🎧 #041: Anand Mecheri on a toolkit for building Digital Twins
“I was very quickly disappointed once I realized there was a huge gap between the promise and the reality of BIM… The reality was that BIM was, is still largely used for drawing production, right? It's used for coordination, clash detection, and drawing production.
Data workflows are little understood. And even if understood, not practiced, because it is nuanced. And unless it is well specified and managed, it doesn't get done. And that's really the problem we started solving.”
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Episode 41 is a conversation with Anand Mecheri, CEO of Invicara.
We talked about digital twins today, building on past podcast episodes on this murky topic.
Anand and I did a rapid-fire round of defining and myth-busting common points of confusion with twinning.
Then we took a bit of a deep dive into Invicara’s approach to digital twins, and I haven't heard anyone else approaching it quite like they are.
Mentions and Links
You can find Anand Mecheri on LinkedIn.
Thoughts, comments, reactions? Let us know in the comments.
Anand’s past companies, all sold to Siemens (1:41)
James’ favorite question (4:08)
The problem and opportunity Anand saw in BIM (6:10)
Deeper dive on Invicara (11:28)
Rapid fire myth-busting on digital twins (15:22)
Invicara today - Twinit.io, and enabling others to build their own solutions (26:47)
The question of ontologies, and Invicara’s schema-less platform (37:21)
Key differentiators: a complete kit of parts, a low-code platform for creating solutions, and more (41:49)
Anand’s vision for the future (44:23)
Asset owners’ role in unlocking industry change (49:12)
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: [00:00:03] hello friends, welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions that the leaders of the smart buildings industry to try to figure out where we're headed and how we can get there faster without all the marketing fluff. I'm pushing my learning to the limit. And I'm so glad to have you here following along.
This episode of the podcast is brought to you by nexus pro nexus pro is an annual or monthly subscription where members get exclusive writing podcasts and invites to members only zoom gatherings. You can find info on how to join and support the Without further ado, please enjoy this episode, the nexus podcast.
Episode 41 as a conversation with a non Matiri founder and CEO of in the car. We talked about digital twins today building on past podcast episodes on this murky topic. Add-on and I did a rapid, fire round of defining and myth-busting common points of confusion with twinning.
Then we took a bit of a deep dive into IndyCar, his approach to digital twins, and I haven't heard anyone else approaching it quite like they are without further ado, please enjoy nexus podcast, episode 41. All right. Hello and welcome to the show. Can you introduce yourself for us?
Anand Mecheri: [00:01:25] Thank you, James, especially to be with you here today. Uh, and then Matiri, founder and CEO of in Ricara, software company. my history is so been in the, in the smart buildings, world for 30 years, nearly built businesses around solutions, services, products sold all my past businesses to Siemens and started up in ricotta.
James Dice: [00:01:44] Cool. I didn't know this. Can you tell me more about these companies that you sold to Siemens?
Anand Mecheri: [00:01:49] Yeah, so I started my life back in, uh, 88, 89, uh, as a, as a system integrator, installer of, of, security systems back, uh, back in India at that time. uh, built up over the next 10, 12 years, India's largest system integration business, around security safety, building automation, energy management, and all of that good stuff.
2003 acquired an Irish British company technology company, and we built the industry's first IP-based platform, for security management. which was our claim to fame. We were very successful with that and, uh, very aspirational for, for the industry, in 2005. Yeah. So for a combination of reasons, um, as the market leader, as the system integrator in India, uh, and the, post players to have this technology on the, on the ground, we were sought after and, uh, the accepted an offer from Siemens.
So the business with them and then transitioned into a global leadership position in the Siemens building technologies global headquarters in Switzerland, to 2011, 2012 is when I came across them. And the, and the potential it represented for transforming, you know, the building industry or the built environment, took that as the, as my next venture and started from there 2013, 2014.
James Dice: [00:03:05] Got it. And what was the company called that Siemens acquire?
Anand Mecheri: [00:03:09] So the group was called eye metrics. it had several pieces within that, the Irish, British company, which, uh, which was the technology part was called neuroplexus technologies. And the system integration business in India was called that DTS.
James Dice: [00:03:24] And the acquisition is what led you to you're in Dublin now, does that, what led you to, to Ireland?
Anand Mecheri: [00:03:30] Well, the acquisition led me to Switzerland initially, uh, as part of the global headquarters of Siemens, there was working for the global CEO. Um, and then after I spent some time there, I actually moved to Singapore.
I, I told her I'll be in Singapore for building up this venture. and I realized that it was very difficult to build a global business sitting in one end of the world. So I chose the GMT and a family, a family, a country as an Island at businesses here in the past. So a big Dublin and, uh, you're located here in 2016.
James Dice: [00:04:02] Very cool. All right. Um, well, we're going to get into and Bacara and a little bit, Can you humor me and answer my favorite question? Uh, so the listeners know that this, this question gets asked every time, so it'd be really new to you. So I'm curious what your unique perspective is, but why do you think that the technology and buildings given your history, why is the technology in buildings?
so far behind say the tech in our pockets or the technology elsewhere?
Anand Mecheri: [00:04:29] I'd be lying. If I, if I told you I haven't thought about it, it is, it is the industry's, you know, darkest challenge in a way. I would say if I were to really be crisp about it, I would say misalignment between investment and returns.
