In episode 15 of the Let’s Connect! Podcast, Robert Hemmerdinger, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Delta Controls, joins us to talk about why smarter, safer buildings that have been left empty for more than a year, all over the globe, need to be rethought, and how that process is more opportunity than problem for building owners and managers.
Robert and Ken explore how smarter, safer buildings can be enabled by IoT and how those same tools can be leveraged to make square footage more flexible and usable by many stakeholders, instead of relying on long-term leases of the past that might not rematerialize in the present.
Robert Hemmerdinger is the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Delta Controls, Inc. and a member of the executive management team. Robert’s role includes global responsibility for sales growth and driving brand awareness. Robert first started his career in 1997 as a technical support engineer with Andover Controls, which was acquired by Schneider Electric in 2004. With a background in engineering, he served in a variety of positions including in product management, strategic sales and business development for the U.S., EMEA and Asia Pacific markets.
Delta Controls is the benchmark for Smart Building manufacturers, being one of the most respected organizations in our industry. We pride ourselves on our integrity, reliability, innovation and track record of our products and partners. At the root of our success is our people who use technology to create products that are simple, yet powerful enough to last, and we never compromise on quality. We care for the world around us, and we are proud to be a part of the integration upon which infrastructures and businesses are built. With a top-down view from the center of the room, the O3 Sensor Hub detects motion, sound, light, and temperature with new levels of accuracy. The O3 Room Controller is DIN rail mountable and combines modular I/O with room-level integration. The O3 is a complete solution that combines HVAC, access and lighting control in a modular system. It combines multiple protocols and I/O points in one unit. Follow Delta Controls on Twitter.
Key Question and Topics from this Episode:
(0:00) Welcome to the Let’s Connect! Podcast
(1:33) Introduction to Robert Hemmerdinger and Delta Controls.
(4:00) What Does IoT Give a Building Owner or Manager?
(5:54) The Market Differences Between New Construction and Retrofit
(8:00) Delta Controls O3 Device for Occupancy Sensing
(10:30) The Smart Building of Theseus
(11:42) Smarter, Safer Building Efficiency… and Profits
(14:07) Commercial Real Estate is at an Inflection Point
(20:00) Multi-Use Offices and Hot Desking as a Growing Market Trend
(23:00) Final Thoughts
- [Ken] This is the IoT for All media network. Hello, friends in IoT. Welcome to Let's Connect, the newest podcast in the IoT for All media network. I am Ken Briodagh, Editorial Director for IoT for All, and your host. If you enjoy this episode, please remember to like, subscribe, rate, review, and comment at all your favorite podcasting platforms. And to keep up with all the IoT insights you need, visit IoTforall.com. Before we get into our episode, the IoT market will surpass $1 trillion in the next few years. Is your business ready to capitalize on this new and growing trend? Use leverage is powerful IoT solutions development platform to efficiently create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. Help your customers increase operational efficiency, improve customer experience, or even unlock new revenue streams with IoT. To learn more, go to IoTchangeseverything.com, that's IoTchangeseverything.com. Now, let's connect. My guest today is Robert Hemmerdinger, chief sales and marketing officer for Delta Controls, Inc. And we're going to talk a little bit today about smart buildings and, in a change of pace from some of the other real estate and building conversations you've heard me have lately, what's next and how do we move forward? Robert, welcome to the show. - [Robert] Oh, it's a pleasure. Thank you for having me. - [Ken] Pleasure is entirely mine. In case folks aren't familiar with you, Robert, or with Delta Controls, can you give us a little idea of what you guys do and sort of how you fit into the IoT? - [Robert] Absolutely, so Delta Controls, we've been around for about 35 years now. We're headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. In that timeframe we've been pretty much focused on building automation building management systems, but that has led us down into the paths of access control and lighting control, analytics with big data. We've got a number of firsts to our name as well. So, you know, first in the POE space, a good number of years now. I think about 15 years ago, 10, 15 years ago, we were the first in the POE space. So we've always been a very innovative company, always coming up with new solutions, new technologies. We sell predominantly through systems integrators, which we lovingly call our partners because we like to build a strong relationship with those systems integrators. We have about 400 of those around the world, probably about 110, something like that here in North America, and then the rest are dotted pretty much around the country. Me personally, I've been with Delta Controls for about four years now. I've done various things throughout my career. I actually live in Boston, Massachusetts now, but I think everyone will realize that I'm not a native of Massachusetts. - [Ken] I think a lot of people think that that might very well be at Boston accent. - [Robert] Yeah, my joke is, yeah, I'm from the South, the South of London. So yeah, so I was born in the UK, and I've done various things always in the building automation space. So whether it be, you know, started as an engineer and went into sales and then later management. So it's now my pleasure to run the sales and marketing team here at Delta, and have a lot of fun doing it. - [Ken] Yeah, it's I think an exciting time to be part of the IoT and there's a lot of growth happening in a lot of different directions. And I think that that's been true of the industry for a long time, but I think that there's starting to be some coalescing of pathways and strategies that make sense, you know. I don't think it's a contracting of the industry so much