4 min read

Nexus #2 (12/10/2019)

An app store for buildings, an engine for epiphanies, and my favorite analytics software

Welcome to nexus, a newsletter for people applying analytics technology in buildings — written by me, James Dice.

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This is an experiment, and I’d love your feedback. If you have thoughts, questions, ideas or tips, send me an email to james.w.dice@gmail.com.

And by the way: if you missed last week’s edition, you can find it here.

My latest ideas

Through writing, I’m hoping to sharpen my own thinking, spark conversation with people like you, and drive faster tech adoption across the buildings industry. Here is one of my latest blog posts:

+ What’s your favorite analytics software? The answer to my most commonly asked question about analytics in buildings.

+ I’m curating a summary of my favorite resources on digital twins - do you have any you’d recommend? If so, hit reply and send me a link!

News worth knowing

The best of what I’ve seen on the web lately…

1. Smart Buildings

+ The Willow App Store — Speaking of digital twins, Australian software firm Willow announced a new platform marketplace built on their digital twin technology. The one minute video (click the link) gets ya really pumped up about it too. My take:

I’m huge fan of this concept because it promotes a single connection between the physical and digital building. No longer will each new data-dependent application come with its own costly integration, gateway hardware, and semantic data model.

In terms of adoption of new building technologies, this is a game changer. It will make each connection with new applications plug and play, even allowing building owners to quickly trial and compare similar applications on the same buildings—the first practical way to directly compare apps to each other (app)les to (app)les. Sorry… had to do it.

I do see a big challenge:

Once many applications are connected to the platform, we don’t want to make the user jump back and forth between them to do their job. Creating a “single pane of glass” is a must, but it will be tricky. For example, consider a fault detection application like CopperTree or Clockworks. Willow will send data and get back an analytical result (faults detected). How can Willow represent those results in a way that prevents the need to switch back and forth between Willow and CopperTree?

By the way… One of you wrote me last week saying we need a standard for digital twins. How would that work? How would it be different than open data modeling standards like Project Haystack (which will really shine in these new digital twin platforms, by the way)? Hit reply and let me know your thoughts.

2. Analytics

+ The Epiphany inference engine—BuildingIQ announced a new analytics capability and I think it’s pretty slick. Put simply, it determines which point is potentially contributing to a pattern in another point.

Their demo video provides this use case: when the user sees a spike in metered energy usage, the inference engine can identify the equipment and points that are correlated with that change, allowing the root cause to be more easily identified.

It visualizes the correlation with a heat map, where red indicates the highest correlation:

My take:

The best immediate use case is producing better fault diagnosis, which is a huge area of growth in the analytics world. I think these correlations can run in the background and then be integrated with a more traditional list of faults. For the example above, you would have a “Spike in Electric Usage” fault and then a diagnosis that calls out the red points as the likely culprit. This seems to be contrary to BuildingIQ's messaging that these sorts of AI tools are replacements for rules-based analytics. Maybe I’m old-fashioned?

Some other good use cases would be to analyze an entire system and find the points that are preventing the system from executing reset sequences. Or as my friend Jim Prince likes to say, to find the tail wagging the dog. 🐕 However, this is already being done with other types of analytics.

3.Buildings and Climate

+ Buildings Are an Ideal but Overlooked Climate Solution—This blog from WRI made me 🤩 and 😭simultaneously. And now I’d like you to feel the same way. Just kidding…

Here’s a little excerpt:

We can cut 87% of greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by pairing energy efficiency with clean electricity technologies that are already available. That puts us well within reach of what science tells us is necessary to stabilize the climate: reaching net-zero emissions by the middle of this century. Yet, fewer than 1% of buildings are zero carbon today.  


We are confronted with a paradox, then: The single best means to fight climate change cheaply while improving human health and productivity is the same sector lagging the pack. Technical solutions abound for the building sector. But to break the status quo, we also need grander ambitions and the belief we can do it. Broader awareness that zero carbon buildings are viable, flexible and affordable right now can help industry and policymakers get out of the current rut.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here. But I’m sharing this because I want to tell you I’m with you. We have a lot of work to do, but we can do it together. 🙌

OK, that’s all for this week—thank for reading nexus!

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