📊

​​Altura is a mid-sized, mission-driven firm delivering impact and performance across the built environment and they’re looking for the best in the industry to join their team. From designing and implementing corporate sustainability programs, to manipulating systems in the field to achieve performance, to building the tools that support project teams, Altura is committed to solving our world's macro-level problems through tangible projects today.

If you are interested in working alongside passionate colleagues to make a lasting impact, reach out at careers@alturaassociates.com.

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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!

I know many of you enjoy the virtual smart buildings exchange conference in August. The team behind that conference is the smart building center education program. Uh, 5 0 1 C3 non-profit organization that believes a smarter use of technology and practices in the built environment, particularly as they relate to billing, operations and management will enable a cleaner, healthier, and more productive future. The smart building center seeks to establish thought leadership for smart technologies and [00:01:00] practices within the built environment and pursues its objective through the following.

Pillars of activity first. They deliver a training programs to educate the building workforce, the future second, they enable industry leading demonstration projects, and finally they connect the industry through hosting and participating in events like the smart buildings exchange conference. So check out their body of work on the essential role of smarter buildings into clean energy transition at the link in the show notes. And when you get in touch, tell them nexus labs center.

[00:01:30] James Dice: This episode is a conversation with Kathy Farrington Digital Buildings lead at Google. This is the fourth episode in our Google series, which unpacks different facets of their global smart buildings program and dates back to 2020. This one with Kathy is probably where we should have started because as she shares, she was involved from the beginning when it was just a side project she focused on with her famous 20% time.

She tells the story of how it started, how it's going, and where it's. Finally, she introduces the concept of software defined [00:02:00] buildings and talks about progress building out application layer, which we haven't heard before on this podcast. Fascinating progress here, in my opinion. So before we dive in, did you know that the next pro community is now at almost 500 members strong.

As someone recently said on LinkedIn, this is the best insider's network anywhere where you can meet the people on the ground making smart buildings a reality. So check the link in the show notes to join. And without further ado, please enjoy the Nexus Podcast with Kathy Farrington.

Hello, Kathy. Welcome to the Nexus podcast. So excited to have you on. Finally, can you start by introducing yourself?

[00:02:37] Kathy Farrington: Sure. Thanks James. And, and thank you for inviting me. So Kathy Farrington, I lead the digital building, uh, team and boss program at.

[00:02:44] James Dice: Yeah. And this is our, I think this is our fourth podcast, uh, about Google. So I'm excited to continue the series. Maybe at the end we should like put these all together into like a four hour documentary on, on smart [00:03:00] buildings like Google. Can you, before we dive into Google, can you talk about your personal back.

[00:03:05] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, sure. So I started to did electrical engineering and went into building services. So started out by doing, uh, you know, electrical design and buildings, lighting switchboards and other things. Uh, but as is the way in consultancies, we also were doing a lot of I c t, uh, things, and one of my first projects was intelligent transport.

And as part of that, we had to design you know, cameras, variable message signs, induction loops and other things for roads. And there was, you know, tens of kilometers or tens of miles long. So you couldn't do that without doing integrated networks because you're not gonna install multiple networks that are that long.

So, I went and uh, did some Cisco courses to sort of understand networking a bit more because I didn't feel like I was capable of designing that with more knowledge or there was obviously others in the company. But I wanted to make sure I had the knowledge myself. So, so yes I did that and then continued with the electrical, but then also sort of focused on intelligent transport systems cuz that I found that more [00:04:00] interesting.

And so I did roads traffic lights. Uh, and then moved into a little bit of rail. Moved into ports and so spent a couple years doing some fully automated ports in Brisbane and Sydney in Australia. And then, uh, we decided to move to the uk and I got a job leading a very small, uh, team that looked after sort of, uh, I c t, so networking, audio, visual security, and smart buildings.

And as part of that, I started getting more and more into smart buildings. And we did like smart data centers, smart shopping centers and. . Yeah. So it kind of just led onto, yeah, more and more on integrated networks, more into smart buildings, working with the controls teams and others to sort of understand what that meant and how it worked.

And then, uh, while I was presenting at a conference in Brazil and I got an email from a Google recruiter saying, Hey, would you be interested in a job at Google? And I remember I forwarded on my husband and I was like, Is this spam? Like why is somebody emailing me like this? Because I had never even thought [00:05:00] Google did real estate or smart buildings or networking.

and yeah, it was, it was real. And so I ended up in the net networking team at Google. And we did more infrastructure for buildings, so, deploying networks in buildings, the IDF rooms or comms rooms, uh, you know, what we needed to do, the cabling, everything, the infrastructure, cooling, mechanical, electrical, et cetera.

And yeah, one of the first things I realized when. Uh, within the first sort of six to nine months at Google is Google didn't have a global smart building strategy, and so sort of, yeah, started the boss program and moved slowly, more and more scaling up the program. And then last year moved into the real estate side of Google.

[00:05:41] James Dice: Amazing. So I actually didn't know, I mean, I knew your background in electrical engineering. I knew your sort of expertise in networking, but I didn't know about all of the transport and port experience. Can you talk about the differences in the sort of technology stacks and maybe the, the [00:06:00] industry, like what's different between buildings, real estate and you know, You know, traffic or import.