Hmm. If I were to really point to something very specific, the developer has to invest in technology, which will benefit in fact, that the designer is to invest in technology that will benefit the contractor and, or, and many people in between and all the others ultimately benefiting the operator. so why am I picking up somebody else's tab by, am I doing anything more than what I need to do to fulfill my contract?
there's all of these things and unlike manufacturing, Where the end-to-end tool chain is fully aligned. The designer is also the longterm value creator. it's just so much more homogeneous, you know, nature of how things get done building industry. So actually gene is, uh, we designed something, build it once, and put together a team who don't come together again, uh, different processes, tools, name it.
I mean, there's every reason why it is. It is so, but I think the main point is that the investment and returns are not better aligned.
James Dice: [00:05:42] Totally. Yeah, I like that. Uh, I call it, I'm developing out some lessons for the course that I teach and I call it, we had come together and then we disperse and become together.
And then we disperse and there are so many different, it could be a day in the life of the building where. With different occupants are coming together and dispersing, or it could be obviously, like you said, the phases of construction to operations, to demolition, we're all always coming together and dispersing.
Okay, cool. Let's talk about, uh, in Vicari. So you said sometime around 2011, 2012, you started thinking about them. how did the company get started? And can you take us through, up, through from that to today?
Anand Mecheri: [00:06:19] Certainly. So, yeah, I was initially, and it was working in Siemens at quarters that's when some of the future technologies I looked at and as part of these forums and chemicals beam, and was completely fascinated by what that represented and the potential it had, to transforming, operations.
and then I decided when I left Siemens with this, Pretty clear mission that I'm going to, um, spend time to study and understand what that space is and what can be done with it from a business standpoint. Um, honestly I was very quickly disappointed too once. Uh, once I realized there was a huge gap between the promise and the reality of him, um, and rather than you know, giving it, giving it up at that stage, I realized that there was also the opportunity.
So if you could really. help create value, in, in transforming, BIM into something meaningful downstream, then there was a success to be made. Uh, and the reality of that was, BIM was, is still largely used for drying production, right? It's used for coordination, clash detection and dry production data workflows are, are little understood.
And even if understood is not practiced because it is, it is nuanced. And, and unless it is well specified and managed. It doesn't get done. Um, and that's really the problem we started solving. We say, we thought we should solve the data problem in BIM and enabled models to be. Machine-readable not just human readable, not just geometry focused.
so we built some tools to drive that, uh, data focused, uh, approach to transforming, designed information into, into, uh, downstream use.
James Dice: [00:07:59] can you give me an example real quick of what you mean by like the problem you were trying to solve there? Because
Anand Mecheri: [00:08:05] specific one.
Yeah. Yeah. Uh, so for example, if you look at, uh, how the whole models are produced today, so the design team is contracted to produce, construction documentation for procurement. And so they, in the end, they produce instead of coordinated drawings from where, the quantity surveyors they're to take off the quantities and to do a procurement job.
so for the design team, it is highly beneficial. To, use them because it improves their productivity. Uh, it just makes their design production so much faster. Okay. But, model production for them, generating drawings is very different from model production for a data workflow.
And the very simple example of that is classification. Uh, the content of a model is defined by the classification that is applied to that model. And classification is multifaceted. You would classify a model in a certain way. If you want to do cost estimation, you would classify it in a certain way. If you want to do product level, asset modeling or asset information generation.
So these are workflows that the design team will have to take up in order to benefit somebody else. Probably. As a donor, and maybe that's not even in the picture because it's the developer who is involved at that stage. so it's not mandated. it's not done. consequently the models end up being just good geometry to presentations use for coordination and rank production and the whole opportunity to drive better outcomes from using data.
Even during the development phase, such as quantifying from the models, estimating, linking it to programs and schedules. All of that is kind of, Relegated, to somebody else's problem and it moves on. So our challenge of making sure that we can use BIM to create digital twins, is also a data problem because we have to make sure that the models, even if the models are not the, the repository of information and they should not be the design tools are not designed to be a positive piece of information they're designed to express good design intent.
but it does need to communicate design information. What is the, what is in it? Uh, where does it, what system is it part of? What is its relationship with something else? Some of the core information that must be in the model should be there and software systems need to understand what is inside. those models because you want to bring some automation through the data that's contained within it.
So our problem was you have to get the BIM models, those set of tools, workflows to make it possible, to consume BIM models easily, to produce, uh, I wouldn't say to produce a discipline, but use it as a seed, to build up a digital. Okay, but equally it doesn't have to be starting from a B model, obviously.
Right? I mean, we can also start with the list of assets in a, in an Excel sheet and start building a twin. so depending on what the opportunity is, if it's a new development and a beam is being anywhere used the opportunity to make use of that, to create a richer, more intuitive and more expressive, which a twin, is only there to be lost.
this is lost. If you don't do a good job at that early stage.
James Dice: [00:11:15] Totally cool. That's a great example. And I was going to add to it, but I feel like you've just nailed it, so, okay. So then you went after that problem and then take us through to today, on, on the company.
Anand Mecheri: [00:11:29] Yeah. Yeah. So, so that was the starting point.
and the mission here was. how do we help, produce, a digital twin that truly the presented, use cases are truly solved problems in the operational phase of a, of a building. so we been building this platform, for the last, nearly five years, to enable.
customized solutions to be built for the industry. And I say customized simply because we, from the outset recognize that digital twin, solutions are not, it cannot be a product that you cannot look at disciplines as a product. Um, every building is different. Every owner is different. Their use cases are different.
