Creating Future-Ready Organizations

This article is about how Digital Twins is not what you think, how companies can utilize systems that can solve the skill shortage gap. It’s about how nothing changes, but everything will change.

Solving the skill shortage gap, forever.

Do you want to solve problems for real? Do you want to collaborate with experts all over the world, and realize the true potential of buildings from a lifecycle perspective? Do you want to stop making decisions in a vacuum and share ideas with others all over the world? Reach out to me here on Linkedin if interested and stay in tune with Beyond Buildings where we will announce something shortly. We are about ten people already from the entire lifecycle that want to solve problems for real, together. It is energy people, FM, technical asset managers, HVAC people, owners, construction, consultants, IoT-people, smart city people, and others. This article will also be featured at where my mentor Ken Sinclair resides. If interested you can always read some of the other articles that I wrote and see how they have aged over time.

But now, on to the article!


This article will discuss a way to increase knowledge transfer and a way of tackling the skill-shortage gap in a future proof way. It is the combination of automation, digitalization, faster knowledge transfer through agreed-upon definitions of truth, that will solve the skill shortage gap in the short-to-medium-term. If everyone understands that only a few understand today, and even fewer people are needed to do what many people are doing, we get a double-whammy. Eventually, labor will be automated for the most part and the skill shortage gap will be no more.

A short audio clip about this challenge here to start with.

The future that everyone wants, and desperately needs

They had become legends. Not only in their organizations but also throughout the automotive industry. They had been the ones who realized that all the silo work did not lead to anything. The impact they needed always took too long, and it had been too hard, if not impossible to track changes and create ways to continuously learn from their mistakes. They did not understand the underlying technology of these modern tools, but they could very well understand the benefits and the new world order. They understood that if nothing changes, nothing will change. And they wanted to be the change they saw that was necessary. And because of that, they were hailed as legends, with a legacy far beyond anything that they could imagine.

Just imagine if the CEO, CFO, head of HR, Marketing, CTO, and some product managers and the head of the AI team was working on the strategy together in real-time. And a couple of the board members wanted to be in on these sessions because they were so much fun. And everyone understood each other. They were all talking, laughing, and changing launch dates, and how this could affect the other teams, and what a change in one area might lead to advancements in another area. And also, what problems might be incurred. The system they were building their decisions on worked in a way so that it not only answered questions, but also provided insight, and recommendations based on the output that they were looking for and found optimal conditions in real-time. It took in data from existing systems, no matter the source. Internal, external, from a local setting, from the world. Suddenly the CFO could make an instantaneous decision if they would go for a faster time to market, sacrificing potential recalls. But the upside would be an extra 2,5-2,8 Billion over the next three years which would allow them entry to other strategic areas. The AI team had seen an exponential increase in the organizational impact they were having, and the word had spread to other automotive manufacturers that still worked in silos, with disparate data sets, that they had succeeded where others were still struggling. Where data scientists were still cleaning data, and never realizing true value because of a lack of incomplete data sets, and a challenge in comparing data from different sources. And if they went for the lighter alloy, that cost more, but it made them slide under a weight standard, so they could classify the car differently so they would save hundreds of millions from a fleet perspective. And the lifecycle testing for all the function owners, and everything in the car, that once had taken them 6-8 months, were now cut in half even though the increased the number of use cases exponentially, and that their answers were more accurate than ever before. And they could use the data in a much different way during the entire lifecycle, and communicate, collaborate between silos, leading to exponential value increase. The most interesting part was that nothing really changed in how they worked. But at the same time, everything changed for the better.

How? Simple.

“Suddenly the Innovation platform ate culture for breakfast, lunch and dinner”

They had something they all could agree on that was fed real-time data from everywhere. Visualized in a way so that everyone could understand how it all came together. For them, it was a car. It was their factories. It was the organization. For others, it might be a truck, a building, a city, a ship, a turbine, a coffee-machine – anything that has a physical presence in space and time. They had the 3D models, but they were only used in silos. It was only when they managed to put all the pieces together that they understood it had always been that easy. The solution had been there all the time. After decades of political and hierarchical struggles, everyone could now base all their decisions on one true source. It was more than a Digital Twin. It was beyond buildings, and beyond everything, they had ever wanted. It was an innovation platform that revolutionized how they, and everyone else made decisions in the manufacturing space. No more biased decisions and agendas. Just fact-based decision making leveraging other people’s expertise, that was constantly aligned with the corporate mission and vision.

The tides had turned and no longer did culture eat strategy for breakfast. Now, the Innovation platform ate culture for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Yes, the world would surely head this way eventually. But they were first to it. And they could stay there for a long while because they were making data-driven decisions and eliminating waste faster, and better than anyone else in the business. Finally, they could let their size, scale, talent within the walls, and modern technology come together to do all the things that they, and everyone wished they could do. All thanks to a new perspective of a century-old problem.

Setting the stage – skill shortage and knowledge transfer

Imagine a large something that looks like any other large something. It could be a building, a ship, a truck, a car, or even a city. We got systems that are not necessarily connected, there is the old with the new and there’s always decisions being made from assumptions. If we think about a factory or a large commercial building we can see that there’s maybe one person who knows how it really operates because they have been there from the beginning. They might know how the factory works but how could they know how their decisions would affect other people? How would they know that their decisions would be aligned with the goals of the company?

The decisions of one will no doubt have an effect on the mix of people from other disciplines,

  • IT
  • HR
  • OT
  • IoT
  • MSIs,
  • CEOs
  • CFOs
  • CTOs
  • Owners
  • Tenants
  • Engineers
  • Marketing
  • Consultants
  • FM companies
  • Functional owners
  • Portfolio managers
  • Technical asset managers

And in the future, all the other unknowns that want to offer services to whatever it is the company needs to utilize to bring better value for their stakeholders.

We are not only looking at a skill shortage gap, but also the skill transfer/knowledge transfer gap.

  • How, if ever, can we make these people agree on a shared truth?
  • How can we enable collaboration and communication between experts in their respective field, and with people with zero understanding of HVAC, lighting, pneumatics, valves, BACnet, vendor lock-in, the cost to do something, where stuff is, etc, etc.
  • How do we get them to collaborate?
  • How do we transfer the knowledge from the one person who knows everything, into the minds of the 5 people with different backgrounds, working in separate parts of the organization/building?
  • How do we agree on a shared truth between engineers when they only have access to BI-dashboarding tools, that offer a glimpse into a part of the building that is also reserved only for experts?

“Trying to learn what Web Services Digital Twins are by dissecting the acronyms is like trying to learn how to drive by studying an automatic transmission” –

(Paraphrasing) by The Legend Steve Tom (from his seminal article about BACnet/WS in 2004)

Agreeing on something that is based in space and time

Everyone is trying to make simulations of how the real world will operate. People are doing it in the automotive space, industry 4.0 initiatives, building automation, anything manufacturing, and in all areas where there’s business. And companies are failing. Miserably so. Everyone is starting to say that they have got Digital Twins operating for them and they already have the keys to the kingdom. Most of them are wrong.

It is simple. Everyone is just working on their sliver of reality from a real-world puzzle and their so-called digital twins also operate in silos. Everyone is using BI-dashboards that only make sense within their own discipline, and experts cannot explain what they do to someone else outside their frame of reference. Decisions are made in vacuums.

But what is the one thing that they all should agree on, but find it hard to do? Well in the automotive industry, it is the cars, the trucks, that they work with.

For buildings, it is… yeah, you guessed it. Buildings!

So, let’s say we have a factory.

That factory consists of systems that are usually not interconnected. And they also consist of HVAC systems, the actual pipes and plumbing, and people with responsibilities in different areas.

–          Suddenly! A pipe bursts on the far-left hand side of the factory!!!

–          What to do? The one in charge of that has no clue where it leads to, and their BI dashboard does not show the correlations to the entire plant, only their area!

–          The one that knew all this retired a month ago and the 4 people in charge do not know where to start and how everything is connected.

–          And the one person that has an idea, cannot explain well enough, nor get the understanding from all the different dashboards.

–          What to do?

Luckily – they invested in an innovation platform the other week that solves these challenges! What does it do?

–          They have integrated the data from different applications across silos into an innovation platform that is built upon a Digital Twin database.

–          It absorbs data from any kind of source, irrespective of standard, API, and it makes sense of the world as it is by mapping data sources to a non-industry specific ontology.

–          Initially, data was mapped towards the visual aspects of the Digital Twin and attached to CAD/BIM/GIS data from a template building/the real building to enable people to understand and see the space that they are all in.

–          Everyone can see why the pump burst, what it is related to in the entire factory, and they can all agree with what the problem is, and what the solution is. As well as run simulations about what will happen if they do x y and z, and get suggestions from the system itself.

–          They can quickly come together and determine what needs to be done since the systems are talking to each other, and that people can communicate around a one true source that is the visual digital twin. Not just dashboards.

–          Other data that hasn’t been available help them in an invisible way of making decisions by eliminating possible outcomes that are too risky, too costly, or will lead to unintended consequences for any of the other disciplines in the factory/or organization.

This pipe bursting is of course a hypothetical case since this would not have happened in the first place. Everything would have been connected and this would have been prevented before it happened. Managing risk is after all one of the major benefits with a connected innovation platform.

i. Data to impact loop and the components of an innovation platform based on digital twin technology.

Why this is important

Since everyone today is working in silos, ALL companies have a problem creating solutions that work flawlessly in the real world. Therefore, companies are not realizing their expected return on investment when executing AI-initiatives and analytics efforts in scale. People are not collaborating as they should be, and there are not the laughs and real-time decisions we read about at the beginning of the article. People are not hailed as heroes, legends, and heroines. It’s more scapegoats, and everyone is trying to protect their piece of the fiefdom. Entire organizations have a problem seeing the big picture and this is detrimental for the world since we need better solutions now. Maybe even yesterday.

The skill shortage gap will not go away in the short term, but this is a vital approach in automating work that should be automated. As well as minimizing the dependency on people that knows everything. With an approach like this we can see increased levels of collaboration and communication, and faster time to market for innovative ideas, control strategies for the built environment, and more holistic undertakings at large.

Key Takeaways

Digital twins can be more than just the interconnected things visualized in a Business intelligence dashboard. Having just the data pieces from one silo is like driving with one eye open at night, with no lights on, trying to communicate to a deaf person about where you are in a place you never visited before.

And having only the visual representations with no data doesn’t matter much either because only a fraction of decisions can be made and people won’t know if they are the right ones or not.