[00:06:09] Kathy Farrington: Yeah. So I mean, I can comment on what I did, but it was, uh, a while ago now, uh, since I haven't done it. 10, at least 10 years. But yeah, I think the main difference was yeah, they. Integration was sort of foundational then, uh, it was never a question on whether you'd have multiple networks. It just had to be a single network for things like security and other things because of distance and other things.

The, uh, there were, we did have multiple networks in the ports. For things like automation and, and other things for, you know, very good reasons. Similar to, you know, buildings. Sometimes there's very good reasons to have multiple networks, but, but generally that was key. Um, Ring networks are much more popular so, you know, rather than, you know, hub and spoke or um, so that was, that was interesting because you know, most it world very much frown on, uh, a ring network because one failure can take off quite a lot, but.[00:07:00]

But yeah, so, so yeah, that was, that was, uh, interesting. And then I think, you know what, their focus on their standards are all very different. And, uh, and it's, particularly in Australia, they, they had quite in, you know, where I was working, they had quite. Uh, strict standards already written around this space, which I think is quite interesting cuz it, that doesn't exist in commercial buildings still, I guess cuz commercial buildings generally aren't government run or, or other things.

But it was just really interesting to, to start from a place where you could then innovate. Whereas in commercial it's sort of still very fluid between different companies.

[00:07:34] James Dice: Hmm. Yeah. And, and what do you mean by standards in place in that, in that context.

[00:07:40] Kathy Farrington: Well, there would be like you know, this is how often you'd need cameras, and this is how often you'd need variable message signs or in traffic lights. This is how you would set up the traffic lights. This is how, you know, different configurations might be, or so yeah, so there was, there was a lot already built and written to quite a lot of detail, which wouldn't necessarily exist, uh, in, in [00:08:00] commercial buildings, except maybe in specific c.

[00:08:02] James Dice: Nice. Yeah. Yeah, totally. Uh, okay, let's jump into to Google. So you, you got hired at a, at a conference in Brazil. How, how many years ago was that?

[00:08:15] Kathy Farrington: So seven and a half years been at

Google.

[00:08:17] James Dice: Okay. And, and you kind of stood up the, the smart building strategy, for lack of a better term. I guess that's my term. I don't know what you guys call it, uh, internally, but can you talk about kind of the, an overview of that strategy?

What were the sort of business outcomes that you started with?

[00:08:33] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, so, so I was on the networking side. So, so as I said, one of the things we realized very quickly is that there wasn't a global strategy in place. And so from our side, we were getting requests from individual building about individual iot devices wanting to connect to the network. And inherently these devices don't connect very well, which meant there was a lot of issues that you couldn't scale.

And the. [00:09:00] The IT side is very much more standardized, very much more, uh, we wanna automate everything. We want things to be common and, you know, uh, global. And so it was kind of like two worlds colliding, but nobody had really put anything in place to, to come up with something. So, so I definitely started it from the, this is what we need from a, a networking perspective.

But what we did was, So when I first, uh, so I went across to the us met with sort of the leaders in, in my team, kind of got buy in on this concept. And Darrell Smith had just started from Microsoft in the facilities team There. In the US And so I met him, I think on his second day and like bombarded him with, Hey, we need to come up with a global strategy around smart buildings, are you interested, sort of thing.

And and obviously there was other people like Sabine who and others who were all working on different parts of the, the problem. And so the first thing I did was just write a charter and basically said, Hey, this is what everybody's told me that's happening at Google, whether it's in individual region, [00:10:00] individual company, individual parts of Google, et cetera.

We need to come up with a strategy. And that's where the sort of horizontal architecture kind of was first presented in that we need to look at this holistically. We then, at this point there was no sort of business outcomes. It was more like architecture and we had a workshop with all these key people and, uh, together cuz it was, you know, skill sets and people from all different backgrounds, all different parts of Google coming up with a, a plan.

And we came up with a straw man. This is what we want to deliver. All worked on it in sort of 20% time. So Google has like 20% projects and we all worked on it, not as our day job, but as a, like a, let's get this worked out. We managed to get a concept design put together across all the teams, and once the concept design was in place, we had another workshop and then that led.

Proof of concept where we were able to get more resources and with like a very focused, very narrow use case, which we were trying to solve, which was just like ticketing, you know, getting data into a ticket system, sort of from a device straight into a ticket. Very [00:11:00] simple, very basic, but used all end to end of the stack.

And that was successful and that really just kicked off the, okay, we actually need full-time resources. We need to focus on this. And we obviously did it slowly as far as. more use cases infrastructure and, and looking at individual buildings. Trialing it. Piloting it before we, we scaled it out, but that's sort of how it started.

As far as the, the business use cases, they've changed a lot over the, the sort of six years since boss started. And that was kind of core to why we designed it the way we did is that we knew stakeholders would change and if we didn't build the flexibility in from the start, it was always gonna constantly change and we'd probably never.

