Season 1, Episode 5

The IoT in Smart Buildings and Smart Cities

IoT pioneer Robert Sharon discusses the current and future applications of the IoT in Smart Buildings and Smart Cities

The IoT Wavelength Podcast

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On average buildings consume about 30% of the world’s energy. However using IoT sensors and related technology building owners and managers can achieve world-leading savings of 20% to 50% of total energy use, maintenance costs, and the subsequent carbon footprint. IoT pioneer and founder of the award winning Melbourne, Australia energy management firm Blue IoT,  Robert Sharon, joins Vaughn on this episode for a discussion of the current and future applications of IoT technologies to Smart Buildings and Smart Cities.

Hosts & Guests

Vaughn Amann

Robert Sharon

Bob Sharon

Podcast Transcript

IoT Wavelength Podcast Season 1 Episode 5 – The IoT in Smart Buildings and Smart Cities

Vaughn Amann: [00:00:00] you’re tuned into the IOT wavelength, where we look in depth at the people and technologies that are stretching the boundaries of the internet of things and transforming the world we live in. I’m your host Vaughn Amann. And I’d like to welcome you to this fifth episode in the IOT wavelength podcast series.

[00:00:25] On average buildings consume about 30% of the world’s energy’s and large buildings can have many rooms and sections that remain empty even during the day. However, using IOT, sensors and technology, building owners and managers can achieve world-leading savings of 20 to 50% of total energy use maintenance costs and the subsequent carbon footprint.

[00:00:47] Our guest today is a pioneer in the use of IOT and smart building technology. And he remains at the forefront of sustainability innovation, delivering outstanding results. His company was the recipient of the 2019 Australian IOT Pioneer Award, the FMA Facilities Management Industry Award for excellence in industry innovation,

[00:01:07] and most recently the 2020 Global FM Highly Commended Aware of Excellence in Facilities Management. He’s the founder and managing director of Blue IOT, a Melbourne, Australia based energy management company. And he’s a building’s assessor for the Australian sustainability on NABERS standard. Joining us today from Melbourne is . 

[00:01:28] Robert Sharon. Welcome to the podcast, Bob.

[00:01:31] Bob Sharon: [00:01:31] Thank you for having me on the show.

[00:01:33]Vaughn Amann: [00:01:33] It’s a pleasure to have you with us all the way from down under. So you’re involved with the NABERS Australian energy standard.

[00:01:40]Bob Sharon: [00:01:40] Yeah, I’m a NABERS assessor, and NABERS is actually an acronym for the National Australian Built Environment Rating System, which was in fact developed by the New South Wales government or the Department of Environment and Heritage.

[00:01:55] Vaughn Amann: [00:01:55] Oh, so would that be roughly equivalent to the LEED standard in the U S and other standards around the world?

[00:02:01] Bob Sharon: [00:02:01] LEED is, I guess more equivalent to the Greenstar standard, in Australia, which is a design standard for buildings. So when you put certain materials in the building, you make it more efficient, you do a whole lot of things to it and, and tick a whole lot of boxes that will allow it to be more efficient.

[00:02:20] But that’s more of your Greenstar / LEED rating. The NABERS rating is more about what, how did we perform in the last 12 months? How energy efficient was this building in actual point of fact, over the last 12 months, that’s a practical outcome based on reality for the last 12 months. That’s what I like about it.

[00:02:40] It’s an operational rating.

[00:02:42] Vaughn Amann: [00:02:42] So the major objectives of the standards will be just efficiency, energy efficiency?

[00:02:47] Bob Sharon: [00:02:47] They have a number of things. They have energy, they have water, they have indoor environment. So they have a number of components that you can pick and choose. But the most popular part of the writing of course is energy, but they have the indoor environment, component and water and.

[00:03:02]so it’s, it’s a very, very good, robust rating. I would sign up, you know, it’s, it’s about an outcome as destinct from a design standard. Okay.

[00:03:13] Vaughn Amann: [00:03:13] And the NABERS standard is, is our cross Australia, or are there other areas in Asia Pacific that adopt

[00:03:20] Bob Sharon: [00:03:20] that standard?

Bob Sharon: Well, it started in Sydney a long time ago, and then it’s been adopted nationally.

[00:03:26] In fact, it’s, it’s lower. If you want to lease a thousand square meters of office space. the, the building operators need to have a NABERS rating, it’s law. So it’s adopted nationally and they have various categories. So we’ve got office buildings, there’s, shopping centers, hotels, apartment buildings, data centers.

[00:03:49] So they have a number of, of specific. standards. and it’s also now in New Zealand and I believe it’s going to the UK now. I think it’s going to get adopted into quite a number of other countries.

