Article
74
min read

How a platform + app architecture enables a single pane of glass

May 21, 2020

Happy Thursday!

Welcome to this week’s deep dive exclusively for Nexus Pro members. It’s an honor to have you here.

This deep dive is a follow up to my recent conversation with Prabhu Ramachandran of Facilio. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation and want to share my takeaways and the full transcript with you below.

In case you missed it in your inbox, you can find the audio or video here:

Nexus site | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | YouTube | Add to other podcast apps

Enjoy!

—James


Disclaimer: James is a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). All opinions expressed via Nexus emails, podcasts, or the website belong solely to James. No resources from NREL are used to support Nexus. NREL does not endorse or support any aspect of Nexus.


Outline

  • James’ reaction

  • James’ highlights and summary of each

    • What is CRE 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0?

    • How are you approaching FDD?

    • Facilio’s suite of native applications

    • Can some of these apps replace the supervisory functions in the BMS?

    • What does a strategic roadmap to advanced supervisory control look like?

    • What does having a platform + application architecture mean?

    • How does the platform architecture allow building owners to have the coveted “single pane of glass”?

    • The four ways building owners save money with the platform

  • Full transcript


My reaction

Relistening to this conversation was fun and I thought there were many great nuggets to take away and think about.

Facilio is playing the home run derby in some ways; their platform has the potential to be a one-stop-shop for so many applications. But I don’t hate it—because they’re also playing the all-star game. This seems like a rare combination of the best of both worlds. By the way: here’s some background on the all-star game vs. home run derby.

Let’s look at an example with two players: FDD and CMMS. The all-star game would integrate the best FDD platform with the best CMMS. We’ve seen FDD firms add work order functionality (see CopperTree). We’ve seen Building IQ buy a CMMS platform and integrate it with their FDD shortly after. We’ve seen FDD people try to connect with work order systems through APIs… and we’ve seen how ugly that can be. Facilio has built both of these from scratch to be integrated together from the start, and they’re not just limiting that integration to 2 positions. Then the kicker is that if you want to use a different CMMS, they will integrate with that too with a SSO experience for the user.

Another lightbulb moment for me was Prabhu’s answer to how they create a single pane of glass. I’ve imagined, naively I think, that the SPOG concept required a single user interface. It's actually about a single platform with apps for everyone. Each app provides a customized user interface for each user.

If you think about where Facilio came from, I would expect their platform to be slick. They came from Zoho, so they know how to do this platform plus applications thing. Where I’m slightly skeptical, and I’m hoping to dive deeper into with a demo, is their HVAC analytics. And more specifically, where they stack up in terms of the data model they’re using and how robust it is for fault detection.

What do you think? What other questions should I ask them in a demo?


Highlights

What is CRE 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0?

[00:09:57]

  • 1.0 is when the building has siloed systems that aren’t that smart
  • 2.0 is when each siloed system has smart overlay layers, but they’re still in siloes, mostly at site level
  • 3.0 is when a platform very tightly and contextually integrates all the silos, uses data/automation, and is more open, flexible, and customizable
How are you approaching FDD?

[00:14:53]

  • Open platform with different templates for different FDD rules. Customers can load the template, they can make changes, apply it, test it on one set of properties, and then apply that into their other properties across their portfolio. It's very easy, they need not come to us.
  • FDD is not just based on the data that we pick from BAS alone. Integrations with, say if you have a lighting system that can count people or any other people-counting systems which are based on Bluetooth or beacon or WiFi signals, we have integration with that for people-counting, for density. So because there is a growing set of integrations, customers have access to all these different sets of data and insights so that the FDD itself is more accurate, more fine-tuned.
  • The FDD rules from alarms to our product can actually be automated or they can also be like semi-automated with someone coming and approving and then creating the tickets. And when the tickets gets assigned to someone on their mobile app, they get access to all the data. If the ticket is about a piece of equipment, they have access to historic data, analytics, reports from that equipment, and also current life data that is coming out to the BMS on their mobile app.
Facilio’s suite of native applications

[00:17:55]

  1. Connected building apps includes your fault detection and diagnostics, sustainability management, and remote building operations module where we can actually go and control the buildings. They can change set points from Facilio like a BMS, which includes your three dimensional graphics, integration with BIM. You can literally operate the entire building from cloud across portfolio. So connected building is broadly these three: sustainability management, which is the energy, water management, reporting, dashboarding analysis, M&V regressions, all of that comes into it; and FDD; and then building controls.
  2. The next suite of apps is maintenance suite, which includes your planned maintenance, unplanned maintenance, help desking, asset management, inventory management, vendor management. All of that comes into our maintenance management.
  3. And the third suite of apps is tenant engagement module, which includes your visitor management, entry management, vendor management, a chat box for tenants to quickly, easily raise tickets, know who's working on the tickets, utility bill management for tenants. All of those tenant-facing apps come under our tenant engagement module. So broadly, we have three suite of apps, and they're all very contextually integrated. They all work on the live stream of data that is coming from the buildings, and customers have the freedom to take all the apps, three suite of apps, or they can take one or two. And we have APIs to go and integrate with an existing app that is already deployed within the customer places.
Can some of these apps replace the supervisory functions in the BMS?

[00:24:11]

  • Some of this functionality would take the place of the BMS aspect of managing set points, supervisory control sequences, schedules, trending, all of those things that typically happen at the server or sometimes supervisory control level of a building automation system.
  • There's a, like a very emerging model that is coming up where there is a BMS in a building, and there is already a trend where there is a IBM, as they call it, as IBM, as where four or five buildings are controlled from a single BMS. So we replaced most part of what the BMS does, right from scheduling to set point controls , and on top of that, we have more advanced fault detection, reporting, dashboarding, and all those tools.
  • But the core area where we do, is we also have 3D graphics. And on the graphics equipment, run status , faults, everything is visualized. And from the graphics, customers can go and control, make set point changes, trigger set point changes, and get it executed. There is also a lot of automation where based on rules, we automatically go and make these changes into the underlying automation control systems.
  • Because there is clear value in centralizing this piece of software, because your control logic or FDD rules, they can be applied across portfolios. Of course there'll be minor tweaks, but instead of going and making, defining FDD rules in each building, physically sitting there and maintaining these rules based on weather changes, based on occupancy changes, they can be done from cloud so that they are more efficient, and the learnings out of them can be applied across portfolio.
What does a strategic roadmap to advanced supervisory control look like?

[00:29:11]

  • It's a new category. It requires organizational changes within the real estate company, because part of the workforce moves from physically in the building, they have to go to some sort of command center, or even that is not required in our model where they can work from anywhere.
  • So first is a platform for data, which is basically bringing visibility into problems. Then applying like mobile, enabling all the workforce, right from your building engineers to technicians to cleaning staff to energy auditors, everybody gets contextual access to the platform. So that brings in the organization-level behavioral changes. Plus that also brings in the visibility of what the value they get out of this. Then that enables them, that gives them the confidence to go ahead and look at centralizing their BMS operations.
What does having a platform + application architecture mean?

[00:32:05]

  • We need to enable customers to operate their portfolio, like the entire portfolio, the operations and maintenance of their entire portfolio has to be done centrally. That itself is not there, where a lot of-, there is so many layers of outsourcing in real estate. So they are outsourcing the BMS maintenance to one company, the file maintenance to another company, the cleaning to another company. There is so much money being spent. The customers do not have visibility. They do not have the flexibility to go and bring in efficiency here. That is where the ball gets dropped. So first is to bring that shift in the whole way of doing operations maintenance.
  • That is where we thought the platform plus application model is a right fit, where even for us, once customers take the platform, we know that they are not going to buy all the 10 different applications we have. But definitely they are going to start with two or three. They are seeing value, and they have the confidence they're going to increase it. In some cases, they may not get some of the apps that we are providing. They can go and get from our competitors or point solution vendors, but we make sure that there are APIs to go and integrate, exchange data between these apps.
  • For example, some of the apps that we are not building, we feel that it is better for customers to take it and integrate is like a true space management application, like your hot-desking kind of applications. There, we expose API so that we feed data into these applications. We also get data from those applications to control or adjust to our systems. Similarly, like an accounting application for real estate. That is something we don't specialize in, but we have APIs to go on feed data into it. Similarly, BIM and digital twins, that is not something we are doing, but we are going and integrating with several BIM vendors, so that when customers bring in their BIM, they are able to integrate and have it as one single competent across portfolio because we provide APIs and data exchange.
  • Currently we are taking application integration on a case by case basis. So when it comes to BIM, the kind of integration that we are doing now is-, so BIMs are traditionally for the construction lifecycle, and post-construction, they are not updated. They become stale because they are not in line with how the buildings are today. So what we do there is because we are getting real time data, operational data from buildings, we pass on this data to BIM in terms of status of equipment. So that when the BIM visualizes this, they can say that, okay, this equipment is in faulty condition, these are the list of faults.
  • And we can also pick up data from BIM. When we onboard a building, we can go and get access to the asset information, asset models from the BIM so that the onboarding is okay. And next level of integration we are also doing with some BIM vendors, we are doing single sign on, so that from Facilio if customer wants to visualize a particular floor or a particular building, they can actually have that visualized on a browser, but we will render it from the BIM application, because we are doing single sign on. That is one use case. Similarly, we do cross single sign on, where from a BIM, if customer wants to view a asset detail page that is rendered from Facilio, they can probably select and invoke a Facilio application page, which gives like what are the tickets pending for that particular equipment, what are the faults, what are the alarms? So that is the contextual level of integration we do.
  • Underlyingly, how it is being done is: one, we have APIs to exchange data; two, we also have APIs for single sign on kind of use cases that enables this whole integration much faster.
How does the platform architecture allow building owners to have the coveted “single pane of glass”?

[00:40:29]

  • There are so many people that are using the building. So you have service providers, commissioning agents, obviously the O&M team in house, you have energy engineers, energy managers, design firms, all of the different other types of contractors.
  • So the way we deal with this, again, so one is: we have a platform plus application model. The underlying platform is common, and we have like FDD as an application or work order management as an application. So there are mobile apps that render those applications on the mobile. Okay. Somebody's getting access to work order management. They login. And their technicians, then they get all their work orders. There are supervisors, they can approve work orders, things like that. Somebody has access to the energy management module also. Then that is a separate visualization of energy data reporting, dashboarding.
  • So what we do is: all the apps that we built on the server side, we are also building mobile apps and mobile renderings for it. That is one layer. The next layer is we have an access control model where you can give access to a person for different modules, plus specific sites. You can even give access to a specific floor where that person, he or she is allowed to work on a specific project. So that is over. You're handling it. So which means everybody gets their context to an app. A tenant has a separate app, where again, within that there are multiple modules like billing, chat board and other things based on their permissions. These modules get enabled in the mobile app.
How building owners save money with the platform

[00:47:07]

There are some good savings as far as consolidating all of these different siloed systems. These are all budgeted. The BMS and FDD in general. Customers are buying different set of energy reporting tools, energy efficiency tools. They are going and procuring a software for work order management. So these are not new, but the model of doing it across portfolio in a more efficient way is a new thing. So we already have-, we don't have to educate customers on what the application itself delivers. That is already understood, but the education comes in terms of what is the additional ROI they are going to get by operating across portfolio, by operating based on a real time data that is coming out of it.

  1. So the way we substantiate is, the most prominent one is the workforce because maintenance and operations is all heavily manual, workforce driven, outsourced, and it's a very moving population, people keep on changing, because it's an outsource job. You ought to make sure that the quality of service and the timeliness of service and the efficiency of service is very, very high because the tenant's expectation is changing. So in that world, when you do portfolio-wide - , when you bring this data driven plus mobility, everything is done on mobile apps and you have things like geo-fencing, QR coding asset and all those types, that actually brings in tremendous level of workforce efficiency in terms of individuals able to do their work faster, better, more accurately. Number one.
  2. Number two is once you do this, once you onboard all your properties on the platform and then mobile enable everyone and do the planned maintenance in a proper way, your unplanned work drastically comes down. That's what we have seen with customers, where the unexpected errors, problems that tenants face, that comes down drastically, which reduces the work for the maintenance. So that, that is where the workforce efficiency comes in terms of reduced work and faster work by applying mobile machine learning, root cause analysis on this stuff.
  3. The next center is the asset performance. That is building assets like HVAC, fire, elevators are both expensive and mission critical. Lot of money is spent on both procuring them and maintaining them over a period of time. So if these assets are maintained predictably, used based on data, if the data is available, customers are always looking at it. What happens is the performance of the asset and the lifecycle of the asset improves. So that is next to substantial value that real estate companies are liking, next to the workforce aspect.
  4. The fourth one is the sustainability angle, because you are doing A and B right, obviously it leads to better energy usage, better water usage, which then leads to savings.

What did you think about these highlights? Let us know in the comments.

Leave a comment


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!

James Dice: [00:00:00] Hello, friends. Welcome to the Nexus, a smart buildings technology podcast for smart humans. I'm your host, James Dice. If we haven't met before, I write a weekly newsletter on the same topic. It's also called Nexus. Each week I share what I've learned, my opinions, and what I'm excited about in the quickly evolving world of intelligent buildings. Readers have called Nexus the best way to stay up to date on the future of this industry without all the marketing fluff. You can check it out and subscribe at nexus.substack.com or click the link in the show notes.

Since starting the Nexus newsletter, many of you have reached out to me wanting to talk shop, and we have. After a few weeks of those wonderful conversations, I realized I needed to record and share them with our growing community. So here we are. The Nexus podcast is born. This is our chance to explore and learn what the brightest in our industry together .

Okay, let's dive in then. Episode 6 is a conversation with Prabhu Ramachandran, CEO of Facilio, a software as a service platform for facility operations and maintenance. I really like where they're headed, and this was a really fun conversation. We talk about how Prabu was inspired by remote monitoring practices in the telecom industry and why he launched Facilio in the commercial real estate space. We talk about the next wave of smart buildings, which Prabu calls CRE 3.0. We deep dive into Facilio software, including the architecture of the suite of native apps, how it provides a single pane of glass for operators, and much more.

This episode of the podcast is directly funded by listeners like you who have joined the Nexus Pro membership community. You can find info on how to join and support the podcast at nexus.substack.com. You'll also find the show notes to this conversation, which has links to Facilio's website and Prabhu's LinkedIn page. Without further ado, please enjoy Nexus Podcast Episode 6.

