On this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Ryan Chacon is accompanied by Thomas Gere, Senior Business Development at Renesas, to discuss private LTE and 5G networks concerning the smart building industry. Thomas starts the podcast with an overview of the smart building space before discussing leading use cases in the industry. He then details the ROI goals of companies adopting IoT in the market. Ryan and Thomas then transition into the importance of private LTE and 5G in the industry before moving into a high-level conversation around challenges to adoption and the best way to begin your journey.
Thomas Gere is a serial entrepreneur and emerging technologies executive with an international background. He specializes in IoT, AI, and wireless technologies such as 5G, having worked with prominent ICT vendors and tier 1 telcos. Interested in the convergence of smart IoT and in-building wireless technologies to accelerate sustainable buildings.
Interested in connecting with Thomas? Reach out on Linkedin!
Renesas continuously strive to drive innovation with a comprehensive portfolio of microcontrollers, analog, and power devices. Its mission is to develop a safer, healthier, greener, and smarter world by providing intelligence to its four focus growth segments: Automotive, Industrial, Infrastructure, and IoT, which are all vital to our daily lives, meaning their products and solutions are embedded everywhere. Their Industrial Edge Computing (IEC) team originates from Echelon Corporation, the inventor of the LON protocol, bringing 30 years of automation and control heritage. Echelon was then acquired by Adesto and Dialog Semiconductor. The SmartServer™ IoT is at the core of the IEC solutions and is marketed through their system integrators and distributors partners.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:27) Introduction to Renesa and Thomas
(03:33) Landscape of the smart building space
(07:05) Leading use cases
(08:18) ROI goals of companies
(10:13) Private LTE 5G role in smart buildings
(17:36) Biggest challenges in adoption
(20:45) Best way to begin adoption
– [Voice Over] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast, the number one publication and resource for the Internet of Things. If you are watching this on YouTube, please like this video and subscribe to our channel if you haven’t already done so. If you’re listening to this on a podcast directory, we would truly appreciate it if you would subscribe so you get the latest episode as soon as they are out. All right, my name’s Ryan Chacon, I’ll be your host. And on today’s episode, we have Thomas Gere, the senior business development of 5G Edge IoT at Renesas. They are an organization that is continually striving to drive innovation with a comprehensive portfolio of micro-controllers, analog and power devices. On this episode, we talk a lot about the combination of private and LTE 5G DAS network integration with smart buildings, and kind of how that fits into the IoT space. Leading use cases for smart buildings, the ROI goals of smart building that property managers and owners have, different other connectivity options in the space, as well as challenges that they see from their point of view. All in all a fantastic episode. I think you’ll get a lot of value out of it. But before we get into it, any of you out there are looking to enter the fast growing and profitable IoT market, but don’t know where to start? Check out our sponsor, Leverege. Leverege’s IoT solutions development platform provides everything you need to create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. To learn more, go to IoTchangeseverything.com, that’s IoTchangeseverything.com. And without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome Thomas to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Thomas] Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here, looking forward to it.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, me as well. Let’s start off by having you do a quick introduction about yourself to our audience.
– [Thomas] Yes, Thomas Gere, I work for Renesas, joined them last year. They’re a very large semiconductor company and well known in automotive and in IoT. And I’ve joined after a career as an entrepreneur and entrepreneur as well, looking into 5G and also retail IoT and all the emerging technologies the last few years. And I’m bringing the combination of, you know, 5G private networking, working with tier one telcos as well as smart building IoT, which is, you know, what we are going to discuss today.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, yeah. So tell me a little bit more about the company’s role in the IoT space.
– [Thomas] Sure, so actually my team comes from a company called Echelon. So that has been acquired multiple times in the last few years. And the core of the team is still there and they invented the LonWorks protocol around, you know, 30 years ago. And then it has been pretty successful. They got lots of traction in smart cities. So a lot of city lights for example, are equipped with, you know, the Echelon and the solution, and still today. And they’ve evolved the product into a, you know, hardware and software stack where, you know, they are serving basically mostly now the smart building market, you know, to bridge basically older protocols and newer ones and basically translate, you know, data streams into digital twin that can basically be used by building management systems and also analytics and, you know, smart basically intelligence platforms.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So, yeah, I wanted to, I know you mentioned a second ago, what we, you know, kind of plan to talk about here on the smart building space, but tell us just from your perspective what the landscape kind of looks like and feels like for you in the smart building space as it relates to things that are going on with IoT.