[00:04:02] Vaughn Amann: [00:04:02] Oh, okay. And then the, the product that your company’s developed, actually supports the use of that standard, right?

[00:04:10] So that gives you the metrics that are needed to, to show compliance with that standard.

[00:04:15] Bob Sharon: [00:04:15] Yeah. We’re actually going to apply in the new year to have our system actually directly measure NABERS. So there’s a process to go through with the, with the relevant government departments to have that done, but it can be, and we will, we will do that, and have it, as an automated function, of, of our service.

[00:04:35]we certainly can, but it’s got to go through their process and we pay them certain fees, royalties, et cetera, which is quite normal. And then have that as part of our, platform, because it is, it is a wonderful platform that organizations can actually take to the bank.

[00:04:54] Vaughn Amann: [00:04:54] Well, I understand that you’re partnering with Origin FM Services to bring your solutions to North America now, as well as the Asia Pacific.

[00:05:01] Bob Sharon: [00:05:01] That is correct. Yes. So, very exciting times, as, as people want to do two things, reduce their carbon emissions, but at the same time, reduce their costs.

[00:05:13] Vaughn Amann: [00:05:13] Yeah, exactly. So the, I read a case study of the city of you’re going to have to pronounce the name of the city. Dandenong

[00:05:23] Bob Sharon: [00:05:23] council municipality.

[00:05:26] Vaughn Amann: [00:05:26] Yeah.

[00:05:26] And the study, the building realized a 46% total electric and 64% gas savings on just the HVAC, right?

[00:05:34] Bob Sharon: [00:05:34] Correct. Two year payback. Yeah. And that’s year on year looking at utility bills. It’s not like, you know, some funny method or invention of calculating numbers, but it’s basically looking at, it’s an office building with the same use type.

[00:05:50] And year on year, we look at the energy bills and that’s how we that’s, that’s how we’ve done it. And compared the same number of working days.

[00:05:58] Vaughn Amann: [00:05:58] So this was a retrofit of an existing building that you added your IOT technology into and your intelligent monitoring technology,

[00:06:06] Bob Sharon: [00:06:06] correct? Correct. And, and it’s 20, 22 year old HVAC technology.

[00:06:12]the only one thing we added was one variable speed drive that wasn’t any new thing we added other than ripping out the old building management system.

[00:06:21] Vaughn Amann: [00:06:21] And do you say that they realized the two year payback period of the retrofit because of the energy savings? So that’s, that’s pretty amazing. So it’s, it’s an encouraging, not just to be green and to have all of these other benefits, but you’re actually saving the building operators or owners.

[00:06:36] a lot of money in this, in the process.

[00:06:38] Bob Sharon: [00:06:38] Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. It, the case is amazing. So. typically almost any way we’ll get, you know, under, certainly under three years in Mo in many cases, two and a half, and that includes the capital costs and the ongoing subscriptions. So it’s CapEx and OPEX included to get an amazing return because at the end of the day, it’s about an outcome.

[00:07:01] We’re not here to sell IOT. We don’t sell IOT. We, we leverage the internet of things as an enabler. To support the blue economy and the blue economy is what does it take to build a building to maintain it? What effect does that have on the people using it? And what effect does it have on the planet? So that’s a 360 degree approach.

[00:07:20] Vaughn Amann: [00:07:20] Well, that’s great. The Dandenong project was a great example of a brownfield installation. So what would be different about a Greenfield instance?

[00:07:30] Bob Sharon: [00:07:30] Okay. Well,  a Greenfield installation, would mean a lot less cost because we don’t have to cable anything up. We don’t have the cable the sensors, we don’t have to cable the controllers, on a backbone network, whether it’s, an Ethernet network or a Modbus network, it’s all radio controlled.

[00:07:48] So, the controls just run their power locally, of whatever’s there, but there’s no, no comms to connect. So it’s much cheaper, right? So easier. The other thing with new builds, there’s lots of changes. Almost always, they change some of the designs, they’ll change, you know, some, some things and with a traditional, system, then that costs a lot of money to change with it because they’re going to change cabling, gonna change, you know, a whole lot of different things, whereas with us, Oh, gee, okay.

[00:08:19] Well the same thing’s going in a different position, but we’re not adding additional hardware. So it’s not going to cost any more. So it’s much more agile and flexible and can adapt with changes very easily. And most importantly, the cost again. So the capital cost is, is about half the cost of traditional systems, while being much more open.

[00:08:40] So we’re also able to interoperate with other systems. So if they’ve got booking systems or. Asset management, if they manage FM management or work order management systems, we can link into those through open APIs, and interoperate and collaborate, as part of our, smart cities platform suite.

