Realcomm and IBCon Summary Interview by AutomatedBuildings.com

by Tom Shircliff and Rob Murchison

Originally published at AutomatedBuildings.com

 Cyber theme present throughout

Sinclair: Well it’s that time of year again for the Realcomm/IBCon Conferences. Attendance was up and so was the energy. To what do you guys attribute that?

Shircliff and Murchison: Thanks Ken. We think there are several factors here. First of all the industry continues to mature making “smart buildings” more like “current buildings”. So, if you are not up to speed or you are trying to continue to refine your strategy Realcomm/IBCon is the place to do that. Another factor is the continued adoption of analytics which seems to be on everyone’s mind as a low cost high value tool. Finally, this may mark the year that the industry awoke to the issue of cyber security in building controls and that was evident in the education sessions, exhibitor products and services and the talk in the hallways.

Sinclair: Before we get to cyber, which I agree seems to be an emerging and big topic, let me ask what you mean about “current buildings”?

Shircliff and Murchison: The inertia of information technology in facility related systems has been building for years starting with the fact that nearly all monitor and control systems work on computers and networks. Add to that the importance of software, remote access, interoperability and then big data and analytics. You really can’t have a “low tech” building even if you wanted. Technology has been thrust upon us and it is now a bigger risk to maintain the status quo than it is to adopt a “smart” strategy.

Sinclair: What kind of risks are there to the status quo?

Shircliff and Murchison: There are several including rising cost structure of capital and operational expenditures, increased down time and occupant expectations gaps. This can be caused by proprietary, disparate systems, lack of access to data, skills gaps with your FM, PM and O&M staff and contractors and competitor differentiation.

Sinclair: And you say analytics remained a hot topic at the conference?

Shircliff and Murchison: Indeed. There were a number of sessions and case studies about analytics and the topic of big data and analytics has shifted from “what is it?” to “how do I do it?”. Additionally, the phrase “big data” was woven through many different seasons and conversations indicating that data driven decision making is finally becoming the logical approach for front of house.

Sinclair: You mentioned the questions of “how do I do it?”. Is there a short answer to that?

Shircliff and Murchison: The short answer to “how do I do it” is really all about two things: 1) Organizational commitment (since analytics don’t fix anything by themselves) and 2) Solution and customer matching (fit is more important than who has the most scientific approach). We have divided the industry into back quadrants on an X/Y axis to help building owners and managers get to the best fit.

Sinclair: One of your first answers about this year’s conference included cyber security. We all see that bubbling in real estate trade publications and of course in the general media – so where are we in the industry and how was that reflected at Realcomm/IBCon?

Shircliff and Murchison: It is really hard to believe it has taken this long for cyber security to become a big deal. We say that because, as noted earlier it has been many years since monitor and controls systems have been built on servers, software, protocols, networking and remote access. This is just how they work. Add to that that you have many different vendors and contractors putting in all these different IT components who are not IT experts, nor are they cyber security experts, and you can see the risk beginning to rise. We don’t fault the contractors because they have to do what they have to do for their systems to connect and work. However, it’s time for owners and managers to take the reins.

Sinclair: What would they do to “take the reins”?

Score CardShircliff and Murchison: With so many systems, by so many vendors over so many years owners and managers have to start with assessing what their specific situation is. Our solution to this is that we offer a quick and easy cyber assessment with a score card based on industry standards built around standards and principles from NIST, IOS and DHS. This will give you a risk profile on the score card along with a remediation plan. We think the visibility of this is very important but it’s also important not to over complicate this from the start. This image shows an example of this.

Sinclair: The topic of cyber security is inherently complex to many people. What is the best way to demystify this for the real estate community, who are not typically IT experts?

Shircliff and Murchison: We have struggled at times with how to communicate these basic issues, so we developed a “Cyber Security Primer Video” that is done in the style of the animated white board drawing along with narration. It’s very basic and fun to watch. We have feedback that it helps establish the core issues. You can find it HERE.

Sinclair: Thank you for telling our audience about your take on Realcomm/IBCon and these hot topics. I will add that your interview at “Conference Live” can be found HERE and it talks about the conference and more about cyber security.

Shircliff and Murchison: Thank you Ken, we appreciate your coverage of the industry.