The opportunity with digital twins that mirror the real world is to further facilitate communication and collaboration between silos of people, systems, and industries, allowing and enabling us to create value at every step. To understand the world. And to make decisions that are affected by more factors than the one in respective silos. Forget about the talk about much-needed agreement on what a digital twin is. Forget about agreeing to one standard. Forget about the focus on technology and instead focus on where you are today, where you want to go, and how you can get there in the fastest, most sustainable way possible. By understanding where you want to go, you can suddenly ask vendors how well their solutions cater to the end result you want to see. If you need some help in coming up with questions, reach out!

Misunderstand me correctly, I love talking about technology and it’s extremely important to select the correct piece of tech, with an enabling view having the end goal in sight. It’s important to involve experts in the nitty-gritty stuff and to make use of the people, the talent, and the systems that exist today. Because it’s very easy to make the wrong decisions which might lead to everything but an agile organization.

The truth is that I just want to help others succeed. And it’s through a holistic understanding of technology, people, organizations and what the world will do in a week, a month, a year from now on, that I am able to see the future before it happens. And the way I do this is by talking to other people, learning from my customers, and I just want to know more, so that I can help out more.

That is why find this interesting, and tragic at the same time, that communication across disciplines does not happen, at all. For buildings, it’s the entire life cycle. Communication does not happen within the different disciplines during the construction phase. BIM (construction digital twins) are not modus operandi, and it does not take into account ALL aspects of the construction process, only the BIM side of things. 5D, 6D are still tools for the trade, and experts residing in that narrow point in time that is a construction where the focus should be on the operating phase and the entire lifecycle. Data does not get exponentially increased during the lifecycle and a lot of data die during handovers, where there is a rush to get things done. And the utilization of modern tools in the property management phase in a holistic, organizational way with an enabling mindset is not how the world operates. Yet.

This is why WE need to go beyond buildings, understand the benefits that need to be derived, use modern technology to do things better, and start realizing the TRUE potential of both buildings and the organizations that deal with them.

If you have read this far and want to solve these challenges, let me know. Like I stated in the beginning, I have got about ten people that have signed up for solving the problems in this industry in a holistic way. But more is needed and I have some extremely interesting projects coming up where we are populating a digital twin with the HVAC side of things, Fire, safety, lighting, BAS, BMS, everything, and it will be an innovation playground for us to start doing this in scale.

My role is to advise decision-makers and companies what the world is going to do a month, a year, a decade from now. WINNIIO has a complete understanding of what is needed to stand out from the competition, advise on pros and cons, and be the strategic partner for both technology and organization-advice in a Smart World Environment (Construction/Industry/Smart Buildings and Cities).

If you liked this article and want others to read it to, please share!

And of course, it would be great if you can comment, like, subscribe, or just stay tuned for the next one!

My role is to advise decision-makers and companies what the world is going to do a month, a year, a decade from now. WINNIIO has a complete understanding of what is needed to stand out from the competition, advise on pros and cons, and be the strategic partner for both technology and organization-advice in a Smart World Environment (Construction/Industry/Smart Buildings and Cities).

Please reach out if you have any questions on how to get started, get going, or how to succeed in the next decade!


Nicolas Waern

Digital Transformation Expert – Helping companies find their role in a Smart City Context


Urgent IMPACT needed

What do we need to do to steer this planet in the right direction? What are the challenges and why are existing efforts not providing tangible results? And most of all, what can be done to change this?

A lot of existing Net-zero ambitions, discussions and energy related strategies are like that of a ship, with holes in the bottom. Where everyone is focused on steering the ship in the right direction.”

         Nicolas Waern

Except that it’s not just one ship, but an armada of ships, leaking, and not necessarily pointing in the right directions. A lot of innovation theatre going on in a lot of industries. The need for sustainable impact acceleration in all industries is evident. But why, and how can we get there? How do we get the behaviour change necessary to do a course correction that will lead to sustainable impact?

“Energy efficiency is particularly important in this decade, offering opportunities to reduce emissions quickly as well as reducing the overall investment requirements of net zero goals and making our net zero goals more achievable. As part of people-centred clean energy transitions, an emphasis on energy efficiency also provides an opportunity to create more jobs, support economic growth and industrial output. However, the current scale of energy efficiency action is not sufficient and there is a need to accelerate implementation on a global level.

·        Faster action on efficiency-related measures can avoid an extra 95 EJ of energy demand by 2030 even as the economy grows

·        Enhanced efficiency-related measures provide one third of the emissions reductions needed for net zero.”

The value of urgent action on energy efficiency

Doing something well, that shouldn’t be done at all

As discussed before, I believe we need to simulate the future to transcend the now. What this means is that we need to go from the impact we want, and reverse engineer that to the steps we need to take. Just calling for urgent action doesn’t cut it. We can see that. Because we don’t know how long it takes for actions to actually deliver any impact. So the whole premise of calling for action is flawed from the beginning.

One of the highlights however from the analysis above is related to the need for efficiency. Efficiency in the existing systems that we have. Because most of the time, it seems that we mistake the lack of effect with a lack of electricity. And a lack of real-time data with that also of transparency and granularity.

We need all of this, and more. But how? And what does this mean?

Going Nuclear

One of the best examples is something that I heard about the nuclear situation in Finland. If they had just spent a fraction of the money, they have been spending on building something new and shiny on making existing systems more efficient. They would not have needed to build the nuclear power plant. Something which Sweden obviously should take into account now that we are trying to build out new modular nuclear power plants to support electrification needs at scale.

For me, all of this is just a big joke which reminds me of the time when Steve Jobs was paraphrasing Gil Amelio. “Apple is like a ship, with holes in the bottom. And it’s my job to steer the ship in the right direction”.

Which brings back the urgency to make existing systems more efficient. Because building something new, that shouldn’t have been built at all, is such an enormous waste.

·        Faster action on efficiency-related measures can avoid an extra 95 EJ of energy demand by 2030 even as the economy grows

·        Enhanced efficiency-related measures provide one third of the emissions reductions needed for net zero

NZTwork – A decentralized part(s) of the global solution

There is a lack for granular real-time insight in what is going on behind the meter. A lot of grid owners are starting to pay out large sums to industries and real-estate owners if they can make visible to the energy producers what is invisible today. The reason for this is that they want to predict what will happen with the grid to have more balance.

As mentioned before, I have been architecting this Smart Energy System development project in Sweden since the last couple of years.

–        A call from the Wild

–        Digital Twins of Smart Heating Systems

We are using a wireless mesh approach, to get real-time granular insight, and control from multiple sensors in the buildings. Where we are both partnering up with 3rd party analytics engines. And in the process of developing self-learning algorithms based on a contextual understanding of weather, and what energy mix is being used at any given point in time.

And six months ago, we started to think about how we could leverage this to create global impact. We being the founder of Conectric Wireless Mesh, Phillip Kopp. And a new acquantaince that was in the same crypto investment group as I was, “X” Xuezhi Hu.

We looked at Helium as a starting point and we wanted to do something similar. But, not just a data information network, but something that would make sure to deliver data, insight, and a pathway to action as well as impact. We are now a group of people who have rallied together to create value and impact on a global scale.

The impact being energy efficiency. And after a while we connected the increasing value as well as demand of Carbon Credits as a potential carrot to help companies, individuals, everyone, to save money while making money and providing real-time insight where there is none.


Modern tools in the right order

You can read more about it at NZTwork, or reach out directly if you want to know more. But in short we want to leverage the power of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations to create an insight marketplace for everyone to take advantage of. No vendor-lockin, just quality data that can be turned into information, insight, action, to deliver intended impact.

Where the difference to a lot of existing technologies and projects is that we have bi-directional command in real time at the heart of all of this. With multiple patents related to real-time grid control, frequency regulation and node balancing at its core. With a software stack that has been developed with blockchain applications in mind.


If we can help individuals, as well as companies save more energy, provide granular ESG reporting, and help them create carbon credits in the process, we believe we can accelerate the path to net-zero journeys worldwide. It has to be a wallet play. Pun intended for the initiated, but to be honest, it all has to be about money. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it is what the world is all about.

Saving money, making more money, and finding new ways of making money.

–        This way, individuals will get help in saving money, with getting recommendations about how to optimize energy efficiency based on a contextual understanding

–        Grid owners will get more transparency and can optimize grids much better leading to a system of system efficiency where they can provide better services, to more people faster

–        Opens up new markets for frequency regulation, distributed energy plays, and also in the interim provides trusted carbon credits in real-time to a market where there’s an exponential demand, and a limited supply.

Incentivising/monetizing behaviour to realize maximum impact

Money. That’s the thing. The challenges with this is of course if we are contributing to more carbon credits in the market, then we are also somewhat perpetuating the status quo. However, with the acceleration of more effiency, and real-time insight, we have a much higher chance of reaching an intended impact faster. And time to value is everything.

Just imagine a future scenario where we can transfer energy from one side of the grid to the next one. As well as have decentralised grid control where smart grids and local energy communities are able to operate on their own. We are in the midst of signing up partners, advisors, and investors right now. Where my other day-job scaling up a global Digital Twin will also come in handy.

Examples being utilizing both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to better explain and disseminate knowledge as well as recipes for impact

·        Oracle Explores the Future of Energy at New Smithsonian FUTURES Exhibit

·        The future of Energy Walkthrough


If you have read this far, please tell me. Because I have no idea if anyone actually reads these articles or not. And if you have read this far and want to know more, or help change the world together, again, just reach out!

And like I always say, it’s my job to know what the future will do in a week, a month, a year from now. And if you want to create the future before everyone else? Reach out to me and we’ll make it happen!


Nicolas Waern
CEO, Founder and Digital Twin Specialist at WINNIIO Consulting

Nicolas Waern is the CEO, Strategy & Innovation Leader, and a Digital Twin Implementation Specialist at the consulting firm WINNIIO. He is a firm believer that the Real Estate Industry needs more of a lifecycle focus where we need to go Beyond Buildings and come back with an understanding what tools and technology we could use. And to solve the jobs to be done, together, with an open mindset.

Nicolas is working with leaders in several industries to understand how they can succeed in the age of AI. Predicting what the world will do in a week, a month, a year from now and to best utilize strategies and solutions that pass the test of time. He does this through a Digitalization- on Demand approach for anyone that needs to change before they have to.

Nicolas is also a Podcast Creator & Newsletter Editor for Beyond Buildings
Thought Leader regarding Smart Buildings & Building Automation for AutomatedBuildings
Speaker and Influencer Event Streaming Platforms as the Holy Grail for Industry 4.0 Applications
Subject Matter Expert Real Estate Digitalization Proptech Digitalization Expert
Active Member of Digital Twin working groups Digital Twin Subject Matter Expert

Are you ready to take your wireless planning to the next level?