Deliver sort of the outcomes and a lot of the stakeholders have changed and moved a lot of the people who've asked for the business outcomes, COVID changed and reprioritized things, and we've managed to adapt to all of that because the infrastructure's.

[00:11:53] James Dice: Absolutely, and that's, that's a underappreciated. You know, value of the, [00:12:00] uh, value proposition of the horizontal architecture itself. And I don't, I don't think enough people talk about that as like, you know, you might not know what you're gonna be doing tomorrow. And I think we've seen that over the past two years, especially what you mentioned with c Yeah, I think that's happened with a bunch of different organiz.

You know, as soon as a, an organization sets a really aggressive carbon target, you have another reason to maybe shift your focus as well. And so I, I think the horizontal architecture is just a perfect way to set things up to allow that flexibility. You mentioned Sabine Lamb. For those of you that haven't listened to that episode, we'll put that link in the show notes.

You can go back. We, we talked about a lot of these same themes, uh, just from a different angle in the organization. So can you give us a reminder, you know, we've done this overview with Sabine, we talked about Google in the past, or just a reminder of what types of buildings, just an overview of, of the portfolio itself.

[00:12:57] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, sure. So, so Google [00:13:00] has sort of hundreds of buildings across the world in lots of different countries. We have everything from owned infrastructure to, uh, fully landlord run infrastructure and everything in between. Some of which. Landlord runs, some of which we, we run. The variety of the buildings is, is vast.

Because a lot of them we've, you know, you get what you get when you get a lease or you get um, we bought a building, uh, we've got. Lots of different manufacturers, lots of different types of devices. And the other thing that's, uh, quite fun, I guess at Google is that we also have things like fitness and health and food and and a lot of, uh, fun spaces as well.

And all of those have their own systems and their own unique challenges in them.

[00:13:40] James Dice: Absolutely. And when you say scalable, when you say, when you started with and just started looking at operational technology and you said, this isn't scalable. , uh, that's, that's what you mean by scalable is as many buildings, many countries, many regions, many different consultants and service providers and [00:14:00] contractors all over the world.

And if I try to like repeat back what I've learned from you, talking to you and listening to you over the years, it's you, when you're trying to enable these business outcomes, you need to be able to enable them in all these different settings, in all these different buildings. Is that sort of the focus of, of your guys'?

Okay,

[00:14:19] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, exactly. So, you know, uh, uh, Specific team in a specific country may have you know, a unique, uh, cuz you know, Google's such a wide alphabet, such a wide company. We have lots of different companies in them. So we might have a very focused engineering team that wants a very specific experience in one building.

And then in another building we might have a sales team who wants a completely different experience. And so the way the workspaces, you know, Google does all the workspaces uniquely and, and that means a lot of systems and other background infrastructure can sometimes also be unique.

[00:14:49] James Dice: Totally. Totally. So speaking of hearing, you speak a lot, and I know you, you talk a lot, you have a lot of keynote, a lot of, a lot of presentations at conferences. Uh, I haven't seen you for [00:15:00] like six months though, so like what's the, the main message you've been, you've been trying to get out to the industry in, in 2022?

[00:15:06] Kathy Farrington: I think it's um, similar message to, to I guess what we've, we've always been saying, which is obviously build the flexibility and and that also we all have to do this together. Like, you know, the, the key thing that everybody always talks about is the silos. But solving the silos doesn't mean one company comes up with a strategy to turn things horizontal.

Everybody needs to work together to, to, to solve this. So we need open standards, we need standards across companies. We need people to, uh, to. Yeah, go past business models and say if we want a digital building or a software defined building or, or whatever, we need to be in a completely different state in five years.

And so that's really the main message that when you're looking at scale, when you're looking at hundreds of buildings and hundreds of countries, you can't. Be bespoke to a single manufacturer because it's, there's just not one manufacturer who's gonna do everything from fitness to [00:16:00] food, to heating, you know, to, uh, lighting, et cetera.

In all those countries and all those spaces.

[00:16:06] James Dice: Brilliant. Yeah, I, I, I had a similar message at the conferences that I spoke at this year. So, I spoke at Greenbuild and I, it was the, I was talking to the green buildings folks about what it means to transition to a horizontal architecture, basically saying all of the outcomes you want. Over the next decade, green building folks, it would be really good if you, if you just decided that this is how you're gonna do it right now.

And I had a IOT sensor company come up to me afterwards and they were like, well, how do we fit? And I think that's a great question for everyone to ask. How do, given that future vision that we're promoting, how do I fit into that, that vision? And for them it was you. value of your data versus the value of needing to have this full vertical stack that you sell your customers.

Right? So I think everyone needs to be sort of asking [00:17:00] themselves that question. In this new world of horizontal, how do, how do you fit? What do you think about that?

[00:17:05] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, I think we're very well aligned. And that's very much why we focused a lot on like device functional standards, security standards and how, you know, we interface or interact with those devices as opposed to, it must be the specific device from the specific manufacturer or. And, and yeah, so the new companies that come up with new sensors on, on how they fit in, and, and I think the, exactly what you said about the sharing the data and you know, the, the one thing I've always said is customer needs to own the data in, uh, in these sensors.