[00:09:01]so we can collaborate with those while running the, the buildings,

[00:09:06] Vaughn Amann: [00:09:06] how much wireless technology versus wired would be in a typical installation. Or does it matter whether it’s brownfield or Greenfield?

[00:09:13] Bob Sharon: [00:09:13] It doesn’t matter because whatever’s there we’ll use if we have to, but putting new sensors in they’re all wireless, from a comms point of view, and even from a power point of view, the majority of sensors don’t even need power, external power.

[00:09:28] So here’s, here’s a bit of a trivia question for you. Do you think wifi sensors wireless? There’s a trivia question. I’m not going to trick you all answer the question. And the answer is in most cases, I not wireless wireless in terms of communications, yes. Wireless in terms of power, no, unless you want to change the battery every two weeks.

[00:09:50] And so they use a lot of power and that’s why we use a low power wide area network. so that way we can have a sense of that might run. On average five years in some cases, 10 years before we change a battery. So, and we’re also now working on perpetual sensors for release sometime next year. So, you know, this is the Holy grail in IOT is how long can the battery last, but not every sensor can be wireless.

[00:10:16] So things like CO2 sensors, for example, use a lot of power. So they will need five volts, power. But the majority of sensors, we won’t need power at all. So there’s no wiring whatsoever. So that does make a huge difference.

[00:10:30] Vaughn Amann: [00:10:30] So it saves a lot in the installation costs.

Bob Sharon: And time.

Vaughn Amann:So from what you’re saying on a Greenfield installation, your return on investment would be very fast and it would be continuous, I guess

[00:10:40] Bob Sharon: [00:10:40] Because we do continuous commissioning.

[00:10:44] It’s not only about the technology that we’ve developed, the world’s first technology, but what we’ve also developed is, is another client engagement model. Traditional AI system will be delivered, installed. And they’ll say, thank you very much. We’ll come back if it breaks and we’ll fix it. That’s the traditional model, for us, no, for us, it’s about continuously providing advice, data interpretation.

[00:11:08]because one of the problems today is that, people have got all this data. They don’t know what to do with it. What am I doing with all this? And people are busy running their buildings and running their facilities and, and they don’t know how to interpret all this data. We do. We have, we have the domain experts in house and we find anomalies and we get back to our clients and say, look, we find you’ve got a problem, with this pomp or this filter.

[00:11:29] And then we arrange for their, their contractors to go onsite. They find the problem gets remedied. So we get rid of energy waste. We also get rid of unplanned maintenance in many cases. So we’re saving every way continuously. So it’s called continuous commissioning continuous optimization. Even changing logic control is free under our premium and comprehensive subscription.

[00:11:56] So there’s no impediment to make changes to improve.

[00:12:01] Vaughn Amann: [00:12:01] So even with your subscription service, they’re saving quite a bit in the long run

[00:12:04] Bob Sharon: [00:12:04] Right

[00:12:06] Vaughn Amann: [00:12:06] So one other benefit that wasn’t. Initially mentioned was asset life extension. So I’ve seen some estimates from about a 20% improvement. Would that be a good thumbnail estimate for, for other retrofit installations as well?

[00:12:19] Bob Sharon: [00:12:19] Look, we haven’t been there long enough to determine the actuals. The numbers I’ve pooled have come from various, research from McKinsey, PWC, and so forth, but the logic, the sheer logic. also we’ll confirm this. So for example, we’re not running the devices hard, we’re running them well within capacity.

[00:12:41] And if, if we smell something is wrong, we have it attended to before it falls apart. So what that means is we can just continue to use it much longer because we know what’s happening. We’re looking at the, at the various aspects of the device, whether it’s a vibration monitoring on a pump. Oh, whether it’s, monitoring the energy, of every device and the power factor and a whole lot of other things on the energy analytics.

[00:13:06] So we’ve got insights early insights into how the device is functioning. So if there’s an early problem, we’re going to catch it long before. There’s a real problem, therefore, rather than waiting for things to right. Which is what normally happens after, you know, 10, 15, 20 years, let’s just wait for it to break and then they’ll replace it.

[00:13:24]we don’t, and that means typically we’ll be able to go forward with that and extend the life because we’re not running it to its max capacity.

[00:13:35] Vaughn Amann: [00:13:35] So that’s another benefit of having the continuous service contract is that you’re able to monitor those parameters and to notify the building operators ahead of time, and to prevent, prevent outages and catastrophic failure.

[00:13:48] Exactly. That’s a huge benefit. Well, this is a bit niche-y, but I, I saw the green data centers were in your background. how much experience did you have with that and how successful were you in, in reducing the energy

[00:14:03] Bob Sharon: [00:14:03] data centers? In fact, I was involved with the working group that produced the first rating for data centers with the neighbor’s team, because I come from the data center space myself.

