Relevance of "Overlay" analytics software | Facilities Management and CRETech

Aug 30

Welcome to the fortnightly podcast series on CRETech, in this series we are going to explore some of the tech innovations that have been happening around CRE space and try to map out movements of the O&M fraternity just to understand where we are heading.

We're trying to keep this series small and crisp just to give you an overview of things that have been happening in the industry in last two weeks so my colleague Umesh, will be joining me in this podcast where we are going to discuss the emergence of overlay softwarecomplementing edge computing in building analytics so without any further due let's start with this first episode.

So Umesh, how are you?


Umesh: I'm good, thank you, yes indeed it's going to be a good way to host this podcast I think keeping it short and quick especially knowing that there's so much that's happening around in this space so I think it will give our listeners, partners and stakeholders sort of fortnightly download of all that's happening at the intersection of smart buildings facilities management and data would be an awesome thing to do and I'm really excited and looking forward to it.


[Why are we starting this Thought series?]


Sumit: Sure so Umesh we're starting this fortnightly series just to discuss some of the critical issues of CRETech and we're trying to touch upon a broad spectrum of digital technologies that have been making life easier for facility management companies or faculty managers in a sense. So would you like to add something on that I mean where are we focusing or where we are heading in terms of discussion that we are going tohappen in the series?


Umesh: So we are going to keep it relevant obviously with a very special focus on operations and maintenance, we're not going to be covering everything across the spectrum when it comes to digital transformation and facilities, I think and the overall idea is how can we look at whatever is happening, and how can we keep a track of it in a very short manner if someone doesn't have too much of the time the within 10 to 12 minutes someone gets sort of a fortnightly download of all the key things, also giving our perspective on some of the important things and the way the industry heading or the way the overall market is heading so I think that is what listeners can expect if they are subscribing or listening to this podcast. Regularly, we'll try to keep it consistent, every fortnight is going to be our shot but certainly every month.


[Umesh’s comment on James Dice’s LinkedIn post on Overlay software]


Sumit: So Umesh, I remember that a couple of days ago there was a post (on LinkedIn) by James Dice of NREL on overlay software and I remember that you commented on it saying that ‘there are many generic overlay software available in the market but the real question is for which one do we settle for what do you mean by that?


Umesh: So James mentioned that there are so many incumbent and startups working on niche hardwares/software to add product capabilities, then Prabhu (Prabhu ramchandran) from Facilio mentioned how ‘overlay softwares’ are going to be relevant going forward even if we are going to see many sort of players in the ecosystem building upon their own analytics capabilities there's obviously will be much more niche components coming in and not everyone's going to do everything and hence there's obviously going to be a scope for each one to collaborate and watch so I agree with both James and prabhu that there is a relevance of overalay softwares but what point I raised is after working with tier one companies in eastern india and australia, so even though there are software available in the market which perhaps claim to be an overlay software which can give you a sort of an overarching look at everything that's happening in your facility but there is a lot of work that needs to be done DIY from your O&M team from the FM now to me this is okay if you are early in your journey or digital transformation, you do not have a lot of capability then probably the most certainly if you do not have the exercise for advanced use cases or analytics you don't want to be connecting to other digital assets that you have in facilities and then there are software which are far more advanced which act as an overlay software and overarching software deep analytic capabilities where there is very little DIY which is fine given the way the FM contracts are being reshaped,


 ‘We are looking at taking every element of their time that could be utilized in a productive efficient manner to be doing that’


So that's where my question was: what kind of overarching or overlap software would one look at? In my opinion, this is a more pertinent question as against the saying whether or not you do need an overall software such as the software capability or any capability would be needed going forward in the entire market.


[Is the building analytics market opening up for the Collaboration]


Sumit: Okay so as we see there will be an emergence of overlay software, my next question will be, do you think building analysis space is opening up for collaborations with different stakeholders? I mean as we see it in ERP or CRM platforms, that they are valued as per their integration capabilities so do you think similar types of data/information flow will happen in this building analytics market?