And if if that's not the case it makes it very difficult for a company like Google to to wanna scale with with them because it's our space and our.

[00:17:45] James Dice: Totally, totally. Okay. So this program's, like you said, like six years old, then can you give a sort of an overview of maybe walking from the device up what is it, right. Can you give an overview of, of what a BOS [00:18:00] is, what is a horizontal architecture? And kind of talk through each, each of the different.

[00:18:04] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, sure. What I would say though is, is boss and, and maybe programs are more, boss is a portfolio on how we deliver digital buildings at Google. So there's a boss technical architecture, but there's also bosses used as the term to cover the whole portfolio. So that's everything we need to do as far as policy.

Uh, and standards, it's everything we need to do as far as technical products solutions. And then it's also processes, transformation, actual installation of that. And then finally the outcome on, on how we work with the, you know, operations team to actually deliver that. And that's across all organizations and all aspects.

So it you know, facilities and, uh, real estate as well as, you know, cybersecurity, networking, et cetera. So it's. So as far as boss, that's, uh, kind of the, the breadth as far as the technical architecture itself. As I said, we uh, try to, at the device layer, we've tried to be clearer more about functionality and [00:19:00] standards, and this is how we want it to, to function.

So, you know, naming and like physical naming. Talk about ontology later, but physical naming and how we wanna, uh, you know, what are the different types of devices? Uh, what are the alarms and what, what are we interested in in each of those devices? How should we connect those devices to cloud, et cetera.

And in particular, cybersecurity. So a lot of we've released, uh, like partner with Google iot security standards which is a, a link on I, uh, we've done, you know, dark, which. Trevor and Sine both mentioned, which is our open source qualification tool. So really about like how do we pick the right device.

And then the next layer is connectivity. And so that's our networking layer. So as I said, that's where sort of where I started and, and we started the program is we need, nothing works unless we have a way of connecting all these buildings. So, so really. What does that mean? Moving up the stack is then the data platform.

And so that's everything from ingesting the data to how we organize the data, the ontology spatial. So understanding [00:20:00] how the space is used and what that means and then, uh, being able to output that data in a way that can be made sense of. And then the application layer. Uh, and one thing I would say is, you know, one of our big drivers.

we wanna use third parties for all the, you know, the hardware is pretty much all parties, most of the applications are also all third parties. And it's, it's really about just making sure, as I said, you know, we have control over the standards and what we are doing and what the data is and, and less about the the, you know, ownership of the silly end to.

Yeah.

[00:20:31] James Dice: Got it. Got it. Very cool. So your last six years have been not just defining those layers, but also like you said, building out this portfolio of the program. Right. Policies and standards, processes, change management, all these different teams that are sort of coming together interfacing between people that don't have people in your team on them, but other teams that sort of are, are affected by.

What would, what would you say to people that are sort of just starting down that [00:21:00] journey of sort of creating that program from, from scratch?

[00:21:03] Kathy Farrington: I think the, one of the problems we've constantly struggled is it's, has been bottom up. And that has, that is, is great in the sense in that, you know, we've able to drive change which is, which is exciting. But getting, uh, you know, Cross VP buy-in at an earlier date, I think would've been a lot more useful.

We, we had individual VP buy-in, but they wouldn't necessarily, you know, meet and, and align with each other. So I think, yeah, being able to get senior leadership cross org buy-in would've accelerated things.

[00:21:32] James Dice: and

for you that would be it. Facilities. Real

[00:21:37] Kathy Farrington: Uh, so, so it for us is split into like networking you know, system administration development cuz we, we do internal and, and working with Excel development. Then also cybersecurity. So sort of all those different teams. Uh, and then, yeah, in the real estate side it's also the, uh, we. The workplace services or the, the team that actually operates and, and manages the buildings.

We [00:22:00] have the team who build the buildings, and then we have other teams who sort of support that. And we have, you know, food program and health and fitness and all these other teams. So essentially all of those stakeholders have to be involved for us to be successful at the end. And over time we've learned more and more people and more and more teams and more and more impact and.

It's, it's exciting in that, you know, things grow and the vision gets more um, input, but it is harder unless you've got that alignment between organizations. So yeah, definitely definitely say that. I think, you know, the other key is you know, starting with clear business outcomes, at least for, you know, the first initial buildings.

Uh, and then the last thing I'd say, The, you know, every company has this balance between security and business. And I think being clear on how much of each you wanna solve from the beginning is really important because you could build an entire program and just focus on the cybersecurity part and, and do all of that.

Or you could do a whole program on the business outcomes. But if you don't do [00:23:00] both, you're not gonna be success.

[00:23:01] James Dice: Mm-hmm. . Okay. And you're saying there's a, there's a balance there. You need to strike between the two.

[00:23:06] Kathy Farrington: Yeah. I mean, if you're not gonna, there's sort of little point in having the sensors in the building and the equipment in the building that's super secure if nobody can actually use it to, to do anything. But in the same token, if you are, you are scaling globally, unless it's hit cybersecurity policy, your IT team's not gonna be interested.

So,

[00:23:24] James Dice: Got it. Got it.