One more quick note before we get to this week's episode. I'm a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, otherwise known as NREL. All opinions expressed on this podcast belong solely to me or the guest. No resources from NREL are used to support Nexus. NREL does not endorse or support any aspect of Nexus.

Hello, Prabhu. Welcome to the podcast.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:02:26] Hi, James. Thanks for inviting me. I'm very glad that I'm part of this podcast.

James Dice: [00:02:33] Yeah. So please introduce yourself, and introduce Facilio for the folks.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:02:39] Yeah. So my name is Prabhu Ramachadran. I'm the Founder and CEO of Facilio . About my background, I started my career with the Zoho cooperation. And myself and my co-founders, we spent around 17 years with Zoho, where I was heading one of the three product divisions of Zoho that deals with software for telecom network infrastructure management. That is remote infrastructure management of pan-country telecom networks. And I also built the internet of things software platform and applications product line within Zoho, where we had applications like windmill monitoring, solar monitoring, industrial,  remote asset management solutions, vehicle tracking kind of solutions.

So broadly, my background is from building large-scale enterprise software around data-driven remote monitoring and operations of infrastructure. That's what I come from. And at Facilio, so we offer a software platform, a cloud-based software platform for real estate operations and maintenance. And we offer this to real estate owners and operators who own a large portfolio of facilities that are geographically distributed. And our solution helps our customers to run their entire portfolio of facilities from a centralized platform and a very efficient data-driven model.

James Dice: [00:04:18] Cool. Thank you for that. So it sounds like you were implementing intelligent solutions for telecom. They're not facilities, right? They're communication stations and those sorts of things.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:04:33] Yes, yes.

James Dice: [00:04:34] And it sounds like you realized, Hey, there's a big opportunity to do a similar thing for the building space. So can you tell us more about why you started Facilio?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:04:43] Yes. So in my previous 17 years of career, as I explained, I'd always been working on technology that helps large distributor infrastructure. Telecom is one. And also as part of the IoT, we are working on like windmill farms, solar farms, they cross across countries. So primarily around how can you apply technology to bring efficiency in operations, maintenance, remote management of infrastructure.

So with this background, when we started Facilio, I saw that real estate as a market was like a couple of decades behind where telecom is today. In last 20 years, if you look at telecom as an industry, it has undergone like tremendous evolution every few years, every five years, right? From, what you say, like the landline to mobile. Within mobile, 2G, 3G, 4G, now 5G. And even the adoption of telecoms across the world has been very, very fast. But the industry has been able to move so fast. One of the core pillars is their ability to remotely run their operations in a very, very efficient way so that they are able to scale faster, plus they are able to offer high level of service quality.

Okay, so compare that with buildings. Imagine like, imagine a telecom tower today is being forced to have like one engineer sitting there in like 24 by seven across shifts, and every few minutes going and checking some terminal, like your BMS room for any alarms, and then calling people to raise tickets.

So we cannot have all these communications possible today. So, but that's how the buildings are operated. So we thought it's a huge opportunity for us to apply technology like the power of cloud, the power of mobility, internet of things, machine learning into real estate operations and maintenance. Like how can real estate operators operate their entire portfolio as a single entity? Because obviously there is, there is tremendous opportunity there to bring in efficiency when you look at across portfolio, very similar to what has happened in industries like Uber, like model, and also areas like your supply chain, how supply chain has advanced because of these connected systems.

So we want to bring that level of sophistication into real estate so that real estate owners and operators are able to operate the portfolio very, very efficiently.

James Dice: [00:07:20] Got it. Cool. So it sounds like you, you said you serve real estate. Is commercial real estate, so office buildings, is that your primary target market for your product?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:07:32] Yes. So we are currently focusing on commercial real estate. And within that, in our earlier days we started office buildings as our core target.  And then over a period of time, we are also seeing that our asset class expanding into, like other asset class, like retail, hospitals, government buildings, the like educational institution, because the product applies across asset classes, but still our major focus is commercial office buildings.

James Dice: [00:08:03] Got it. So you're coming to us from India today, it's quite late in the night there. So I appreciate you making the time for us. So where, where are you guys throughout the world? Where are your offices and then where are your clients located at this point?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:08:20] Yeah, so we are headquartered in the US. We have our headquarter office in New York, so we have a local team in New York. And we have a office in Dubai. Our Middle East operations are run from our Dubai office. We have our code development team sitting out of Chennai, India. We recently opened our office in Singapore, and so we are looking to start our operations in Europe. These are the areas where we operate currently.

And with respect to clients, currently the major part of our clients are in the Middle East, and the next market is US. We have clients in Brazil, India, now we're starting to sign up customers in Singapore, Europe, and other regions.

James Dice: [00:09:06] Cool. And I have to make a shout out to Ephraim who is one of your employees in NYC or New York City.  He's a podcaster himself, and he was really influential in getting me to start this podcast. So shout out to Ephraim, and thanks to him for that.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:09:22] Yeah. Yeah. Thank you.

James Dice: [00:09:24] So let's transition over to the product itself. So the Nexus audience is  what I like to call smart building nerds, so I feel like we gotta do a deep dive for them to really understand the ins and outs of what product you guys are bringing to the marketplace. So I think a good way to set the stage for that is for you to talk about this concept of CRE 1.0 2.0 and 3.0. So could you talk about what, what was 1.0 and 2.0, and what problems, did we have with those?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:09:57] Yeah, yeah. So the way I would define the 1.0 and 2.0 is 1.0 is more about very pointed automation technologies coming into buildings, predominantly as part of construction. So you have your HVAC automation, elevator automations, fire safety automations, and then there is a BMS sitting on top of that. Uh, but again, these are all hardware driven system, less software, and done at a per-facility, per-building level.

And then the 2.0 is a software layer above that, like siloed pointed tools, tools for energy management and for fault detection and diagnostics, asset management, facilities maintenance management, inventory management, space management. These all fall under like pointed tools, being used, again, mostly around site level. There could be like, same set of tools across portfolio used by different teams , but they solve one purpose. Okay. But mostly they are not talking to the automation systems. That is the 2.0 environment. Yeah.

So 3.0 is a new, new way of looking at real estate operations where: one, your automation is important, but the softwares that are being used, they are talking to the automation system, they are looking at data, they are leveraging data, number one; and number two is instead of being like siloed tools, these systems are very contextually integrated. They are more open so that customers have the freedom to go and bring in their own custom workflows, custom rules into these systems very easily, rather than doing this as like six months project with so many people, people deployed, these are like very, very flexible systems. That is the whole 3.0 that we are calling, where it is data-driven. It is always looked at portfolio-wide, so that customers are looking at their entire portfolio as one entity, and the systems are very tightly and contextually integrated, and they are more open and collaborative for the customer rather than being vendor-locked. This is all defining the 3.0.

James Dice: [00:12:16] Got it. And so back on 2.0 for a second, what, what are the problems related to having all of these smart systems that are still isolated, essentially?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:12:26] Yeah. So one is because the data, like if you say I'm a customer, and then we end up with dozens of different systems, they saw the purpose for that particular site or that particular set of buildings that are applied, but in a world where, if you are able to drive efficiency by looking at how is your operations running across your portfolio. The customer has, say, 30 40 million square feet of dozens of buildings across the city, and if the customer is having real time visibility into how their teams are performing, how their tenants are being served, what is their satisfaction level? What is the sustainability of each of these buildings? Which part of the buildings are performing well, and why they are doing it? Can I apply that learnings into other systems? This is not possible with this 2.0 model because the data is scattered, and there is no contextual integration.

Everything that gets done, it takes unnecessarily a lot of time from identifying a problem, creating that into a ticket in a different system, and then once the ticket is assigned to a engineer, he or she has to go again, talk to different people, probably look at the BMS, go and talk to the BMS engineer, get some reports downloaded from that for analysis. All of this takes a lot of time. So that is where the 2.0 model falls. There's a point in terms of enabling customers to bring in efficiency.

So in 3.0 if everything is data-driven, there is a centralized data, single pane of glass, plus customers have the flexibility to leverage the data, work on the data, get insights from the data, and pass on these insights contextually to different stakeholders. That that is how they are able to gain superior level of efficiency.

James Dice: [00:14:18] Yeah. And just to drive that home, I've done fault detection and diagnostics for a long time, as our listeners know, and one of the huge opportunities in that space is obviously the, you know, people start to prove the value and start to realize, hey, this is important. These faults are really good. I want to start doing something about those faults.

Now, I think what people find is that it's not that easy to take a list of faults and easily turn them into work orders. And so what I'm hearing from you guys is that you're providing one platform for both of those that's natively integrated together. Is that right?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:14:53] Yes. Yes, you're right. Plus on top of that, even within our fault detection and diagnostics, the way we have built it is, again, open platform where customers can easily-, we have like templates, different templates for different FDD rules. Customers can load the template, they can make changes, apply it, test it on one set of properties, and then apply that into their other properties across their portfolio. It's very easy, they need not come to us. And they can get trained, they can define, create their own rules.

On top of that, the FDD system itself is not just based on the data that we pick from BMS alone. We have integrations with, say if you have a lighting systems that can count people or any other people-counting systems which is based on Bluetooth or beacon or WiFi signals, we have integration with that for people-counting, for density. So that can be considered for fault detection and diagnostics on top of weather data, occupancy data, we can integrate with our condense systems. So because we are building a platform and there is a growing set of integrations, customers have access to all these different set of datas and insights so that the FDD itself is more accurate, more fine tool.

And we have work order management systems wherein the FDD rules from alarms to our product can actually be automated or they can also be like semi-automated with someone coming and approving and then creating the tickets. And when the tickets gets assigned to someone on their mobile app, they get access to all the data. If the ticket is about a piece of equipment, they have access to historic data, analytics, reports from that equipment, and also current life data that is coming out to the BMS on their mobile app. On top of that, we have a root cause engine that actually runs rules. You'll find what could be the different root causes for that particular problem. So if I'm a technician anywhere in the world, I get access to all this information right on my mobile app, so I'm able to react faster. I'm able to go and fix or go work on the problem much faster than the older way of me going physically to the building, talking to BMS, getting reports, looking at them, and then coming up with some set of next next steps to go and do it.

James Dice: [00:17:21] Got it. Yeah. So it's no longer about having siloed systems that you're integrating. I mean, you're starting with all the systems being integrated together. That's, that's really, I mean, I haven't seen a whole lot of platforms approach it from that perspective. So when you describe the product to people that haven't heard about it before, what do you call it? You call it analytics? Do you call it building operating system? Like what is your, what is your terminology? Because that's a huge thing that a lot of our listeners have problems with. There's so many acronyms. There's so many names on the marketplace.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:17:55] Yes. So what we call this is building ops cloud. And the explanation for that is a operations and maintenance cloud for real estate portfolio.

So what we offer within that is, there are two components into it. One is an IoT software, which goes and sits into each of the buildings. And that software has the ability to go and integrate with existing automation systems, using different protocols like BACnet, Modbus, LonWorks, OPC, supporting all these protocols. It grabs the data, pushes to the cloud, and within that cloud we have a cloud platform which embeds our FDD engine, workflow automation engine, mobile platform, machine learning models.  All these are part of the platform.

And on top of the platform, we are building suite of applications, and we currently have three suite of applications. Number one is, we call this connected building apps. So connected building apps includes your fault detection and diagnostics, sustainability management, and remote building operations module where we can actually go and control the buildings. They can change set points from Facilio like a BMS, which includes your three dimensional graphics, integration with BIM. You can literally operate the entire building from cloud across portfolio. So connected building is broadly these three: sustainability management, which is the energy, water management, reporting, dashboarding analysis, M&V regressions, all of that comes into it; and FDD; and then building controls.

The next suite of apps is maintenance suite, which includes your planned maintenance, unplanned maintenance, help desking, asset management, inventory management, vendor management. All of that comes into our maintenance management.

And the third suite of apps is tenant engagement module, which includes your visitor management, entry management, vendor management, a chat box for tenants to quickly, easily raise tickets, know who's working on the tickets, utility bill management for tenants. All of those tenant-facing apps come under our tenant engagement module. So broadly, we have three suite of apps, and they're all very contextually integrated. They all work on the live stream of data that is coming from the buildings, and customers have the freedom to take all the apps, three suite of apps, or they can take one or two. And we have APIs to go and integrate with an existing app that is already deployed within the customer places.

James Dice: [00:20:40] Okay. Very cool. And do any of your customers, I'm sure they just start out with one or two of those, like you said. Which ones do they start off with usually?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:20:50] So we are seeing a mix of like I would say the connected and maintenance management are the predominant ones. And we are seeing more and more adoption of tenant-facing apps, particularly the larger customers, they want to make sure that the experience for tenants is very frictionless. Right? In terms of raising problems, being made of aware of who's working on it. So the first two apps, the connected and maintenance are the more predominantly used, and more and more we are seeing the tenant one as an emerging category.

James Dice: [00:21:26] Got it. Okay. Yeah, so that was a great overview of the capabilities of the platform. In terms of the scope of the platform, it sounds like you guys are connecting any and all building systems. Is that right? Is there any, any system that you wouldn't pull into the platform? Or is it any smart system, any system that's producing data, you guys are going to pull it in?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:21:48] Yes. So our model is-, again, we have a software edge, edge software, and it talks in standard protocols. Any system that supports protocols like BACnet, Modbus, OPC, LonWorks, we have already added it. On top of that, we have APIs to pull data from, say an Excel upload, an Excel sheet, parsing Excel sheet, and taking data on a CSV file, or Java API to integrate with third party application to pull the data, or rest API to integrate with existing third party applications. They could be like attendance systems or an accounting systems or inventory management system. So both from automation and software, we can pull data.

James Dice: [00:22:31] Got it. Okay. And the IoT software, it can run on a virtual machine or put on some sort of hardware gateway, is that the approach?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:22:40] Yeah. Yeah it runs on a Linux environment, so usually customers would put it on a standard gateway. We don't sell that gateway. We want to be hardware agnostic. It can run on a Linux base gateway or a virtual machine. In some cases, customers go for an industrial PC to run it. It's a choice of the customer. And the edge itself is very hardened, it is intelligent too, in case if there is no network connectivity, it can store the data and then push it later, and the interval of data push is configurable. Alarms are pushed immediately. Any data which is performance or which is critical data is pushed immediately. It is highly secure. We have data encryption, both for storage and the communication between the agent to the server . It's completely encrypted, to a highest level.