– [Thomas] Yeah. So yeah, I can see the very large traditional players from one side. They obviously have, you know, a top to bottom, you know, solution and they’ve been around a lot. You know, most of them have their hardware or they bring in the hardware, you know, from a few suppliers. And obviously they try to, you know, to get market traction around offering a whole solution end to end. And then I can see the disruptors to that. So intelligence prop tech companies. So IoT prop tech where you’ll have data intelligence with dashboards, some of them just doing reporting and analysis. Others doing more, offering automation as well. And then there are companies, you know, they are just doing gateway controllers, basically the hardware that is going to bridge, you know, those, you know, software solutions, including building management systems. You know, our building automation systems, the different terminologies according to where you are based in the world. And those can be, you know, fragmented and the gateway controllers most of the time are just a piece of hardware and there’s nothing on them really, apart from, you know, the drivers themselves, you know, to basically have a system to connect and reach, you know, all the protocols that might be already in place in a building, if it’s a retrofit project, for example, if you’re going to redo and upgrade, you know, a building that has a simple, you know, manual control system into an automated and smart, you know, optimized energy one. And there is a gap basically in the market. That’s how I can see. So I can see a lot of disruption. I’m actually looking into prospective partnerships myself. So it’s part of my work is to look at the landscape in terms of, you know, the AI software as a service. The facilities managers are also expanding their offering. So from purely, you know, offering management service, they’re also going into energy optimization and analytics and dashboards. And that can serve them well as well because obviously they can have internally, they can get savings, but they can also offer another business. So there there’s a lot of different players now in the industry and I think it’s a very interesting time because even, you know, startups have 10 to 15 people are getting really big contracts. So I can see a lot of acquisitions as well. You probably know more than I do ’cause obviously you’re releasing a lot of news, you know, regularly. And some of the big guys, you know, are obviously acquiring, you know, interesting startups. Plus telcos as well are going into IoT and that’s another topic as well, where, you know, more than a set tracking, they’re looking at, you know, expanding their services offering. So that’s an interesting one as well to look into.
– [Ryan] And what, from what you’ve seen happening in the market, are there any use cases in the smart building kind of environment that are really leading the way?
– [Thomas] Yeah, I think at the moment it’s more, you know, coming from the needs. So you have energy costs that are going, you know, higher and higher, so you wanna save energy bills. So obviously if you optimize your building with smart building management systems and you have the right, you know, devices and interfaces in place, you can achieve that. Then you have wellbeing. So from a health perspective for occupants, not only because of COVID, but that’s one reason, obviously you wanna have the right, you know, sensors to monitor air quality, but you also want people to be, you know, to have a pleasant office and have a nice place to visit if it’s a public venue. So those are very important, you know, metrics for building owners and property management now and they’re investing heavily in retrofits to be able to achieve that.
– [Thomas] And when you work with a company kind of on these types of projects or you’re exposed to these types of projects, what are the ROI goals that these companies and these building owners, property owners are looking for when they’re getting involved in IoT? I know it obviously depends on per use case, but is there kind of at a high level, is there a common ROI that maybe is more specific to this industry as opposed to just kind of the broader sense of, oh, they’re always trying to save costs, become more efficient.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I think at the moment as well, you wanna optimize the space on the top of the energy monitoring and optimization, you know, also, you know, occupants wellbeing. You want to optimize your space so if you are a landlord or an FM that is managing a building and looking after the, you know, the tenants, you wanna make sure that, you know, all the floor space is occupied and is optimized so you can get a higher yield, you know? So that’s also from an economics point of view. If you are building or retrofitting and selling off a building, you’re increasing the value by having a smart building system as well. So that’s also another type of, you know, economics that’s very important. And obviously you want to future proof the building as well. That’s more long term, you know, value, so that you have systems in place, you know, that are opened and able to be upgraded, you know, not only for smart buildings but connectivity as well. So that’s, you know, you’re offering, you know, cellular connectivity, you can have private networking, you can have basically other important, you know, basically services for, you know, public venues and also, you know, corporate real estate.
– [Ryan] And when you mentioned connectivity here for a second, can you talk about, and this is a discussion of how with others in the past, not necessarily as it relates to the smart building space but just generally about private LTE 5G kind of networks, how is that playing a role in the smart building landscape and just the enablement of solutions that are becoming more popular as you’re getting kind of into like private versus the public networks. What is being utilized more and kind of how is that fitting in?