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[00:24:10] James Dice: So six years. What, what I like to tell our students who take our foundation course, the. They're not gonna set this up in a day, first of all. Right? Right. You're not gonna take our six week course and at the end of that, be like, have everything that you've just taken six years to produce.

But we like to, we do like to say, like you just said, you, you need, do need to go find the people that are responsible for every piece of the business that's gonna be affected here. So that's such a great piece of advice to. Uh, probably higher in most cases in the organization to try to get, get buy in because you really, you're, you're changing things.

You're changing how everybody's doing things and without sort of buy-in at the top, you might get a little bit of traction, but you're not gonna get a long-term progress like you've made.

[00:24:58] Kathy Farrington: Yeah. [00:25:00] And, and actually one more piece of advice I just is also Taylor it to the audience. I think one of the things that took us a while is when you're talking across all those different organiz. The, the senior leaders wanna see completely different things. Like, you know, what the IT team are motivated about is very different to what your real estate team, which is different again, to what your networking team and others are, are motivated for.

And understanding those leaders, what they wanna see and what their objectives would be, really helps by get the buy-in.

[00:25:30] James Dice: Amazing. Amazing. So where are you at in terms of sort of rolling this architecture out? Is it in every building worldwide? Is it in all new buildings? How, how, where are you guys at with it?

[00:25:42] Kathy Farrington: So the answer is it depends. Um, So everything you know, over the six years what we are trying to deliver is not just something that's static. It's constantly changing. And so initially within all areas of the stack, but also all parts. Those areas of the stack we needed an MVP and something that actually enables the end to end.

[00:26:00] So what we are delivering, uh, is MVP in most cases, but we have some that have more advanced. So, you know, it might be on a slightly more standards or future version of standards and, and we wanna constantly evolve that as well. So it's never gonna be, I think it's everywhere. It's gonna be, it's everywhere in its MVP state.

And then we need to enroll the next one and the next one. . So, yeah, so, so just on that the, as far where we are, so all our new construction doing it, so all our new buildings are following this and, and it's, it's part of that, uh, that doesn't mean all our new buildings are gonna be smart, it just means they all have the infrastructure in it and at least meet our compliance standards.

and some of them are, are ready to be part of the, the smart E. When when they're connected and, uh, as far as the existing buildings we're, we're kicking off a program, well, it's been going for the last couple years, but the at scale part should start next year as far as working on our existing buildings.

[00:26:54] James Dice: Got it. Got it. And On the projects that you've done this on. So besides sort [00:27:00] of managing up, right, finding the leadership support, what are some of the lessons learned? You, you've, that, that have popped up on projects where you've sort of rolled this out on, on an MVP level?

There's

probably a lot of 'em, but maybe there's a top three list or something like that.

[00:27:15] Kathy Farrington: yeah. So I think the, the key thing we learned early, uh, more just our pilots, is just that we needed to remove the complexity within construction. And that's part of the reason we, we came up with Smart Ready in the first place is. The amount, if you deliver a lot of software, particularly if it's development with under, underneath the, you know, general contractor, it's very difficult to be successful because of the rigidity of construction.

And so, so trying to reduce the complexity so you're not adding extra complexity to a very complex process already. And, and, and that I think, Continuously evolving for us. We're still learning on how can we actually simplify it and, and do more later or after the building or automatically or whatever, as opposed to having to, to build it into the, the construction [00:28:00] itself.

I think another big

one is,

[00:28:01] James Dice: like the minimal things that you would expect out of the construction process. Uh, in order to enable what you're trying to set up later, and maybe when you guys take control of the building, you're actually setting up most of the infrastructure.

[00:28:14] Kathy Farrington: Exactly. And, and that's the constant balance that we're trying to, to work out. And, and I'd say that changes quite a lot. And we're, you know, we're still constantly challenging it and saying, can we make this easier? Can we simplify? So, so yes, that's always been hard. And I think especially some of the initial ones we did a lot of. End to end delivery delivered applications that weren't ever utilized to their full capacity. And I think, I'm sure all companies have that as a, as a lessons learned. But when you're delivering something for an individual building but operating at a global scale, it, it doesn't really work out. So, so yes, that was one um, skill sets is a, is a big one for us.

So because we're doing. Across so many different countries and so many different markets, the skill sets don't exist in all places. And then people [00:29:00] try and deliver it from another country. And, and even then it doesn't necessarily scale cause there's unique requirements to specific countries. And then, you know, even then, We hit capacity when you're looking at that many projects.

So, so skill sets and, and how we solve that, which is, you know, some of the training that nexus Labs is doing and other things can really help, I think, because the faster we can get more people into the market, the the better. Uh, and then the last one really was just sort of a, a more dry for standardization.

So I think we, we wanted to keep it completely open. Initially other, and obviously you had to hit this bar, but if you hit that bar that was, that was fine. I think the more we've deployed, the more we realized that it's still not. O operationally the same. So over time even if they've hit the same bar initially, that doesn't mean they are able to be operated as easily.

And so being able to standardize, not necessarily to one, but you know, a handful of companies that you can work with would really help the [00:30:00] operational side. Especially when you start looking at fleet management and software defined buildings and, and sort of continuously pushing the, the trend.