The way they operate is different. Their business systems are different. their maintenance teams have different tools and different processes. their document management is different. So there's so many variables within the built environment that we need to address. we took a view that, is successful in strategy is gotta be based on platform that allows us or any other system integrator or a solution provider.
to create highly customized solutions, that takes into account all these variables and provides an outcome that, fits to the need of that client or that portfolio. So we've been building this platform for the last. nearly five years, and, uh, and along the way, uh, as it matured, we have started using the platform ourselves eating our own dog food.
I don't like to use that term honesty. I like to say, drink our own wine maybe, but anyway, so we've been using, using our own tech, uh, to consult and implement. Solutions for our clients and using that process to inform us on what the platform should be, and how it should be built and what might makes it flexible and whatnot and so on and so forth, adoption challenges we need to address.
So it's been a very, really intense last few years, getting informed by the industry by customers, and helping us build out the platform as we did.
James Dice: [00:13:29] Cool. All right. So where are you guys at today? You mentioned providing services to clients. You don't need to get into that, but how many employees do you have and where are you at and what kind of clients do you serve?
Anand Mecheri: [00:13:40] Sure. There's still a small company. We are about 45 people. Um, we adopted remote as a strategy from day one. so we hire the best talent we can find wherever they are. so we have, talent, distributed today from Hawaii Brisbane. so it's been remarked by, uh, by Sisay. initially it was a bit difficult, but I figured out how to make that work very, very well.
Um, so COVID did not affect us at all in terms of how we work, because that's how we always worked tool for it. Um, our processes that aligned for that. so yeah, so we had a small company, 45 people. We work remote, we are distributed around the world. we've been engaged its customers in, in a few key markets.
Uh, mainly I would say in Ireland, UK, Singapore, India, and now in the middle East. So we have been involved in these markets in a very selective basis, uh, are involved in multiple building types commercial buildings, uh, developments, residential, large build to rent, um, residential developments, airports, healthcare facilities, uh, biopharma plants.
university buildings. so multiple, multiple building types involved in developments aggregating to about 20 plus million square feet right now, in various stages of maturity, a few of them are delivered and some others are, in development at this stage.
James Dice: [00:15:00] Got it. Cool. So I want to dig into all that obviously around what you guys are doing today.
but I found that when you talk about digital twins, I think some people can get lost in a lot of the, let's say, finer details around it that I kind of want to hit first, and kind of push those details, the sides of them, and they can kind of move the conversation forward from there. So. Let's do a rapid fire round here to begin with around these what I would call myths or, different ways that people get confused about digital twins.
so first rapid fire, how do you define it to people that are new?
Anand Mecheri: [00:15:35] So everyone has a definition and we have one as well. Our definition is that obesity is at the very core. Is a data model that represents two things. It represent, everything that's built in that environment could be building our infrastructure.
It also represents the data that's produced when the facilities in use. So the confluence of these two data sets. Produces that rich information model that can be used to drive multiple workflows, multiple applications that result in optimizing equipment, life, optimizing maintenance costs, optimizing energy use, uh, improving wellness, all of those downstream benefits, but at the very core, it's really a very expressive data model that can interact and interoperate with other systems.
That make up the, status of that client.
James Dice: [00:16:25] Got it. And then how has it compared to BIM
Anand Mecheri: [00:16:29] very different? I mean, this is one of the, one of the challenges for the industry, like mean BIM is, uh, is somehow seem to be a digital twin in its own. Right. And it's not entirely wrong because it is a digital representation of a physical thing.
In that respect, you can call it a digital twin in that respect. So there is some truth in it. But when you look at the big picture of what a Vista twin is, this the definition that I put put forward a minute ago, it certainly doesn't fit that description in a million minds because a BIM model B model is a, is a bad, um, but, uh, model, produced from a BIM designed tool, is really, uh, is really a design expression in 3d.
It is not even a rich information model that has all the data that you need to run the place or inform the client. it is built for an intent and in that respect, it is complete, to try and apply that to be a district. Twin is a incredible stretch of imagination.
James Dice: [00:17:24] Totally next one is I heard this just yesterday is I think people get hung up around the, sort of energy modeling aspect of digital twins.
So they might say, you know, I'm going to pull data out of the building, create a model and then use that to control the building better, or use that to, aid in a retrofit design, things like that. Is that what you're talking about or is that a different type of
Anand Mecheri: [00:17:47] digital twin? No, that's just an aspect of the district when I would agree to that, because we are also right now, working on a project where we are looking to bring the energy model as a reference into the, into the district 20, and then it's modeled by the way it's data.
Right. It's really mainly data. And you can utilize that data with some heat maps and so on, but in the end, this is really data. So an haven't model is a simulated, outcome, based on the location, the weather, the on. So for the solar heat gain and so on occupancy. And that's a great data point, to be made use of.
In optimizing the performance of an asset. so in the development phase, if you take a BIM model and analyze it and learn a simulation on it, get a result. You could say that there is an aspect of a digital twin, in the making bear. So it's not entirely wrong. Uh, but it is the limited intent of what that is supposed to serve.
James Dice: [00:18:41] Totally. Yeah. I like to say it's like one use case out of, out of all the possible ones. okay. another thing people get hung up on is deploying it on old buildings. They say, Oh, because I don't have a BIM model already or because I don't have good digital information about the building.
Good metadata. I don't have a data model existing. It must be prohibitively expensive to install a digital twin.