Umesh: I think it will sumit. but how soon and how deep would that connect be or would that transformation be something that we'd have to wait and watch. I think any such transformation is from two sides from vendors, technology OEMs can influence the market but then it has to have an appetite to pick up from ‘the buyers’ so it needs to be seen how many FM companies, how many real estate developers or facility managers whether they're internal teams or external FM companies I mean how do they want and what's the digital transformation they have from and again my comments and our comments are going to be largely around the O&M perspective facility performance & energy sustainability perspective so it is connected to my earlier answers


“You are going to see that people are going to focus on their niche area when you look at the entire IoT analytics spectrum”


right from hardware to storage to visualization and monitoring there is an entire generic stack available there is one company that does it all and then there are companies which like ours as well which is not a platform but it's a niche application which kind of fits into and then you also further integrate with other applications on the entire life cycle of the O&M activity that you look at so there is certainly going to be integration involved, there are these core integrations that are happening, you are seeing a lot of companies for example UpKeep and other CMMS companies which have scaled are working on it so there is evidence that is what the next step is going to be.


Unfortunately, that's not happened in the energy space to a very large extent people have been focused on trying to build everything on their own and which I think we as an industry are going to have realized there is not a way forward, you either need to concentrate on hardware or you concentrate on software there's no one big enough right now saying we are concentration both and we are going to win both the market, How soon that’s going to happen is also important how soon the user/buyer starts asking for it. What we have seen especially the kind of customers that are coming to us are customers who have a platform of their own or they've identified the platform and now say that Okay we have a generic platform where we can bring in all sorts of data and now we are going to be handling specific use cases with a niche application so if some someone is very good in security looking at analyzing security footage and camera for this project you're going to bring that in and use the analytics for them correctly and then you're going to be looking at someone amazing with O&M and energy and we will be looking at them and probably you may have two-three players who are aligned with O&M and energy and you would want to have the flexibility to say that okay I'm going to be using certain APIs or applications from x for certain use cases and for else I would like to have the flexibility to use someone else. So yes it is going to happen but probably it’s going to take the time that's my two cents on that. 


[Coexistence of different tech players and different applications]


Sumit: As I see it in the entire building analytics value chain that, most of the startups are focusing on different parts of the problem so, for example, there are applications which are focused on giving close loop solution for particular asset class while at the same time there are a few applications which are bringing or combining complete intelligence of the entire assets and giving completely different solution to the client so, according to you how does the collaboration will look like as the both of the solution providers are focusing on a different part of problems?


Umesh: I think there is going to be co-existence but, I don't think we have reached that stage. Even when you look at building analytics and smart building your space, we have been around for quite some time so not that these are in their infantry but I think the core existence is certainly going to continue there's no doubt. I think it's the buyers or the users who are going to drive this so more than the push from startups or incumbent technology players I think it's equal or the major role going to be played by the people who buy it. When you take examples of chiller monitoring or chiller optimization software which are fairly popular when you look at it.


“You are going to be looking at a situation where the collaboration between a chiller optimization software and analytic software is going to be driven by the fact where the buyer says that okay I want to use the chiller optimization feature but experience it on application of choice”


Now they might be very good with that particular application or their knowledge within your product or to optimization but can we use it via or another software that does more for us. so if people start to ask that question or want to look for that solution so you have a case for collaboration I mean what I've also seen I mean with very little experience that I've had in my career before I was doing building analytics is the fact that startup collaborators have to have very deep clarity on what they're going to do in the future and


It's not about the influencing but it's having a very much clarity of what that integration is going to mean and it has to meet some sort of dollar value and that dollar value can only be attached from startup's perspective if there is a dollar value for the customer now most of these associations otherwise won't make a difference just stopping and taking a clue out of it and as we are expanding, so we've been recently tied up with a company called wattsense from Paris, they are amazing and on the mission to change the status quo when it comes to the data connectivity of the smart buildings. now we are happy to collaborate with them and are trying to build the solution which could take our stack - the leanest stack which covers energy, sustainability, air quality, tenant management and billing all rolled and Offering either an on-premise solution or a cloud solution to the customers which are managing small medium-sized facilities. so that's a clear demand where two different technologies are set to come together and offer an integrated solution. Here we're expecting whether the customer goes to wattsense and says okay I want to buy the hardware from you and then I'll figure out who I'm going to buy the software layer.


“So according to me, the software will always drive the decision making but obviously when you look at technologies like hardware and other comms they are always laying the deeply integrated path in the entire ecosystem”


And at the end of the day customer's concerns are all about the solution whether they are going to save on time and money and also improve the experience then that's what they want.


Hello there, how do you like the conversation? I hope it has helped you clear some of your concepts regarding ‘overlay software’ or may have ignited ideas or questions in your mind. Whichever way it is, we would like to hear about it. You can write us down your thoughts at or ping us on LinkedIn or Twitter.