In this episode of the Beyond Buildings Podcast, we talk to Chris Hallendy and Chad Ruch from Resolute Building Intelligence.

We get to hear their amazing journey from the software side of things, venturing into the unknowns of building automation and how they started, got going, and now succeeding in creating intelligent buildings.

We talk about the 3 seashell-strategy, Layer Cakes, and why Chris hates the buzzword bingo around AI and Machine Learning.

This is an extremely interesting and insightful episode and this could be the very blueprint for the future when it comes to software companies learning real estate. You’ll get to understand where Smart Buildings are today and where the future is heading. 

Listen in to a phenomenal episode about the past, present, and future of Smarter Buildings and a more intelligent World.

Please leave a comment, share your thoughts, and give us some input on how we can improve for the future! Because it’s the data we don’t have, that will change our lives!

“Taking Buildings to the Cloud and into the Future” is also out at Anchor and all places where Podcasts live! And finally a big thank you to Chris and Chad at Resolute Building Intelligence

Complementary Slides

AI Layer cake. The cake will tilt at some point if the foundation is not solid enough.


A Digital Twin Perspective – Ballast Water Exchange #Shipping

“Oh Captain my Captain – This is what you need to do” – A thought piece of what should be done to leverage the value of all data that already exists in the world. Spotlight – Ballast Water Exchange

How can we make the world work for us?

The information in this article is a typical example of how improvements could be made in a specific vertical (Shipping) with a specific use case (Ballast Water Exchange) and some of the most important factors to think about in any industry. It’s an article about the necessity of utilizing modern technological advances with old school knowledge, and how important it is to start somewhere and not “boil the ocean”. It’s less about “the connected ship” and more about understanding the overall context where decisions are made today. By mapping out existing ways of working companies can save a lot of time and effort, trying to boil the ocean with new data. It’s not so much about finding the absolute truth, as it is navigating the seas of unknown and minimizing risk.

The technical solutions discussed are Digital Twin Platforms and Data harmonization tools which have the capabilities to make entities like ships, buildings, trucks, processes, anything tied to a physical space, be made aware of what they need to be aware of. Irrespective of the data source.

The challenges to get there are not in the slightest a lack of technology. But moreover, a lack of understanding where the problems are, what benefits should be derived, and existing people, processes, hierarchy, culture, and an overall low digital maturity of systems that stand in the way.

If not evident on its own, I also do a dive at the end into how this could be interesting for Construction, Smart City planning, Smart Buildings, Connected Mobility, and a Smarter World in general.

Important takeaways from this article for ANY industry.

  1. Understanding what the intended outcome should look like and what is needed to get there, that is also in alignment with a North Star Strategy. The benefits realization approach described here could be an important tool in understanding what needs to be done. The benefits or the intended outcome, in this case, would be to find out optimal conditions for ballast water exchange based on a daunting amount of different parameters.
  2. The importance of understanding the as-is situation, limitations, where data is today, what they look like, and getting a perspective on the problem at hand. NOT talking about technology. Companies need to realize it’s the data and information that companies don’t have that will change their life. If this is understood, and recognized, the natural next step for organizations results in a willingness to understand more about the data they do have. And what steps to be taken to acquire the data they need, in order to reach the intended outcome.
  3. Don’t boil the ocean from the beginning. It’s only when 1 and 2 are defined that we should start thinking about bridging the gap with modern technology. When the future state and as-is state are defined and mapped out, it is now time to invite experts to discuss what the best way would be to solve the problem. Start somewhere, keep adding information to the defined challenge, realizing it’s all data that is needed.

However, the “silo-challenges” usually start here where there’s usually silo-driven consultancy in one area, neglecting the fact that organizations as well as problems seldom existing in only one silo. The article will try to illustrate the necessity of a common base to stand on for both people and systems. Because if companies can pinpoint what the intended benefits are and what the intended outcome is, combined with an understanding of how they are working today. EVERYTHING will (if you know what you are talking about) be extremely easy to do, in an interoperable, scalable, tamper-proof, and future-proof way. It’s important to have a True North star strategy that is aligned with said initiatives where the final outcome of this specific slice of reality should be to realize the full potential of ships (with the subslice of Ballast Water Exchange Management).

And the start of this world-building exercise could be to map out how Ballast Water Exchange Management is performed in order to solve a specific problem, with technology that can scale and span boundaries between both people and systems.

A BIG thank you to Bikram Singh who wrote this informative article about Ballast Water Exchange which I am using as a backbone for this article. And to Mattias Larsson from the Maritime Checklist company Maranics, for providing valuable advice and insights to this article.

Understanding existing organizational/cultural challenges in traditional industries.

Read my…text. It’s not the talk of technology that will solve anything. It’s the correct usage of technology that will solve everything. Traditional industries need to utilize modern technology based on where they are today in solving the problems they have. Modern approaches are all about leveraging existing knowledge as well as existing technology instead of a RIP and replace approach. It’s a step by step process. However, traditional industries do need to change their mindset more than anything, or else they risk being disrupted by the ones who’s got the organizational agility, the strategy and the vision to use modern technology and keep up with the times. Because the times, they are a changin.

Some of the classic pitfalls in traditional industries include:
  • Not viewing technology as an enabler and instead keep on working the way it has always been done. Opposite of change before you have to and more “let’s go down with the ship”. The blame should not only be put on the existing players in traditional industries, but also on suppliers, failing to resonate with the buyers.
  • Challenges in building a business case from the supplier side, as well as the buyer side of things, and if POCs (Proof of Concepts) survive, they are usually killed by middle management. All sides have difficulties in answer, how long time it should take, what is the value for whom, and an overall lack of a benefits-driven approach.
  • Data in all shapes or forms are usually hard to get to. It could be because of vendor lock-in, proprietary systems from start to finish, pen and paper, fiefdoms, bureaucracy overload, and just an overall low organizational and industry digital maturity.
  • Cybersecurity is always a risk, let’s forbid the use of connectivity instead of understanding what attack surfaces that exist, and how to mitigate/eliminate possible attacks.
  • Communication challenges between people of different disciplines, as well as systems of different areas. The building automation industry has this problem with the so-called “skill-shortage gap”. People work in silos, communicate in silos and the only one who’s got a clue about the holistic perspective (In just one silo) are about to retire. Combine this with the fact that organizations themselves are working in silos and we’ll get a glimpse of the URGENCY to enable both systems and people to communicate around a common base to stand on.
  • Domain-specific tools and technologies that barely solve problems within their own discipline. This is usually coupled with a pen & paper approach, knowledge queens and kings, excel sheets, BI-dashboards which require said domain-specific knowledge to interpret.

Traditional industries are broken. How do we fix it?

Why not start with a look at the Shipping Industry & Ballast water exchange?

Shipping & Ballast water exchange

I stumbled upon this topic when reading up about shipping, and the environmental impacts of shipping. I was doing the investigation for Post-COVID compliance use cases regarding quarantining onboard cruise-vessels. And that got me intrigued so I started reading about Ballast water discharge, what it does to the environment and what existing challenges and solutions are.

Ballast water discharge and the environment

Ballast water discharges by ships can have a negative impact on the marine environment.[1]

Cruise ships, large tankers, and bulk cargo carriers use a huge amount of ballast water, which is often taken on in the coastal waters in one region after ships discharge wastewater or unload cargo, and discharged at the next port of call, wherever more cargo is loaded.

Ballast water discharge typically contains a variety of biological materials, including plantsanimalsviruses, and bacteria. These materials often include non-native, nuisance, invasive, exotic species that can cause extensive ecological and economic damage to aquatic ecosystems along with serious human health problems (Wikipedia).”

This threat is so large it is viewed as one of the top threats to the world’s oceans.

Analogy time

An interesting topic. And releasing water where it shouldn’t seem to be the same reason why people shouldn’t throw banana peels in the forest. They don’t belong there. The animals are not used to eating banana peels. It might take years for banana peels to decompose. And if you throw them out of the window, it might signal that there’s plenty of food next to roads, which could lead to more deaths because large animals gather by the roads. And as the quote says above, it’s such a large threat for the world’s oceans (Great information supplied by a vendor of combating these solutions).

Here are a couple of ways it’s being solved in a practical way

My mind raced to solve this problem but I stopped myself in my tracks and a quick Google resulted in these different ways to solve the Ballast Water Exchange challenges:

  1. Filtration Systems (physical)
  2. Chemical Disinfection ( oxidizing and non-oxidizing biocides)
  3. Ultra-violet treatment.
  4. Deoxygenation treatment.
  5. Heat (thermal treatment)
  6. Acoustic (cavitation treatment)
  7. Electric pulse/pulse plasma systems

All good. So there are specific solutions that can kill everything in the water, thus enabling ships to dump the water “anywhere”. And in some locations “lifeless water” can be collected where there are depths of 2500 meters. My “brilliant” idea would have been to just take data from the existing ships, finding out when they pick up water, cross-reference the coordinates with a map, store that in a blockchain somewhere, and then just make sure ships just drop it back in where they found it? Great right? But when thinking about it and reading about how this is solved today I realized quickly that it won’t work, it’s not nearly as practical as I had first thought. And possibly also outright stupid. So, what could be a better approach?

…Maybe looking into how it’s being done today?

Practical rules and limitations today

This blog from Marine Insight provides even more information about the lay of the… lake and what obstacles exist today. The blog is used as a backbone for the remainder of this thought-piece.

“Ballast water exchange cannot be carried out anywhere at sea. There are certain requirements that must be complied with to perform a ballast water exchange at sea.

  1. Conduct ballast water exchange at least 200 nautical miles from the nearest land and in the water of at least 200 meters in depth.
  2. When a ship cannot meet the above criteria due to reasons such as short voyage duration or enclosed waters, the exchange is to be conducted as far from the nearest land as possible, but at least 50 nautical miles from the nearest land and in a water depth of at least 200 meters”.

My thoughts race towards the ability to follow-up on this on a global scale and making sure actions are being recorded in a non-tamper proof way. I’m thinking that this is done in a manual way right now, with very little insight into how it’s actually being done. The article continues to state some interesting information about the BWM Convention…

“…The Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention is applicable to new and existing ships that are designed to carry ballast water and are of 400 gross tonnages and above.

The BWM Convention entered into force on 8th September 2017. In order to show compliance with the requirements of the Convention, each ship shall have on board a valid Certificate, a Ballast Water Management Plan, and a Ballast Water Record Book”.