Anand Mecheri: [00:19:02] You are absolutely correct. There is this perception that a digital twin Mustang with the 3d model and it couldn't be further from the truth. Right. I mean, we all know that. Um, so we have this maturity model and I think I should talk about that.
we believe that, uh, digital twin, really evolves into its own, progressively. Now it doesn't mean that it has to follow a sequence. okay. Just so that I'm not misstating. So in a new development, the way we would approach it is you start with an understanding of your use cases. Start with defining your information requirements to achieve those use cases.
You work through the development phase, all of the project information that's getting produced. So that's the project where you have the information coming together is getting used for certain purposes like simulations. Um, And the analysis for design optimization and so on. and then it, as it matures into construction information, that's produced for handle work starts coming together and they all get associated, and results in, in what we would refer to as an asset, to an asset, when would be that complete information model, an online business manual of that facility.
so that is a value by itself. And then when you integrate that with the operational data, whether it's the BMS or the IOT systems or fire detection systems or the maintenance systems. The, the twin becomes an operations twin, sort of say, so in a new development, you can take the sequential approach, starting from definition of use cases and information requirements, maturing it through the process to an asset to end, and then on our patients to not make sense, right?
In that scenario, you can actually gather everything that you need to gather and integrate it in the design process and construction process. But when you go into an existing building, if you take the same approach, you're going to be in a, in a, in a mess simply because. The information that's available in an existing building is nowhere near as complete or granular or accurate as you could get from a new development.
So the approach we would take is look at that again, focus on the use cases. Don't try to build a digital manual of this facility. Uh, it's not gonna work. It's not going to be complete anybody focus on the problems that you have. And, and implement solutions that focus on the problems.
Typically it would be about managing equipment life or managing, energy consumption or improving wellness, aspects of that, of that facility. That's where the ROI really comes from. And it, digital twin solution can certainly start by listing out the spaces, identifying the systems that make up the spaces.
The assets that make up those systems and the sensors that inform the performance of those assets and the meters that give you the energy consumption. So you can build a data model to represent that existing facility in the context of the problems you want to solve. And go from there and build it out at the portfolio level.
And progressively as buildings go through the innovations and changes start aggregating that asset to end capability or the information as we go. But the important thing is the portfolio owner needs to have. a platform that they can implement at a portfolio wide basis, whether it's a new development or an existing development or existing building and starting to create that standardized system of care or operations procedures across the whole portfolio.
James Dice: [00:22:20] Love that answer. Well done. That's the best one I've heard to that one. Uh, yeah, that's great. How about the, okay, this is the last myth or challenge. I think people identify myth might not be the right term on this one is it's impossible to keep it digital twin updated. So like the fidelity question.
Anand Mecheri: [00:22:39] Right. Uh, and it depends what, that fidelity, addresses, when it comes to data. Uh, I think it can be maintained at a very high level, but it needs to be thought about as well. If somebody is going to, run a maintenance program, there is a, preventive maintenance schedule in place, or there is a.
React to maintenance program in place and what actions are being taken or some stuff is getting replaced. You've got to define upfront in the data model. What information do you really want to collect from every one of those processes back into the twin to twin cannot be seen as something that is, you know, that is set up, one time.
And, it can expire in terms of its, of its quality of information and accuracy of information. so what we do is we establish what information do we need to, progressively gather and integrate into the twin from operational processes. It could be that the client has their own maintenance systems.
It could be that they're employing number of maintenance contractors, and they all are their own systems. Now, either ways it's important for the client to be able to, especially if they are multiple maintenance contractors and they're using their own systems, it's really important to establish this.
Information exchange requirement that ensures that the client's twin gets the key data that it needs to get back progressively as the, as these processes are implemented. so maintaining accuracy and updating the data is really not a challenge, right? As long as these, these processes are well thought through the integrations are in place.
If it's manual updates, if somebody has to manually, okay, there is a high risk that it doesn't in the end, it comes down to the, to the person behind that, you know, that process. So the more automation, the better, if it's about, updating the geometry, I mean, walls, more rooms, change, layers change. and this is not, not untypical.
The exchange is a little bit more involved, but very much doable. so we have clients actually doing that right now. At least one of our clients after the twin was delivered is going through a change in their, in their layouts of one of the, one of their floors. And what they're doing is really, you know, using the model that was produced for the initial development and issuing it to the, to the tenant who is making those changes, they are updating the changes into their, into their model and.
The least requirements also includes the need for the tenant to provide the updated model, back to the landlord. Especially with the changes represented, in terms not only the, the internal layouts, but also the, the services that connect to the base building. if you had a, you know, air handler or whatever else they're included, it's connects back with the base building.
They are back in the model and yes, and this new version of that model, gets uploaded back into the trim. And all the data gets reconnected back to that, the newer model. So within our platform, we support model versioning as exactly the reason why, because you do have to recognize that there's a lot of information getting connected to these, to these, representations in that model.
And how do we make sure that, you know, when that, when that geometry changes, all of that information is not orphaned and reconnected. So we have actually addressed that as a, as a specific functional requirement in order to keep these twins, uh, fully updated, not just from a data point of view, but also the majority love it.
James Dice: [00:26:03] Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor nexus labs. And then we'll get back to the show. This episode is brought to you by nexus foundations, our introductory course on the smart buildings industry. If you're new to the industry, this course is for you. If you're an industry vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.
This course is also for you. The alumni are raving about the content, which they say pulls it all together, and they also love getting to meet the other students on the weekly zoom calls and in the private chat room, you can find out more about the email@example.com lab. Start online. All right, back to the interview.
