Month: February 2016

Super Bowl 50 In The World’s Smartest Stadium

Lets talk about why this is really interesting: Money.  The new home of the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, CA is not a smart stadium because it has 2,000 beacons, over 1,200 Wi-Fi hot spots providing wicked fast internet, 90 Kezar digital ticket scanners and a great app with amazing features; Levi’s Stadium is a smart stadium because it leverages data from and solutions possible through these technologies to create real, monetizable value that enables higher profits on games and other events.

When the greatest Internet of Things (IoT) technologies available today are appropriately deployed to make a smart building, they completely disappear.  They become part of an enriched experience, not a technology experience.  This weekend, Levi’s Stadium will become the largest smart building the world has experienced, either live at the stadium or live on television screens world wide. Let me share my first Levi’s Stadium experience with you.

2014 was a tough year.  I returned to Silicon Valley from Australia and gave myself 6 months to figure out what I wanted to do.  I began blogging here on WorkTechWork and dug in to the Silicon Valley technology scene.  During the year I completed a few good projects and built out a great network that includes many new friends.  Later in the year I spent 3 months working at a hardware startup in the connected home space that ran into major problems in November.  All opportunity with the startup was dead and gone by mid-December.  Jobless, without a project and with the holidays to celebrate as if nothing was wrong so as to not dampen the mood of my young kids, I was having a hard time keeping it together.

When the phone rang Saturday morning December 20th, I had no idea I was about to experience the smartest stadium in the world.  Jeff Stevens, who I had worked with volunteering with VLAB and on a couple side projects during the year, was on the line and asked if I wanted to go to a 49ers game that afternoon.  Since the days of Joe Montana and Steve Young I had followed the 49ers but had never been to a game.  That answer was YES!

Do you know the first thing I did with Jeff still on the phone?  Download the app.  I didn’t know where the seats were, what the game time was, who they were playing and at that moment I didn’t care.  I had only heard great things about the technology in the stadium and I knew I wanted that app.

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So why is this app wonderful for fans?

  • Instant game replays
  • In-Seat Delivery
    • Order that hot dog and beer and have it delivered to your seat
    • Order and have concessions delivered to a friend’s seat
  • Express Pickup
    • Order and beat the concession lines by picking up in the express line
  • Lines
    • Find the shortest restroom & concession lines
  •  Tickets
    • Check your tickets
    • Email & transfer tickets
    • Check in at the stadium
    • View upcoming events
    • Directions in the stadium
  •  Parking
    • Buy parking
    • Check parking
    • Map & directions to parking location

But it gets better because this app, which is the creation of Venue Next, enables Levi’s Stadium to gather data, fuse it with data from other sources (like those 2,000 Bluetooth beacons) and make data driven decisions that improve the profitability of an event and provide a better experience attendees.  It is an experience they’re willing to pay more for.  Just how much more?  In-seat delivery is available to every seat in the stadium and costs $5.

Is it worth it?  What if you miss the most amazing play of the game?  There is nothing that beats the thrill of a long run and touchdown.  During the game, 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick did just that with this 90-yard run.

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Click to watch

Some moments are best enjoyed not in line, but from the 3rd row at the 20 yard line, or wherever your seat might be.

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Miss this to save $5 and you’ll regret it.  I didn’t miss it and I won’t forget it.  If you’re reading this before heading to Super Bowl 50, download the app now!

The Levi’s Stadium experience isn’t just about the app.  The entire stadium is carefully laid out and you can tell every effort has been made to make it visually appealing.  You don’t see any of the technology because the thousands of antennas for all of that Wi-Fi, the additional cell phone carrier distributed antenna systems to provide cell coverage and all of those beacons are neatly tucked away.  You’re not distracted by cables and wires for speakers, you hear the game and feel how the sound system both amplifies the experience and at the same time balances the crowds energy.

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Some technologies, such as the gigantic displays at both ends of the field, are meant to be seen and enjoyed.  You can see both displays in this panoramic.  Notice how nicely the digital signage on the balcony fits into the scene.  The gigantic displays provide instant replays to the fans.  Advertising opportunities abound for brands who want to reach fans via the gigantic displays and smaller balcony screens.  They are part of the technology enriching the experience and creating monetizable value.