James Dice: [00:23:33] Got it. Okay. I want to key in on the supervisory control aspect of this. So,  I want to talk about use cases. But first, is it correct to assume that this functionality would take the place of the BMS aspect of managing set points, supervisory control sequences, schedules, trending, all of those things that typically happen at the server or sometimes supervisory control level of a building automation system, are you guys basically able to replace that, or is it supplementary? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:24:11] Yes. As you agree, there's a, like a very emerging model that is coming up where there is a BMS in a building, and there is already a trend where there is a IBM, as they call it, as IBM, as where four or five buildings are controlled from a single BMS. So we replaced most part of what the BMS does, right from scheduling to set point controls , and on top of that, we have more advanced fault detection, reporting, dashboarding, and all those tools.

But the core area where we do, is we also have 3D graphics. And on the graphics equipment, run status , faults, everything is visualized. And from the graphics, customers can go and control, make set point changes, trigger set point changes, and get it executed. There is also a lot of automation where based on rules, we automatically go and make these changes into the underlying automation control systems.

James Dice: [00:25:09] Got it. I mean, I think that's a key point here is that the CRE 2.0 paradigm that you, you talked about was really an overlay software on top of the BMS. And I think what you're describing is the ability-, you don't have to do it, it doesn't have to be like this, but a building owner no longer has to have what I would call BAS and a BMS. They could just have a BAS, which is just controllers and com wire, right?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:25:36] Yeah, yeah.

James Dice: [00:25:38] And they could leave the BMS aspect, which is a significant cost and a significant complication then in some cases, they could leave that aspect to a platform like yours. Right?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:25:48] Right. Because there is clear value in centralizing this piece of software, because your control logic or FDD rules, they can be applied across portfolios. Of course there'll be minor tweaks, but instead of going and making, defining FDD rules in each building, physically sitting there and maintaining these rules based on weather changes, based on occupancy changes, they can be done from cloud so that they are more efficient, and the learnings out of them can be applied across portfolio.

James Dice: [00:26:23] Cool. Yeah, I agree. So what other-, so it sounds like scheduling, alarming, 3D graphics, set points, are you doing any sort of what I would call like advanced supervisory control, where you're optimizing set points using something like machine learning or optimization algorithms?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:26:40] Yes. So we have two layers in those, one is our rule-based fault detection and diagnostics surveyor. We currently have our own hundred plus predefined rule templates just for the HVAC systems alone. Plus, we are also building machine learning models where we take the historical data, and we run our machine learning algorithm to do anomaly detections, predictive maintenance of equipment, predicting problems in the equipment beforehand . So these machine learning models are, again, so we have a library and we are continuously building them. So the first one is the FDD. From day one, our rule-based FDD kicks in. And once we have at least one year of data, then our ML models start applying on the data.

The outcome of the ML model is, again, an alarm. And the alarm could trigger an action. An action could be a ticket, or it can also be going back to the automation system and making dynamic set points, adjustments for data, energy efficiency or the equipment efficiency.

James Dice: [00:27:48] Yeah. That's another key point here, is that the CRE 2.0 paradigm, just to kind of piggyback on your model, is that when you have a fault, it just goes on a list. You know, the loop is not closed. It's an open loop. So I think what you're describing is that you come up with a fault. The fault might say, Hey, this sequence of operations is wrong. So what you're saying is your platform actually would then close that loop and say, let's improve the sequence of operations automatically.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:28:15] Right, right, it does, yeah. So it is automatically, yes. And many cases, it can also be semi automatic, where we trigger a workflow, somebody looks at it, approves it. This can happen in like a minute. And then they go and make these changes into the buildings, because sometimes, not all use cases customers want the automation. They want some time for these tickets. So it could be like a supervisor getting a pop up message on their mobile app saying, Hey, this is what the system detected. The system can go and make these changes. Can I go ahead? Then they approve that, it goes and does stuff.

James Dice: [00:28:51] Got it. Cool. So you kinda mentioned this a little bit there, but I'm hearing there's quite a bit of pushback from building operators on this kind of new paradigm of supervisory control. So what are you seeing kind of from around the world as far as building operators allowing this advanced supervisory control to happen?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:29:11] Yeah. Yes. So it's a new category. It requires organizational changes within the real estate company, because part of the workforce moves from physically in the building, they have to go to some sort of command center, or even that is not required in our model where they can work from anywhere.

So what we are seeing is that customers are initially looking at applying our platform to first acquire the data, because that itself is very, very hard in real estate. Where if I have a portfolio of properties, can I have my operation data sanitized and readily available in one place, like data about my energy consumption, about my equipment's performance, equipment age, about my facility's workforce. In most cases, it is some outsourced set of workforce, but still we need like who is doing what, whose performance is better, whose SLA is better? So this data itself is not available for customers. That is where customers are starting, where they are looking at a platform, and first is visibility across the portfolio, the number one.

They start with that and then, then they look at, okay, so now I have the data. And then we have this application that does fault detection, diagnostics, energy management, and they are automatically converted to a ticket, that is, they look at our maintenance management. So once that is there, they see the value that they get just by having this portfolio-wide data, benchmarking, baselining. And then they look at, okay, now we are ready. Can we go and apply our automated controls? That's how the flow comes.

So first is a platform for data, which is basically bringing visibility into problems. Then applying like mobile, enabling all the workforce, right from your building engineers to technicians to cleaning staff to energy auditors, everybody gets contextual access to the platform. So that brings in the organization-level behavioral changes. Plus that also brings in the visibility of what the value they get out of this. Then that enables them, that gives them the confidence to go ahead and look at centralizing their BMS operations.

James Dice: [00:31:28] Great. Thank you. Yeah. That strikes me as a much more strategic way to approach these advanced types of supervisory control, than say, there's many companies that have popped up in recent years where that's all they're doing. And I mean, I think on one hand you could say that, you know, that's also strategic as a company for them to say, we're only doing this one thing, but I've had a little bit of skepticism - and I'm writing about this right now for one of our deep dives - I have a skepticism of that being a standalone solution, when you don't have all these other boxes checked like you're talking about.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:32:05] Yeah. Yeah. See, my conviction is that rather than looking at each of these competents, as you say, we need to enable customers to operate their portfolio, like the entire portfolio, the operations and maintenance of their entire portfolio has to be done centrally. That itself is not there, where a lot of-, there is so many layers of outsourcing in real estate. So they are outsourcing the BMS maintenance to one company, the file maintenance to another company, the cleaning to another company. There is so much money being spent. The customers do not have visibility. They do not have the flexibility to go and bring in efficiency here. That is where the ball gets dropped. So first is to bring that shift in the whole way of doing operations maintenance. That is where we thought the platform plus application model is a right fit, where even for us, once customers take the platform, we know that they are not going to buy all the 10 different applications we have. But definitely they are going to start with two or three. They are seeing value, and they have the confidence they're going to increase it. In some cases, they may not get some of the apps that we are providing. They can go and get from our competitors or point solution vendors, but we make sure that there are APIs to go and integrate, exchange data between these apps.

For example, some of the apps that we are not building, we feel that it is better for customers to take it and integrate is like a true space management application, like your hot desking kind of applications. There, we expose API so that we feed data into these applications. We also get data from those applications to control or adjust to our systems. Similarly, like an accounting application for real estate. That is something we don't specialize in, but we have APIs to go on feed data into it. Similarly, BIM and digital twins, that is not something we are doing, but we are going and integrating with several BIM vendors, so that when customers bring in their BIM, they are able to integrate and have it as one single competent across portfolio because we provide APIs and data exchange.

James Dice: [00:34:18] Okay. And yeah, and I wanted to hit that eventually. So maybe we'll just talk about it now. The platform aspect-, so when you provide that API for that third party app , how does the workflow for the user work? And maybe if you could just use the BIM or digital twin example, is a 3D model being brought into Facilio's user interface, or is that a separate application that it sounds like you're just making sure the data is the same on both platforms?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:34:51] Yeah. So again, currently we are taking application integration on a case by case basis. So when it comes to BIM, the kind of integration that we are doing now is-, so BIMs are traditionally for the construction lifecycle, and post-construction, they are not updated. They become stale because they are not in line with how the buildings are today. So what we do there is because we are getting real time data, operational data from buildings, we pass on this data to BIM in terms of status of equipment. So that when the BIM visualizes this, they can say that, okay, this equipment is in faulty condition, these are the list of faults.

And we can also pick up data from BIM. When we onboard a building, we can go and get access to the asset information, asset models from the BIM so that the onboarding is okay. And next level of integration we are also doing with some BIM vendors, we are doing single sign on, so that from Facilio if customer wants to visualize a particular floor or a particular building, they can actually have that visualized on a browser, but we will render it from the BIM application, because we are doing single sign on. That is one use case. Similarly, we do cross single sign on, where from a BIM, if customer wants to view a asset detail page that is rendered from Facilio, they can probably select and invoke a Facilio application page, which gives like what are the tickets pending for that particular equipment, what are the faults, what are the alarms? So that is the contextual level of integration we do.

Underlyingly, how it is being done is: one, we have APIs to exchange data; two, we also have APIs for single sign on kind of use cases that enables this whole integration much faster.

James Dice: [00:36:43] Great. Okay. Yeah. I think this is just one place where at least I have some confusion in the marketplace when people talk about apps. So just in this conversation alone, we've talked about your connected building apps, which is your FDD, your sustainability, and your control. I mean, those make total sense.

But then when you talk about third party apps, I think where there's a lot of confusion is, how those apps are actually implemented for the user. So that's where I'm asking these. So some people are coming out with this concept of like an app store, like the iPhone obviously has the app store, Android has the Google app store. So how are you guys thinking about that? And the reason I'm asking is because I feel like with the iPhone at least, that's in our pockets, the app store is a way to kind of future-proof the platform in a way. In other words, no matter what future use case comes along, someone could just build an app right on top of that, and they're not necessarily relying on you, Facilio, to build that app. Right? So  I feel like that structure could make it a lot less risky to invest in the Facilio platform. How are you guys thinking about that?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:37:53] Right, so that is where the road map for us is going, where we are not yet there, meaning we don't, we are not an open-door app store or public app integration as of now, but we are probably like anywhere between like six months, 12 months away from that. But currently what we are doing is we have , other than our connected building apps, we have a concept of connected apps, where currently with the other application vendor, we are collaborating and building these integrations and making them available for Facilio's customers to pick up those apps that we have pre-integrated.

So other than BIM, we are integrated with the people counting apps. There are applications that count people based on beacons or WiFi signals. So we have pre-integration with these vendors, so that if a customer wants to do people counting and then use the data for a day to day optimization, they can do it. Other set of apps camera applications, we have integrated with multiple camere vendors, where today you have AI cameras that can do people counting, gender-based counting, proximity and all those types. So we have integrated with that. So we have APIs that can be integrated with other camera applications. Uh, access control system is another area where we are integrating and getting that.

So currently we are collaborating with other vendors and building a pool of integrations, making them available for our customers. But we are slowly moving to a model where as the other systems mature, we'll make it as an open marketplace where other vendors can come integrate, get listed , but we are like maybe at least a year from that stage now. But as a roadmap, we are going there.

James Dice: [00:39:41] Got it. Cool. Yeah, that's something that maybe you can come back in six months or a year and talk about it, because that's-, I'm just tracking that.  It's just something that I feel the industry needs to head towards. It sounds like you guys agree.

So back on all the different capabilities of the platform, you mentioned all the different layers of outsourcing, and it's something that I've talked about on this podcast before. It's just there are so many people that are using the building. So you have service providers, commissioning agents, obviously the O&M team in house, you have energy engineers, energy managers, design firms, all of the different other types of contractors. So how are you guys approaching this problem of building a software platform for all of these different users, but really it's only one user interface?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:40:29] Yeah. So the way we deal with this, again, so one is: we have a platform plus application model. The underlying platform is common, and we have like FDD as an application or work order management as an application. So there are mobile apps that render those applications on the mobile. Okay. Somebody's getting access to work order management. They login. And their technicians, then they get all their work orders. There are supervisors, they can approve work orders, things like that. Somebody has access to the energy management module also. Then that is a separate visualization of energy data reporting, dashboarding. So what we do is: all the apps that we built on the server side, we are also building  mobile apps and mobile renderings for it. That is one layer.

The next layer is we have an access control model where you can give access to a person for different modules, plus specific sites. You can even give access to a specific floor where that person, he or she is allowed to work on a specific project. So that is over. You're handling it. So which means everybody gets their context to an app. A tenant has a separate app, where again, within that there are multiple modules like billing, chat board and other things based on their permissions. These modules get enabled in the mobile app.

James Dice: [00:41:54] Cool. And I think this is key for something you said earlier, which is this acronym that I keep hearing, which is SPOG or single pane of glass. And it sounds like the way you guys approach a single pane of glass is that, based on the user and what their use cases are, they're going to see different apps and have access to different apps. And that's how you're basically executing the single pane of glass concept. Is that correct?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:42:21] Right. Right. So, for example, if I'm a sustainability engineer, I get access to my M&V module, regression analysis, my reporting, dashboarding, analytics, but the underlying data is common. So the M&V model uses the same data. Similarly, FDD model is also working on the same data. And asset performance optimization also is using the same data. So that's where the model of having a common platform, which stores data and normalizes, works on the data, and then application, just go and access the data. And on top of application, so you have access control permissions where based on what user and which properties, they get access to that.

James Dice: [00:43:03] Got it. And I think part of the single pane of glass definition is that you at least in some ways remove the need to even log in to all the different siloed systems. Is that something that you guys are hoping for and seeing?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:43:18] Yes. So if you look at our model itself we currently have like a dozen plus application houses, right, from fault detection and diagnostics. Within our platform, there is no need to log in to different systems once you get access. Whatever permissions you have, you go to access it from that particular tab or from the particular mobile apps, number one.

And we also go to a next level where in case of like for example, the bill integration that I explained, we also do a single sign on so that without physically, manually logging in, the customer can jump between apps.