So let's, let's move on to what you guys are doing today. Um, can you tell me about the product as it exists today?
And I just said product, and I know you earlier said. It's not a product. So can you tell us about how you're kind of go into market
Anand Mecheri: [00:26:51] these days? Absolutely. So, as I mentioned earlier, the last few years have been this it's showing is of building the platform, using the platform on specific projects, consulting, implementing solutions ourselves.
Uh, that's taken us this far, our growth and scaling is going to come from. At that farm getting adopted by others. And we have now reached the point where trinet.io, is going to be available to partners is already available to select partners, who are able to take it and build their own stuff solutions on top of it.
And this is in a sense, uh, uh, not unusual. I mean, you have other, industries, you have, local development platforms, which are more horizontal in nature. Maybe we can make use of this local platform, build your own app on it. Same idea, but the platform is really built for the, is created for the built environment.
it brings together all of the capabilities that you would look for, in creating a digital twin end to end, whether it is creating custom data models or managing, 3d visualization or 2d utilization or integrating IOT and BMS systems and building analytics on it. Um, driving dashboards.
so think of it as a kit of parts, essentially a bunch of backend services that are built, over this period, all, communicating with each other and communicating with the applications, you know, through API APIs, um, low-level KPIs, you know, at the back backend services level, abstracted, too.
you know, higher level rest APIs, which can be used for more easily building applications on top, and including the ability to, build applications directly on the platform. So we have created a, uh, essentially an application framework, which also includes the TriNet, domain specific language between a DSL, which allows you to script.
you are aware through your entire application. So you essentially, you start by defining. you know, what your data model is, defining your business rules, defining your, you started the entities, what entities are you managing the trend? And then you start building the relationships, you know, which entities are related to each other entities and who can access it and what actions can they perform on it?
And what does it do? And pretty much the whole solution. can be, written, using, the TriNet, DSL. It also allows the, uh, solution will, uh, to create, uh, so there is a object model, a rest API service, so they can actually create custom API APIs to integrate with external systems.
they can write their own connectors, like they are not get straight as to use those connectors to communicate with other systems. so it's, it's really, uh, a very, very extensive kit of parts. Uh, very flexible. It is. Schema-less. Right. So there is no fixed schema. So you can, you know, one of our developers decided to build his own, family's cookbook on it.
So he just has a bunch of recipes and, you know, it's something as flexible as that. So you can take it and build a solution that meets your business requirements. Of course we don't, you're not going to promote it for somebody to go build a CRM on it. It will fail. Um, it's kind of very focused, around, all of the backend services and the functionality has been geared to help, build a really flexible, powerful, solutions for the built environment.
Now, somebody could take it and build solutions for the. The design phase or construction phase, probably that, you know, you could publish BIM models into it, multiple model versions. You could extract data from it, do some analytics on it, dashboard it. somebody may want to do that. We don't do that as in the kind of today because we've been kind of focused as a company, to create a platform that helps operate buildings better and infrastructure better.
But it's, flexible in that respect. and someone else may say, okay, I'm going to take all of these backend services and its capabilities, and I'm going to add my own microservice to it. I have a simulation engine, which I want to plug into it, or I don't want to use your analytics. I'm going to use my own, analytics tools.
I want to use my own BI, uh, fine. I mean, you can use it to use the platform as a one stop shop and get your job done pretty quickly and efficiently. Or if you want to be, more innovative and, fit it into what you think is most suitable that's possible too. So we don't believe that it is, a game-changing first of its kind.
Platform for the industry today. Uh, we are very, bullish and delighted that we've got to this point. It has been our mission to get to this point over the last many years. and yes, so, the IP that is created on top of the platform is whoever creates it, it's theirs. and they can build bespoke solutions for one customer.
Or they could build a repeatable solution, a cookie cutter for the same type of infrastructure that goes across multiple sites. Um, they could build it just as an asset twin to do the handover, uh, to handle it. Or they could, build an operations twin by integrating, uh, you know, the IOD stuff. They may deliver it as a CapEx model or they may say we build it and we are going to have remote access and use it to run services and help our clients optimize performance.
That'll be another business model for them. So goal here is really to enable the industry with, the platform and tools that makes it a lot easier to build solutions and serve their clients.
James Dice: [00:32:11] So you've been for the past, you said five years working in basically one-on-one with building owners and developers.
And then now you're saying, okay, we built up this tool set in order to provide those services. Now we're going to open those up for other service providers that can then go out and do that on a bunch of other buildings for their clients,
Anand Mecheri: [00:32:28] essentially. Yes. A lot of time, energy and money to get here and get here.
It's not easy. Not everyone can do this. and there's time is a factor of time. So we have today a platform that someone can make yourself and get going. Got
James Dice: [00:32:42] it. Yeah. And. That sounds really cool to me, because I think there are probably, as we're speaking right now, service providers out there that are building their own platforms that, uh, yeah.
That, that are going to be building and solving the same problems that you have solved already. So can you give an analogy? Do you have like, it just strikes me as, as the concept that has probably happened outside of our industry many times. Can you give a couple of analogies of like famous. Case studies of companies that have done this outside of our industry that you guys sort of pull inspiration
Anand Mecheri: [00:33:16] from.
Yeah. There are a few examples. I mean, not directly, uh, later. So if you look at, you know, cross industry or horizontal low-code platform, uh, you have something like Mendix, which is a pretty cool platform. Somebody who wants to build a application quickly, Um, it's all there. All the services are there, so you can, quite easily build a solution on top of it and get, get your business problem solved.