[00:14:15] In fact, currently I’m a judge. for the broad group for data cloud global awards, I do it as a volunteer for love. I don’t get paid. So I’m one of my square does the bit of a data center nerd, I guess that makes two of us,

[00:14:33] you know, to quote Steve jobs, one of those square pegs and around hall like that in developing, in bringing that spanned at, and I conducted the first rating, back in 2013. for, Fujitsu, data center and she, that was hard. We had 50 sub-meters. We have to validate every single sub meter. we went through and because it was the first rating, I think it took me about 300.

[00:14:59] Yeah. Yeah. It wasn’t my chart. w it was the first one. I was like, okay. So many questions I would have, you know, being the first one and. Well, but it was a great learning experience. And that taught me about test and measure calibrate test and measure because, you know, if your data is not right or calibrate it, guess what garbage in garbage out in terms of efficiency of data centers, right now systems are not controlling data centers, but you know, certainly providing advice, which is what we do.

[00:15:30]so for example, at the University of Melbourne high performance data center, there we are using our analytics, in there and looking at their they’ve got three chillers and they got a very complex network of systems running their heart performance data centers. So there we correlate the data and provide advice on how they can, can, you know, get continuous improvement and, sightings on energy or what we call PUE power usage effectiveness, which is the term used for data centers.

[00:16:01] Vaughn Amann: [00:16:01] So, I guess the savings would be tremendous in data centers, but again, it’s a pretty niche market for some people. It’d be very interesting. Your system is based around a proprietary artificial intelligence cloud system called Encompass Blue.

[00:16:16] Bob Sharon: [00:16:16] No, it’s not proprietary. So Encompass Blue is our smart cities platform suite.

[00:16:21] Which, basically includes into end connectivity from sensors devices. the sensors, we use are global standard, when I say global standard, for the most part, we use a thing called LoRaWAN and IOT protocol. So long range, wide area network commonly used across the globe, including, North America, Canada, Asia, Europe, middle East, it’s used everywhere

[00:16:44] It’s the number one IOT protocol. Though we’ll use others where appropriate. I mean, we will soon have NBI IOT available, through the telcos that that’s sort of that side for control monitoring, depending what you want to do. And the backend system for analytics, visualization, alarms, connectivity, integration, interoperability,, device management.

[00:17:06] So a whole lot of stuff in the cloud. And, we have our machine learning in there as well. and then, in the new year we’ll be building up the AI across many facets of, of what we do because from the cloud we like to manage the facility as a whole, not a bunch of disparate systems and then manage the whole facility.

[00:17:29]we even have services, a subset of the suite around COVID 19, for example. So we have COVID 19 risk mitigation, and we have a suite of services around that, being so relevant at the moment for people, you know, as soon to be going back to buildings and return, we want to make sure it’s as safe as possible.

[00:17:46] Vaughn Amann: [00:17:46] Well, that was one thing I wanted to ask about what the, what are the differences now that we’re in COVID 19 mitigation? What, what do you do differently in building management?

[00:17:55] Bob Sharon: [00:17:55] I guess, because we have a flexible system it’s agile, it’s flexible. It’s not, you know, a lot of the bigger companies. But like the Titanic, you can’t blame them.

[00:18:04] They’re just big, you know, they, they, they got, they got this huge ship and to turn a big ship with 10  and all these, you know, stakeholders within the organization, it’s very difficult. It’s just, I guess, the way it is. And they have a hard time, you know, adapting, whereas, you know, for us, you know, we can respond a lot faster.

[00:18:25] So for example, we have a number of aspects of, I guess the first thing is when people come in a building check the temperature. So, we, we get, excellent cameras from other third party manufacturers where we can spot people, you know, 15 meters away, 45 feet away, coming into the building, big commercial cameras for that.

[00:18:47] And then people counting. So there might be restriction on the number of people you’ll have at any one time in the building. So we can count people using camera based counters, so much more accurate than I are to determine how many people are out. We’re doing that in a shopping center at the moment. And so we can determine that.

[00:19:04] And then in meeting rooms, we can check proximity of people. And make sure that we’re, we’re, you know, we’ve got the rules in place there. And then the other thing, we have a things like air changes per hour, because if the air changes per hour and the HVAC system is not right, you’ve got a higher risk of transferring the bacteria or virus through the building.

[00:19:22] So you’ve got the management of the HVAC and then there’s, anti-microbial sprays now available for cooling coils for filters and they last for 12 months. And so again, we can mitigate the risk of the transfer of bacteria and viruses, and then you’ve got filters. If you want to take it to the next one, air purifiers is another layer again, where, you know, we go to other manufacturers that have, new technology and purifies if that’s required.

