4 min read

What's a Building OS? [Nexus Newsletter #137]

Hey friends,

Last week, I asked my LinkedIn followers a difficult question:

"What is a Building Operating System?"

I've noticed this term being used more and more in 2022. It's having a moment.

But I've also noticed people using "Building OS" to describe different concepts, meaning it's dangerously close to claiming a square in a game called Smart Buildings Buzzword Bingo.

When software CEOs talk about it, they speak in analogies: Microsoft and Android and Apple for PCs and smartphones.

But mostly they’re selling software that is more end-user application and less platform for other applications.

When folks at Google (and folks in the EU) talk about it, they speak about a horizontal architecture built with replaceable components.

When integrators talk about it, they mostly speak about using Niagara.

So what the hell is it?

After 45 commenters (and counting) took their best shot at defining the BOS to help me out, here's what I learned...

First, there's massive diversity in opinions, even beyond what I stated above. Ask 10 random people in the buildings industry and you might get 10 different answers. I'm amazed at some commenters' confidence when they're being contradicted by several others!

Based on the vast diversity of responses here, just take out the “O” in BOS and that’s your answer.
Tim Guiterman

Second, one of the main points of confusion lies in the word "operating". Some are talking about a software architecture that operates a system of interconnected hardware and software:

"Wikipedia defines OS as "software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common services for computer programs." For buildings, we can adapt to "software that manages systems, data, and provides common services for building [both verb & noun] applications and users."
Anto Budiardjo

While others are talking about a software tool that aids humans in operating a building:

"People do operate buildings and so yeah, the way that term has been used is more literal - a system used to operate buildings (presumably better than having no system or a patchwork of different point solutions)."
Comly Wilson

I prefer the former over the latter. "Software to help operate a building" is the Application Layer. I think the BOS is an infrastructure layer.

Third, I think there's broad consensus that a BOS integrates and abstracts away the complexity of the device layer, meaning there's heavy overlap between a BOS and the Independent Data Layer concept.

"To me, it's the API to the hardware layer. That's what a BOS is, then a core set of functions and data abstractions that enables applications to sit over the OS and not have to know what he hardware layer is."
Derek Cowburn

Finally, as Anto alludes to above, it's not just about collecting data from the device layer—it's about providing a "standardized interface" and "common services" to each device below and each application above.

"Take a web camera driver that works on Windows for example, it has to implement certain functions and let Windows know it's a web camera.

Then applications only need to implement Windows web camera interface and can work with any web camera attached to the system.

The application developer doesn't need to update code if anything is swapped out or changed."
Stephen Von Takash

Do you agree?

Let us know on LinkedIn,

—James Dice, Founder of Nexus Labs

P.S. Next month, we'll be launching Cohort 5 of Nexus Foundations.  We'll be refreshing Module 4 on new technology, which includes the Building OS. Make sure you're on the waitlist to be the first to hear when registration opens.  

P.P.S. We launched a sponsorship program last week to members of Nexus Pro. The program sold out for the next 5 months! It's now open to non-members. To grab your place in line, check out our sponsorship opportunities page.

✖ At the Nexus

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


★ PODCAST: 🎧 #110: The evolution of the access control system with Lee OdessEpisode 110 is a conversation with Lee Odess, physical security expert and access control system thought leader and author of the book The 6 Phase Changes Shaping Access Control.

This is a deep dive on access control, one of the main utilities in a building, the silos that are subindustries in and of themselves, just like HVAC or lighting or elevators. In many ways, the evolution of these siloed industries are colliding with the smart building industry and we explore those collisions in this insightful conversation with an absolute expert.



  • Subject Matter Expert Workshop: Independent Building Automation Consultant at Lifecycle Controls, Bryce Anderson led the discussion on BMS trends today and tomorrow. Watch the recording here.
  • Pro Member Gathering: Smart Buildings Manager and Nexus Pro member, Blake Hyde, will join us for a conversation on Cadillac Fairview's Smart Buildings Program.

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


★ ON LINKEDIN: New startups (to me) in digital & decarbonized buildings, July 2022


★ CARVEOUTS: Building Re-tuning Interactive Web-Based Training


★ JOBS: Are you hiring? Searching for a job in smart buildings?—We've relaunched the Nexus Labs Jobs Board and we've made job postings free.

It's got great jobs from Synchronoss, Honeywell, Aquicore, Vanti, McKinstry, GridPoint, Gridium, Buro Happold, WSP, Switch Automation, and ThoughtWire

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

Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways Nexus Labs can help you:

1. Take our shortcut to learning the Smart Buildings industry here (300 students and counting)

2. Join our community of smart buildings nerds and gamechangers here (400 members and counting)

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