It also offers a in no code development environment, which we don't. I mean, in our case, it's not, it's not no code. You still need to, to be able to write the, TriNet, scripting language, which is something like jealous trips, right? So you need that capability. Okay. That would be one example.
If you go back in time and go back to the design world, take AutoCAD. I mean, AutoCAD success was it's scripting. You could take AutoCAD and do your own thing with it, right? I mean, that is how it became such a powerful platform. Uh, so the ability to enable others to do what they want to do with it, to solve their business problem for their customer is I think is very powerful.
It's not about. What we want to do as a company, right? If you have to know what they probably want to do, which is why we've been using the platform and working with clients and understanding the business requirements and experiencing that. And otherwise the platform wouldn't be at the stage that it is today, and it's not, going to be tangible and meaningful to meet too many people.
Um, but yeah, so it's really about enabling others to do what they want to do, their IP, their branding, their solution, their way of presenting UI. Nothing has to be the same. And that's the cool part.
James Dice: [00:34:52] Yeah, really cool. So can you explain a little bit more around the low code aspect of this? you mentioned Java script.
Can you, can you go into a little bit more detail on what like a MSI or a service provider would need to. You know, sort of scale up on to be
Anand Mecheri: [00:35:07] able to implement it. Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, obviously, we would have a, a program to get them familiarized with the platform architecture, the design concepts involved, and that needs to be understood by a solution architect, kind of a person you're not talking about a senior software architect who designs a large backend enterprise systems.
You don't need that capability. If you're a really good solution architect, you will be able to understand the concepts behind a platform like this. They would also the person who builds a solution, we need to have a good understanding of, how to build data models, how to build, uh, you know, understanding of ontologies and understanding of, uh, connectors and integration.
and of course, The ability to learn the scripting language and apply the scripting language, to do these goals. So our objective is that you should be able to build a complete solution, with just scripting. Uh, if you have a good understanding of the, design concepts and the platform and how your object models are defined and how you build your relationships, and how you build your business rules.
That is enough to get somebody going, to get a solution built. Okay.
James Dice: [00:36:16] Yeah. Something that's kind of striking me in certain ways, but not in others. Is the similarity to the, like the sky spark model. Are you familiar with that whole ecosystem and toolset? Is that, is that a similar analogy and what would be the
Anand Mecheri: [00:36:32] be.
All right. It's it's, it's a, it's a good analogy. In fact, it's, actually a very, very similar approach in, in some respects. the additional twin is obviously a little bit broader in terms of the different facets than it needs to handle. but the idea is similar. You have a set of tools.
You have the plumbing. Is there. you know, the tool sets are there. The, language is there in a similar disgrace part, you have a, you have a, I think it's axon, I think, which is so, essentially it's the same idea that you are able to. utilize your domain knowledge and your understanding of the customer's business process and problems and, and translate your knowledge into a monetize the solution that can potentially be a repeatable solution and something that can give you life cycle revenue, not just a one time.
James Dice: [00:37:20] Totally. Okay. And then how do you think about the ontologies. Aspect of it. So nexus pro members. in January, we did a panel with, uh, four or five different representatives from the different ontology efforts out there. And there's this kind of, this aspect of they're kind of competing and we're all trying to figure out what's next.
And like, how do you, you know, tire hand to different. team basically. And I think people are confused around that. At least I have. So how do you guys approach that topic? It sounds pretty flexible in that you could implement anybody's ontology
Anand Mecheri: [00:37:53] on it. Yeah. So it's a great question. And, we have debated on this quite a bit and ontology.
In the end is a, schema right. Of representing information in a certain way for semantics to express what it is. And so on. Uh, the approach we have taken is our platform should be capable of delivering. Solutions for different industry segments, different problems. It can be for buildings. It can be for highways.
It can be for what the infrastructure can be for energy infrastructure. So it is not, it is not building centric alone. Right. and the type of problems you're trying to solve, the type of solutions you are going to be able to implement. And it is also varied. So, if you have taken a view that the platform needs to be schema less, so there is no fixed schema in the platform, of course you need a schema to, to build a solution.
Every solution will ultimately have a schema to represent it, but it has to be flexible. So depending on what solution you're building, that your use cases and your problems, different trying to solve. Uh, your schema will change the kind of information you would want to represent will change. So, and we allow the ability to build that schema just by scripting your requirement for the data mining.
Right? Okay. That's, that's ties it back to the TriNet VSL and how you use that to build your data model, which is really the primary thing that you've, that you need to think about when you're building a solution. However, you do want to, have the ability to express whatever is your data model for your solution to an industry standard, ontology and taxonomy.
So that other applications who want to interact with you can interact with you in a consistent way, whether they're interacting with a solution built on Jeanette or a solution built on something else. So for example, we can transform the data model of a, of a digital twin of an airport with a whole bunch of use cases, to, real estate Corp, for example.
It may or may not support all of the information that we want to represent, but to the extent that it represents out of the box, it can be, and of course, realistic court can also be announced. So the possibility is, is really endless in the sense that you can define the data model, that best suits the solution that you're delivering, build a transformation from that to the desired ontology for you to interact with, uh, with others, if it is needed.
It was not needed. You create your custom object model, rest, API, and make it available for all the integration points that you have. I see. But you have the flexibility. So you it's possible that tomorrow for, uh, the infrastructure type of a project, there may be a segment. There may be a different ontology that may be applied and you want to be able to express your information in, whatever appropriate ontology.