[00:19:50] So there’s a whole host of things that we do. Inside even looking for mold, for example, using dust, particulate, sensors, and, and, and the humidity sensors, et cetera. Again, it’s like an, a LA carte menu where organizations can select what’s suitable for them. And it all goes onto our common platform, common visualization with alarms, with notifications, everything.

[00:20:14] So we try to make it easy and take away their pain. So it

[00:20:18] Vaughn Amann: [00:20:18] sounds like there’s a lot of overlap with sensors in the security system,

[00:20:24] Bob Sharon: [00:20:24] not a security systems company and without pretend to be, but what we can do is interface into them through our open APIs. So they’ll do their edge processing there. and then we can pick up a lamps and then send out the alarms by SMS, by email, by whatever form, the client requests.

[00:20:43] And then we can do that as the common front in the platform, even though we are not the security company per se, but you don’t

[00:20:51] Vaughn Amann: [00:20:51] need two sets of sensors for everything you can use, you can layer some of the existing security sensors

[00:20:58] Bob Sharon: [00:20:58] high-level in device. Pick up the daughter or alarms and whatever, and send that out.

[00:21:03] Oh yeah, no need to double up at all.

[00:21:05] Vaughn Amann: [00:21:05] So you also mentioned that there is a self-managed solution as well as a cloud-based solution. What would the differences in

[00:21:12] Bob Sharon: [00:21:12] A self-managed solution would be only available, say on a ship maritime. Right? So when we’re, when we’re out on the ship at sea.

[00:21:23] You don’t really want to be reliant, reliant on the cloud for obvious reasons. it gets difficult, but other than going at maritime or maybe some strict defense type, requirement, we don’t do self-managed scenarios. Why? Because we can’t achieve the best for the client, I guess, because doing it all locally, you get more to the traditional systems.

[00:21:50] And the traditional systems, they all work locally, even though you can view them from the cloud now, I mean, newest systems, and you get full access from the cloud. And they’re trying to add more things in the cloud now, but you got the base systems are quite traditional. They’re sitting there, in the plant.

[00:22:05]the head end systems are in the plant. We don’t have a headache. Are hidden is the cloud, but yet we can have our edge control was which had computers in their own right. run their own Luke’s. so if there was ever a disconnect to the cloud, they just keep running their local Luke’s. until they, reconnect to the cloud.

[00:22:23] And

[00:22:23] Vaughn Amann: [00:22:23] that kind of feeds into my next question. What parameters do building managers have to monitor and adjust versus the parameters that are controlled by the

[00:22:31] Bob Sharon: [00:22:31] city? Right? We give them whatever parameters they want to control. This is the beautiful thing. So what this means is we can go to any device.

[00:22:38] Any device anywhere and they can control from an iPhone or an Android doesn’t matter. And that’s the best part. But before it was very hard for them to, to, you know, get down to that level. I’d have to go to the, you know, to in the old guys to the, to the PC side. Okay. Now if I can have access to them for a new system, but if they’re running a legacy system, which most buildings have legacy systems that can’t even access it from the web in many cases, Still, until I get a brand new system.

[00:23:07] So it’s very hard for them, with us. We make it easy for them so they can go change. They can change water, temperatures, dead bands. They can change set point temperatures, but I can change basically whatever they want to change. We’ll set it up for them because we customize the systems and the dashboards for them and for what they want to use or their authorized staff want to use.

[00:23:32] So, they, they will, tell us what they want and we will give them the control they want. So let’s for us to control that we manage the smarts at the back end. we give them the control, that visibility, everything they need. So whatever they want, as long as it’s within the parameters, we’ll let, we’ll give them the control to change it from any device.

[00:23:56] Anyway.

[00:23:58] Vaughn Amann: [00:23:58] And you have enough experience in the domain to give them brand initial

[00:24:00] Bob Sharon: [00:24:00] values, electrical mechanical controls and, and BMS engineers. So, we, we have these engineers in house. So

[00:24:10] Vaughn Amann: [00:24:10] key process indicators. Do you measure and give to the building manager?

[00:24:14] Bob Sharon: [00:24:14] Well, th the key ones, shortlist actuals. So w what are your temperatures and humidity levels in the various areas?

[00:24:24] W what, what are the fans doing, as in how much power and what percentage of the fans being used through their variable speed drives? What are the water flows? The differential pressure within between the pumps for the water, the water temperatures, and what about the energy being used by every device?