James Dice: [00:43:59] Got it. Interesting. Cool. So yeah, it's just something that I haven't seen done well yet. And it's something that I'm always tracking as well. So it seems like that concept has the ability to reduce what I would call O&M overwhelm. So every facility manager I've ever met, they have way too much on their plate. And there's this like sense or emotion of overwhelm that I sense every time I talk to one of them. So it just seems like something that could help with that if you have one platform to log into.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:44:31] Yes. Because of the nature of the business, as I said, there are several levels of outsourcing, contracting, and if you look at an individual, their job, their responsibility is very fenced. It is fenced for a particular building or particular type of problem. If I am a fire safety contractor, I just have to do what I am contracted. I am given five buildings, I just have to do that, but I have to make sure I'm doing it right.

So that is where this model, where- , we also have like vendor portals. If you are a third party vendor, you get access to Facilio platform, and you are a vendor only for fire safety management. You login, you get all fire safety-related alarms, fire safety-related planned maintenance, unplanned maintenance. And you can pick it up, you can respond saying, Hey, I'm assigning this person, and you get a mobile app where you are able to go physically, go to the building, scan a QR code, do this work, take pictures, upload, get the e-signature from a local persons. All of those workflows are automated, digitized, and they are all recorded within the platform.

So you know that, okay, I outsource my set of properties to this fire safety maintenance company. Maybe in one city, there is another one that I'm using. Among them for a period of time, this team was very timely. Their SLAs are better, the quality of service is better, so I can start giving more business to them. So that level of data, customers can start acquiring. That is what is missing here, where if I'm a real estate company, I want to own my data, utilize my data, learn from the data, and optimize my operations from the data. So that is what this platform application model that we are bringing in helps for customers to basically use their data for their own efficiency.

James Dice: [00:46:28] Yeah. And I think there are a lot of efficiencies to be gained in all those different service contracts and the ways vendors are managed and that sort of thing. I took a deep dive into that on Episode 4, the last episode of the podcast, so if any listeners want to dive into that, it'd be a good place to go check it out.

So let's dive into your sort of go to market strategy and your business model. So one thing I want to ask is how you basically justify this investment for owners of office buildings. And it sounds like there could be some good savings as far as consolidating all of these different siloed systems. Right?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:47:07] Yes. Yes. So one, what we are doing is, even though this brings organization behavioral changes, but a lot of what we are doing is customers are used to it, but used to it in a different way. These are all budgeted. The BMS has FDD in general. Customers are buying different set of energy reporting tools, energy efficiency tools. They are going and procuring a software for work order management. So these are not new, but the model of doing it across portfolio in a more efficient way is a new thing.

So we already have-, we don't have to educate customers on what the application itself delivers. That is already understood, but the education comes in terms of what is the additional ROI they are going to get by operating across portfolio, by operating based on a real time data that is coming out of it.

So the way we substantiate is, the most prominent one is the workforce because maintenance and operations is all heavily manual, workforce driven, outsourced, and it's a very moving population, people keep on changing, because it's an outsource job. You ought to make sure that the quality of service and the timeliness of service and the efficiency of service is very, very high because the tenant's expectation is changing. So in that world, when you do portfolio-wide - , when you bring this data driven plus mobility, everything is done on mobile apps and you have things like geo-fencing, QR coding asset and all those types, that actually brings in tremendous level of workforce efficiency in terms of individuals able to do their work faster, better, more accurately. Number one.

Number two is once you do this, once you onboard all your properties on the platform and then mobile enable everyone and do the planned maintenance in a proper way, your unplanned work drastically comes down. That's what we have seen with customers, where the unexpected errors, problems that tenants face, that comes down drastically, which reduces the work for the maintenance. So that, that is where the workforce efficiency comes in terms of reduced work and faster work by applying mobile machine learning, root cause analysis on this stuff. That is one.

The next center is the asset performance. That is building assets like HVAC, fire, elevators are both expensive and mission critical. Lot of money is spent on both procuring them and maintaining them over a period of time. So if these assets are maintained predictably, used based on data, if the data is available, customers are always looking at it. What happens is the performance of the asset and the lifecycle of the asset improves. So that is next to substantial value that real estate companies are liking, next to the workforce aspect.

The third one is the sustainability angle, because you are doing A and B right, obviously it leads to better energy usage, better water usage, which then leads to savings.

James Dice: [00:50:20] Yeah. So I mean, the primary sales message I guess is reduced operating expenses, and that seems to hold true across energy across workforce, yeah, your internal workforce. So it seems like a new paradigm for O&M, and that's really the message I'm getting from you guys.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:50:38] Yeah. Yep.

James Dice: [00:50:40] Okay. And then, so how are you guys going to market then? Are you going direct to building owners, or is it a partnership model where you're going through service providers, or what's your approach there?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:50:52] Yeah. We are doing a hybrid model, so we also have a channel partnership network where, because it's a new category, we go to existing companies that are doing some sort of business with real estate companies. They could be like partners of automation companies like Honeywell, Siemens, Johnson Controls, so these are like local citywide companies that are selling automation, that are doing maintenance of BMS and all this stuff. So that is one category.

Next category is the facility management service providers themselves. We go and partner with them, so they can be our channel partners. We also partner with a larger IT system integration company because they do a lot of work with real estate companies, so we partner with them.

So one is the channel partner model, plus in parallel we also have a local sales team, which works very closely with the customers, where we are usually like going along together to the customer and selling it, because it's a new category. It requires organizational changes. So we want to make sure, like we have our salespeople who work very closely with the channel to go and approach the customers, educate the customers, and close the deals. So that is the GTM model. It's a mixed hybrid of direct plus channel partners.

James Dice: [00:52:11] Got it. And how does your pricing model work?  Is there an upfront cost? Or, I'm assuming there's a SaaS fee, but is there also an upfront cost?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:52:20] Yeah, so it's a pure SaaS model. We have an annual subscription license, which is based on the number of properties that customers onboard. And the product itself is very, very modular. We spoke about so many applications like energy, FDD, work order management, tenant management. All these apps are modularly priced. So we do a per square foot, cents per square foot model. So within that, each application is priced accordingly. So customers can start with a very small set of properties and maybe one third of the modules that we have, and then expand into other properties, expand the scope into more modules.

And very, very, less upfront costs. Mostly we have a small onboarding fee, which is for onboarding the customers and the buildings into our  application by loading of the buildings, creating a space registry, asset registry and all this stuff. So it's a pure SaaS model, annual subscription, modular.

James Dice: [00:53:24] Got it. Okay, cool. So I want to kind of close this conversation with a little current events. So it's the end of April 2020. So obviously we're in the middle of some global hardship at the moment. So with everything to do with COVID, and as we talk about reoccupying buildings, restarting our economies, how are you seeing tools like your platform changing O&M processes moving forward?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:53:53] Yeah. I see the challenge for real estate as like a two stage. One is first to restart. Okay. When things are getting back, people are coming back to work or retail malls or whatever. Plus just the operations teams has to be ready to restart operations. There is a challenge there. One is because of there are-, like different countries have different cities have different rules. Like sometimes it says like you can only have 30% of workforce on the field. So with all these constraints, how can the operations and maintenance team make sure that the building is up and running for the occupants to come and go, number one.

Next one is there is more emphasis on cleaning, tracking visitors, looking at probably the temperature of the occupants on a regular basis. These are some of the new work that the operations and maintenance teams are going to face. So they need help in training. They need help, guidance in doing it properly.

So these are the initial challenges, but longer term, the real estate companies, the challenges for them is in general the rents are going to be like, there is a percent point they're reducing income. Maybe like potentially reduced occupancies for next short term. And with that, now as real estate company revenues are coming down, they're going to look at how can we become operationally efficient.

The first problem is the whole making sure the service is up and running and with the new challenges. The longer term is how can we become operationally efficient so that the whole profit is not affected, like can be controlled, like can be increased.

So with these two challenges in mind, from Facilio, what we have done is broadly two things. So one is, we have a community like, what we call a educational series called Future Proof, where we run meetups among customers. We build country-wide submits. We have done like two or three times earlier, where we bring in the industry to collaborate and learn. So as part of that, we launched a video interview series where we are bringing in different stakeholders from the industry and asking them to share very specific, very actionable, inputs that others can learn. For example, in a country like, say India, for the buildings to reopen the governments are coming up with very specific compliance laws. Like we are bringing experts where they can explain how to go about the compliance. And we are bringing in experts who can give insights on how to restart a building that is completely shut down. So basically an education series , one place where the industry can come and get access to different knowledge bases. Number one.

We already launched it, three weeks back and we have had like three speakers so far. We are bringing in at least one speaker every week. Plus we are also correlating lot of contents about government complaints and other things. That is part one.

The next part is, within Facilio's product, we have quickly made a lot of changes that will help operations and maintenance teams to operate efficiently with all the new challenges. For example, what we have done is we have created ready-made routines for sanitizations , like going and cleaning your door handles more frequently, cleaning common areas, conference room more frequently. Plus how do you schedule it, and an ability to take pictures and display the pictures for tenants so the tenant gets confidence that, okay, in my building all the common areas are cleaned like once in 75 minutes on an average. Yeah, that is one.

Second one is, how do you handle visitors and even occupants? Like when a visitor comes in, can we go completely touchless, that a visitor need, not even touching to enter their information, so everything is sent with the QR code. Somebody comes, shows the QR code in front of the camera , they're given pass. And next to do with touchlessness, we are enabling customers to go and make comparative changes without touching any buttons like your remote buttons or the buttons on the thermostat . They can just go scan a QR code in the room, the conference room, and from their mobile app adjust temperatures so that they are not required to even touch these buttons. So touchless, we have already implemented for HVAC. We are currently working on, like even for an elevator, that is still a work in progress.

So scheduling workforce, bringing in this cleaning routines is one, and enabling touchless controls is next one. And the third major one that is for long term is, our applications help customers build remotely operated buildings. So the building operations teams can operate their entire portfolio from anywhere, in a much more efficient way. Instead of having 1 person in a shift in each building, they can move to a model where each person shares multiple buildings and they can be more efficient. Plus they can operate from anywhere, from their mobile and from their web apps.

So these are the things that we have already done for our customers and we already rolled out. So that we help them in handling this new situation. And one other thing that we are doing is, we are closely looking at what are the local government complaince that are coming out, and making sure we are adding them into our product in terms of routines, in terms of reports that customers can take and share it to government authorities when they need it.

James Dice: [00:59:34] Great. That's a lot. Thank you for sharing that. So as we wrap up, I'm just looking at all of my notes here. I mean, the one kind of open question in my mind before the final question would be, when you look at the vendor marketplace and potentially look at your competitors, how are you guys building this platform differently than other kind of platforms that pull all the facility data together? So how's your approach different?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [01:00:05] Yeah, yeah. So currently, when it comes to competition, like again, we are still early in this whole curve. And our challenge is to build a product, right product for the customers rather than like worrying about competition, because again, we are still early. We are one of the early movers.

But in general, the way we are doing it is, one is we are making sure that we are very, very hardware and automation agnostic. We don't sell any hardware. We don't build any hardware so that we are not like forcing customers to bring in a specific hardware or rip up their existing ones and putting ours. That is one area where we are very focused.

And next one is we are keeping the whole model as platform customizable workflows, wherein customers are able to bring in their knowledge about their properties into the product without like lot of dependency on us, with very, very less dependency. They are able to bring in their own FDD rules, their own workflows like workflows for approvals, workflows for generating work orders, paying for the work orders, all this stuff. A lot of times the maintenance operation teams have so much of knowledge, but the knowledge is not getting converted into actions and workflows. That is one area where we are focusing so that we stay closer to the customers and give a lot of freedom for the customers to operate.

Mmm. From a company point of view, broadly like, one set of competition is the larger automation companies who are now coming into this platform play, like Honeywell, Siemens, Johnson Controls. So there've been acquiring technologies and putting together, but because we are building all these apps ourselves, so one we are ahead of them now, and we are able to be more flexible and move faster, do it.

And the next set of competition is, again, a lot of startups , but many of them have their own hardwares in terms of metering, sensors, and bundled with the software. That actually becomes a scaling problem. Because we are staying neutral on hardware, we are able to get a better coverage compared to sort of these point solutions.

James Dice: [01:02:20] Got it. Yeah, thanks for that. So as we wrap up, I wanted to give you a chance to talk about what you're excited about moving forward, whatever else on your roadmap that we haven't covered, and any recent wins or anything like that that you want to share with the group?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [01:02:34] Yeah, from a roadmap point of view, we started working on this whole remote building operations for quite some time, and we are going to accelerate that faster. So we believe that this whole new situation is going to trigger customers to look at technologies that will help them to, one, operate their buildings remotely and reduce their operational costs. So that is one area where we are going to focus on how can we, as you said, how can we move a lot of these building ops into cloud instead of, you know, old school instal a software sitting in a BMS room in each building. So that is one piece of roadmap.

And the next area we are focusing is our whole predictable maintenance,  with both FDD and machine learning models, where we are going deeper into covering the HVAC systems, elevator systems, where once we have customers start using Facilio, after a year of data, our machine learning models can kick in and they can really create tremendous value in terms of identifying problems earlier, reducing the failures. Most of that is under the broad area that we'll be focusing.

Third one is we are integrating with a lot of applications like people counting cameras, access control systems, and also like business applications like Facebook, Slack, WhatsApp. These are also very, very important. So the third party apps integration is another area that is right there in our roadmap.

James Dice: [01:04:04] Got it. Very cool. I'll have to have you back on in a couple months and talk about those things. Prabhu, I really appreciate you coming on the show. Where can people find, find out more?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [01:04:17] Yeah. Thank you. Thank you again, for having me. And, the listeners can go to Facilio.com. We have tons of knowledge sharing content there. And there is also option customers can write to us, they can chat with a live representative from the website and reach out to us.

James Dice: [01:04:40] Okay. Great. Well, thanks again, and talk to you soon.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [01:04:44] Yeah, thank you, James. I appreciate you having me on this podcast. Thank you everyone for listening.

James Dice: [01:04:50] All right, friends. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Nexus podcast. For more episodes like this and to get the weekly Nexus newsletter, please subscribe at nexus.substack.com. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. As always, please reach out on LinkedIn with any thoughts on this episode.

I'd love to hear from you. Have a great day.