Cool. Does that make sense to you? James? You can talk to a lot of people on this topic. So I'm also curious to know what you think.
James Dice: [00:40:45] Yeah. It's similar to a couple of episodes back. We had Brian Turner on the podcast and People can go back and listen to that episode. I'm not going to quote him perfectly here, but yeah.
The way I understood it was, he basically sees there being a software layer that does the decoding, or, you know, translating between different ontologies, depending on what someone wants to enable. So do you want to enable this app to sit on top? And that app requires haystack. Okay, great. I'll represent it in that format for them.
Um, and it's the job of the platform in this case to be able to do that translation. and I think that's how, Several people I've talked to kind of see this going essentially. So you're going to need to be able to ingest different types of data and different schemas and ontologies, and you're going to be able to need to express it in different schemas
Anand Mecheri: [00:41:33] ontologies.
Yeah, absolutely. So you certainly don't want to build a platform, especially, with the restricted approach to one specific schema, which can be quite limiting.
James Dice: [00:41:46] Yeah, well, that's a good jumping off point into my next question, which was, how do you see this approach to a digital twin, the MCARA approach or the twin.io approach, which is part of in Bacara, right?
How do you see that? as different from other digital twin approaches out there on the marketplace and why is it better? I guess,
Anand Mecheri: [00:42:08] Sure. the first is, the fact that it's a complete kit of parts. It's not that you have to go to. One platform to get your graphics and visualizations done, and another platform to get your IOT and analytics done another platform to do something else.
So it is one complete kit of parks that helps you to build an end to end solution, but you are not necessarily, uh, constraint to using that, that get apart. So you can also replace functionality within that with something else, if you choose to use. So in that respect, it's a, we aim to be that, Unified homogeneous infrastructure that can deliver value to a, to a solution builder.
Number one second, it's a local platform for creating solutions. It's not just a local platform, define your data model. It's not just us scripting language for, creating your, building graph. Uh, but it's, it's much more than that. You actually build your. Your entire solution, including your UI and all your permissioning and, all your role-based, interactions on the UI and everything is defined by the scripting language.
So it's a true local development platform for digital twins. Um, I would say these are the two primary, distinguishing factors. And third of course is the fact that. It is it's chemo, less platform. So which means you can build a solution for any industry vertical, uh, represent them in different ontologies, build connectors to different data sources and manage them.
And maybe 30 stretch further. it will also be the platform that allows others to, monetize their IP. Right. So you know, if you are firm who understands a certain domain very well, and you're helping your clients design awesome physical assets, He gives an opportunity to translate that into a digital asset and help engage that client and help them optimize how that asset is managed over the lifetime.
So it's going to enable new business models. So in many ways it is unique. Um, I guess it's for us. The next challenge is, the broad adoption of it as an industry platform. Um, we have not seen anything so far that can restrict that from happening. but of course there's the maturity of the industry and, uh, all that to be taken into account.
James Dice: [00:44:21] Yeah, speaking as that's actually, they didn't the, my next question as well around the, so I just wrote this concept of the whole analytics product. So it's not just the software, it's also the ecosystem and the services that are wrapped around it. So that same concept applies here. Right? In order for this to scale up, there's going to have to be an ecosystem that develops around it.
People that understand how to implement this scripting language that you talked about, people that understand. How to architect these sorts of solutions, people that understand enough about the day-to-day operation of the building to be able to build out use cases. Right. So how do you see a, sort of a whole product ecosystem sort of forming around this?
Like what's your vision for how that's going to happen?
Anand Mecheri: [00:45:05] Yeah. Great question. So we are starting, James With a relatively, know, literally slow steps. The sense of, you're not trying to go to the, broad industry and say, okay, sign up and go build a solution on this. Yeah, we are not there yet.
We are, beginning to work with what we are terming co-creation partners who are, firms who have a deep understanding about the digital transformation that's happening in industry. Have a stated intent to create and deliver digital print solutions. As a business, as a revenue generating business within their organization, uh, have a technical, team who have the ability to build these solutions.
and having the desire to also, you know, leverage their IP and, and build solutions on top and so on and so forth. So we are beginning to work with these partners who are. going to be our primary, consumers of the platform. on one level, we are also beginning to work with a few developers who are, uh, called them TriNet developers who understand the TriNet language.
You understand that . Well can be guns for hire by some of our partners, if they need resources to build stuff quickly on the platform. So they're beginning to develop a services capability, within the intranet. We are also, beginning to, work with some, independent software vendors who are very interested in.
In leveraging the platform initially to integrate, and have information exchange between the solutions within the platform and their own applications. And some of them are also beginning to look at, uh, the, the building an application on the platform because everything is a component.
Even our viewer is a component, so they can take our viewer component. They can take our API APIs are. And effectively either build an application on the platform or rethink their, their own existing solution. Even if it's going to be independent, it can still not just interface with the platform, but actually interact and make use of some other components.
So we're beginning to work with, uh, some of those partners. So we will see this evolving, and growing it's. As I said, it's still, you know, early days, there's only so much we can chew at the moment. you're taking one step at a time. I'd be a very encouraged with, The response that you're getting at this at this point.