– [Thomas] Yeah, I mean, it’s an interesting one because, you know, for the last five, six years, you know, traditionally 5G has been in terms of private networking has been looking at industrial 5G. So manufacturing, you know, parts. And actually when you dig into those, they don’t really have a need for 5G as a core technology. And it is as a complimentary one for specific use cases. So if it’s a very big industrial campus, they might benefit from having, you know, 5G basically, because all their assets, you know, are moving in a very large area. And in the past as well, they would benefit from private LTE, for example, when they had interference. So if the warehouse had a lot of metal infrastructure and, you know, obviously, you know, that has an advantage versus the old versions of WiFi. But now WiFi is evolving, WiFi 6E and WiFi 7 coming. And basically they’re addressing all those problems, including the density of devices that are connected at the same time ’cause that’s one of the big thing that 5G, you know, is bringing, and bandwidth as well. So it’s addressing those problems plus interference as well by having different basically bandwidths, you know, and different bands on the back on the spectrum as well. So those are where traditionally where 5G was being looked at and it’s still, you know, there’s still a lot of working groups around that. But you can already see in the media that people asking why there’s not more traction on this. And basically, yeah, because I think hybrid networking is the answer for that. But to answer your question, in small buildings, traditionally as well you’ll have the private network system integrators and distributed antenna systems. So basically the ability to expand the public cellular network. So basically if you are in a mall underground, you wouldn’t have, you know, external areas that would reach your mobile. So you might be, you know, out of coverage. And the distribution in the system, so the task is bringing you coverage and to do that, it’s quite expensive, you know, because there’s a lot of radio survey that needs to be done so that, you know, all the important locations are covered. The equipment is expensive and, you know, that’s traditionally, that’s been a barrier and only, you know, the biggest stadiums and big malls have been able to do that or very remote areas. And that’s changing, that’s being disrupted by new players and also some telco vendors also being, you know, doing a lot of innovation on this with virtualized solutions where you are able to put a lot of the stack of the network in the cloud or on servers, if it needs to be on premise, but in a fully virtualized way. So you are able to use, you know, existing, you know, white, you know, white box, basically hardware. And what it means is that you are able to slice the network. So you’ll have a private network, you’ll have a public one, and you connect to the back hole of the telcos so that, you know, providing, you know, the services to the end user, like you will be. And you’re basically simplifying the whole equation. So that means that the costs, you know, to install are reducing dramatically. And you can just use the existing backbone of a network in the building. And that means that this same backbone, you can also share with it all the IoT framework that you’re using to connect to, for example, you know, hedge back, if you’re using ethernet and power of ethernet. Your ethernet network can be in the background and then you use smart gateways to basically, you know, exchange data and connect different protocols. So if you have LoRa and then you might have, you know, WiFi and you have the ethernet in the background, and those can enable to have basically this hybrid network. What that means is that instead of having a system integrator for small buildings and another for private networks, those can either work together or a similar, the same system integrator can deploy, you know, a private network or distribute an antenna system, so public network expansion and a smart building at the same time. And the advantage here as well is that by doing this because it’s smart buildings as we know, and we can talk about it here, you can achieve, you know, in average, 30% energy cost reduction and maintenance as well, cost reduction by having predictive maintenance, you can bring those savings to your investment costs when you are investing in a private network or in a distributed antenna system and you’re doing the smart building upgrade at the same time, you can bring those energy savings, you know, to reduce your CapEx and your OpEx. So your investment in capital to have those upgrades done and your operating as well costs. So your total cost of ownership is gonna be diminished drastically and as a result, that can really open, you know, the door and make those two of three technologies, you know, accessible to more building owners. You know, it doesn’t have to be, you know, the biggest shopping malls and the biggest airports and the biggest, you know, CREs. It’s actually reachable to people that just want, you know, their visitors to basically have continuous, you know, 4G and 5G coverage when they come to their offices. And at the same time, they can privatize their network, you know, having a hybrid WiFi plus cellular, you know, connectivity. And at the same time, they have smart buildings. So all this all-in-one because basically technologies have been simplified so it’s much more accessible. And the learning curve as well for system integrators is much simpler, much faster, you know, because there’s software, defined networking involved, and this is making it much easier. Plus you have subscription, you know, models as well, even for public and private 5G connectivity now. So that’s also changing the game.
– [Ryan] Gotcha, fantastic, yeah. One other thing I wanted to ask you is when, you know, we’ve talked a lot about different kinda areas as it connects to the smart building space, but what are some of the biggest challenges that you’re seeing lead the way from an adoption standpoint in this industry? Are there things that are still difficult for companies to kind of get over the hump to adopt? And if so, what are they? And what advice do you have for companies to kind of work through them?