[00:24:43] How much power is being used for each mechanical device? We have to know, and the condition of that power. So, you know, how, how is that behavior? and, and we certainly then look at what are the other parameters. They they’re the mine. Once we do look at CO2 in return air and, and in certain rooms, we’ll look for that because of course, if CO2 levels go up off a thousand parts per million, in a meeting room, guess what?

[00:25:11] He’ll stop the full slate. You know, I’m sure you’ve never been in a meeting room like that.

[00:25:16] Vaughn Amann: [00:25:16] I’ve been in a lot of those meetings for sure.

[00:25:20] Bob Sharon: [00:25:20] Quite a few parameters and I haven’t listed them all.

[00:25:24] Vaughn Amann: [00:25:24] Is there like an executive summary that you give the building owners in certain

[00:25:28] Bob Sharon: [00:25:28] periods, we give them full reporting.

[00:25:30] That’s part of the service. So in the beginning we designed the reports to meet their needs. So we set up the reporting structures based on their requirements. So, you know, operational reporting, you know, how it’s behaved through the previous month, any anomalies that showed up, why were those anomalies?

[00:25:48] What happened? How’s the energy performance. How are we comparing on savings to the same period last year? So we provide this reporting, but as well during the month where they really normally so problems, then we’ll issue, issue alerts in the middle of, in Belmont. I can get a phone call. Okay.

[00:26:04] Vaughn Amann: [00:26:04] So there are different layers, I guess, to the reports, the building managers know all the little nitty-gritty details and you, you also report up to the CFO level so they can measure the progress over

[00:26:14] Bob Sharon: [00:26:14] time.

[00:26:15] Yeah, exactly. When

[00:26:17] Vaughn Amann: [00:26:17] you mentioned before, something about, tie-ins to smart city initiatives. So I know that some areas municipalities may actually cut back on power or have forced Brown outs or even blackouts during certain periods under extreme conditions. How would your system respond to those kinds of inputs?

[00:26:35] Bob Sharon: [00:26:35] If there’s no power to the building and if the building has no generator. It won’t make any difference because even if our system could be working right, and certainly all the sensors will be working, but when you’ve got no power to the whole building, the HVAC is dead. If the HVAC is dead, it doesn’t, it’s an academic discussion.

[00:26:56] Well, I was

[00:26:57] Vaughn Amann: [00:26:57] thinking, thinking more along the lines. If the power company tells you from three to seven, o’clock this evening, we’re going to have a Brown out and we want to keep your power factor or your power consumption at a certain level at an unusually low level.

[00:27:11] Bob Sharon: [00:27:11] How would you respond to demand management?

[00:27:14]so demand management. Absolutely. Yes. That that’s not a problem. In fact, we can program those rules into our system. even have API APIs direct to the energy company, for example. So if the energy company, which they often do, they’ll say this whole area, you know, we, we, you know, we’re going to have a high demand.

[00:27:33] So we need people who are on our list to reduce their power, at this time. and so we’re able to, to, oblige that and have rules in place and then reduce power of certain things. But this will have all been pre agreed with the client, obviously. And then we’ll establish this. So yes, our system is definitely capable of doing that.

[00:27:54] Vaughn Amann: [00:27:54] Fantastic. Well, this is really interesting stuff, and I can see why building managers would be very anxious to implement these kinds of solutions into their buildings. what emerging or future technologies should our listeners be tracking in the smart building space? What things do you see over the horizon that might provide you?

[00:28:12] I

[00:28:12] Bob Sharon: [00:28:12] think there’ll be a biggest growth in AI and machine learning, and digital twins. A lot of people. A lot of organizations are bending the term, digital twins and AI. now at the moment, for the most part, there’s a lot of what I call smoke and mirrors in the marketplace. It’s a bit like the wild West, in our industry at the moment.

[00:28:31] So I, people saying we’ve got digital twins, aren’t we great. But all the digital twin is, is a, is a, is a building information management or model, of a new building, from a 3d CAD rivet or whatever it might be. And, and they’ve got this working model, you know, image of the building, they call this, this is a digital twin.

[00:28:52] Well, let’s not rocket science friends. You know, that this kind of stuff has been done for awhile where the rocket science comes in is when you take that, that image, that digital twin. And then you’re able to do your computer modeling, which again is not rocket science these days, either that’s been done for awhile where we’re able to do what if scenarios.

[00:29:12] Based on the load based on the outside temperatures and the building envelope. What happens if we do this and this and this and change this what’s going to happen. Okay. You do a computer model. Okay. That’s been done for a while, but then when you take that digital twin and then you, you add, you know, I’ve been a VR and AR, so you can do inductions and 3d inductions and, you know, like, from afar, And where people know where all the assets are.