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Happy Thursday!

Welcome to this week’s deep dive exclusively for Nexus Pro members. It’s an honor to have you here.

This deep dive is a follow up to my recent conversation with Prabhu Ramachandran of Facilio. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation and want to share my takeaways and the full transcript with you below.

In case you missed it in your inbox, you can find the audio or video here:

Nexus site | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | YouTube | Add to other podcast apps

Enjoy!

—James


Disclaimer: James is a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). All opinions expressed via Nexus emails, podcasts, or the website belong solely to James. No resources from NREL are used to support Nexus. NREL does not endorse or support any aspect of Nexus.


Outline

  • James’ reaction

  • James’ highlights and summary of each

    • What is CRE 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0?

    • How are you approaching FDD?

    • Facilio’s suite of native applications

    • Can some of these apps replace the supervisory functions in the BMS?

    • What does a strategic roadmap to advanced supervisory control look like?

    • What does having a platform + application architecture mean?

    • How does the platform architecture allow building owners to have the coveted “single pane of glass”?

    • The four ways building owners save money with the platform

  • Full transcript


My reaction

Relistening to this conversation was fun and I thought there were many great nuggets to take away and think about.

Facilio is playing the home run derby in some ways; their platform has the potential to be a one-stop-shop for so many applications. But I don’t hate it—because they’re also playing the all-star game. This seems like a rare combination of the best of both worlds. By the way: here’s some background on the all-star game vs. home run derby.

Let’s look at an example with two players: FDD and CMMS. The all-star game would integrate the best FDD platform with the best CMMS. We’ve seen FDD firms add work order functionality (see CopperTree). We’ve seen Building IQ buy a CMMS platform and integrate it with their FDD shortly after. We’ve seen FDD people try to connect with work order systems through APIs… and we’ve seen how ugly that can be. Facilio has built both of these from scratch to be integrated together from the start, and they’re not just limiting that integration to 2 positions. Then the kicker is that if you want to use a different CMMS, they will integrate with that too with a SSO experience for the user.

Another lightbulb moment for me was Prabhu’s answer to how they create a single pane of glass. I’ve imagined, naively I think, that the SPOG concept required a single user interface. It's actually about a single platform with apps for everyone. Each app provides a customized user interface for each user.

If you think about where Facilio came from, I would expect their platform to be slick. They came from Zoho, so they know how to do this platform plus applications thing. Where I’m slightly skeptical, and I’m hoping to dive deeper into with a demo, is their HVAC analytics. And more specifically, where they stack up in terms of the data model they’re using and how robust it is for fault detection.

What do you think? What other questions should I ask them in a demo?


Highlights

What is CRE 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0?

[00:09:57]

  • 1.0 is when the building has siloed systems that aren’t that smart
  • 2.0 is when each siloed system has smart overlay layers, but they’re still in siloes, mostly at site level
  • 3.0 is when a platform very tightly and contextually integrates all the silos, uses data/automation, and is more open, flexible, and customizable
How are you approaching FDD?

[00:14:53]

  • Open platform with different templates for different FDD rules. Customers can load the template, they can make changes, apply it, test it on one set of properties, and then apply that into their other properties across their portfolio. It's very easy, they need not come to us.
  • FDD is not just based on the data that we pick from BAS alone. Integrations with, say if you have a lighting system that can count people or any other people-counting systems which are based on Bluetooth or beacon or WiFi signals, we have integration with that for people-counting, for density. So because there is a growing set of integrations, customers have access to all these different sets of data and insights so that the FDD itself is more accurate, more fine-tuned.
  • The FDD rules from alarms to our product can actually be automated or they can also be like semi-automated with someone coming and approving and then creating the tickets. And when the tickets gets assigned to someone on their mobile app, they get access to all the data. If the ticket is about a piece of equipment, they have access to historic data, analytics, reports from that equipment, and also current life data that is coming out to the BMS on their mobile app.
Facilio’s suite of native applications

[00:17:55]

  1. Connected building apps includes your fault detection and diagnostics, sustainability management, and remote building operations module where we can actually go and control the buildings. They can change set points from Facilio like a BMS, which includes your three dimensional graphics, integration with BIM. You can literally operate the entire building from cloud across portfolio. So connected building is broadly these three: sustainability management, which is the energy, water management, reporting, dashboarding analysis, M&V regressions, all of that comes into it; and FDD; and then building controls.
  2. The next suite of apps is maintenance suite, which includes your planned maintenance, unplanned maintenance, help desking, asset management, inventory management, vendor management. All of that comes into our maintenance management.
  3. And the third suite of apps is tenant engagement module, which includes your visitor management, entry management, vendor management, a chat box for tenants to quickly, easily raise tickets, know who's working on the tickets, utility bill management for tenants. All of those tenant-facing apps come under our tenant engagement module. So broadly, we have three suite of apps, and they're all very contextually integrated. They all work on the live stream of data that is coming from the buildings, and customers have the freedom to take all the apps, three suite of apps, or they can take one or two. And we have APIs to go and integrate with an existing app that is already deployed within the customer places.
Can some of these apps replace the supervisory functions in the BMS?

[00:24:11]

  • Some of this functionality would take the place of the BMS aspect of managing set points, supervisory control sequences, schedules, trending, all of those things that typically happen at the server or sometimes supervisory control level of a building automation system.
  • There's a, like a very emerging model that is coming up where there is a BMS in a building, and there is already a trend where there is a IBM, as they call it, as IBM, as where four or five buildings are controlled from a single BMS. So we replaced most part of what the BMS does, right from scheduling to set point controls , and on top of that, we have more advanced fault detection, reporting, dashboarding, and all those tools.
  • But the core area where we do, is we also have 3D graphics. And on the graphics equipment, run status , faults, everything is visualized. And from the graphics, customers can go and control, make set point changes, trigger set point changes, and get it executed. There is also a lot of automation where based on rules, we automatically go and make these changes into the underlying automation control systems.
  • Because there is clear value in centralizing this piece of software, because your control logic or FDD rules, they can be applied across portfolios. Of course there'll be minor tweaks, but instead of going and making, defining FDD rules in each building, physically sitting there and maintaining these rules based on weather changes, based on occupancy changes, they can be done from cloud so that they are more efficient, and the learnings out of them can be applied across portfolio.
What does a strategic roadmap to advanced supervisory control look like?

[00:29:11]

  • It's a new category. It requires organizational changes within the real estate company, because part of the workforce moves from physically in the building, they have to go to some sort of command center, or even that is not required in our model where they can work from anywhere.
  • So first is a platform for data, which is basically bringing visibility into problems. Then applying like mobile, enabling all the workforce, right from your building engineers to technicians to cleaning staff to energy auditors, everybody gets contextual access to the platform. So that brings in the organization-level behavioral changes. Plus that also brings in the visibility of what the value they get out of this. Then that enables them, that gives them the confidence to go ahead and look at centralizing their BMS operations.
What does having a platform + application architecture mean?

[00:32:05]

  • We need to enable customers to operate their portfolio, like the entire portfolio, the operations and maintenance of their entire portfolio has to be done centrally. That itself is not there, where a lot of-, there is so many layers of outsourcing in real estate. So they are outsourcing the BMS maintenance to one company, the file maintenance to another company, the cleaning to another company. There is so much money being spent. The customers do not have visibility. They do not have the flexibility to go and bring in efficiency here. That is where the ball gets dropped. So first is to bring that shift in the whole way of doing operations maintenance.
  • That is where we thought the platform plus application model is a right fit, where even for us, once customers take the platform, we know that they are not going to buy all the 10 different applications we have. But definitely they are going to start with two or three. They are seeing value, and they have the confidence they're going to increase it. In some cases, they may not get some of the apps that we are providing. They can go and get from our competitors or point solution vendors, but we make sure that there are APIs to go and integrate, exchange data between these apps.
  • For example, some of the apps that we are not building, we feel that it is better for customers to take it and integrate is like a true space management application, like your hot-desking kind of applications. There, we expose API so that we feed data into these applications. We also get data from those applications to control or adjust to our systems. Similarly, like an accounting application for real estate. That is something we don't specialize in, but we have APIs to go on feed data into it. Similarly, BIM and digital twins, that is not something we are doing, but we are going and integrating with several BIM vendors, so that when customers bring in their BIM, they are able to integrate and have it as one single competent across portfolio because we provide APIs and data exchange.
  • Currently we are taking application integration on a case by case basis. So when it comes to BIM, the kind of integration that we are doing now is-, so BIMs are traditionally for the construction lifecycle, and post-construction, they are not updated. They become stale because they are not in line with how the buildings are today. So what we do there is because we are getting real time data, operational data from buildings, we pass on this data to BIM in terms of status of equipment. So that when the BIM visualizes this, they can say that, okay, this equipment is in faulty condition, these are the list of faults.
  • And we can also pick up data from BIM. When we onboard a building, we can go and get access to the asset information, asset models from the BIM so that the onboarding is okay. And next level of integration we are also doing with some BIM vendors, we are doing single sign on, so that from Facilio if customer wants to visualize a particular floor or a particular building, they can actually have that visualized on a browser, but we will render it from the BIM application, because we are doing single sign on. That is one use case. Similarly, we do cross single sign on, where from a BIM, if customer wants to view a asset detail page that is rendered from Facilio, they can probably select and invoke a Facilio application page, which gives like what are the tickets pending for that particular equipment, what are the faults, what are the alarms? So that is the contextual level of integration we do.
  • Underlyingly, how it is being done is: one, we have APIs to exchange data; two, we also have APIs for single sign on kind of use cases that enables this whole integration much faster.
How does the platform architecture allow building owners to have the coveted “single pane of glass”?

[00:40:29]

  • There are so many people that are using the building. So you have service providers, commissioning agents, obviously the O&M team in house, you have energy engineers, energy managers, design firms, all of the different other types of contractors.
  • So the way we deal with this, again, so one is: we have a platform plus application model. The underlying platform is common, and we have like FDD as an application or work order management as an application. So there are mobile apps that render those applications on the mobile. Okay. Somebody's getting access to work order management. They login. And their technicians, then they get all their work orders. There are supervisors, they can approve work orders, things like that. Somebody has access to the energy management module also. Then that is a separate visualization of energy data reporting, dashboarding.
  • So what we do is: all the apps that we built on the server side, we are also building mobile apps and mobile renderings for it. That is one layer. The next layer is we have an access control model where you can give access to a person for different modules, plus specific sites. You can even give access to a specific floor where that person, he or she is allowed to work on a specific project. So that is over. You're handling it. So which means everybody gets their context to an app. A tenant has a separate app, where again, within that there are multiple modules like billing, chat board and other things based on their permissions. These modules get enabled in the mobile app.
How building owners save money with the platform

[00:47:07]

There are some good savings as far as consolidating all of these different siloed systems. These are all budgeted. The BMS and FDD in general. Customers are buying different set of energy reporting tools, energy efficiency tools. They are going and procuring a software for work order management. So these are not new, but the model of doing it across portfolio in a more efficient way is a new thing. So we already have-, we don't have to educate customers on what the application itself delivers. That is already understood, but the education comes in terms of what is the additional ROI they are going to get by operating across portfolio, by operating based on a real time data that is coming out of it.

  1. So the way we substantiate is, the most prominent one is the workforce because maintenance and operations is all heavily manual, workforce driven, outsourced, and it's a very moving population, people keep on changing, because it's an outsource job. You ought to make sure that the quality of service and the timeliness of service and the efficiency of service is very, very high because the tenant's expectation is changing. So in that world, when you do portfolio-wide - , when you bring this data driven plus mobility, everything is done on mobile apps and you have things like geo-fencing, QR coding asset and all those types, that actually brings in tremendous level of workforce efficiency in terms of individuals able to do their work faster, better, more accurately. Number one.
  2. Number two is once you do this, once you onboard all your properties on the platform and then mobile enable everyone and do the planned maintenance in a proper way, your unplanned work drastically comes down. That's what we have seen with customers, where the unexpected errors, problems that tenants face, that comes down drastically, which reduces the work for the maintenance. So that, that is where the workforce efficiency comes in terms of reduced work and faster work by applying mobile machine learning, root cause analysis on this stuff.
  3. The next center is the asset performance. That is building assets like HVAC, fire, elevators are both expensive and mission critical. Lot of money is spent on both procuring them and maintaining them over a period of time. So if these assets are maintained predictably, used based on data, if the data is available, customers are always looking at it. What happens is the performance of the asset and the lifecycle of the asset improves. So that is next to substantial value that real estate companies are liking, next to the workforce aspect.
  4. The fourth one is the sustainability angle, because you are doing A and B right, obviously it leads to better energy usage, better water usage, which then leads to savings.

What did you think about these highlights? Let us know in the comments.

Leave a comment


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!

James Dice: [00:00:00] Hello, friends. Welcome to the Nexus, a smart buildings technology podcast for smart humans. I'm your host, James Dice. If we haven't met before, I write a weekly newsletter on the same topic. It's also called Nexus. Each week I share what I've learned, my opinions, and what I'm excited about in the quickly evolving world of intelligent buildings. Readers have called Nexus the best way to stay up to date on the future of this industry without all the marketing fluff. You can check it out and subscribe at nexus.substack.com or click the link in the show notes.

Since starting the Nexus newsletter, many of you have reached out to me wanting to talk shop, and we have. After a few weeks of those wonderful conversations, I realized I needed to record and share them with our growing community. So here we are. The Nexus podcast is born. This is our chance to explore and learn what the brightest in our industry together .

Okay, let's dive in then. Episode 6 is a conversation with Prabhu Ramachandran, CEO of Facilio, a software as a service platform for facility operations and maintenance. I really like where they're headed, and this was a really fun conversation. We talk about how Prabu was inspired by remote monitoring practices in the telecom industry and why he launched Facilio in the commercial real estate space. We talk about the next wave of smart buildings, which Prabu calls CRE 3.0. We deep dive into Facilio software, including the architecture of the suite of native apps, how it provides a single pane of glass for operators, and much more.

This episode of the podcast is directly funded by listeners like you who have joined the Nexus Pro membership community. You can find info on how to join and support the podcast at nexus.substack.com. You'll also find the show notes to this conversation, which has links to Facilio's website and Prabhu's LinkedIn page. Without further ado, please enjoy Nexus Podcast Episode 6.