James Dice: [00:47:13] That's really the end of my questions around the product at this point. Any, any other pieces that we didn't
Anand Mecheri: [00:47:19] hit be? I think you did a great job, James. I think you covered pretty much all the, all the amazing wines that, uh, that I could talk about, in regards to what you're doing. And, uh, and also in regard to TriNet, I guess one of the other things I would like to add though, is, the need for the industry to recognize fast, the change that's coming, right?
there are many, there's a lot of talk about digital trends. There's a lot of noise that on digital trends. Um, there's very, there's not enough tangible. outcomes, as we speak, it, doesn't match up to the noise that you're hearing, um, that needs to change quickly. and I think it will, because as the firms and the industry recognized the opportunity and start putting out their own solutions out there, competition is gonna, make everybody else, move forward.
And that's that pressure of time to get, your solutions to market, to engage your clients better is where TriNet is positioned as well as we want to enable others to quickly build solutions and get to their clients and solve problems. Very
James Dice: [00:48:19] cool. So with that, what are you excited about this year as you guys sort of release this new product?
Anand Mecheri: [00:48:26] Yeah. So this year is certainly looking to be a big year from multiple perspectives. So a number of our projects that we have already initiated are coming to fruition, completion delivery. Uh, there's a solid pipeline of opportunities that we are working on some really large, uh, we are really excited about that.
So they're going to be having a busy year, just as a solution provider on the platform. Okay. Um, but equally, you know, the six, seven engagements you have started on the platform, uh, as a service, concept, that's also picking up steam, it's sucking up a lot of our, engagement time, very productivity.
we are delighted that it is because, it has huge potential as well. So 21 we expecting it to be, uh, is substantially up for the company. Very cool.
James Dice: [00:49:12] So my 2021 favorite question is what's the number one thing you think needs to change to unlock smart buildings?
Anand Mecheri: [00:49:20] That's a hard one
to too many things. I think the number one thing, if I were to put my money on something, Uh, asset owners, need to recognize the opportunity because the man who writes the check or the woman who writes the check, determines what gets done, and they have the power to fast track industry change.
So. It's not new. I mean, it's something which we've been practicing. We've been talking to asset owners directly, especially owners, operators who see the full value of what we are doing. Uh, I think the more they get aware and educated and, and make that call, to move forward. would that, you know, you know, not just wait for proven ROI all the time, you know, but that's, you've got to take that leap of faith and, and recognize that know digital does bring ROI, but it's only if it's practiced and implemented.
Get on the bus. Uh, I think that that's really the main thing that should happen in
James Dice: [00:50:16] 21. And, and, and I think I know the answer to this question, but I think it needs to be spoken a lot more, but like when you talk to an asset owner, building owner, what is the ROI of a digital twin? How do you frame that for them?
Anand Mecheri: [00:50:31] Yeah. So it's, it's a hard one. I mean, we have a benefit statement, which identifies various benefits that clearly, riddens money. Like there's no question. and it also depends on the persona involved. If it's a developer. I mean this Croi and simply the fact that they can transact better, they can get their assets and over faster gross transactions and sell them if it's an asset owner, they can lease them to better and more in a more attractive tenants in terms of the value of the associate with visceral buildings.
So there is value starting there at the, at a commercial level, and also for funds who own properties and, uh, Where their, ELD drives their asset value. every half a percentage point improvement in the yield is a 25 X result on the asset value. So I think there are many benefits from, uh, from a commercial business.
Point of view. Um, then the question is how much is that ROI? How much is my, asset value increase? And that goes into the baseline. I mean, how, what's your current, you know, method of managing your facilities? How well organized is your information, uh, how capable are your, are your people to understand the data and make some sense out of it and act on it. if the baseline is low, the payback can be massive. I mean, there's, there's no question, but if it's already well-optimized well-oiled machine, I have a great process. Yeah, definitely. Your, your incremental return is going to be lower. But still valuable, uh, saving in manpower costs straight away is, out of the box.
I mean, if you have four people involved in managing a building or a set of buildings, definitely it's going to save 25% of that, of that resource requirements simply because the information on your, on the tab. Yeah, contextual information, data, available to drive your decisions, data analyzed to help you interpret.
So all of that is going to result in direct outcome. So if you go through the individual topics, whether it is energy, whether it is asset life, whether it is maintenance costs, every one of them, uh, we can walk through a, have a discussion to see, uh, why the, there is ROI, but are we able to. Have a fun Ottawa, established and, apply that across buildings.
That's going to be hard because no two buildings are the same. No two buildings are going to be operated the same way the baselines are going to be different. So each asset owner will have to make that assessment based on a benefit statement. And that's the same as those benefits matter to them. And how much,
James Dice: [00:52:55] Very cool. Yeah, I've heard some people just take the strategy or begin to take the strategy probably is a better way to say it is. Um, we've recognized all of these different buckets and we're just going to unilaterally make the decision to move forward with digital twins. And we know that the ROI is there, whereas I've seen other people try to prove it sort of from the ground up.
Stakeholder by stakeholder by stakeholder. And, I think that there's different opinions on which way to go at this point, but very interesting. Thank you for naming all of those,
Anand Mecheri: [00:53:26] but, but I do think James, just to add to that, I do think, you know, theoretical assessments of this, I'm not going to get the outcomes they're looking for.
They need to get their feet wet, get on the bus experience. It that's the only way
James Dice: [00:53:39] that's a great place to end off. Thank you and non for, for the education and, uh, good luck.
Anand Mecheri: [00:53:45] Thanks for the opportunity to them. It's a pleasure talking to you. Thank you.
James Dice: [00:53:49] 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, which by the way, readers have said is the best way to stay up to date on the future of the smart building industry. Please firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.