And so if. Constantly pushing changes on what we want. If we're trying to do that with hundreds of manufacturers, it obviously is a lot of work for us as well as them.

[00:30:16] James Dice: Yeah. And you're talking about mostly around different devices that are coming onto your networks, right? In that case. Okay.

[00:30:22] Kathy Farrington: exactly.

[00:30:23] James Dice: So since you mentioned fleet management and software defined buildings, these are the, the two concepts that last time you and I spoke in person. Those are the things that you were sort of excited about right now.

I, I'd love to hear, just dig into those a little bit. So let's start with like, what is, what is fleet management, uh, from your perspective?

[00:30:43] Kathy Farrington: Well, yeah, so the, I, I kind of group them together and we're kind of looking at them together. But really uh, and Trevor sort of touched on this as far as the pieces that are necessary to enable this to happen in, in his podcast. But really to be able to operate a building at scale, you need to be able to.

[00:31:00] Know what's happening across everything in that building. At any one time, no, uh, update that, manage it in the same way. You would, your phone. So the number of, you know, messages you get to update your applications, the number of times you have to update, you know, Android or your iPhone or, or other things.

How many times are you doing that in your building? And and that. each manufacturer, each, uh, you know, device, each software, each piece of software, everything end to end in the building needs to be managed in a way that's much more IT focused as opposed to as opposed to ot. And then also understanding the life cycle of those.

So a lot of times we do like plant replacement or life cycle management in buildings, and it's all focused on the electrical, mechanical systems, but actually the controls parts of those are go end of life before the other systems. Have a shorter life cycle are out of support for things like security vulnerabilities or patches or other things.

And so coming up with a, a complete management of that is really important. And really that's where [00:32:00] it leads onto is software defined buildings is the way that you know, some of us feel the future is, is we should be able. rezone a space without having to manually reconfigure every single device with a unique engineering tool.

We should be able to do that in one piece of software and push it to all the other systems and they just sort of configure themselves. So you can have a, a model. Of the building, call it digital twin or whatever else you want, but it's actually understanding down to manufacture and firmware and being able to actually push those changes into the firmware, update the software, do everything sort of like you would in a software defined network or, or other things.

So you're really understanding how can we drive that flexibility. And Google's doing a lot of that with the actual workplace itself. So a couple years ago we released the jack rooms, which are these rooms you can kind of build and move around in the building. But then the system side of that takes so long that it isn't actually more complicated.

So we need to try and catch up. But you know, if we're [00:33:00] trying to make physical walls more flexible, why can't we also make the systems more?

[00:33:05] James Dice: Totally, totally. There's so much here. I don't, I don't know where to start. , what are sort of the steps you see in transforming. kind of the way things are done now. Cuz this is a, we talked about all the different horizontal layers of the stack that you guys are trying to build. Well, there's those same horizontal layers inside of each device stack, devices stack, right.

As well. And a lot of times you're talking about defining standards for how those layers are done. Is that It sounds. How, how do you foresee sort of like the industry or maybe just in in your guys' buildings, what are the steps to getting to that point?

[00:33:44] Kathy Farrington: So it's a, it's a lot, definitely a long road. And as I said, it's all of us you know, we all have to say, this is where we want to go. We all have to work together. Together. So I don't think it's something that, You know, it's, it's at least 10 years I think, of planning and changing and, and how we do things.

Um, So the, [00:34:00] the goals behind Udm I were, were this, so initially, you know, it was just MQTT and how we structure and how you connect the device to cloud.

Then it looked at right back.

[00:34:08] James Dice: talked about.

[00:34:09] Kathy Farrington: exactly. But the kind of plan and why it's called universal device Management Interface, is it supposed to be a way that you can actually manage that device remotely?

So sort of understanding how you can. Do that across manufacturers. And there are, you know, at the moment, most manufacturers use proprietary ways of updating their devices. Some manufacturers are starting to use some more open source ones. And again, it's just kind of coming up with, is there a. You know, a place store for buildings or, you know, something that everybody agrees to is a way that we can interface with this equipment.

And so the manufacturers still own the update. They still own the d, you know, the device themselves. It doesn't change their business model, it's just how you interface that. So an enterprise can actually manage that. Choose when the updates are rolled out, choose the flexibility that they wanna build in between manufacturers.

[00:34:58] James Dice: Yeah. Yeah. I think [00:35:00] maybe one of the ways in which we could provide a little bit more context here is describing how it's done today. So like you mentioned, changing around zones in a building. Can you, can you talk about what's required that you're trying to change and, and avoid moving forward?

[00:35:16] Kathy Farrington: Yeah. So, um, so in the sort of, Today, and obviously it depends on the, the building and what's in it, but you would typically have to reprogram the individual devices and put it into a new zone. You'd have to, you know, change the ontology. You'd have to understand the new zones and how that all maps. And you'd have to do that in each individual system.

So you'd have to do it in lighting, in the BMS system, you might have to do an energy metering system, blind control, et cetera. And each individual one would need reprogramming, new floor plans, new maps, new zones if you were to do that. And a lot of them also, Bespoke engineering tools if you're actually like reconfiguring some of the devices themselves.