One more quick note before we get to this week's episode. I'm a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, otherwise known as NREL. All opinions expressed on this podcast belong solely to me or the guest. No resources from NREL are used to support Nexus. NREL does not endorse or support any aspect of Nexus.

Hello, Prabhu. Welcome to the podcast.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:02:26] Hi, James. Thanks for inviting me. I'm very glad that I'm part of this podcast.

James Dice: [00:02:33] Yeah. So please introduce yourself, and introduce Facilio for the folks.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:02:39] Yeah. So my name is Prabhu Ramachadran. I'm the Founder and CEO of Facilio . About my background, I started my career with the Zoho cooperation. And myself and my co-founders, we spent around 17 years with Zoho, where I was heading one of the three product divisions of Zoho that deals with software for telecom network infrastructure management. That is remote infrastructure management of pan-country telecom networks. And I also built the internet of things software platform and applications product line within Zoho, where we had applications like windmill monitoring, solar monitoring, industrial,  remote asset management solutions, vehicle tracking kind of solutions.

So broadly, my background is from building large-scale enterprise software around data-driven remote monitoring and operations of infrastructure. That's what I come from. And at Facilio, so we offer a software platform, a cloud-based software platform for real estate operations and maintenance. And we offer this to real estate owners and operators who own a large portfolio of facilities that are geographically distributed. And our solution helps our customers to run their entire portfolio of facilities from a centralized platform and a very efficient data-driven model.

James Dice: [00:04:18] Cool. Thank you for that. So it sounds like you were implementing intelligent solutions for telecom. They're not facilities, right? They're communication stations and those sorts of things.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:04:33] Yes, yes.

James Dice: [00:04:34] And it sounds like you realized, Hey, there's a big opportunity to do a similar thing for the building space. So can you tell us more about why you started Facilio?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:04:43] Yes. So in my previous 17 years of career, as I explained, I'd always been working on technology that helps large distributor infrastructure. Telecom is one. And also as part of the IoT, we are working on like windmill farms, solar farms, they cross across countries. So primarily around how can you apply technology to bring efficiency in operations, maintenance, remote management of infrastructure.

So with this background, when we started Facilio, I saw that real estate as a market was like a couple of decades behind where telecom is today. In last 20 years, if you look at telecom as an industry, it has undergone like tremendous evolution every few years, every five years, right? From, what you say, like the landline to mobile. Within mobile, 2G, 3G, 4G, now 5G. And even the adoption of telecoms across the world has been very, very fast. But the industry has been able to move so fast. One of the core pillars is their ability to remotely run their operations in a very, very efficient way so that they are able to scale faster, plus they are able to offer high level of service quality.

Okay, so compare that with buildings. Imagine like, imagine a telecom tower today is being forced to have like one engineer sitting there in like 24 by seven across shifts, and every few minutes going and checking some terminal, like your BMS room for any alarms, and then calling people to raise tickets.

So we cannot have all these communications possible today. So, but that's how the buildings are operated. So we thought it's a huge opportunity for us to apply technology like the power of cloud, the power of mobility, internet of things, machine learning into real estate operations and maintenance. Like how can real estate operators operate their entire portfolio as a single entity? Because obviously there is, there is tremendous opportunity there to bring in efficiency when you look at across portfolio, very similar to what has happened in industries like Uber, like model, and also areas like your supply chain, how supply chain has advanced because of these connected systems.

So we want to bring that level of sophistication into real estate so that real estate owners and operators are able to operate the portfolio very, very efficiently.

James Dice: [00:07:20] Got it. Cool. So it sounds like you, you said you serve real estate. Is commercial real estate, so office buildings, is that your primary target market for your product?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:07:32] Yes. So we are currently focusing on commercial real estate. And within that, in our earlier days we started office buildings as our core target.  And then over a period of time, we are also seeing that our asset class expanding into, like other asset class, like retail, hospitals, government buildings, the like educational institution, because the product applies across asset classes, but still our major focus is commercial office buildings.

James Dice: [00:08:03] Got it. So you're coming to us from India today, it's quite late in the night there. So I appreciate you making the time for us. So where, where are you guys throughout the world? Where are your offices and then where are your clients located at this point?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:08:20] Yeah, so we are headquartered in the US. We have our headquarter office in New York, so we have a local team in New York. And we have a office in Dubai. Our Middle East operations are run from our Dubai office. We have our code development team sitting out of Chennai, India. We recently opened our office in Singapore, and so we are looking to start our operations in Europe. These are the areas where we operate currently.

And with respect to clients, currently the major part of our clients are in the Middle East, and the next market is US. We have clients in Brazil, India, now we're starting to sign up customers in Singapore, Europe, and other regions.

James Dice: [00:09:06] Cool. And I have to make a shout out to Ephraim who is one of your employees in NYC or New York City.  He's a podcaster himself, and he was really influential in getting me to start this podcast. So shout out to Ephraim, and thanks to him for that.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:09:22] Yeah. Yeah. Thank you.

James Dice: [00:09:24] So let's transition over to the product itself. So the Nexus audience is  what I like to call smart building nerds, so I feel like we gotta do a deep dive for them to really understand the ins and outs of what product you guys are bringing to the marketplace. So I think a good way to set the stage for that is for you to talk about this concept of CRE 1.0 2.0 and 3.0. So could you talk about what, what was 1.0 and 2.0, and what problems, did we have with those?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:09:57] Yeah, yeah. So the way I would define the 1.0 and 2.0 is 1.0 is more about very pointed automation technologies coming into buildings, predominantly as part of construction. So you have your HVAC automation, elevator automations, fire safety automations, and then there is a BMS sitting on top of that. Uh, but again, these are all hardware driven system, less software, and done at a per-facility, per-building level.

And then the 2.0 is a software layer above that, like siloed pointed tools, tools for energy management and for fault detection and diagnostics, asset management, facilities maintenance management, inventory management, space management. These all fall under like pointed tools, being used, again, mostly around site level. There could be like, same set of tools across portfolio used by different teams , but they solve one purpose. Okay. But mostly they are not talking to the automation systems. That is the 2.0 environment. Yeah.

So 3.0 is a new, new way of looking at real estate operations where: one, your automation is important, but the softwares that are being used, they are talking to the automation system, they are looking at data, they are leveraging data, number one; and number two is instead of being like siloed tools, these systems are very contextually integrated. They are more open so that customers have the freedom to go and bring in their own custom workflows, custom rules into these systems very easily, rather than doing this as like six months project with so many people, people deployed, these are like very, very flexible systems. That is the whole 3.0 that we are calling, where it is data-driven. It is always looked at portfolio-wide, so that customers are looking at their entire portfolio as one entity, and the systems are very tightly and contextually integrated, and they are more open and collaborative for the customer rather than being vendor-locked. This is all defining the 3.0.

James Dice: [00:12:16] Got it. And so back on 2.0 for a second, what, what are the problems related to having all of these smart systems that are still isolated, essentially?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:12:26] Yeah. So one is because the data, like if you say I'm a customer, and then we end up with dozens of different systems, they saw the purpose for that particular site or that particular set of buildings that are applied, but in a world where, if you are able to drive efficiency by looking at how is your operations running across your portfolio. The customer has, say, 30 40 million square feet of dozens of buildings across the city, and if the customer is having real time visibility into how their teams are performing, how their tenants are being served, what is their satisfaction level? What is the sustainability of each of these buildings? Which part of the buildings are performing well, and why they are doing it? Can I apply that learnings into other systems? This is not possible with this 2.0 model because the data is scattered, and there is no contextual integration.

Everything that gets done, it takes unnecessarily a lot of time from identifying a problem, creating that into a ticket in a different system, and then once the ticket is assigned to a engineer, he or she has to go again, talk to different people, probably look at the BMS, go and talk to the BMS engineer, get some reports downloaded from that for analysis. All of this takes a lot of time. So that is where the 2.0 model falls. There's a point in terms of enabling customers to bring in efficiency.

So in 3.0 if everything is data-driven, there is a centralized data, single pane of glass, plus customers have the flexibility to leverage the data, work on the data, get insights from the data, and pass on these insights contextually to different stakeholders. That that is how they are able to gain superior level of efficiency.

James Dice: [00:14:18] Yeah. And just to drive that home, I've done fault detection and diagnostics for a long time, as our listeners know, and one of the huge opportunities in that space is obviously the, you know, people start to prove the value and start to realize, hey, this is important. These faults are really good. I want to start doing something about those faults.

Now, I think what people find is that it's not that easy to take a list of faults and easily turn them into work orders. And so what I'm hearing from you guys is that you're providing one platform for both of those that's natively integrated together. Is that right?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:14:53] Yes. Yes, you're right. Plus on top of that, even within our fault detection and diagnostics, the way we have built it is, again, open platform where customers can easily-, we have like templates, different templates for different FDD rules. Customers can load the template, they can make changes, apply it, test it on one set of properties, and then apply that into their other properties across their portfolio. It's very easy, they need not come to us. And they can get trained, they can define, create their own rules.

On top of that, the FDD system itself is not just based on the data that we pick from BMS alone. We have integrations with, say if you have a lighting systems that can count people or any other people-counting systems which is based on Bluetooth or beacon or WiFi signals, we have integration with that for people-counting, for density. So that can be considered for fault detection and diagnostics on top of weather data, occupancy data, we can integrate with our condense systems. So because we are building a platform and there is a growing set of integrations, customers have access to all these different set of datas and insights so that the FDD itself is more accurate, more fine tool.

And we have work order management systems wherein the FDD rules from alarms to our product can actually be automated or they can also be like semi-automated with someone coming and approving and then creating the tickets. And when the tickets gets assigned to someone on their mobile app, they get access to all the data. If the ticket is about a piece of equipment, they have access to historic data, analytics, reports from that equipment, and also current life data that is coming out to the BMS on their mobile app. On top of that, we have a root cause engine that actually runs rules. You'll find what could be the different root causes for that particular problem. So if I'm a technician anywhere in the world, I get access to all this information right on my mobile app, so I'm able to react faster. I'm able to go and fix or go work on the problem much faster than the older way of me going physically to the building, talking to BMS, getting reports, looking at them, and then coming up with some set of next next steps to go and do it.

James Dice: [00:17:21] Got it. Yeah. So it's no longer about having siloed systems that you're integrating. I mean, you're starting with all the systems being integrated together. That's, that's really, I mean, I haven't seen a whole lot of platforms approach it from that perspective. So when you describe the product to people that haven't heard about it before, what do you call it? You call it analytics? Do you call it building operating system? Like what is your, what is your terminology? Because that's a huge thing that a lot of our listeners have problems with. There's so many acronyms. There's so many names on the marketplace.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:17:55] Yes. So what we call this is building ops cloud. And the explanation for that is a operations and maintenance cloud for real estate portfolio.

So what we offer within that is, there are two components into it. One is an IoT software, which goes and sits into each of the buildings. And that software has the ability to go and integrate with existing automation systems, using different protocols like BACnet, Modbus, LonWorks, OPC, supporting all these protocols. It grabs the data, pushes to the cloud, and within that cloud we have a cloud platform which embeds our FDD engine, workflow automation engine, mobile platform, machine learning models.  All these are part of the platform.

And on top of the platform, we are building suite of applications, and we currently have three suite of applications. Number one is, we call this connected building apps. So connected building apps includes your fault detection and diagnostics, sustainability management, and remote building operations module where we can actually go and control the buildings. They can change set points from Facilio like a BMS, which includes your three dimensional graphics, integration with BIM. You can literally operate the entire building from cloud across portfolio. So connected building is broadly these three: sustainability management, which is the energy, water management, reporting, dashboarding analysis, M&V regressions, all of that comes into it; and FDD; and then building controls.

The next suite of apps is maintenance suite, which includes your planned maintenance, unplanned maintenance, help desking, asset management, inventory management, vendor management. All of that comes into our maintenance management.

And the third suite of apps is tenant engagement module, which includes your visitor management, entry management, vendor management, a chat box for tenants to quickly, easily raise tickets, know who's working on the tickets, utility bill management for tenants. All of those tenant-facing apps come under our tenant engagement module. So broadly, we have three suite of apps, and they're all very contextually integrated. They all work on the live stream of data that is coming from the buildings, and customers have the freedom to take all the apps, three suite of apps, or they can take one or two. And we have APIs to go and integrate with an existing app that is already deployed within the customer places.

James Dice: [00:20:40] Okay. Very cool. And do any of your customers, I'm sure they just start out with one or two of those, like you said. Which ones do they start off with usually?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:20:50] So we are seeing a mix of like I would say the connected and maintenance management are the predominant ones. And we are seeing more and more adoption of tenant-facing apps, particularly the larger customers, they want to make sure that the experience for tenants is very frictionless. Right? In terms of raising problems, being made of aware of who's working on it. So the first two apps, the connected and maintenance are the more predominantly used, and more and more we are seeing the tenant one as an emerging category.

James Dice: [00:21:26] Got it. Okay. Yeah, so that was a great overview of the capabilities of the platform. In terms of the scope of the platform, it sounds like you guys are connecting any and all building systems. Is that right? Is there any, any system that you wouldn't pull into the platform? Or is it any smart system, any system that's producing data, you guys are going to pull it in?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:21:48] Yes. So our model is-, again, we have a software edge, edge software, and it talks in standard protocols. Any system that supports protocols like BACnet, Modbus, OPC, LonWorks, we have already added it. On top of that, we have APIs to pull data from, say an Excel upload, an Excel sheet, parsing Excel sheet, and taking data on a CSV file, or Java API to integrate with third party application to pull the data, or rest API to integrate with existing third party applications. They could be like attendance systems or an accounting systems or inventory management system. So both from automation and software, we can pull data.

James Dice: [00:22:31] Got it. Okay. And the IoT software, it can run on a virtual machine or put on some sort of hardware gateway, is that the approach?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:22:40] Yeah. Yeah it runs on a Linux environment, so usually customers would put it on a standard gateway. We don't sell that gateway. We want to be hardware agnostic. It can run on a Linux base gateway or a virtual machine. In some cases, customers go for an industrial PC to run it. It's a choice of the customer. And the edge itself is very hardened, it is intelligent too, in case if there is no network connectivity, it can store the data and then push it later, and the interval of data push is configurable. Alarms are pushed immediately. Any data which is performance or which is critical data is pushed immediately. It is highly secure. We have data encryption, both for storage and the communication between the agent to the server . It's completely encrypted, to a highest level.