The article continues to describe the problem from an in-depth level and what is needed to do and why it’s needed. There are a lot of parameters to think about and this whole process of using pen and paper is something that could and also should be automated. It seems to me that there are far too many parameters for one person to make any informed decisions on a complete scale. Similar to that of the ways of working with building automation, construction, and any traditional industry.

Environmental Conditions to think about

The article in the Marineinsights blog really depicts everything I never knew that I wanted to know about Ballast Water Exchange. It’s an amazing read. The article also explains that these key points need to be taken into consideration when executing a ballast water exchange.

  1. The vessel’s position including traffic density.
  2. Weather forecasts and sea conditions.
  3. Vessel’s stability and loading conditions.
  4. Condition and performance of the vessel’s machinery and maneuverability.

All of the four bullet points above should be quite easy to pick up from APIs in different places. The first question to answers should be to find out where the data is today and in what format. But what about the regional factors and additional factors?

Other Environmental factors to adhere to are:
  1. Areas identified by the port state in connection with warnings provided by ports concerning ballast uptake and any other port contingency arrangements in the event of emergency situations (Need to find existing data source)
  2. in darkness when organisms may rise up in the water column (At what time)
  3. in very shallow water (maps+ location)
  4. where propellers may stir up sediment (combine ship information with map+location+time+possible sensors)
  5. areas with current large phytoplankton blooms (algal blooms such as red tides) (combine onboard data, on the edge camera infrastructure with ML/AI algorithms trained to detect specific patterns, with global data, news sources, that are being triggered by location and time)
  6. nearby sewage outfalls (where is the data today?)
  7. where a tidal stream is known to be more turbid (Need to find existing data sources)
  8. where tidal flushing is known to be poor (Need to find existing data sources)
  9. in areas close to aquaculture (Need to find existing data sources)
  10. where dredging is or recently has been carried out. (Need to find existing data source)
  11. In areas with naturally high levels of suspended sediments, e.g. river mouths, and delta areas, or in locations that have been affected significantly by soil erosion from inland drainage. (Need to find existing data source)

Getting this on Record

All of the information on how the ship is behaving at all times, where the ship is at, and what local/regional/global regulations are in play should be mapped out. And it’s evident that this could be done, and the importance of finding out where the data is today. Some of the data could be/should be visible in a GIS-database most likely. And as we can see, it’s usually not just ONE data source where information comes from but several, from different contexts, disciplines, which might not make it easy to compare. But if there is an intent, and intended outcome to be solved, it shouldn’t be that difficult. It’s all about finding the answers to a question and understanding what factors impact the likelihood of said answers to be accurate.

And it’s equally important that the governing body has a future-proof way of monitoring said approaches in a scalable way. But first, how are the Ballast Water Exchange procedures recorded today?

Manual ways of working

“…Each procedure concerning ballast water exchange is to be fully recorded without delay in the ballast water record book (An integral part of the ballast water management plan). These records are considered to be critical to the success of the ballast water management plan and dole out to provide documentation that the ballast water exchange has been properly conducted and the exchange has been completed.

Also included should be a list that identifies a representative listing of those items that may be considered for inclusion as a section of the Ballast Water Management Plan, as follows:

  • The location (Lat/Long) where ballast water exchange is to occur is to be identified. (Map overlay)
  • A detailed position and description of the watertight and weathertight closures (e.g., manholes, the opening of vents and air pipes) which may have been opened during ballast exchange that must be re-secured. (IoT magnetic sensors, sending time-stamped data from ship to shore, to be automatically uploaded to the cloud for secure storage/and/or/grabbing existing data from the systems which monitor this today).
  • Descriptions of the procedures required to conduct ballast water exchange and the estimated volume of ballast water which includes the following:
    1. When ballast water is taken onboard
    2. Whenever ballast water is circulated or treated for ballast water management purposes
    3. When ballast water is discharged into the sea
    4. When ballast water is discharged to a reception facility
    5. Accidental or other exceptional uptake or discharge of ballast water
    6. Additional operational procedures and general remarks.

The ability to get these things on record in a tamper-proof scalable way reminds me of the discussions of police-body cameras. There are continuous discussions that the body cameras need to automatically send their data to “the cloud” for governing bodies to get access at all times. Could it be the same approach here? In that the data can’t be tampered with easily and that the data is stored in a ledger?

With stream processing technology like Kafka, it could also be stored on the edge, and possibly to be coordinated with the VDR (Voyage Data Recorder) on the ship. However as this article states, data might be overwritten every 12 hours and the Captain also has a button that will create a new entry to overwrite existing data. However, this article states that “regulations also state a minimum of 30 days of recorded data must be held internally”. This could be better of course. But it’s still at the ship and not being stored somewhere else in a tamper-proof way.

What conclusions can we draw from this?

Final thoughts and how to solve it

In this case, the question that the ship should be asking the data fabric:

“Hello Ship – “Where is the optimal place for ballast exchange on this journey”

The ship then asks the “data”, which could be a global database with all the information about the ship, the location, the weather, regional regulations, GIS-databases, news-sources, etc etc, and gets an answer back to the Environmental person onboard who tells the Captain when to plan for this.

And then it gets written down in a ledger going back to manual ways of working…?

Or, in the future, the system will tell the ship about this and the ship will already have factored it into the course. Automated shipping, on a global scale. And all of these events are being stored in a “Ballast Blockchain” with some added benefits of a digital approach for regulatory purposes, sustainability and transparency reasons.

Benefits of a Digital approach to Ballast Management

  • A digital approach to ballast water exchange management would seek to combat improperly filled-out or missing entries of all ballast water movements. And also be an automated BWM record book, that collects data from necessary data sources automatically.
  • Making sure ballast water exchange procedures are correct, knowing that water was actually exchanged and that the amount of water was sufficient.
  • Coordinating real-time data for the BWM-plan to make sure it has been approved, up to date, correct, and existing. Also adhering to re-approval of the BWM plan after the change of flag.
  • Contribute to the familiarization and training of the crew, increasing the impact of handling ballast water in accordance with the BWMC.
  • Invite to innovate concept where interested parties can dig into the data fabric and do assessments, fault detect, innovate as well as solve problems and measure sustainability metrics because of an added transparency through the value chain.

Making decisions based on ALL of the data

The importance of making decisions based on ALL of the data has to be understood. Because even if all the “static” global data is saying one thing, there might be something wrong with the ship itself. This means that it won’t reach the intended location because of an internal engine problem. Maybe someone onboard the ship might need emergency care, which affects the ship’s journey, or any other of 10 000’s things that could affect anything. Which is why everything needs to be connected at all times, in order to realize the full potential of just this subset. Because it’s not the Ballast Water Management topic in itself that is the most interesting factor. It’s how it interacts with the world around it, and specifically how the world interacts and affects the Ballast Water Management Plan.

And the interesting thing is, that once this data fabric is up, it’s just the questions that need asking because the answers are already here, and it could be re-used for other purposes as well.

It is similar to the idea of parametric design and about achieving the intended outcome, based on an idea of what should be achieved. By creating a data fabric of the knowns, and unknowns everything becomes comparable and relatable into a data fabric where everything is on the same level, and everything affects each other. It sounds like it’s the realization of the french philosopher Bruno Latour and the ANT-theory, and it actually might be. He stated that technology and people are all part of a network where they affect each other. The importance of creating a holistic fabric that everyone can understand, independent of discipline, human or machine cannot be understated. The possibilities of inviting experts to look at a specific problem, from their own angle, populating the digital twin, whilst still being able to show what is going on to others in adjacent or not as adjacent fields is extremely important.

Why a more modern approach should matter

People need to be able to communicate with something that takes in data from everywhere and still doesn’t lose its shape. The 3D-visualization of an entity like a ship, a building, a city, a construction site, a turbine, anything that exists in the physical world provides the context necessary for both people and systems to create a real-time connected digital twin world based on a specific slice of reality and to grow the value in a scalable, inclusive, collaborative way.

The world as we know it is still very much Plato’s Cave. We see all of these things happening but we don’t understand the context. We can’t form a cohesive shape to form our understanding because we have all different backgrounds and views of the future and the only thing we can do is to have opinions. The Digital Twin creates certainty out of uncertainty, allowing and enabling people to see the same things. To understand and demystify complexity between disciplines and industries and follow a red-thread through space and time. The room for philosophical reasoning will still be there, but it will all be around a Digital Twin.

“The Uncensored Library is a Minecraft server and map released by Reporters without Borders and created by BlockWorks, DDB Berlin, and MediaMonks as an attempt to circumvent censorship in countries without freedom of the press. The library contains banned reporting from Mexico, Russia, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt”. – Wikipedia

This topic is an article on its own, but it shows that this is already happening. The tools that they are using just needs to be changed, and the world we know (don’t know) will be much easier to understand.

The almost infinite opportunities occur when combining different slices from different industries, macro to micro-sized challenges. Where in the end there will be a global digital twin, built and utilized by both humans and machines that is definitive in its nature. The butterfly effects will take shape before us and we’ll have both the real world and also the digital world. A mirror image of everything that goes on and an end to re-inventing the wheel. And eventually, we’ll most likely make the decision which world we want to live in. A world with borders? Or a world without borders, where anything and everything is possible? It’s a Minecraft world on the way where some Very Innovative People have already started as seen below above.

All different slices will form:

– The Industry Digital Twin.

– The National Digital Twin.

– The Global Digital Twin

What role are you playing today, or want to play in the future? Please leave a comment on what you think and what your challenges are!

Wärtsilä Call – Optimizing Shipping operations

During one of the calls this week I talked to Wärtsilä Voyage Solutions who are digitizing onboard operations for improved efficiency and compliance.

Getting a call with Wärtsilä

Wärtsilä is a company who is “enabling sustainable societies with smart technology”. My connection to them was a classic one in my book. It was during the exact same time I got introduced to IoT and Building Automation when I also met Lauri Kovanen, now Senior Analyst at Wärtsilä Voyage Solutions at the World’s largest Entrepreneurship conference, Slush. We kept in touch somehow, and I love these connections because you never know when you can help someone else, or when help is needed.

He’s going on parental leave next week but he managed to schedule a quick call with himself and Venla Pouru who was equally impressive. During the call, I got to understand more about their offering, what they are doing today, and what they could, and possibly should be doing for their customers tomorrow.

I think this is a great overview in itself. It shows what goes into the gateway and what outputs, and part of what value it means for whom. Very nice. A bit surprising that they did parts of things that were not their core, like the Electronic logbook. Or maybe I was a bit disappointed on behalf of another company that I know, Maranics. I think there are definitive synergies and I think in an ecosystem kind of way. So we’ll see if I can make some intros.

