4 min read

Part 2: The Overlays [Nexus Newsletter #126]

Hey friends,

Let's continue our series on Nexus Lore: the core concepts that come up again and again in this newsletter, on the Nexus podcast, in the Nexus Foundations course, in Nexus Pro gatherings, and in the community chatroom.

If you want to start at the beginning, check out our white paper with all 10 parts: Nexus Lore.

Lore is never written by one person, so send us your feedback for v2!

Let's dive into part 2...

The Overlays

As we discussed last week, there's a wide (and growing) gap between what building owners need and what siloed systems are capable of.

While our siloed stacks are getting smarter (more on that in part 4), we can't just rip and replace everything in our buildings with the latest and greatest. Practically speaking, smart building solutions need to solve the silo problem by integrating with existing systems in the portfolio.

We accomplish this using “overlay” software. An overlay by definition will “sit on top of” existing systems or applications to allow access to data and functionality from the underlying systems.

I think of this architecture as phase 1 of the smart buildings industry. A vendor installs an integration device on the local network, pushes data to their cloud, organizes it according to their standards, does some fancy math and visualizations, and serves up a software application.

And these solutions are downright amazing compared to what we had before (and what many building owners still have today). For example:

  • Overlays like Clockworks Analytics can diagnose issues the HVAC systems in almost real time.
  • Overlays like Bractlet can create a physics-based energy model, calibrate it to a building's actual performance, and create scenarios for decarbonization.
  • Overlays like BrainBox AI can control HVAC better than the control system can.
  • Overlays like Comfy can give a building occupant the local temperature control they never had and allow them to provide valuable feedback to the building operator.

All of those are incredible innovations! But... here's why phase 1 is coming to an end:

Solving individual problems with separate overlays creates new silos.

This phenomenon is common across all industries that are in the midst of digitization. Single-purpose overlays are widely termed "point solutions", which PC magazine defines as:

Solving one particular problem without regard to related issues.

Point solutions solve one or two problems for one or two stakeholders, leaving out adjacent workflows, problems, and jobs to be done.

Building owners are left with point solution spaghetti, like the 53 building portfolio with 50 different technology providers. With so many balls to juggle, O&M stakeholders find their core daily workflows to be inefficient, confusing, full of task switching, and difficult to keep up to date. Managing this complexity takes away from, rather than enhances, the ability to operate and maintain their buildings.

A small bite of point solution spaghetti

Building owners pay for multiple point solution vendors to do the same work at each infrastructure layer of the stack—resulting in redundant integration, data storage, and data modeling layers that don't easily communicate outside of each vendor's stack.

Phase 1 isn't ideal for vendors either. They need to build that infrastructure layer on every new project, delaying time to value, lengthening sales cycles, and increasing customer acquisition costs.

Point solutions are a stop on our journey, but they're not the destination.

Do you agree?

Let us know on LinkedIn,

—James Dice, Founder of Nexus Labs

P.S. Sign up for the free Nexus newsletter to make sure you get the rest of the series in your inbox.


✖ At the Nexus

Here’s everything worth sharing from Nexus HQ this week:

★ PODCAST: 🎧 #099: Duke University's Decarbonization and Digitization Journey—We talked about Duke’s campus decarbonization and digitization journeys, how intertwined those two journeys are, the important technologies they’re implementing, and the challenges unique to the higher education space.

I enjoyed meeting Casey, who’s a longtime listener of the show, and thought this was a great addition to our higher education series that’s included Stanford and Monash.

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★ MEMBERS-ONLY EVENTS THIS MONTH:

  • Subject Matter Expert Workshop: Pro member Matt White, Vice President, Building Solutions at Buildings IOT, will present on the intersection of the Master Systems Integrator (MSI) role and the Independent Data Layer (IDL). Why is it ideal to have the MSI as the provider / owner / developer of that IDL? What are the advantages of an IDL that has been influenced by the experience of an MSI? How does having an IDL change the dynamics and impact of an MSI on a project?
  • Member Gathering: Pro member Lizzie Adams, Vice President, Goldman Sachs Asset Management - Real Estate Investing, will join the group for a candid discussion on setting decarbonization targets, plans to get to those targets, and how technology can help.

Join Nexus Pro now to get the invites and access to the recordings.

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★ ON LINKEDIN: I enjoyed nerding out on platforms for the last few weeks with Section4!

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★ READ OF THE WEEK: The 5 R's of Resource Efficient Electrification

"The second piece, which is really important, is developing a multiyear capital plan that will move a building over time to carbon-neutrality, so that sustainability improvements can be integrated into the more routine implementations that occur over a lifetime of a building.”

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👋 That's all for this week. See you next Tuesday!