[00:29:37] I can picture where we need to go to get to these assets and then we can model it. And then we say, okay, let’s implement this. And we press a button from the cloud. And then in implements that calibrates it and says I were off by this much and we calibrate it and then we get the AI to automatically continuously do that.

[00:29:58] What if scenario and continuously optimize it? That’s digital twins. Well, I’ll call it four dimensional digital twins, right? And that’s on our road map for next year. that’s what we’re going to be introducing. And the other one, I, a lot of organizations say they use AI when in actual fact they’re not true.

[00:30:15] AI is soft determining. Whereas machine learning is algorithms and it’s learning. So we’re already implemented, I have have a number of those in operation, but self-determining systems that decide for themselves what to do. That’s relay I, and there’ll be a big growth in this definitely over the coming years.

[00:30:37] So, you know, let’s watch out for what happens there and, what will happen is there’ll be more seamless integration. That will be available through some, some will want to get you through their proprietary systems. So I stick to open systems and open API APIs where possible that’s a must and where possible, make sure that you own your own data.

[00:30:57] A lot of the big multinationals is not the case. You don’t own your own data. So it’s important to watch out for that one, but the trend going forward, it’s definitely going to be. So much smarter, not only to be running lighting systems, HVAC systems, health, and safety, there’ll be a lot of compliance as well.

[00:31:16] So I’ll be able to monitor the lighting and the air quality, things around COVID or other things. so we’re getting more into safety and health as well as people, Wells writing for buildings that will feed into that. And so we’ll get much smarter systems occupancy. So it’d be looking at what’s the better utilization of the building.

[00:31:35] So I’ll be getting much more into utilization of the building. So we do a little bit of that now, but that will improve much more so to get more effective use. and it’s just going to keep getting smarter, linking in the booking systems, even to rooms, doing all sorts of different things. And then everyone will be able to access aspects through various acts on the, on the phone or whatever the case may be.

[00:31:58] And it’s just going to get smarter. And the other trend. Will be everything is a service right now. Companies prefer to do the capital expenditure component and then they will get the ongoing, you know, subscriptions or whatever. Eventually everything will be as a service. that’s where I see it all going.

[00:32:17] So a bit like SAS. You know, you get your Microsoft, you get a Dropbox, you get whatever as a service, you just pay your monthly fee and that’s it. And I see everything moving down that path for sure. So a lot of exciting things to come VRR will definitely, you know, rise. There’ll be a lot more of that. So it’s going to make it much more engaging, much more interesting and much easier to use.

[00:32:42] Vaughn Amann: [00:32:42] As we talked about the return on investment before this is a service that will easily pay for itself in spades, especially over the long run. One thing we haven’t discussed is scale. We looked at inNABERSdual buildings, I guess, but if you’re a multitenant or even, you know, multi-building manager, then scaling the system would be.

[00:33:02] A really good benefit for you to have management over all of your properties. Correct?

[00:33:08] Bob Sharon: [00:33:08] Example with the city of greater Dandenong, we have, six buildings. We’re about to go to seven. We’re doing an art gallery. we’ve got an aquatic center. We got a whole lot of different things. So it’s easy. So on the front page, home page for the opera, for the operator or council, whoever it might be, then we have all the, the various buildings.

[00:33:30] I just pick up K what, which building we’re looking at, for management, you know, we’ll pick this building when we do a report on, you know, all the buildings that they can drill down and we’ve got for that one over there. And if they’ve got a hundred buildings in their portfolio, or more than we can group it by area, or we can group it in any which way they want.

[00:33:47] And then I can just drill down and got weed because at the end of the day, it is a smart city platform. so we have various aspects that we can put forward, whether it’s predictive maintenance, or whether it’s, you know, just building operations, whatever the case may be. We can have a big portfolio sitting, for them with the various buildings and even did comparisons to building to building.

[00:34:10] Vaughn Amann: [00:34:10] So you could easily scale from tens of buildings to potentially hundreds of buildings. And have them all managed on the same platform

[00:34:20] on the other end of the scale, a lot of this technology is going to trickle down into smart homes, as well as the. Cost benefits get better for inNABERSdual homeowners. So do you see any big changes on that end of the spectrum?

[00:34:33]Bob Sharon: [00:34:33] and even now we’re starting to see things, you know, with Alexa, and only, you know, the little ad-ons, and then you can plug in your eight year split system, air conditioner to it, this, this smarter systems from the various vendors like Samsung and others into their systems for homes.

[00:34:50] So, definitely see it. There’s a lot of companies now manufacturing these little smart home systems, which are very cost-effective. In my running ZigBee or Wi-Fi or whatever, which is quite suitable for home. And there’s already proliferation even now, for, domestic versions, which are quite low cost.

