Aiming For Faster Time to Value Creation

Sinclair:   Hi Mr. Building Whisperer, how are things over in Sweden? I see you everywhere these days. Podcasts, speaking engagements, new companies and of course articles for How do you find the time?

Waern:  Hi Ken! Things are great. Just enjoyed a couple of days of warm weather here which is partly why I’m again late with the submissions. In regard to the podcasts and whatnot, I just try to give back to the community when I can and hopefully it can lead to faster time to value creation for some.

I’ve worked hard again this summer with only a couple of days of vacation, which is everything but sustainable. Entrepreneurship has its ups and downs for sure with extreme highs, and unfortunately also extreme lows. What keeps me going is the vision that I want to give back to the community who’s been extremely open to share their views with me. And it’s important to find time for my family because that’s what matters. We are also moving to a new place this week, it’s my eldest five-year birthday tomorrow and I’m in the middle of the start of a new company, plus some initiatives so… yeah. I don’t actually know how I find the time!

Sinclair:   Work-life balance. Aren’t you supposed to be the best country in the world for that?

Waern:  That seems to be true, but there’s an exception for every rule right? We have it great here of course, but it’s also why I want to give something back and work hard because I can. Not everyone is as lucky as I am, so I owe it to them to make the most of it.

Sinclair:  Fair enough! So, what’s going on with everything? You still haven’t answered my questions in my other emails? Do you want to do that now?

Waern:  Sure, why not! It resonates a bit with the BB-cycle from last months column as well. So, what have we got – By the looks of it, we have:

  • 5G
  • LoRa
  • Cloud
  • OPC UA
  • MQTT and….
  • Quantum Computing

Okay, I’ll try to keep this short.

5G in buildings- no. 4G and others seem to be better still, and there’s much to do with resiliency in the whole scheme of things. Outside buildings, acting as the gateway of sorts between the building and something else, yes, in some places why not. Some great comments here from a post shared by Richard Dempers at Rheinberry Ltd.

LoRa and LoRaWAN is something I’ve been discussing before. I believe it will have some benefits for slow-moving data where it’s not critical and possibly also one-directional with low packet sizes. LPWAN, in general, is great for some things, but not all, and IMHO not especially for smarter buildings.

I believe much more in high-through-put sensings, such as BACnet/Mesh which handles massive data loads without missing a beat and is also interoperable with anything IP out of the box (Modbus, BACnet etc).

Here is a good discussion and figures from Conectric and Phillip Kopp regarding the vast difference between slow-moving technologies and their stuff.

Cloud – OPC UA- MQTT. Well, the cloud is something I think that everyone will be using more and more, even for OT applications. However, more and more stuff will stay at the edge as well as previously discussed. A data strategy is my answer to cloud. What goes where, how often, who will access it, where will the analytics and fault detection take place and so on.

OPC UA is for me, similar to BACnet, in the sense that it’s a protocol that takes data out from Industrial PLCs and gets it to wherever it needs to go. It’s legacy, and it works. But, here’s the cool thing that I’m doing with my new initiative.

We have managed to remove the OPC layer completely and send and receive up to millions of messages per second via Kafka streams instead of using the old horse and carriage to get data through. MQTT is a publish-subscribe protocol that, in my mind sits at the top of the IP layer getting messages in and out in a fast way. Traditionally, BAS/BMS and buildings haven’t had the need for high throughput data to go in and out. But now, when we see that more things are getting connected, and more data is needed to get more accurate predictions, I see that BACnet and the likes will have its place. But it will be augmented by more modern technologies, making it easier to come in, get data to a streaming platform and write applications on top.

Sinclair:   Very interesting, indeed. These “Kafka Streams” are new to me, can you explain a bit more?

Waern:  Well, Apache Kafka is an open-source streaming platform that is used to manage the exchange of data between systems and to process data in real-time. It is event-driven and can handle enormous data-transactions. We are using it today to get data out of basically any data source, and we have a library/catalogue of connectors for Oracle databases, A wide variety of industry-leading vendor PLCs, SCADA systems, OPC UA, Modbus, and a whole lot of other sources as well via partner companies. Kafka is the straw which you put into the data source, getting data in and out, and it leads to a streaming platform.

There were some bullet points on the website, but I managed to delete the content today when I was merging some additional domains into the backend. Luckily for our customers, I’m not the one in charge of development work…

Sinclair:   Okay, so it’s being used to normalize data from wherever it is coming from? And how do you manage all of these data streams? It sounds like a daunting task!

Waern:  Yes, that’s exactly what Kafka is. Just something to get data out of something else, get it to a real-time streaming platform where you can add schemas, tagging and build applications on top.

Managing all of the data streams is indeed challenging, but we have partnered up with the best companies in the business that will help manage all of these streams, make queries, and act as the lense into everything that goes on.

Sinclair:   And this Kafka business, does it have to have anything to do with Quantum Computing?

Waern:  Right now, nothing as far as I know. But ask me again soon, and we’ll see…

In all honesty, the reason why I included Quantum Computing was that one of my idols at Contemporary Controls mentioned it in one of the emails that got sent around for the (not so) young guns preparing for the next AHR Expo. Zach Netsov might be the only young gun on that panel, and I’ve been super impressed by him and his work at CC since I met him the first time in Chicago 1,5 years ago.

I’m not going to steal his thunder, but quantum computing is pretty cool stuff in that it can have true or false states going on at the same time, allowing it to crunch numbers and solutions in ways that we can’t even begin to understand. At least I can’t!

I’ll have to wait until Zach decides to connect QC with BAS to see where his thoughts lie.

Sinclair:   From pneumatic to Quantum Computing… yeah, let’s see when he can connect those two! Any last words?

Waern:  It’s really a stretch I think from where we are today to what will happen in the next 10 years. We’ll see how far IT can go into the OT layers and what will happen with this paradigm shift and convergence that is happening today.

Last words.. hmm. What will happen next month is that I’m a speaker at the De-Days conference in Mallorca on the 24th-25th of September. I will either talk about the Digital Mall concept, which I’ve discussed before or some of the stuff I’ll be doing with the streaming platform tech. Or something totally different. And I’m going to help some companies with ecosystems-strategies, IoT Platform strategies, and also have headed up this new initiative and… also find time to move into a new house!

That said, thanks for all your wisdom, Ken, you are the best. And to your readers, just let me know if you need any help with anything. And whatever you do, just do it – there’s no time like the present!


/The Building Whisperer –
Nicolas Waern

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