Based on what Lauri said (and what my notes and above image is telling me) is that they are focusing on the energy side of things, and in general these high level topics.

  1. Hydrodynamics
  2. Fuel consumption in the Machine park
  3. Hotel energy consumption. And according to Wärtsilä, they have a power plant onboard which in itself extremely interesting of course for someone who’s unfamiliar with how cruise ships are built.

Some Reflections from the call

Super interesting to learn more about another area that are in part, very similar to building automation, smart buildings, and of course they are smart city miniatures. And because they also do analytics I could see a lot of similarities with the knowledge I have in data harmonization tools, AI/Machine learning prerequisites and data strategies, data architecture that involves Edge/Cloud hybrid thinking.

Basically, they have their area of which they call their Digital Twin. It didn’t have any visual side to it, and not necessarily a complete mirror image, but it was definitely fit for purpose running their models. They collect data from ship sensors, do some analytics on the edge. But the majority seemed to be to get data out from the ship at 15 minute intervals, send it to “the cloud”, where other data sources augment the data, and then send it back to the ship. Cloud data that was augmented could be regional regulations, weather data of course, and any other data that could be relevant for the ship at a specific point in time.

It’s similar to what the building automation industry is going through, and perhaps shipping is a bit closer to cutting edge stuff than buildings, but not necessarily so.

Here are a couple of perspectives of what shipping could do in the future:

  • Re-use and utilize the BIM model as the baseplate to hang up everything that goes on in the ship. Both from a collaborative approach and find new business models that can make money for the owners even during port-time. But mostly to attach any data sources within the ship, and keep adding data sources over time
  • Edge analytics and more of a distributed intelligence approach
  • Work with an ecosystem approach and inviting to innovate with things that others are experts in to fully realize the true potential of ships. For themselves as well as owners.
  • The BIM model and Cad-files that were used don’t seem to be used during the operation stage. Similar, if not identical to how buildings are built, in the sense that value gets lost over time. By using the BIM-models as the baseplate for everything that goes on, companies can build true digital twins that scale across silos and realize the full potential of ships and fleet management.
  • “Go-to-cloud” seems prevalent (thinking that Wärtsilä is leaders in their field) still. They seemed to have a hybrid approach, but I’m wondering how sophisticated it is. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that granular tbh, but I also see that it’s moving more towards distributed intelligence and edge analytics in other verticals.The benefit with edge analytics is that the ship continues to be smart even without an internet connection. And when there is a connection and a sophisticated data-strategy, some KPIs can be sent to the cloud and not all of the data. This saves money and communication challenges which is a double win! I got this from a guru at one of the AI/ML companies in my network.Imagine if all passengers just had a AI/ML stuff built in to their access cards that could detect a swift change in altitude (someone is falling) that would alert necessary systems onboard, automatically throw out some life jackets or whatever, and then also send a signal to the bridge, saving the location, and possibly turn on thermal cameras across the ship that are also connected to the same data fabric. That might be a specific solution that exists, but it would be even better if it was tied to the overall digital twin fabric.
  • Ideas on how to provide more value for customers but not necessarily an ecosystem strategy, or a way to utilize true Digital Twin technology to absorb data from other sources within their analytics framework. Getting even more granular data from all aspects of the ship would be even better to continue to run the ship in an optimal state in real time, not only every 15 min, or less.

    I understand them since historically making sense of data across disciplines has been extremely hard. And this has led to the “Data cleaning”-period being discussed here and here, and of course also a lack of “All the data” which can lead to erroneous assumptions as described herehere and here. But, with the advent of ontology-based digital twins that create a digital twin based on what the real world looks like, this doesn’t have to be as complicated. And by utilizing data harmonization platforms like Platform of Trust companies can outsource all of their data harmonization issues to a company that only specializes in that area so companies can just create value from one API instead of ten or twenty.


Using proven cutting edge-technology would help Wärtsilä tie into other areas that Wärtsilä aren’t experts in. With data harmonization tool and the Digital Twin creation platform they don’t have to be worried about making sense of the data, wherever it comes from. It comes with the Digital twin, allowing them to better cater to the needs of their customers, and take a larger piece of the market in getting ALL things connected.

And there’s the Post COVID compliance aspects to understand, and to get going with products where there is a huge sense of urgency in this market.

Wärtsilä seem to be an incredible company with stellar offerings. But now when there’s pressure in the market from all sides, they too need to step out and go out of their comfort zone. Not only for themselves to stay relevant. But even more so for their customers.

Ships, Questionnaires, Digital Twins, Construction, CIO-leadership and a 17 hour work-day.

Questionnaire about interoperability, benefits management, cruise-line discussion about next gen connectivity and digital t(wins), construction 4.0, Robotics process automation, stream processing…

A pretty interesting day that started at 6 am and finished at midnight. I think it was on Friday that I got an inquiry into a Cruise ship digitalization something. Apparently this company wanted to go all-in now that their entire fleet was stuck in ports more or less. It reminded me of this article about airplanes being stuck in airports and elsewhere due to COVID and Corona.

What better time to do some maintenance, get them ready to be deployed, bigger, and better than before? And also utilize the 3D models that went into building the ship for added data-driven decision making during the whole lifecycle?

The scope, as it was from the beginning, was about;

  1. Mesh sensoring x 10 000 sensors, mostly around occupancy, but also IAQ- related, doors, windows, and whatever else. In order to create a nervous system of connectivity for the entire ship.
  2. Digital Twin technology, to be able to ingest these sensors, and any other data that they wanted to make sense of in a scalable way. No matter the origin, but ingested in a Digital Twin database of the ship.
  3. A way to transport data in real-time or near real-time both onboard the ship, as well as from the ship back to the shore. To also make decisions based on location, and other metrics influencing the ship’s journey. A suggested way to do this is of course stream processing from i.e. Kafka and Confluent to create a streaming platform of data both on the edge, as well as to the cloud and back. It’s in a way similar to this use case from Royal Caribbean and Knoldus that I got from the Confluent guru himself Kai Waehner, who’s the all-knowing person when it comes to anything real-time.And the ask was perhaps even more similar to another Shipping use case I was indirectly involved with a year ago. That was a shipping company with contracts to over hundred of companies that owned a total of 1000+ ships. They had about 50 sensors on each ship that collected data every 30 minutes. So I guess about a couple of million messages passed their streaming platform architecture on a daily basis. I believe that infrastructure was based on Azure, utilizing Azure VM. At the time, and I still do, believe it’s the way to go when shuffling data in a smart building/smart portfolio and a smart city setting.
  4. And the fourth item of the tech-bucket list was Blockchain, DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology to create a secure and tamper-proof messaging system. This also goes hand in hand with modern digital twin creation platforms.

Read more about shipping

You can read more about the shipping case here at Optimizing shipping operations if you are interested. It was only a part of the day, but definitely an interesting part nonetheless.

Benefits Realization Questionnaire & MSI vetting

The original ask was to help a company providing peace of mind to property owners to come up with questions relevant to the building operations staff. Partly to assess their own as-is situation and also separate questionnaires for asking the right questions to future partners and systems integrators. They had seen from the past that pure technical plays didn’t work out and that there’s more to succeeding with building operations than just technology.

The first thing that came to mind was the Amazing book by Ward & Daniel, Benefits Realization.

Starting from the end is the key that a lot of companies miss. What are the actual outcomes that companies are looking for? Do they know the challenges of today? Do they have an idea what needs to be done, who’s going to do it, and how much time and money is involved in realizing intended benefits?

Most companies don’t.

That is why we created about 100+ questions that can be used to assess the As-is situation as well as questions to assess MSI- competence, and skill-level. If interested, click here until further notice and you will get the latest status.

Innovation in Construction

After that, it was about time for the Smart World Partner consultancy that Winniio offers in their Smart World Partner program. One of the largest construction companies in the US is currently taking huge strides in becoming the new Apple in the Construction space. Topics of discussion were:

  • How to scope down and solve interoperability and communication issues out on-site between people
  • How to get most of the benefits out working with engineering consultants
  • Division 25 specifications and knowing where offerings start and stop
  • Insurance claims, what they could look like and how to avoid them through connectivity strategies and phone home solutions
  • Contractual de-risking and how owners representatives can improve planning and move further into operations
  • What is actually needed from a construction company’s standpoint to deliver value and have more control and clout during the whole construction lifecycle?
  • Pros and cons with Primavera, Microsoft Project, and other “tools of the trade”
  • The importance of Mission and Vision to drive change through the organization
  • Pinpointing external drivers, internal change agents and automation centers for continuous growth without throwing more people on the problem.

The New Normal

– Achieving a True North Star(s) Strategy

Protests, global unrest, COVID19/Corona, Pandemics, and then we have the new normal for real estate. This article will focus on the new normal and offer a snapshot perspective on what needs to be done. And some ideas on where to get started.

“It’s not the data that companies have that will mean the world to them.

It’s the data that companies don’t have that will change their life.

Building the future on yesterdays data and technology

I see this all the time. Companies are trying to use the data that they have to make better decisions. The information that they have collected and stored for ages on how they have been performing. However, utilizing this data inside the silos where it was formed can unfortunately be quite useless. I fear that these companies will meet their demise even faster and continue on with their path dependency and thus move more quickly towards their end.

Change before you have to

Companies need to realize that the future is changing and that they, as well as buildings, have to pass the test of time. Leaders and decision-makers need to be looking ahead. If companies don’t change anything, nothing will change.

Yes, companies need to make data-driven decisions based on the data they do have. But they need to do it in a different context, not utilizing it in silos; and not with the same people that are part of the problem. Decision-makers need to boldly go where they have not gone before and bring their people with them. They need to invite other perspectives, more perspectives and promote curiosity and viewing problems in more ways than one.

How to start

A great way to start is by looking at the horizontal process and inviting all stakeholders relevant to a specific process to discuss the end2end process together. Using a round table approach where new input is allowed and debated from a lifecycle perspective. Because it’s the data they don’t have, that will change their life. And that data comes from communicating with other people.

The two things for companies that want to get started, get going, and succeed with digitalization.

  • The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one. And by understanding there is a problem, there is hopefully room for some problem-solving. On the road to industry leadership, companies should start by doing two things.
  1. What is the organizational strategy, mission, vision?
  2. What are the top four problems today?

Number one – re-aligning corporate strategy to the true north star.

This might seem “fluffy” as hell to be honest, and you might be thinking that it does not have anything to do with you, or anything practical.