James Dice: [00:23:33] Got it. Okay. I want to key in on the supervisory control aspect of this. So,  I want to talk about use cases. But first, is it correct to assume that this functionality would take the place of the BMS aspect of managing set points, supervisory control sequences, schedules, trending, all of those things that typically happen at the server or sometimes supervisory control level of a building automation system, are you guys basically able to replace that, or is it supplementary? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:24:11] Yes. As you agree, there's a, like a very emerging model that is coming up where there is a BMS in a building, and there is already a trend where there is a IBM, as they call it, as IBM, as where four or five buildings are controlled from a single BMS. So we replaced most part of what the BMS does, right from scheduling to set point controls , and on top of that, we have more advanced fault detection, reporting, dashboarding, and all those tools.

But the core area where we do, is we also have 3D graphics. And on the graphics equipment, run status , faults, everything is visualized. And from the graphics, customers can go and control, make set point changes, trigger set point changes, and get it executed. There is also a lot of automation where based on rules, we automatically go and make these changes into the underlying automation control systems.

James Dice: [00:25:09] Got it. I mean, I think that's a key point here is that the CRE 2.0 paradigm that you, you talked about was really an overlay software on top of the BMS. And I think what you're describing is the ability-, you don't have to do it, it doesn't have to be like this, but a building owner no longer has to have what I would call BAS and a BMS. They could just have a BAS, which is just controllers and com wire, right?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:25:36] Yeah, yeah.

James Dice: [00:25:38] And they could leave the BMS aspect, which is a significant cost and a significant complication then in some cases, they could leave that aspect to a platform like yours. Right?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:25:48] Right. Because there is clear value in centralizing this piece of software, because your control logic or FDD rules, they can be applied across portfolios. Of course there'll be minor tweaks, but instead of going and making, defining FDD rules in each building, physically sitting there and maintaining these rules based on weather changes, based on occupancy changes, they can be done from cloud so that they are more efficient, and the learnings out of them can be applied across portfolio.

James Dice: [00:26:23] Cool. Yeah, I agree. So what other-, so it sounds like scheduling, alarming, 3D graphics, set points, are you doing any sort of what I would call like advanced supervisory control, where you're optimizing set points using something like machine learning or optimization algorithms?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:26:40] Yes. So we have two layers in those, one is our rule-based fault detection and diagnostics surveyor. We currently have our own hundred plus predefined rule templates just for the HVAC systems alone. Plus, we are also building machine learning models where we take the historical data, and we run our machine learning algorithm to do anomaly detections, predictive maintenance of equipment, predicting problems in the equipment beforehand . So these machine learning models are, again, so we have a library and we are continuously building them. So the first one is the FDD. From day one, our rule-based FDD kicks in. And once we have at least one year of data, then our ML models start applying on the data.

The outcome of the ML model is, again, an alarm. And the alarm could trigger an action. An action could be a ticket, or it can also be going back to the automation system and making dynamic set points, adjustments for data, energy efficiency or the equipment efficiency.

James Dice: [00:27:48] Yeah. That's another key point here, is that the CRE 2.0 paradigm, just to kind of piggyback on your model, is that when you have a fault, it just goes on a list. You know, the loop is not closed. It's an open loop. So I think what you're describing is that you come up with a fault. The fault might say, Hey, this sequence of operations is wrong. So what you're saying is your platform actually would then close that loop and say, let's improve the sequence of operations automatically.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:28:15] Right, right, it does, yeah. So it is automatically, yes. And many cases, it can also be semi automatic, where we trigger a workflow, somebody looks at it, approves it. This can happen in like a minute. And then they go and make these changes into the buildings, because sometimes, not all use cases customers want the automation. They want some time for these tickets. So it could be like a supervisor getting a pop up message on their mobile app saying, Hey, this is what the system detected. The system can go and make these changes. Can I go ahead? Then they approve that, it goes and does stuff.

James Dice: [00:28:51] Got it. Cool. So you kinda mentioned this a little bit there, but I'm hearing there's quite a bit of pushback from building operators on this kind of new paradigm of supervisory control. So what are you seeing kind of from around the world as far as building operators allowing this advanced supervisory control to happen?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:29:11] Yeah. Yes. So it's a new category. It requires organizational changes within the real estate company, because part of the workforce moves from physically in the building, they have to go to some sort of command center, or even that is not required in our model where they can work from anywhere.

So what we are seeing is that customers are initially looking at applying our platform to first acquire the data, because that itself is very, very hard in real estate. Where if I have a portfolio of properties, can I have my operation data sanitized and readily available in one place, like data about my energy consumption, about my equipment's performance, equipment age, about my facility's workforce. In most cases, it is some outsourced set of workforce, but still we need like who is doing what, whose performance is better, whose SLA is better? So this data itself is not available for customers. That is where customers are starting, where they are looking at a platform, and first is visibility across the portfolio, the number one.

They start with that and then, then they look at, okay, so now I have the data. And then we have this application that does fault detection, diagnostics, energy management, and they are automatically converted to a ticket, that is, they look at our maintenance management. So once that is there, they see the value that they get just by having this portfolio-wide data, benchmarking, baselining. And then they look at, okay, now we are ready. Can we go and apply our automated controls? That's how the flow comes.

So first is a platform for data, which is basically bringing visibility into problems. Then applying like mobile, enabling all the workforce, right from your building engineers to technicians to cleaning staff to energy auditors, everybody gets contextual access to the platform. So that brings in the organization-level behavioral changes. Plus that also brings in the visibility of what the value they get out of this. Then that enables them, that gives them the confidence to go ahead and look at centralizing their BMS operations.

James Dice: [00:31:28] Great. Thank you. Yeah. That strikes me as a much more strategic way to approach these advanced types of supervisory control, than say, there's many companies that have popped up in recent years where that's all they're doing. And I mean, I think on one hand you could say that, you know, that's also strategic as a company for them to say, we're only doing this one thing, but I've had a little bit of skepticism - and I'm writing about this right now for one of our deep dives - I have a skepticism of that being a standalone solution, when you don't have all these other boxes checked like you're talking about.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:32:05] Yeah. Yeah. See, my conviction is that rather than looking at each of these competents, as you say, we need to enable customers to operate their portfolio, like the entire portfolio, the operations and maintenance of their entire portfolio has to be done centrally. That itself is not there, where a lot of-, there is so many layers of outsourcing in real estate. So they are outsourcing the BMS maintenance to one company, the file maintenance to another company, the cleaning to another company. There is so much money being spent. The customers do not have visibility. They do not have the flexibility to go and bring in efficiency here. That is where the ball gets dropped. So first is to bring that shift in the whole way of doing operations maintenance. That is where we thought the platform plus application model is a right fit, where even for us, once customers take the platform, we know that they are not going to buy all the 10 different applications we have. But definitely they are going to start with two or three. They are seeing value, and they have the confidence they're going to increase it. In some cases, they may not get some of the apps that we are providing. They can go and get from our competitors or point solution vendors, but we make sure that there are APIs to go and integrate, exchange data between these apps.

For example, some of the apps that we are not building, we feel that it is better for customers to take it and integrate is like a true space management application, like your hot desking kind of applications. There, we expose API so that we feed data into these applications. We also get data from those applications to control or adjust to our systems. Similarly, like an accounting application for real estate. That is something we don't specialize in, but we have APIs to go on feed data into it. Similarly, BIM and digital twins, that is not something we are doing, but we are going and integrating with several BIM vendors, so that when customers bring in their BIM, they are able to integrate and have it as one single competent across portfolio because we provide APIs and data exchange.

James Dice: [00:34:18] Okay. And yeah, and I wanted to hit that eventually. So maybe we'll just talk about it now. The platform aspect-, so when you provide that API for that third party app , how does the workflow for the user work? And maybe if you could just use the BIM or digital twin example, is a 3D model being brought into Facilio's user interface, or is that a separate application that it sounds like you're just making sure the data is the same on both platforms?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:34:51] Yeah. So again, currently we are taking application integration on a case by case basis. So when it comes to BIM, the kind of integration that we are doing now is-, so BIMs are traditionally for the construction lifecycle, and post-construction, they are not updated. They become stale because they are not in line with how the buildings are today. So what we do there is because we are getting real time data, operational data from buildings, we pass on this data to BIM in terms of status of equipment. So that when the BIM visualizes this, they can say that, okay, this equipment is in faulty condition, these are the list of faults.

And we can also pick up data from BIM. When we onboard a building, we can go and get access to the asset information, asset models from the BIM so that the onboarding is okay. And next level of integration we are also doing with some BIM vendors, we are doing single sign on, so that from Facilio if customer wants to visualize a particular floor or a particular building, they can actually have that visualized on a browser, but we will render it from the BIM application, because we are doing single sign on. That is one use case. Similarly, we do cross single sign on, where from a BIM, if customer wants to view a asset detail page that is rendered from Facilio, they can probably select and invoke a Facilio application page, which gives like what are the tickets pending for that particular equipment, what are the faults, what are the alarms? So that is the contextual level of integration we do.

Underlyingly, how it is being done is: one, we have APIs to exchange data; two, we also have APIs for single sign on kind of use cases that enables this whole integration much faster.

James Dice: [00:36:43] Great. Okay. Yeah. I think this is just one place where at least I have some confusion in the marketplace when people talk about apps. So just in this conversation alone, we've talked about your connected building apps, which is your FDD, your sustainability, and your control. I mean, those make total sense.

But then when you talk about third party apps, I think where there's a lot of confusion is, how those apps are actually implemented for the user. So that's where I'm asking these. So some people are coming out with this concept of like an app store, like the iPhone obviously has the app store, Android has the Google app store. So how are you guys thinking about that? And the reason I'm asking is because I feel like with the iPhone at least, that's in our pockets, the app store is a way to kind of future-proof the platform in a way. In other words, no matter what future use case comes along, someone could just build an app right on top of that, and they're not necessarily relying on you, Facilio, to build that app. Right? So  I feel like that structure could make it a lot less risky to invest in the Facilio platform. How are you guys thinking about that?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:37:53] Right, so that is where the road map for us is going, where we are not yet there, meaning we don't, we are not an open-door app store or public app integration as of now, but we are probably like anywhere between like six months, 12 months away from that. But currently what we are doing is we have , other than our connected building apps, we have a concept of connected apps, where currently with the other application vendor, we are collaborating and building these integrations and making them available for Facilio's customers to pick up those apps that we have pre-integrated.

So other than BIM, we are integrated with the people counting apps. There are applications that count people based on beacons or WiFi signals. So we have pre-integration with these vendors, so that if a customer wants to do people counting and then use the data for a day to day optimization, they can do it. Other set of apps camera applications, we have integrated with multiple camere vendors, where today you have AI cameras that can do people counting, gender-based counting, proximity and all those types. So we have integrated with that. So we have APIs that can be integrated with other camera applications. Uh, access control system is another area where we are integrating and getting that.

So currently we are collaborating with other vendors and building a pool of integrations, making them available for our customers. But we are slowly moving to a model where as the other systems mature, we'll make it as an open marketplace where other vendors can come integrate, get listed , but we are like maybe at least a year from that stage now. But as a roadmap, we are going there.

James Dice: [00:39:41] Got it. Cool. Yeah, that's something that maybe you can come back in six months or a year and talk about it, because that's-, I'm just tracking that.  It's just something that I feel the industry needs to head towards. It sounds like you guys agree.

So back on all the different capabilities of the platform, you mentioned all the different layers of outsourcing, and it's something that I've talked about on this podcast before. It's just there are so many people that are using the building. So you have service providers, commissioning agents, obviously the O&M team in house, you have energy engineers, energy managers, design firms, all of the different other types of contractors. So how are you guys approaching this problem of building a software platform for all of these different users, but really it's only one user interface?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:40:29] Yeah. So the way we deal with this, again, so one is: we have a platform plus application model. The underlying platform is common, and we have like FDD as an application or work order management as an application. So there are mobile apps that render those applications on the mobile. Okay. Somebody's getting access to work order management. They login. And their technicians, then they get all their work orders. There are supervisors, they can approve work orders, things like that. Somebody has access to the energy management module also. Then that is a separate visualization of energy data reporting, dashboarding. So what we do is: all the apps that we built on the server side, we are also building  mobile apps and mobile renderings for it. That is one layer.

The next layer is we have an access control model where you can give access to a person for different modules, plus specific sites. You can even give access to a specific floor where that person, he or she is allowed to work on a specific project. So that is over. You're handling it. So which means everybody gets their context to an app. A tenant has a separate app, where again, within that there are multiple modules like billing, chat board and other things based on their permissions. These modules get enabled in the mobile app.

James Dice: [00:41:54] Cool. And I think this is key for something you said earlier, which is this acronym that I keep hearing, which is SPOG or single pane of glass. And it sounds like the way you guys approach a single pane of glass is that, based on the user and what their use cases are, they're going to see different apps and have access to different apps. And that's how you're basically executing the single pane of glass concept. Is that correct?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:42:21] Right. Right. So, for example, if I'm a sustainability engineer, I get access to my M&V module, regression analysis, my reporting, dashboarding, analytics, but the underlying data is common. So the M&V model uses the same data. Similarly, FDD model is also working on the same data. And asset performance optimization also is using the same data. So that's where the model of having a common platform, which stores data and normalizes, works on the data, and then application, just go and access the data. And on top of application, so you have access control permissions where based on what user and which properties, they get access to that.

James Dice: [00:43:03] Got it. And I think part of the single pane of glass definition is that you at least in some ways remove the need to even log in to all the different siloed systems. Is that something that you guys are hoping for and seeing?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:43:18] Yes. So if you look at our model itself we currently have like a dozen plus application houses, right, from fault detection and diagnostics. Within our platform, there is no need to log in to different systems once you get access. Whatever permissions you have, you go to access it from that particular tab or from the particular mobile apps, number one.

And we also go to a next level where in case of like for example, the bill integration that I explained, we also do a single sign on so that without physically, manually logging in, the customer can jump between apps.