So being able to take, even just that one example, if you moved like two rooms, you'd still have to do all of that. If you simplified that, you could, [00:36:00] as I said, you could just draw it on a map and say, these are the new zones. Push it out and it should just auto program across all those manufacturers.

If everybody's bought into you the open standards and the, the interface way of doing it as I said, it's still a long way off and uh, it's just a concept really that we wanna work with others on. If, if others agree.

[00:36:17] James Dice: Yeah, yeah, totally. I think the thing I would add there is sometimes that you would even need to do a site visit, or those individual service providers that represent each product itself would need to do a site visit. So for you guys, With, you know, worldwide presence, it's even more difficult, right? It's not always, it's not always available for you, even if you wanted to change it from the cloud.

[00:36:41] Kathy Farrington: Yeah.

[00:36:42] James Dice: That's, so, that's such an exciting topic. I, I hope to hear more about that as you guys, as you guys make progress. What's, what's sort of the next step with that, sort of, that 10 year march?

[00:36:54] Kathy Farrington: so, so the boss program itself has kind of three main areas and So we [00:37:00] talked about sort of business outcomes and the objectives and, you know, what do we wanna achieve as a real estate business and what do we wanna optimize or reduce or, or, you know, plan for the future or, or other things.

There's cybersecurity, which you also mentioned. So there's goals we wanna do that are specifically around cybersecurity, nothing to do with the other two. And then the third pillar is this manageability and how do we get to a place where we're able to manage all the infrastructure? in a way that is global and scalable and more akin to like an it system.

So that is mostly r and d stuff at the moment. Although we are doing things on the more manual side of things, you know, so we, you know, obviously know our assets and other things like that. But, uh, to actually get to that next step, it's, it's more around r and d, like next phase is at U D I and we ran a workshop a couple years ago with manufacturers to ask them their input cuz.

It's probably not gonna come from us, right? It's probably gonna come from them and what this needs to look like. And so we ran an r and d workshop with them, which was, which was great. But yeah, just with sort of refocusing and [00:38:00] prioritization, we're still very much need to achieve the business and the cybersecurity side.

So the manageability is gonna be the longer road of things.

[00:38:08] James Dice: mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , definitely. All right, so let's talk about, so there's two pieces that we've talked about in previous podcasts, just cuz we kind of wind, wind down here. One is the application layer. So in in past podcasts we've talked about. A lot of the work and a lot of the work that we've talked about so far here has been more about infrastructure enabling applications or enabling the application layer.

You mentioned something I hadn't heard before, which is the way that you guys are thinking about the application layers around third party applications. So do you have an update on kind of how you're thinking about that layer and sort of what sort of applications that you're hoping to enable and scale up?

[00:38:49] Kathy Farrington: Yeah. So, so what we've done a couple of times now is sort of engagement to understand the business outcomes. As I said, they've sort of changed multiple times. So I'll just talk about the most recent one which is, you know, [00:39:00] we, we hired an external consultant, worked with one of my colleagues to, who led it to, to basically build what our business objectives are.

So that was interview of sort of a. Stakeholders across all those teams that I mentioned to understand what are the business reasons for doing this. So, you know, around carbon or sustainability or future of work and hybrid work and you know, as well as, you know, health and performance and, and other things.

So sort of just looking end to end. What do we want to do? Use that to create user needs and requirements. Group those into business cases, prioritize those business cases through sort of a bottom up. And then uh, what we've done sort of since then is looked at sort of top down, gone to understand, you know, how does this align with, you know, higher level objectives as well as complexity and speed.

So trying to understand. How can we get this fast and to different places? So that's sort of where we're at as far as prioritization. And we've done that, as I said, sort of three or four times now. But this was the most formal. So the last two were the most formal and, and also most global. [00:40:00] Uh, the, we're still at the case where we have applications, but they run a region.

Or a building. We don't have, uh, applications that are everywhere yet because of all of those teams that sort of need to agree to be able to get it, we need to get sign off on a lot of different places, a lot of different buildings on, on that way. Whereas the infrastructure's slightly easier on that cuz it doesn't, uh, necessarily change sort of the output.

But, So, yeah, so that's sort of where we're at. So we're, we're doing proof of concepts that would be able to scale everywhere and, uh, based on those prioritized outcomes, trying to get as many of our sort of, I think we've got nine P zeros now, which we wanna deliver. Trying to get as many of those into the proof of concepts.

All of them have been tested somewhere before, pretty much with um, but we haven't necessarily looked. Globally and people that could, could be supported and, and yeah, as I said, you know, it is third parties we're looking to use it is third parties we're looking to leverage for the application layer in the, in the layer, unless there's something that doesn't [00:41:00] exist.

So it is, uh, and, and so there are, you know, multiple manufacturers we've worked with are working with.

[00:41:05] James Dice: Nice, nice. And this is what you just described, that, that sort of stakeholder engagement, use case development, business case development, that's as you know, kind of what we teach in our, our foundations course. One of the questions that we get asked a lot is how do you then, you go through all this work, you engage all these stakeholders, you come up with all these ways, technology might help you have, you know, many, many use cases.