Towards the end of the game, Jeff and I met up with Robert Scoble and Rocky Barbanica to explore the stadium.  We checked out the different concession areas and watched the kicker kick a field goal right at us.  It was cool.  Everything about the stadium is cool. This includes the cool blue lights on the escalators.

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I get excited about technology working for you, especially when it is creating enriched experiences and real, monetizable value.  Smart Building technology in Levi’s Stadium is no exception.

Whether or not you’re in the stands this Sunday, take the opportunity to learn more about smart building technology on Feb 16th at the San Francisco Bay Area’s chapter of the MIT Enterprise Forum.  Tickets and info here.

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Ballasts, LEDs and Smart Lighting for Non-residential Buildings

One component of every nonresidential building may be an indicator of how complex creating a smart building really is: Ballasts.  Jesse Foote, Senior Research Analyst at Navigant Research explains, “You need a different kind of ballast for different lamp types (fluorescent, metal halide, high pressure sodium, etc), and for different tube sizes (T5, T8, CFL, etc), and for different wattages, and different numbers of lamps, and start types (instant start v programmed start), and ballast factors.  And, of course, there are multiple companies that manufacture ballasts.”

The result is that deployed today in nonresidential buildings around the world are hundreds, maybe even thousands of different kinds of ballasts.  Ballasts have been the go-to solution for regulating energy in commercial lighting for decades.  But with the entrance of LED lighting, which in some cases boasts 50% energy savings, runs up to 5 times longer and produces a higher quality light, ballast moderated lighting installations are on the decline.

Ballast Unit Shipments by Region, World Markets: 2015-2024

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(Source: Navigant Research)

While shipments are decreasing it doesn’t necessarily mean that building owners, operators and facility managers are rapidly replacing ballasts, because doing so is costly, labor intensive and facilities management does not typically get a sweet allocation of a building budget. These costs present a problem companies are vying to solve.

Alternatives have entered the market that make switching to LED less costly and less invasive.  One example, Lunera, developed LED lightbulbs that makes it possible to switch from CFL, from metal halide and from high-pressure sodium bulbs without replacing the ballasts or fixtures.  Thier retrofit solution brings the benefit of LED without the drawback of ballast replacement.

A second example is Enlighted, who’s investor Q Motiwala from Draper Nexus will speak on an upcoming MIT Enterprise Forum panel on Smart Buildings.  Enlighted has come up with a creative business model to address the FM budget issue.  The Enlighted Global Energy Optimization™ (GEO™) financing option offers Enlighted customers the opportunity to get the benefit of intelligent LED systems without a major capital outlay.

Enlighted CEO Joe Costello recently explained in an interview by Stacey Higginbotham on Episode 30 of the Internet of Things Podcast, “You don’t cough up a single penny. We come into the company.  We say…we’re going to design it, going to install it, going to finance it.  You don’t have to put up a cent.  It doesn’t impinge on your balance sheet one iota and you start getting the energy savings right away.”

This is a disruptive financing model with disruptive technology in a complex industry ripe for disruption.  It is no wonder the Draper Nexus investment in Enlighted is part of a $150M fund dedicated to smart building related technologies.  Silicon Valley investors looking for real value from the Internet of Things are finding it in smart building solutions.  For more information on smart buildings, check out the upcoming MIT Enterprise Forum panel on Smart Buildings to be held Feb 16, 2016 at SRI.

 

Markets Not Ready for Smart Home; Ready for Smart Building

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BlackRock San Francisco Office

Most people even in developed countries don’t know what a smart home is or what it can do.  Those involved in this game, especially in Silicon Valley where Internet of Things hype abounds, don’t realize just how many millions of people have no idea about the smart gadgetry entering the market today, even if they have heard of Google’s Nest.  People outside the hype don’t know how to use it.  They don’t know how it will benefit their lives.