[00:35:09] And we’re seeing a proliferation now, but I guess the technology we using will fill over, I’m starting to see LoRaWAN for example, for home systems, starting to come out now as well. and the benefit, I guess, of using a system like that is it’s much more cyber secure. Because one of the problems in the building industry is the lack of soccer security, and you know, what happens is on it.

[00:35:33] Oh, you know, we’ve, we’ve got end to end cyber security and that’s worked very well for the most part, but not with the building side and it gets forgotten. And so the beauty with our platform is we have end to end cyber security and we’re running a non RP network within the building. So the risk is lower.

[00:35:52] So we deliver lower risk. Full-stop. Not in the story, lower risk. Lot

[00:35:58] Vaughn Amann: [00:35:58] less chance of script kiddies coming in and trying to disrupt your system

[00:36:01] Bob Sharon: [00:36:01] right. Or, or as happened with target S where, where they got in, not only to the building network, but the corporate network and got credit card details of their customers.

[00:36:13]Vaughn Amann: [00:36:13] yes. That’s, that’s very bad, bad for everybody customers and the managers as well. Yeah. So I I’d like to touch real quickly on multitenant. I’m thinking about hotels and things. It’s kind of a mixture of what you would have in your home system, but on a larger scale. Managed under one umbrella for the whole property.

[00:36:33] Do you see any interests at that level for hotel properties and things like that, kind of a specialized market?

[00:36:39] Bob Sharon: [00:36:39] Well, we’re just finishing in a cool hotel. now we’re doing our first, a core, a core vacation club actually. and we’re just finishing, a hotel for them and, Oh, huge. Because what happens with hotels, there’s a lot of energy waste.

[00:36:52] So for example, people check in. coming into the room. and for the most part, you’ve got the slot where you put your key, your key chain, you put the slot in up, it opens up everything. That’s the switch. And quite often people will go out and leave one key it, because I get two cards, leave one card in the slot and off I go, and a lot of energy gets wasted.

[00:37:13]even though no one’s in the room. So we’re changing the rules around all the fats. So we’ve got a much smarter method of, of, of linking into the booking system as well. So we know if they booked in and then at the same time, we’ve got I, our sensors in the, in the, in the various, rooms. so we have a day mode and a night mode.

[00:37:31] And if no, one’s in the room again also depending on the external temperatures. So if it’s an extreme day and they’re checked in and they go out, we’re not going to shut it off. Because if it’s say 40 degrees Celsius and they go out, we don’t want them coming back to a roasting room. So what we might do then is let the temperature go up to 25.

[00:37:51] But not more than that, if they’re out of the room, right. But if it’s more mild, we can shut it off. So, our, machine learning and AI will be able to deal with that, but, we’re, we’re doing that, but we’re managing the whole plant as well. And then we get into the lighting systems and other things, and we intend to be saving a lot of energy in hotels.

[00:38:11] So the potential. Is huge, for hotels, like, you know, right now there’ll be doing it quite tough because of COVID worldwide. And they’ll be looking for ways that they can save more energy, save on maintenance, but not, not affecting. In fact, they want better comfort guests, comfort, you know, so no compromise to guests, comfort or quality, but yet they want to save money.

[00:38:35] So we’re going to be their best friends.

[00:38:38] Vaughn Amann: [00:38:38] So it sounds like again, the potential ROI and the time to get your money back is very short. This might be a really good time for them when there’s not much occupancy to go ahead and retrofit.

[00:38:48] Bob Sharon: [00:38:48] Exactly.

[00:38:49] Vaughn Amann: [00:38:49] Wow. This has been some really exciting information and I really appreciate you sharing this with us.

[00:38:55] Thank you for being on the show today.

[00:38:56] Bob Sharon: [00:38:56] Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

[00:38:59] Vaughn Amann: [00:38:59] If our listeners wanted to get more information about smart buildings in general, or specifically the work that you’re doing, where would they go to do that?

[00:39:08] Bob Sharon: [00:39:08] I can go to my website. Mind you were undergoing a rebrand at the moment.

[00:39:11] So come December, January, they’ll see a new look website. So we’re improving the way we communicate, to, To everyone out there, but, they just need to go to that I, you, or they can even drop me an email at

[00:39:31] Vaughn Amann: [00:39:31] Okay, Bob. Well, again, thank you very much for joining us today.

[00:39:34] This has been very enlightening and I’m sure our listeners are going to enjoy it as well.

[00:39:38] Bob Sharon: [00:39:38] No worries. Thanks for having me.

[00:39:45] Vaughn Amann: [00:39:45] if you’d like more information about this or any of our other episodes, go to our website, Thanks for listening. .


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