You could not be more wrong, and I will tell you why.

Have you seen that companies have a hard time justifying new IT investments? That sometimes industries have a hard time changing? Why is that?

If we go to the building segment, let’s investigate what value real estate owners deliver to their tenants? For housing, it is probably offering a sense of security for people in the comfort of their own homes. And for commercial tenants, it could be that the buildings should help deliver services that lead to increased well-being and profitability for their tenants.

But today these companies probably say that they collect rent, and their strategies, if existing, are all about saving money, and energy efficiency. And most of all if they can somehow increase the rent. Their vision and mission might be inexistent and it’s not always not aligned with what their customers need, and therefore, nor are their buildings. And any investment made, cannot be justified, because they do not have a clue of what value they are failing to provide.  They are using the wrong metrics.

“By getting the strategy right, all investment decisions can now be justified towards the true north star.”

That is number 1. If the strategy is done correctly, everything else will have a more substantial likelihood of taking the company in the right direction. Without it, much-needed technology investments will never happen because they do not provide any justifiable ROI. But if the other option is bankruptcy, and not being relevant, the ROI will find itself rather quickly (hopefully).

If nothing changes, nothing will change.

Number 2. “Dig and pick”

Now that the company understands what they should do/where they want to be in the future, they should see where their pain points are. Is it the people, the processes, the IT-systems, the culture, the hierarchy, or something else that they need? Maybe the assets are not digitally mature enough? Is it possible to get data out, how to do it, and is the juice worth the squeeze? It depends on what you are measuring against.

Whatever it might be, they should get started somewhere. Usually, it’s best to dig where processes stand, shave off 10 minutes on a process, start with the tasks that take the most time, the tedious tasks, or anything else that is a hindrance to the true north star.

The benefits of starting with the low-hanging fruits are that it is easier to create champions of change in the organization and get a momentum going. If companies do not have top management buy-in, this is important. But it could also lead to places where companies do not want to be as summarized in my final words.

Don’t be useless – Conclusion and common pitfalls

The true north star for any company is to provide the value to their customer better, faster, and more efficiently than anyone else. And in today’s world, companies that work with buildings need to make the most of modern tools and technologies.

And it is up to the organization, usually the CEO, the Top Managerial Team, and the Board to lead the way. If companies do not have management buy-in and start doing things on their own, things could backfire. And like Peter Drucker said,

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all” – Peter Drucker

Try to get management buy-in, or if that fails, do it anyway. It is better to do something than nothing and then fail fast. The capabilities companies working in the real estate sector needs to have are the same as the building that the tenants are requiring. Companies need to be flexible and to have the ability to adapt and leverage modern technology for themselves as well as for their customers. If companies do not work digitally, whatever that means for the organization or the customers, companies will soon find themselves out of a job, or an asset, or both. The future is based upon adaptability and creating resilient companies and buildings.

Buildings are part of a larger piece in the whole Smart City puzzle where technology is a small but essential piece.  The key is to get to know where the world is moving before it has already gotten there. Achieving digital leadership requires modern tools as well as partners in an ecosystem, leveraging unique skill sets and working with people in the know of what their True North Star is.

Agree or disagree? Maybe want to add some comments? Please do!

Beyond Buildings is here to create a dialogue around what the world is going to do a month, a year, a decade from now. It’s written by Nicolas Waern from the consultant company WINNIIO who’s got a holistic understanding of what is needed to stand out from the competition, advise on pros and cons, and be the strategic partner for both technology and organization-advice in a Smart World Environment (Construction/Industry/Smart Buildings and Cities).

Please reach out if you have any questions on how to get started, get going, or how to succeed in the next decade! And share this article if you think it could be helpful for someone else!


Nicolas Waern
Ecosystem Architect – Helping companies create optimal value in a Smart City Context

Making Buildings talk to People

Where to start?

Sinclair:   Hi Nicolas, great to talk to you.  I hope you had a great time in Helsinki. I have been in the business now for ages, but I am curious to hear what you think. You are 2.5 years in, what is your take on this amazing industry that is Building Automation?

Waern:  I had a great time in Helsinki, and I can honestly day that it feels like a long way since I started in this industry. It’s fascinating that it is such a world of its own!  If I talk about Smarter Buildings, BACnet, to anyone outside Building Automation, no one has a clue. That might not be the case in the US, but this is definitely the case here in the Nordics and especially in Sweden. And even if I talk to people who are in the business here in the Nordics, some people still put and equal sign between Modbus and BACnet thinking they are the same. Which is as far from the truth as possible, and that is why I always have a BACnet tutorial ready, in case someone wants to (needs to) know more.

Going back to the question, I do believe that it is an amazing industry to be in. What I saw early on, 2.5 years ago, when I first was introduced to the concept of BAS, was that it was ripe for disruption and that building automation as a whole, has a glorious future ahead.

Sinclair:   What do you mean?

Waern: If you look at smartphones, they all have an app store, right? And if you look at connected vehicles, they too are starting to become less hardware and more software where the focus is on building a platform and opening up an eco-system.  Volvo are now utilizing the Android Platform to build great solutions on top of it. Why re-invent the wheel?.

You can’t do everything on your own. And even if you can, you shouldn’t.  The business is being disrupted slowly but surely and IoT companies are coming in to further reduce annual operating costs, resulting in a significant increase in net operating income and a strong boost to property value as Daphne Thomlinson writes here

It seems to me that the industry has been dominated by a few big ones, no one in the middle, and then there’s a lot of smaller companies working in silos. I believe that the future lies in anything but proprietary. What other industries have done is that they have had to evolve in order to support the creation of open, modular, secure solutions where you allow others to create robust, useful and attractive offerings in an easy way. That’s where the building automation industry is heading, albeit slow. Of course, Wework and similar companies are making ripples all over the world but I don’t think everyone is aware of the platform economy that’s going to come.

Sinclair:   How do you think we can move faster together? What needs to be done to get to this open eco-system?

Waern: Well, as you have pointed out with #RUIOTREADY I think that we all have to think short and hard if we are ready? And if we are not, why not? And if we are, what are we ready for?

And I think that when you say “move faster together,” that the together part is very important here. I see it for our solutions that in order to think outside the box, we first have to be better at defining the box. Sticking to your knitting, whilst pursuing collaboration is the key moving forward. This is a new field. That is why we collaborate with experts in various fields, such as iioote where they help us to collect data from LPWAN technologies, because that’s not what we should do.

But, as someone told me the other day;

“No one will touch it if it doesn’t break. And even if it does break, no one will touch it if it isn’t critical!”

I am not sure if this is 100% true or not, but I can definitely see that it has some relevance. If IoT, or anything else that is deemed novel, isn’t solving an immediate need, why bother? And that is why it’s equally refreshing to read what Scott Cochrane says about the work that is being done by system integrators here;

“…not only accomplishing huge value on these projects within typical budgets, they are actually saving the entire project and life cycle of the building huge amounts of money.”

I think there are mainly two things that need to be done in order to move faster together:

  1. Companies have to be much better in narrowing down their offerings, proposing concrete, simple solutions that fill a need for their intended customer. Sharing the risk in the beginning to create some solid use cases and focus on the MUST HAVE’s, not the Nice to have’s.
  2. We need champions of change and solid use cases that are generic, scalable and applicable to the BAS industry and its stakeholders. We need to hear more about the wireless solutions that work. We recently did some interesting work with powerline communication to AHUs on the roof, EnOcean lighting control, using BACnet/WS to easily and securely connect to 3rd party applications all underneath the BACnet umbrella. We need more focus on open and modular hardware software solutions making work easier for everyone in the business and also people on the “outside” coming in.

Sinclair:   Making it easier for others to make sound decisions, sharing the risk sounds about right. And where do you think companies should start?

Waern: This is a question that has interested me since the start. The industry is moving closer to the edge as you have written yourself and it is clear that most of the value will be derived from the edge and through modular IoT Edge Gateways.  We agree with you and Marc Petock and probably thousands of others that this will disrupt the industry providing a quantum leap in capabilities, connection, control and apparent simplification of everything as well as Powering the Edge to the Enterprise.

The recent figure from Worldwide Embedded and Intelligent Systems Forecast stating that IoT gateways and IoT edge devices will represent the largest business opportunity in IoT. From 16B devices to 60B going from $15B revenue to $24B in revenue. And our focus area, IoT Edge Gateways representing the highest annual growth rate going from $784M to $1.3B revenue until 2022. This made me smile from ear to ear when I saw it at a networking event from Ericsson. We are in a perfect place for the future and if you haven’t started already, you should definitely be thinking of living on the edge.

We have some serious competition, but our approach of having open and modular software and hardware solutions is starting to get global attention. And we believe the future is in the open and modular space doing more with less. Shameless plug of course.

But the real reason why I have been asking this myself on where to start is obvious. Why does it sometimes seem like nothing is happening in this industry if we compare it to other industries?

At the edge is the future, but where to start? I wrote an article a couple of months ago as a response to Tyson Soutters’s great article here about the very subject on where to start with Smart Buildings.

Smart Buildings, where to begin?

He argues that no one gets it and that “they focus on the fruits of the tree (smart outputs) rather than the roots (the underlying data infrastructure).”

And that if you plant great roots, the juices will flow eventually.

True. But how long does it take to plant a tree and then wait for the juices to flow? For someone who doesn’t love BAS the way your readers do, probably too long. I argue that gimmicky might be gold in the way that it will lead to quicker wins and a buy in from the organization. Which will lead to a much softer approach, true, but hopefully also faster towards humanistic digital inclusion.

I mean, nowadays, anyone who says BACnet, I smile, and I can engage in conversation for hours. But for “those darn pesky people in our buildings” as you have written before, maybe the gimmicky and gold is where to start? After all most buildings are still uncomfortable to live and work in.  Strategy is important, no doubt about it. And it probably comes down to the universal truth of “it depends.” But I do think that it needs to be a bit of both in order to better get the user buy-in that is needed to get a momentum going.

Sinclair:   Okay, gimmicky is gold.. I rather like that! And if you would choose three things to start with, what would they be?

Waern: Fantastic question. This is something that we have been thinking of a lot on our own and in brainstorming sessions with our customers. Our primary customers are mostly system integrators. No doubt about it. In the discussions with them, we hear that we are “the JACE-Killer” in that we do things faster, somewhat cheaper, and in an open and modular way. These customers almost always go for the number one thing, which is getting data out of the building and making trend logging easier. Maybe it’s because we are experts at it, and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy? But as Kelly Reiser at Smarter Buildings LLC puts it;

“The real value of trend logging is that it is crucial to any application of advanced analytics, M&V, continuous commissioning and AI of most types.”