And the question is, how do I then prioritize them? So how did you guys prioritize? I'd imagine there are, you guys are Google, there's many, many ideas for how, how technology might help. How did you get to like a top 10?

[00:41:40] Kathy Farrington: So it was um, not that complex. In that we, uh, got all the stakeholders to basically what, once we got the output and sort of how it all fitted together. Came up with sort of a, a long list of use cases, got people to just vote on prioritizing. So, but then the, the next part, as I said is the harder part is then mapping [00:42:00] it to top down.

So the, the bottom up or, you know, sort of understanding everyone's needs and then trying to understand, okay, how does this. Go to a, a top down vision. That's been the harder part. And then I think the last is complexity. Cause often the thing that people want the most is actually the most complex.

And. So being able to also communicate roadmaps, so saying, well, that's what you want, but that's gonna take this time, but actually we can give you this, which gets you, you know, 25% of the way there. And it'll be much faster. I think, you know, that's also part of the, the stakeholder communication. I think I internally did a presentation on this, and I feel like a lot of my role is marketing and sales of everything, like being able to present it in the right.

For the right stakeholders so they understand why we are doing things is is kind of key on all of.

[00:42:48] James Dice: Yeah. Yeah. It's one of those skills that you, you need kind of, wherever you're at in a leadership position, you're trying to create change. And so selling people on, on how to create change is important. [00:43:00] So, with those top prioritized applications, can you share, just like generally what type of applications they are?

Are they. , are they controls related? Are they fault detection, diagnostics related? Are they carbon related, workplace enablement related?

[00:43:14] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, so, so there's obviously the ones that we need in buildings anyway, so we still need, you know, building management and lining control and the systems that are still gonna need to be there to, to manage buildings. So we obviously need those and that, that will things. I think the other ones are things like asset management so being able to.

Fits into what I was saying with, that's obviously incredibly important for anything that we want to do on in the future. And then, yeah, there's, there's ones around the sustainability and helping to enable the 2030 goals both around what energy we're using and then how do we. What do we do and optimize that?

Uh, uh, there's obviously things around operations and what their focus are. And then there's goals around, yeah, future and understanding hybrid work and, and what that means. So basically in all cases, but what we've done is got a very narrow mvp which we're [00:44:00] delivering first end to end. Uh, and then as I said, the sort of roadmap of, okay, this is what we can do now.

This is what we can give you in six months. This is what we can give you in 12 months.

[00:44:09] James Dice: Beautiful. Beautiful. Okay. The other area I was looking for an update around was we had. Trevor and Keith on the podcast two years ago, which is crazy. December of 2020, talking about the, uh, digital buildings ontology. Uh, can you provide sort of an update on, on where that effort's at?

[00:44:29] Kathy Farrington: Yeah, so I think at the moment it's in sort of just scaling the, the number of devices sort of getting lessons cuz we're using it on some of our construction projects. Getting the lessons learned from a lot of different comp companies that are using it now, feeding that in, making sure it's adapted, adding things.

I think initially it was pretty much just HVAC getting, you know, energy and lighting and other things in there. So that's sort of where where it's at at the moment.

[00:44:52] James Dice: Great. Great. Yeah, and, and we'll put, we've mentioned three different podcasts now in the past. So there was Trevor Paring Trevor and [00:45:00] Keith, and then there's Sabine. Uh, so we'll, we'll put all those links in the show notes for people to sort of do a deep dive on, on Google and all the lessons they can learn from you guys.

Let's close out with some, some carve outs, Kathy. So what are some books or podcasts or other media that that's had a major impact on you? Lately it.

[00:45:18] Kathy Farrington: I think for me most of the major impact I get is from word of mouth or people I've met. So, so I constantly, uh, you know, get updates and I read when people post things on LinkedIn. with the sort of focus. We've had internally and I've also got a young daughter. haven't had as much time as I would normally like to, to do that.

But thankfully, you know, the, the Boss program and sort of everyone in it is, are all amazing people who are amazingly up to date with everything that's going on. And so we regularly share emails or chats or whatever around something new or something that's updated and that could be. Anyone from, you know, a newspaper to a podcast that you watch or to a, a new link or something someone's shared.

And that's [00:46:00] probably the way that I get or stay up to date on, on everything that's been happening. And then of course, conferences like IV Con and, you know, the, but again, word of mouth is where I, I think I still hear the most, you know, chatting and meeting it and using it for networking, finding out what other companies are doing.

And then you get great ideas.

[00:46:19] James Dice: Absolutely. Yeah. It's crazy that it's a free, free tool. . Uh, well thanks so much for coming on the show. I'm glad to finally, uh, get you on here. It's been a long time coming. Thanks for so, so much for your, your leadership for the industry.

[00:46:34] Kathy Farrington: no thank you for, uh, inviting me on and as I said yeah, it's, it's been a really exciting journey with lots of really interesting, exciting people who are all fantastic at what they do. So it's, uh, it's been really.

[00:46:46] James Dice: Awesome. All right. See you next time.

[00:46:48] Kathy Farrington: Thanks, bye.

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