James Dice: [00:43:59] Got it. Interesting. Cool. So yeah, it's just something that I haven't seen done well yet. And it's something that I'm always tracking as well. So it seems like that concept has the ability to reduce what I would call O&M overwhelm. So every facility manager I've ever met, they have way too much on their plate. And there's this like sense or emotion of overwhelm that I sense every time I talk to one of them. So it just seems like something that could help with that if you have one platform to log into.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:44:31] Yes. Because of the nature of the business, as I said, there are several levels of outsourcing, contracting, and if you look at an individual, their job, their responsibility is very fenced. It is fenced for a particular building or particular type of problem. If I am a fire safety contractor, I just have to do what I am contracted. I am given five buildings, I just have to do that, but I have to make sure I'm doing it right.

So that is where this model, where- , we also have like vendor portals. If you are a third party vendor, you get access to Facilio platform, and you are a vendor only for fire safety management. You login, you get all fire safety-related alarms, fire safety-related planned maintenance, unplanned maintenance. And you can pick it up, you can respond saying, Hey, I'm assigning this person, and you get a mobile app where you are able to go physically, go to the building, scan a QR code, do this work, take pictures, upload, get the e-signature from a local persons. All of those workflows are automated, digitized, and they are all recorded within the platform.

So you know that, okay, I outsource my set of properties to this fire safety maintenance company. Maybe in one city, there is another one that I'm using. Among them for a period of time, this team was very timely. Their SLAs are better, the quality of service is better, so I can start giving more business to them. So that level of data, customers can start acquiring. That is what is missing here, where if I'm a real estate company, I want to own my data, utilize my data, learn from the data, and optimize my operations from the data. So that is what this platform application model that we are bringing in helps for customers to basically use their data for their own efficiency.

James Dice: [00:46:28] Yeah. And I think there are a lot of efficiencies to be gained in all those different service contracts and the ways vendors are managed and that sort of thing. I took a deep dive into that on Episode 4, the last episode of the podcast, so if any listeners want to dive into that, it'd be a good place to go check it out.

So let's dive into your sort of go to market strategy and your business model. So one thing I want to ask is how you basically justify this investment for owners of office buildings. And it sounds like there could be some good savings as far as consolidating all of these different siloed systems. Right?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:47:07] Yes. Yes. So one, what we are doing is, even though this brings organization behavioral changes, but a lot of what we are doing is customers are used to it, but used to it in a different way. These are all budgeted. The BMS has FDD in general. Customers are buying different set of energy reporting tools, energy efficiency tools. They are going and procuring a software for work order management. So these are not new, but the model of doing it across portfolio in a more efficient way is a new thing.

So we already have-, we don't have to educate customers on what the application itself delivers. That is already understood, but the education comes in terms of what is the additional ROI they are going to get by operating across portfolio, by operating based on a real time data that is coming out of it.

So the way we substantiate is, the most prominent one is the workforce because maintenance and operations is all heavily manual, workforce driven, outsourced, and it's a very moving population, people keep on changing, because it's an outsource job. You ought to make sure that the quality of service and the timeliness of service and the efficiency of service is very, very high because the tenant's expectation is changing. So in that world, when you do portfolio-wide - , when you bring this data driven plus mobility, everything is done on mobile apps and you have things like geo-fencing, QR coding asset and all those types, that actually brings in tremendous level of workforce efficiency in terms of individuals able to do their work faster, better, more accurately. Number one.

Number two is once you do this, once you onboard all your properties on the platform and then mobile enable everyone and do the planned maintenance in a proper way, your unplanned work drastically comes down. That's what we have seen with customers, where the unexpected errors, problems that tenants face, that comes down drastically, which reduces the work for the maintenance. So that, that is where the workforce efficiency comes in terms of reduced work and faster work by applying mobile machine learning, root cause analysis on this stuff. That is one.

The next center is the asset performance. That is building assets like HVAC, fire, elevators are both expensive and mission critical. Lot of money is spent on both procuring them and maintaining them over a period of time. So if these assets are maintained predictably, used based on data, if the data is available, customers are always looking at it. What happens is the performance of the asset and the lifecycle of the asset improves. So that is next to substantial value that real estate companies are liking, next to the workforce aspect.

The third one is the sustainability angle, because you are doing A and B right, obviously it leads to better energy usage, better water usage, which then leads to savings.

James Dice: [00:50:20] Yeah. So I mean, the primary sales message I guess is reduced operating expenses, and that seems to hold true across energy across workforce, yeah, your internal workforce. So it seems like a new paradigm for O&M, and that's really the message I'm getting from you guys.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:50:38] Yeah. Yep.

James Dice: [00:50:40] Okay. And then, so how are you guys going to market then? Are you going direct to building owners, or is it a partnership model where you're going through service providers, or what's your approach there?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:50:52] Yeah. We are doing a hybrid model, so we also have a channel partnership network where, because it's a new category, we go to existing companies that are doing some sort of business with real estate companies. They could be like partners of automation companies like Honeywell, Siemens, Johnson Controls, so these are like local citywide companies that are selling automation, that are doing maintenance of BMS and all this stuff. So that is one category.

Next category is the facility management service providers themselves. We go and partner with them, so they can be our channel partners. We also partner with a larger IT system integration company because they do a lot of work with real estate companies, so we partner with them.

So one is the channel partner model, plus in parallel we also have a local sales team, which works very closely with the customers, where we are usually like going along together to the customer and selling it, because it's a new category. It requires organizational changes. So we want to make sure, like we have our salespeople who work very closely with the channel to go and approach the customers, educate the customers, and close the deals. So that is the GTM model. It's a mixed hybrid of direct plus channel partners.

James Dice: [00:52:11] Got it. And how does your pricing model work?  Is there an upfront cost? Or, I'm assuming there's a SaaS fee, but is there also an upfront cost?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:52:20] Yeah, so it's a pure SaaS model. We have an annual subscription license, which is based on the number of properties that customers onboard. And the product itself is very, very modular. We spoke about so many applications like energy, FDD, work order management, tenant management. All these apps are modularly priced. So we do a per square foot, cents per square foot model. So within that, each application is priced accordingly. So customers can start with a very small set of properties and maybe one third of the modules that we have, and then expand into other properties, expand the scope into more modules.

And very, very, less upfront costs. Mostly we have a small onboarding fee, which is for onboarding the customers and the buildings into our  application by loading of the buildings, creating a space registry, asset registry and all this stuff. So it's a pure SaaS model, annual subscription, modular.

James Dice: [00:53:24] Got it. Okay, cool. So I want to kind of close this conversation with a little current events. So it's the end of April 2020. So obviously we're in the middle of some global hardship at the moment. So with everything to do with COVID, and as we talk about reoccupying buildings, restarting our economies, how are you seeing tools like your platform changing O&M processes moving forward?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [00:53:53] Yeah. I see the challenge for real estate as like a two stage. One is first to restart. Okay. When things are getting back, people are coming back to work or retail malls or whatever. Plus just the operations teams has to be ready to restart operations. There is a challenge there. One is because of there are-, like different countries have different cities have different rules. Like sometimes it says like you can only have 30% of workforce on the field. So with all these constraints, how can the operations and maintenance team make sure that the building is up and running for the occupants to come and go, number one.

Next one is there is more emphasis on cleaning, tracking visitors, looking at probably the temperature of the occupants on a regular basis. These are some of the new work that the operations and maintenance teams are going to face. So they need help in training. They need help, guidance in doing it properly.

So these are the initial challenges, but longer term, the real estate companies, the challenges for them is in general the rents are going to be like, there is a percent point they're reducing income. Maybe like potentially reduced occupancies for next short term. And with that, now as real estate company revenues are coming down, they're going to look at how can we become operationally efficient.

The first problem is the whole making sure the service is up and running and with the new challenges. The longer term is how can we become operationally efficient so that the whole profit is not affected, like can be controlled, like can be increased.

So with these two challenges in mind, from Facilio, what we have done is broadly two things. So one is, we have a community like, what we call a educational series called Future Proof, where we run meetups among customers. We build country-wide submits. We have done like two or three times earlier, where we bring in the industry to collaborate and learn. So as part of that, we launched a video interview series where we are bringing in different stakeholders from the industry and asking them to share very specific, very actionable, inputs that others can learn. For example, in a country like, say India, for the buildings to reopen the governments are coming up with very specific compliance laws. Like we are bringing experts where they can explain how to go about the compliance. And we are bringing in experts who can give insights on how to restart a building that is completely shut down. So basically an education series , one place where the industry can come and get access to different knowledge bases. Number one.

We already launched it, three weeks back and we have had like three speakers so far. We are bringing in at least one speaker every week. Plus we are also correlating lot of contents about government complaints and other things. That is part one.

The next part is, within Facilio's product, we have quickly made a lot of changes that will help operations and maintenance teams to operate efficiently with all the new challenges. For example, what we have done is we have created ready-made routines for sanitizations , like going and cleaning your door handles more frequently, cleaning common areas, conference room more frequently. Plus how do you schedule it, and an ability to take pictures and display the pictures for tenants so the tenant gets confidence that, okay, in my building all the common areas are cleaned like once in 75 minutes on an average. Yeah, that is one.

Second one is, how do you handle visitors and even occupants? Like when a visitor comes in, can we go completely touchless, that a visitor need, not even touching to enter their information, so everything is sent with the QR code. Somebody comes, shows the QR code in front of the camera , they're given pass. And next to do with touchlessness, we are enabling customers to go and make comparative changes without touching any buttons like your remote buttons or the buttons on the thermostat . They can just go scan a QR code in the room, the conference room, and from their mobile app adjust temperatures so that they are not required to even touch these buttons. So touchless, we have already implemented for HVAC. We are currently working on, like even for an elevator, that is still a work in progress.

So scheduling workforce, bringing in this cleaning routines is one, and enabling touchless controls is next one. And the third major one that is for long term is, our applications help customers build remotely operated buildings. So the building operations teams can operate their entire portfolio from anywhere, in a much more efficient way. Instead of having 1 person in a shift in each building, they can move to a model where each person shares multiple buildings and they can be more efficient. Plus they can operate from anywhere, from their mobile and from their web apps.

So these are the things that we have already done for our customers and we already rolled out. So that we help them in handling this new situation. And one other thing that we are doing is, we are closely looking at what are the local government complaince that are coming out, and making sure we are adding them into our product in terms of routines, in terms of reports that customers can take and share it to government authorities when they need it.

James Dice: [00:59:34] Great. That's a lot. Thank you for sharing that. So as we wrap up, I'm just looking at all of my notes here. I mean, the one kind of open question in my mind before the final question would be, when you look at the vendor marketplace and potentially look at your competitors, how are you guys building this platform differently than other kind of platforms that pull all the facility data together? So how's your approach different?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [01:00:05] Yeah, yeah. So currently, when it comes to competition, like again, we are still early in this whole curve. And our challenge is to build a product, right product for the customers rather than like worrying about competition, because again, we are still early. We are one of the early movers.

But in general, the way we are doing it is, one is we are making sure that we are very, very hardware and automation agnostic. We don't sell any hardware. We don't build any hardware so that we are not like forcing customers to bring in a specific hardware or rip up their existing ones and putting ours. That is one area where we are very focused.

And next one is we are keeping the whole model as platform customizable workflows, wherein customers are able to bring in their knowledge about their properties into the product without like lot of dependency on us, with very, very less dependency. They are able to bring in their own FDD rules, their own workflows like workflows for approvals, workflows for generating work orders, paying for the work orders, all this stuff. A lot of times the maintenance operation teams have so much of knowledge, but the knowledge is not getting converted into actions and workflows. That is one area where we are focusing so that we stay closer to the customers and give a lot of freedom for the customers to operate.

Mmm. From a company point of view, broadly like, one set of competition is the larger automation companies who are now coming into this platform play, like Honeywell, Siemens, Johnson Controls. So there've been acquiring technologies and putting together, but because we are building all these apps ourselves, so one we are ahead of them now, and we are able to be more flexible and move faster, do it.

And the next set of competition is, again, a lot of startups , but many of them have their own hardwares in terms of metering, sensors, and bundled with the software. That actually becomes a scaling problem. Because we are staying neutral on hardware, we are able to get a better coverage compared to sort of these point solutions.

James Dice: [01:02:20] Got it. Yeah, thanks for that. So as we wrap up, I wanted to give you a chance to talk about what you're excited about moving forward, whatever else on your roadmap that we haven't covered, and any recent wins or anything like that that you want to share with the group?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [01:02:34] Yeah, from a roadmap point of view, we started working on this whole remote building operations for quite some time, and we are going to accelerate that faster. So we believe that this whole new situation is going to trigger customers to look at technologies that will help them to, one, operate their buildings remotely and reduce their operational costs. So that is one area where we are going to focus on how can we, as you said, how can we move a lot of these building ops into cloud instead of, you know, old school instal a software sitting in a BMS room in each building. So that is one piece of roadmap.

And the next area we are focusing is our whole predictable maintenance,  with both FDD and machine learning models, where we are going deeper into covering the HVAC systems, elevator systems, where once we have customers start using Facilio, after a year of data, our machine learning models can kick in and they can really create tremendous value in terms of identifying problems earlier, reducing the failures. Most of that is under the broad area that we'll be focusing.

Third one is we are integrating with a lot of applications like people counting cameras, access control systems, and also like business applications like Facebook, Slack, WhatsApp. These are also very, very important. So the third party apps integration is another area that is right there in our roadmap.

James Dice: [01:04:04] Got it. Very cool. I'll have to have you back on in a couple months and talk about those things. Prabhu, I really appreciate you coming on the show. Where can people find, find out more?

Prabhu Ramachadran: [01:04:17] Yeah. Thank you. Thank you again, for having me. And, the listeners can go to Facilio.com. We have tons of knowledge sharing content there. And there is also option customers can write to us, they can chat with a live representative from the website and reach out to us.

James Dice: [01:04:40] Okay. Great. Well, thanks again, and talk to you soon.

Prabhu Ramachadran: [01:04:44] Yeah, thank you, James. I appreciate you having me on this podcast. Thank you everyone for listening.

James Dice: [01:04:50] All right, friends. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Nexus podcast. For more episodes like this and to get the weekly Nexus newsletter, please subscribe at nexus.substack.com. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. As always, please reach out on LinkedIn with any thoughts on this episode.

I'd love to hear from you. Have a great day.

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