Therefore, referring to both what I answered earlier, about trying to make it simple, as well as referring to Gordon’s Kitchen nightmares and also Ruari Barnwell’s article here, I have composed a three course menu;

  1. Automated trend logging from the building. Getting all of those BACnet objects out of every controller on site, remotely of course, and making sure you implement the latest tagging as far as the standard allows, and get that data to some database somewhere. Our customers are starting to see great results turning days of work into hours. All you need is our modular hardware and software edge controller, The DINGO
  2. Analytics and push back commands to the building. You have gotten historical data as well as continuous data from the building, and now it’s time to push back some commands and control to the BAS system. There are several ways of doing this in a bi-directional way. We have a BACnet/MQTT recipe for IBM Watson, as well as the possibility of a RESTful API if that is needed. We are also working on an XMPP gateway in order to track changes down the line for a customer. But, the simplest, fastest and most direct way is through BACnet/WS. What most people don’t know is that you lose core functionality with MQTT and other protocols, and why not stick to BACnet all the way? In our eyes, it’s even better than a double rainbow! So, creating a bi-directional gateway harmonizing data from any LPWAN technology, creating your own analytics platform or partner up with others to  No doubt about it. What most people don’t know is that you lose core functionality with MQTT and other protocols, and why not stick to BACnet all the way? In our eyes, it’s even better than a double rainbow! So, creating a bi-directional gateway with the ability to develop your own, or partner up with others to create autonomous actions on the intelligent edge would be the next step that we can take today.
  3. Making it easier to connect “outside” applications to the BAS/BACnet World. You have started to create the onset of a much smarter building with feedback loops and the potential of continuous improvement.

Could this be in the form of “edge-bots” in order to “analyse quickly, while it still matters”? 

Sinclair:   Very interesting Nicolas, and this seems like a good approach into getting smarter buildings. To summarize, what are the most important facets of a building that we need to think about? Where is the future?

Waern: The why aspect shouldn’t be neglected. By 2025 buildings will be the number one consumer of energy worldwide, overtaking transportation and we do spend 90% of our time indoors. Real estate has to move towards a platform-economy more and more move as Daphne Tomlinsson stated in the beginning. Security will be one of the most important topics that we need to address more as Bob Sharon from Blue Iot in Australia addresses here.

Trust and openness are extremely important moving forwards but the fundamentals for me when it comes to buildings, and solutions for buildings, lie in the famous three Vitruvian virtues, Firmitas, Utilitas and Venustas.

It originates from architecture and it means that a building must be robust, useful and attractive for its user(s). I think this holds true for any product in any industry but of course even more so when it comes to buildings.

A building needs to be both useful and robust, but the emotions it will evoke in a person will matter even more in the future. And this holds true to the very solutions that are being used in order to make buildings into the “Smarter Buildings” we are looking for.

We have seen it with the NEST, in that making something beautiful and attractive will make it win more ground. We have seen it with Apple products. And we will see it even more with all products going into a building and even more so with ones which end users connect to. Demand-controlled ventilation is one where more focus is placed on creating a dynamic experience for the users, and I know that SWEGON here in Sweden are doing great things in this area, proving that wireless = reliable using mesh technology from Lumen Radio.

Changing the way we think about buildings, making them more attractive and useful, focusing more on the well-being aspects, that’s where I want to see more things happening. Urbanisation is a global mega trend and more focus has to be put on the well-being and productivity aspects.

But at the same time, doing this at scale, in robust and useful ways, requires roots that are firm and strategically placed in order to get the juiciest fruit in the long run. Wireless is by no means the answer to everything. But it is growing and it will take a bigger place moving forwards. And that is why this industry is so fun to be in. It always depends and there’s no silver bullet.

I am still fascinated by the fact that Building Automation is in a world of its own. It needs to come together with the rest of the world and I do believe we all have to work together more from a Smart City Context in order to make buildings aware of what they really need to be aware of.

Sure, companies have stated that we are the “JACE-killer” but that’s almost opposite what we see ourselves as. We are an open and modular hardware and software alternative and a complementary product to other powerful solutions out there. Yes, we make it simpler to connect the building to anything on the outside, and for anything on the outside to be connected buildings in a seamless way. But it is together we’ll make this industry move forward and great things are happening, that’s a fact.

I haven’t even begun to list the things that I see possible with VR/5G/Machine Learning/AI/RPA/BIM/Digital Twins/SECURITY – on the edge, or in the cloud, IoT in general or any other thing that fills my mind on a daily basis.

All the technology is here. It is just us people that need to start implementing. With that said, what are you waiting for? Go out there and start! And if you ever need help in making your buildings talk to people, just let us know.

Open Hardware, Open Software, and Building Bots

“Making Buildings Aware of What They Need To Be Aware Of”


Picture 1. Connecting Worlds. High-level overview of our place in the Building Automation Market.

Directly after my last email interview, Ken Sinclair asked me a couple of questions regarding our product line. It was apparent that my rant about making buildings talk to people didn’t really explain all that we are doing. I will try to remedy this when discussing my perspective on open hardware and open software. As well as building, building bots, and what that might entail for the future.

Ken’s behind the scenes questions

Ken: “It looks like dingo is an alternate to raspberry does it run open Sedona?”

Raspberry Pi
Yes, the DINGO edge gateway is extremely modular, and as such we have a couple of alternatives for Compute boards. We have the Raspberry PI Com1 compute module as well as the newer version which is, the more Powerful Com3 Compute Module. Both are industrial grade components, and the DINGO cannot be compared with the hobby RPi boards you can buy at any DIY store. It can, but it would be like comparing a kickbike to a Range Rover. Both are fun to drive, but you know that only one of them will take you through any terrain in a secure, fast and robust way.

Sedona killer
Yes, we definitely support Sedona and we see some uptake in North America in regard to using it with our DINGO. It lowers the barrier of usage. However, there’s no doubt in our minds at least, that the true Sedona killer is definitely called Node-RED.  We are huge fans of Node-RED which you can see here.

The thing with Node-RED is that it supports the cloud part and cloud thinking 100%. Sedona not as much. But we want to stay open and offer choices for our customers, and the more the better.

Ken: “Dingo Builds heavy on open software but is it an open hardware platform?”

Open Hardware (and Software)

We are modular in terms of both hardware and software. We are soon up and running with a global hardware manufacturer and distributor which will ensure global scale up for real!

DINGO with modules

Picture 2. Naked and a fully dressed DINGO with modules – Modular hardware solutions for the horizontal IoT Market

We enable anyone to build their own Edge-gateway, and we are selling dozens of Dingos each month, focusing on ramping up for next year with our global product launch at this year’s Electronica in Munich, Europe. Our definition of an open hardware platform is that everything is based on modules which can be put together in any which way possible.

And this is exactly what I would like to talk about in this issue.

Open Hardware, Open Software, and Building Bots

These are very interesting topics, and I think they are very much aligned. At least, they need to be much more moving forwards. As everyone knows, a lot of the solutions out there are still proprietary. This is unfortunate since we need to get innovations going in and around the building automation industry. Not just for the fun of it, but because buildings represent 40% of the World’s energy consumption and also because we spend 90% of our time indoors. We need to open up the space and let others come in with innovative solutions in a much easier way in order to create better buildings faster.

Latest research clearly shows the negative effects air pollution have on people. That, for me, is one of the most important reasons why we have to act quickly. By opening up the industry for people to take advantage of “other” solutions, outside the Building automation industry, I think we’ll see a great deal of interdisciplinary innovations we haven’t even thought of. Mixing and matching from different vendors, also allowing anyone to write apps in whatever language they want, is definitely where we need to get to. We are doing some of this right now, where we take in data from any IOT-solution and converting them into Virtual BACnet objects. It could be sensor data in the building, outside the building or halfway around the earth.


Picture 3. Converting any “IoT” data to the any BAS, making them Go-IoT Ready

LEGO Building Blocks

What might be needed is a new way to do things and for everything to be more modular. And what is more modular than LEGO?

The LEGO reference to the building automation industry is quite fitting in a way. It has been dominated by a few global giants, offering great solutions but within their own proprietary setting. New companies have formed creating universal solutions which allow these building blocks to better communicate with each other and for total solutions to be made.

However, the major difference to that of LEGO is that these companies have glued things together, creating additional proprietary solutions on top of other proprietary solutions. Sure, these have been made fit for purpose, but the glue won’t come off that easily, if ever. And that’s the challenge. The world is changing in a much faster pace than ever and there is a shortage of skilled labour. We need to do things better, faster, and to do more with less.

I am not saying that edge controllers, or any backbone technology will shift as fast as we change mobile phones. But what I am saying is that solutions must have a much greater ability for modularity moving forwards. It needs to be easier to transform existing buildings into buildings that are robust, useful and attractive for its users. The basic building blocks should not change every so often, but the ecosystem it enables, needs to have the ability to quickly absorb or export data in a standardized way.

Will BACnet become the umbrella for everything IoT and buildings?

I think so. And this will allow everyone in the building automation industry to have access to all of the wonderful lego-pieces that are out there. And it also enables everyone without building automation industry knowledge to add pieces to an existing backbone that is enabled by open hardware and open software wrapped underneath a BACnet umbrella.

“An App store for buildings.”

We are not the only ones with this line of thinking, and some have already started. But I definitely believe more and more that an app store for buildings (probably several) will pop up as time goes by. This will enable not only industry professionals to create better solutions 100% tailored for their customers. But also, real estate owners, inviting others in to innovate with their buildings. And possibly even better, ordinary people, living in buildings, that have 1st hand knowledge of the problem, to create solutions for the building and for other users creating a hotbed of innovation easily transferrable to other buildings, having black boxed everything underneath a BACnet umbrella.

Building Bots and invisible technology

BBB, Building building bots, will definitely be interesting moving forwards and who knows which road it will take. I always say to everyone that technology shouldn’t even be visible. Some say that children of the future will talk to their buildings and expect for the building to talk back.

I have also heard that in modern buildings you would tell the building that you would like to have 22 degrees in whatever space you are in, and it will make it so.

Both of these assumptions fall short of what I think will happen. The thing is, technology should be an enabler to make us more human. And perhaps, we need to make technology more human as well. So the next step would be… what? Saying that you are cold and the building understands your desired temperature based on your personal settings?

No. Even better. The great late 90’s prophet, Ronan Keating, said it best.