And more importantly, most of the millions of people who don’t know, don’t actually care!  They have lights, thermostats and locks that work just the way they’ve worked for their lifetime.  Compelling reasons do not exist for them to change to security violation prone and buggy hardware and software, software that is currently delivering a less-than-ideal user experience because the leaders in the field haven’t had enough time to discover what the true UX ought to be.

On the other hand, the smart building market has been primed for smart building technology even though the people involved wouldn’t necessarily say they want a smart building. Building owners, operators and facility managers are looking for solutions to their problems, solutions that the IoT can deliver. But why has the pump been primed so that they are looking for these solutions?

Green building initiatives and legislation are pushing building investors, owners and managers to look seriously at energy consumption.  Talk to a building owner, operator or facilities manager about ‘smart’ or ‘IoT’ and their eyes will glaze over. Talk to them about technology delivering 83% improved occupant satisfaction while decreasing energy consumption in buildings 15-47%, as Building Robotics’ solution Comfy does, and they’re all ears.

The real estate crisis also made owners, operators and facility managers acutely aware of every cent on a budget, engendering a focus on lowering expenses and increasing operational efficiencies.  Their eyes will get excited again when you mention technology enabling operational efficiencies, the likes of which they haven’t seen before.   Anyone who has worked on a building budget (and my eyes saw hundreds at BlackRock over nearly 6 years) knows a % decrease in operating expenses trumps the same % reduction in building energy consumption every time.  When you cut tenant hot/cold complaints by over 90% that is a huge operational savings and that is just one area smart buildings reduce operating expenses.

Building occupants are also demanding smarter environments, open plans, flexible working space and building wide cell phone and Wi-Fi coverage.  Those same eyes will light up when you talk about these things and how they improve tenant satisfaction and comfort.

Because of the costs of managing large corporate campuses, companies are looking for ways to improve space utilization.  Companies such as connected lighting provider Enlighted can not only provide energy efficient lighting but also shine the light on space planning challenges and through data quantitatively answer the question, “Is our new open floor plan working?”

Smart buildings will be the center of the discussion on the most interesting panel discussion on commercial real estate technology the world has seen, and it will be held in Silicon Valley at SRI a place known for producing innovation.  Building Robotics CEO Andrew Krioukov and Enlighted investor Q Motiwala from Draper Nexus will participate in the event alongside other leaders in the smart building space.  More on the event can be found here: https://www.vlab.org/events/smart-buildings/

 

Building Automation Isn’t New; Home Automation Is

 

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With the invention of the elevator and the development of the world’s first sky scrapers, buildings and building systems became larger and more complex and building automation was born to automate and control individual building functions.  While some systems for the residents of luxury homes have been created to automate some experiences in recent decades, relatively speaking the entire idea of automating the home has been something of science fiction until quite recently when startups entered the market with connected objects that could be automated such as thermostats and lights.  Because of this head start, commercial real estate operators recognize and understand building automation while home automation is relatively foreign to home owners.

Home automation is just cutting its teeth with devices such as Nest and Philips hue, while Building Automation Systems or BAS have already developed offspring, BMS or Building Management Systems which network together multiple BASs and the BEMS or Building Energy Management Systems that use info from BMS and BAS along with information from utilities, information from the utility provider and even weather information through APIs to create a holistic energy management system that incorporates disparate variables into a cohesive energy management system.

One might be thinking that with all of this, a building is already ‘smart’ or a part of the Internet of Things or IoT.  Based on some definitions of IoT, this might actually be the case.  But stunning entrepreneurs and a select number of savvy investors believe that deploying hundreds of additional sensors in buildings will generate millions of data points that will actually create millions of dollars of value by harnessing the power of analytics to arrive at insights that will change the way owners, operators and facilities managers understand and operate their buildings.  Changes, savings and value generation will come in energy and operations as well as in other areas, like understanding and optimizing space utilization.

Smart buildings will be the center of the discussion on the most interesting panel discussion on commercial real estate technology the world has seen, and it will be held in Silicon Valley at SRI a place known for producing innovation.  More on the event can be found here: https://www.vlab.org/events/smart-buildings/