– [Thomas] Yeah, I mean, some people might think that they’re stuck with a system, that’s one scenario and that we can see quite often. So they’re stuck one with one system and the thing that’s too, they cannot come out of it basically and the system cannot talk, you know, to open platforms. And really, you know, and then the costs for if they keep that system to also add, you know, a total energy optimization service might be prohibitive. So they think, you know, oh, I’m gonna have to rip everything out if I want to basically have a more modular approach and, you know, have those new guys, you know, bringing me the smart building solution. And that’s a misconception. There are solutions today, you know, that can actually interface, you know, older systems, you know, from the big guys to newer ones. So, you know, that’s something that we do for example, with the smart server. And it’s important because otherwise you just get stuck, you know, in one system until, you know, you’re forced to upgrade, for example, at the last minute, if you have, you know, ESG targets for your building. So I know here in the UK by 2030, people have to at least have a B, achieve a B on the EPC scale, which is, you know, basically they need to be extremely sustainable. And then as we know, by 2050, which is longer term it just needs to be, you know, they need to have the best, you know, smart building systems in place at all times so that they have net zero emission. And so that’s been one problem. Second is also obviously the preconception about costs. So same thing applies for, you know, private network, distributing antenna system as with smart buildings. Before we think it’s too prohibitive, it’s expensive to do it, but actually there are already suppliers that provide self-install, you know, kits, or, you know, for us, for example, the smart server, we have a library of 300, you know, devices built in. So it can be either, you know, put in an existing, you know, integrated legacy and building a automation system by an integrator at sensors. And already you’ll have, you know, a first phase of a smart building system in place at very low cost, ’cause you won’t have to completely replace everything. So that’s an example.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. And for companies out there looking to kind of go down this route and potentially adopt some of these use cases and things that we’re talking about now, what’s the best way you think they can go about doing that?
– [Thomas] Yeah, I think they should basically reach out, you know, to system integrators that are specialized, you know, and IoT consultants as well that specialized in energy optimization, and find out, you know, get a survey and get some, you know, some data of, you know, what it could bring them in terms of, you know, energy optimization. Can they upgrade as well, some of their, you know, grid connection because now you have smart grids that are coming as well where you can have some local energy, you know, production on the system where you can actually sell that off. And that can further reduce, you know, your energy costs as well. And you can even, you know, just, you can actually make money from it. So that’s the next big thing. And at the same time, just inquire, look at the press like IoT For All, and see what other, you know, building owners and managers have been achieving, you know, in terms of results because, you know, it’s becoming consistent now 30 to 50%, you know, savings on energy. A lot less relative maintenance so you can reduce, you know, some of your operating costs as well. So yeah, there’s a lot to do and there’s a lot to learn, but solutions are becoming simpler and, you know, there’s a lot of different stages you can actually, you know, adopt technologies from. And it doesn’t have to be a full scale solution from the beginning. It can be done step by step.
– [Ryan] Yeah, that’s definitely something that I think most of the experts I have on here advocate for. Start small, start simple, start proving the ROI and then once you do that, you can scale. And then also when you scale initial solution usually opens up other ideas and other channels to be able to do more on top of what you’ve already done, especially in a smart building space. There’s just so much you can do in one environment. And I think that’s always important thing to think about, especially from the onset because the infrastructure that you lay down at the beginning is gonna help contribute to the success of all those use cases down the line. So all very, very good points. For audience out there who wants to learn more, follow up, stay in touch, maybe kind of dive in a bit further to these topics, connect with you, anybody on your team, what’s the best way that they can do that?
– [Thomas] Yeah, so the best is to reach out to me, connect on LinkedIn and also, yeah, we have an email for our team. If people want to connect to us, they can do so, you know, on the [email protected] And I can share more information as well if we have some notes for the podcasts on how to do that.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, Tom, thank you so much again for your time. Its been a great conversation. I think our audience will get a ton of value out of it. So really appreciate it and would love to find another opportunity to have you back.
– [Thomas] Yeah, my pleasure. Yeah, anytime.
– [Ryan] Thank you.
– [Thomas] Thanks a lot, Ryan. Bye-bye.
– [Ryan] All right, everyone, thanks again for watching that episode of the IoT For All podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel and be sure to hit the bell notification so you get the latest episodes as soon as they become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching and we’ll see you next time.