“It’s amazing how you can speak right to my heart. Without saying a word you can light up the dark”… “ You say it best when you say nothing at all.”

What I mean by this is that you won’t say “turn down the temperature by 2 degrees.”
You won’t say you are cold and the building knows what you want.

Absolutely not. Technology will never be visible to the user;

“The creation of intelligence is hidden away in the engine room, always there and always on, but never visible to the user.” Ken Sinclair

The building, and everything around you, will know that we have been to the gym, it will know that we are tired because a camera can detect it and compare it with our heart rate, our blood pressure, sugar levels, etc, etc. And it has already prepared a succulent meal together with the robot chef powered by IBM Watson. The building will know how we feel, what our needs are, much faster than we would be able to tell it what to do. If anything, the building might want to give us some examples based on what it knows we want. But from our perspective, the interaction would be very sporadic at best.

Internet of things moving towards an Internet of People

IoT, Internet of Things, will slowly but surely turn into an IoP, Internet of People. I didn’t coin this phrase but actually a Building Information Modeling expert at Zynka BIM. They specialize in digitalizing the built environment with stellar looking BIM renderings and together we are in discussions to create true digital twins. Daniel Månsson showed me a rendering where they had connected it with beacons, and they could track people in real time, showing it in a digital twin. Getting data based on the movements of the people will be the future for sure.

“The biggest building bots will be us, humans.”

We are getting more connected, and we will create cognitive buildings, and the building(s) will learn from its user and adapt accordingly. The example above might have been for home automation, but it’s definitely something that will happen in large commercial buildings as well, and we’ll see true Smart City Ecosystems soon enough.

What needs to be done and what will happen?

Well, as I see it, we need to democratize the way we innovate with buildings and that can only happen through open hardware and software and better tools to easily configure logic at the edge/in the fog and on cloud level. Will this demand open source or just open, in terms of API’s? Talk of the town is that open source might not be secure or reliable enough. “What about Linus Torvalds” – is usually the follow up to that one. So, there will most likely be both. API’s however only acts as the tongue and I would argue that BACnet, with its 60% World domination, will continue to be even more important moving forward. Otherwise, we’ll risk getting stuck in API-Hell.

And by opening up the industry from both sides, building automation to the world, and the world to building automation, we’ll see a lot of great things happening. Creating building bots in terms of Edgebots will definitely be important for the future, and this will be so much easier moving forward. These bots will continuously collect data from users, through cameras, social media posts, user data given away freely, and we are not far away from the Mall Scene scenario from Minority Report. These will definitely help bring about change, but as I argued before, they will emerge like fireflies, and they will eventually die pretty fast as well.

Make Humans great again!

What is the real goal of building automation really? Aren’t we missing the whole point? Technology should enable us to enjoy more of life. However, that is rarely the case. If we employ technology as it was intended, and if we will see huge time-savings. Will these time savings go to enjoying more of life, or actually working the same hours as before, perhaps even more? That might be for another column, and it’s soon 2.40AM here. I wish I had a couple of edge bots right now in my home. Not sure what they would do, but I am sure that my life would be much better!

Final Words

Open hardware and open software is definitely the key moving forward. We’ll be talking about this in January in Atlanta under the topic “Next Generation HVAC Controls: Open Hardware – Open Software.” Not sure if we will include Building Edge bots in the conversation but the advent of new and innovative solutions is the outcome when interdisciplinary fields are allowed to meet. Creating better buildings has never been as important, or as easy as it is right now. And as I said last month as well, the technology is here, just go out there and start something!

One Protocol to Rule them all?

Taking buildings to the cloud, connected buildings, advanced analytics, machine learning, Internet of things… How do we get value out of buildings in the best way possible that is also future proof? Is there such a way?

The Handshake-Problem with the API-economy

It doesn’t have to be complicated, so I will try to simplify things, starting with the API-economy. There’s a lot of data in buildings, and there’s a lot of opportunities to make sense of the data, do analytics on it and to create new services for people working with buildings. To get the data out usually you must have an interface, an API of sorts. Making buildings talk to people is, after all, the one thing that I try to help out with.

An API is basically like defined handshake. I have my defined handshake, you might have yours, and if we were to shake hands, we’d face a couple of different options which are described here. The definition of an API is an Application Programming Interface. Simply put, it is a defined handshake which will make the process of making handshakes into something that will at least be easier than without a defined API. But it won’t solve everything, far from it. It might make things worse in the long run. Not necessarily, but it might.

Let’s go through a couple of scenarios.

We don’t have any defined APIs

If we don’t have any defined APIs, it will be difficult for us to shake hands because we don’t even know how we could shake hands. And if someone else wanted us to shake hands, they would have a really hard time figuring out how we could shake hands because they might not have a good idea to what languages we are talking or if we even want to shake hands.

The first step would be to get APIs = the possibility to shake hands in a defined way and not lock in the data, hoping that will make us irreplaceable.

We have an APIs, but they are not the same

We now have our own handshakes, but they are not the same. Who wants to initiate the handshake? Let’s say that one side wants to shake hands; then they will have to figure out how to do it. They can change their handshake to fit the other one’s handshake or also create something in between where the handshaking will take place. This might be anything but simple or difficult, but it adds complexity, and it will take time.

Let’s say you walk into a room with 20 different APIs. 20 people with different handshakes, and for every person you need to figure out what is in their handshake and how you should approach it. That will take time, effort and as we’ll describe later, it will only be 1% of the effort needed in getting to the complete solution.

We have an APIs, and they are the same

We now have our own handshakes, and they have been defined in the same way as our counterpart. We can now rest assured that things will be easier moving forward. However, the handshake is only the first part. It doesn’t mean that we speak the same languages. It doesn’t mean that we have the same values. It doesn’t really say much of how we can talk to each other, the effort it takes to talk to each other and also what language we should use in talking to each other.

Imagine this at scale.

We are in the same room. We all want to talk to each other, but we have different definitions of the same things. Or we have different definitions of different things. We speak in different languages. And everything about what we do, how we do it, is totally different. We come from different worlds, but somehow, someone came up with the idea that we are going to act like one just because we share the same definition of a handshake. And someone else out there expects that it is the outcome of us working together that is the amazing thing.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Basically, this is a cultural question which relates to us people as well. Consider a merger between two companies where the culture is different even though everything else stays the same. This will be problematic and as we all know Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

It is not far-fetched to compare the definition of culture and values to that of semantic interoperability between systems considering that definition of culture is:

“The customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.”


“the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time.”

And semantic interoperability:

“Semantic interoperability is the ability of computer systems to exchange data with unambiguous, shared meaning. Semantic interoperability is a requirement to enable computable machine logic, inferencing, knowledge discovery, and data federation between information systems.”

Semantic interoperability leaves little to no doubt as to what is inferred. Whereas cultural norms and values would be more open to interpretation. However, both play the vital role of acting as a mediator between two or more otherwise interoperable areas what could be important boundary spanning elements and possible definitions of a subset of the ANT-theory by Bruno Latour.

And as such, an important piece when trying to make different things come together to make things happen in a better, future-proof way.

A shared set of values is the key

A handshake is nothing but a handshake. It is what comes after which is the most important and exciting part. Thinking that the outcome of the merger will lead to amazing results just because you shake hands with the other company is exactly the same thing that is happening right now out there in the world of IoT. It won’t really bode well.

“According to McKinsey research, only 16% of merger reorgs fully deliver their objectives in the planned time, 41% take longer than expected, and in 10% of cases, the reorg actually harms the newly-formed organization.” – HBR

A merger is after all a clash of two systems with their own set of standardized definitions and ways of working. Just making them shake hands won’t make them work. Far from it.

“…You will have to choose one structure that integrates the two companies.”

Replace companies with systems, and the two companies mentioned might not be two companies but a merger of 10 companies, i.e., Systems.

If I say tree, what do you think of?
I think about a Christmas tree.
And when I say Christmas tree, what do you think about?

•    What is the size?
•    What is the location?
•    Does it have a star at the top?
•    What’s the color of the star?
•    The material of the star?

It doesn’t say anything else about anything really because we haven’t got shared definitions and boxes of what should be included about what a tree is. It is partly to define the size of the boxes and what they are and a part where we can standardize a subset of an industry with the same tagging conventions/standards.

I could write 30 more pages on this matter but let’s move on to the final remarks…

Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning needs more than a handshake

The truth is that most of the analytics efforts out there today are spent on 80-90% cleaning of data. And 10-20% on the part where the value gets derived. So, this is an immediate problem that needs to be solved to leverage existing data with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. This is crucial for us to really make sense of the data and to achieve results never before possible.

The problem within the building automation sphere is not that big in comparison to other fields. And why is that?

The solution to all of these problems

As discussed, APIs are a good start but don’t get fooled in thinking that the API economy is the end of all of our problems. As discussed over and over again (It’s important!) it might actually be the exact opposite and the beginning of a whole new set of problems as depicted above. 

The answer lies in standardized protocols which can harmonize data from different vendors, acting as a device to device communication protocol.

Semantic interoperability, and how to solve this issue will be of major importance moving forward. Consider it as the rule book when having made a merger and how everyone should work.

It is here Haystack tagging comes in, and where BACnet will play a major role moving forward and as we have said before, BACnet might be renamed to BACnet/IoT soon enough!

BACnet is the standardized bowl filled with pockets to fill with an industry-specific standard and IoT solutions. But the bowl and the BACnet objects within the protocol is what is needed, and luckily we seem to be well on our way in realizing this for the betterment of all buildings and cities out there. The problem is not that big within the building automation sphere, yet. But with the advent of unstructured data coming in from the sides, we are bound to have a lot of challenges moving forward.

Because BACnet and upcoming addendums solve that pretty well, providing a standardized platform for others to build on.

Final words – Focusing on the outcomes

For others to build on, that is the important part.

Using BACnet as the protocol layer for everything is, in my opinion, the key in transforming data to information when making both buildings and cities “Go-IoT” and Cloud ready.

Connor McCloud might be angry at me for writing this, but there won’t be the only one solution out there. And that is how it should be. There won’t be one solution to rule them all, and what we should strive for is open standards, service transparency and the creation of true Digital Twins for the betterment of others. I might think that BACnet is the solutions to rule them all, but it is the outcome we all should collaborate towards. I’m in it to create a better world for everyone with smarter, more energy efficient buildings. Fewer costs and headache for maintenance and above all, better indoor climate, personalized experiences for tenants and users of buildings worldwide.

In order to make buildings talk to people, we need to understand what they are saying. And luckily, we are well on our way!

Nicolas Waern
The Building Whisperer

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