4 min read

What Hollywood can teach us about smart buildings [Nexus Newsletter #79]

Hey friends,

This might seem like it’s off-topic for us, but bear with me: are you familiar with the celebrity gossip magazine TMZ? If so, do you know what that acronym stands for?

It refers to the “thirty mile zone” in Los Angeles. This is where the film industry was born.

There are specific laws for film work done within the zone’s boundaries. Inside the TMZ, workers must pay for their own meals and transportation. Filming outside the TMZ is considered "on location" and the studios are generally expected to pay for these things.

During most of the 20th century, the industry preferred to film movies and television shows within the studio zone to reduce labor costs. This fact, as well as the lack of infrastructure and workforce outside the zone, made it expensive to film on location. In turn, anyone who wanted to start a career in the entertainment industry had to move to Los Angeles to break into the TMZ.

And this explains why Seinfeld, a show about life in New York City, was actually filmed in Los Angeles, on the "New York Street" set, complete with fake snow:

Weird, right?

Well, our industry is weird just like the film industry. A few examples...

First, every city in the world has similar geographical zones. They determine things like the stakeholders involved, local labor laws, building codes, and energy performance requirements. And just like the TMZ, you gotta be there to break into the industry and understand how to change it.

Second, the building technology industry has its own history. It’s been playing out for decades in mechanical rooms and above ceilings. It started with the humble thermostat, progressed into the first pre-internet OT networks, and is now converging with the internet that has grown up alongside it.

Knowing the history of your industry better than anybody else is a huge career and competitive advantage. And even though it's so simple, few people actually read up on it.

Our Foundations course is a way to catch up on this history. Click here and we'll follow up with more info and put you on the waitlist.


P.S. Tomorrow is our first live broadcast, A Data Driven Approach to Indoor Air Quality. Join 250+ other registrants by signing up here.

At the Nexus

Here’s everything we published this week:

🎧 #054: Ben Birnbaum on why solving climate means solving controlsThis is a fascinating look inside the mind of a technology investor who has invested in several past Nexus Podcast guests, including PassiveLogic, Aquicore, and Buildings IOT.

We talked about what brought Ben into the building technology space, why he's here to stay, even though he's learned about all the barriers and what it takes to succeed as a founder in our space.


New to smart buildings?We transitioned to a new website last week, so we finally have everything we're up to (blog, podcast, course, and memberships) in one place. This is our new website for our Foundations course... it's got all the deets and FAQs.

Signal vs. Noise

Only the best smart building resources we consumed this week…

The GPS Playbook—As a response to last week's Lessons from Google Maps, Pro member Tim Guiterman, CEO of Infisense, shared this nice white paper on the explosion in innovation spurred by GPS technology. Lots of parallels with our space here!

"The evolution of GPS provides a model for understanding how other spacebased technologies can become global innovation platforms that create exponential value. Specifically, the development of technology layers on top of space-based infrastructure to distribute data for mass adoption and unlock thousands of unique applications, that weren’t possible before."

The formula? Ubiquitous data, developer tools, and a multi-functional platform that resonated with consumers.


Women in Real Estate: Challenges, Opportunities and How to Succeed—Mandi Wedin, CEO of FEROCE, who I interview for the podcast last week, wrote this great piece for women that we all need to read.

"Sticking your head in the sand is no longer an acceptable strategy. The industry needs talent with the ability to be agile, fail fast, and adapt rapidly."


Microsoft buys ReFirm Labs to boost IoT security with firmware analysis—Firmware is the software that makes hardware work and makes it do what its manufacturer intended it to do. Without firmware, a building’s devices wouldn’t do anything. It acts as an operating system, controlling everything about that device’s functioning, including connecting to the local network and the internet, so keeping it patched is a big deal. Microsoft brings new firmware capabilities into the Azure ecosystem.

“ReFirm allows us to assess all the code running on the device and provide a security rating before you connect the device,” Weston said. The tool is a “a key piece of the missing puzzle” to make it easier for organizations to feel comfortable about deploying IoT. “Today, you plug [the device] into the Internet and you say ‘YOLO, I hope everything’s cool.'”


That's all for this week! Thanks for reading. 👋