as a finding some best practices in a still developing industry. - [Robert] Yes, absolutely. And when I think about IoT for buildings and, you know, the feedback that we get really it's centered around kind of two different disciplines depending on the audience. So, you know, if you're involved in the running of the building, the management of the building, the facilities, what IoT really gives you is a device that's somewhat standalone. It doesn't have to fit into maybe one of the older proprietary protocols that live with inside the building. It's got that capability to just be a device that stands on its own, but uses IoT protocols, cybersecurity best practices to communicate with the rest of the infrastructure. And then from an occupant point of view, it gives you that connectedness with the building, right? It enables you to connect to an item within the facility, a device within the facility. And all of those systems that reside within buildings now are no longer foreign to me as an occupant, right. They are actually now part of my daily life as I use the facility. - [Ken] And I think that's huge, it's building that expectation for occupants because there's certainly for a long time, and I think probably still in the smart home market, a little bit of resistance to, is this thing necessary? Is it going to be hard for me to use or whatever, and as folks in commercial and more apartment style condos and buildings get used to this technology, I think that it'll make it sort of be a good stepping stone to the standalone house. - [Robert] Yeah. - [Ken] One thing that's really sort of been interesting to think about in the building space is. and this has been true for a long time, I think is the idea of upgrading legacy stuff and like making bolt-on solutions for dumb buildings and versus new construction and sort of starting from the ground up. And as I've been thinking about this more and more, I think that there's going to be a geographic or market divide in that, because you see a lot more new buildings, especially large new buildings going up in China and India and Southeast Asia, in Russia too. And starting to be true in Africa. Whereas in the US or North America, in Europe and Middle East, I think that a lot of those buildings are legacy. And so if they're going to be made smart, we're going to be looking at adding or upgrading solutions. Is that a fair sort of assessment? I left South America out, but I put that in the first group probably. - [Robert] Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. You know, the building stock is always made up of a lot of retrofit work. We often see that in this space and, not everyone is in the luxury to build a brand new building. You know, they're either in a building that's 10, 15, 20, 30 years old, but realistically in many cases, those buildings are 50, 60 years old, and they're historically, you know, very attractive aesthetically, you know. In this part of the world, and in the Northeast, We get a lot of mills, and they're fabulously beautiful looking buildings. So repurposing them to be something that is, you know, energy efficient, that is sustainable, but also has that, all that technology in that people want to use when they come into a facility, whether that's to work or is in a healthcare scenario or in a university scenario that it, that is very key. I think there's also a certain amount of, you know, reusability as well, we should look at, right. We're very quick as a society now to throw away and start again. And that's obviously a very expensive thing to do when you're talking about building. So, I mean, it's very incumbent upon us as manufacturers like Delta Controls to look at what we can do to add that capability to buildings, to existing building stock. So we actually have a product which we put out onto the market last year called the 03. It's a sensor hub device that resides within buildings. It's an IoT device in that it really can go into any building. It has its own API, it has MQTT capabilities, so you can stream data up and control the elements that you want to do back down to it. And we're seeing a lot of success of customers who want that connected experience with the facility. They want to give their users that mobile connectivity. They want to connect it maybe to a voice application but it's an existing infrastructure. All this device needs is a cat5 cable. You know, it just needs an ethernet cable, and off you go. - [Ken] Is it a sort of sensor hub or control hub? Or what are we talking about? - [Robert] It's a sensor hub, it's an occupancy sensor home. So we can bind about six different sensors into one package. Goes up on the ceiling. We remove what architects like to call wall acne. You know, horrible engineers like us come along and stick lots of bits of plastic along the wall. We get rid of all of that. And we put it into one device which lives up on the ceiling and it's got built in capabilities like temperature, humidity, Bluetooth beaconing. We have an audio sensor in there. We have a feedback with a light ring and a speaker capability in there. We have light level, light color. It's a very extensive list. And it also has a certain amount of machine learning capability in there as well. So we're constantly using the machine learning to really understand what an empty space is. So quite often, when, you know, in a scenario where you and I here, we're sitting very still, we're making noise, but we're not moving. So a traditional sensor would shut everything off, which frustrates people and then you have to do the arm waving to get the lights to come back on. The 03 is listening as well. It has a decibel monitoring capability in there. So us just talking, or even me typing on a keyboard is enough for it to understand that, Oh, no, there is someone in that space. I'll leave it alone for now. But as soon as it goes to quiet, as soon as I walk out the door, we can go unoccupied in a heartbeat. So, and that, and connecting to it with a mobile app capability with the API, we can really give the users of the space a much more connected experience. - [Ken] Sure. I don't want to go too far down the philosophical rabbit hole, but I sort of imagine legacy buildings as a physical ship of Theseus over time, and sort of by little by little just becoming a new building as a result of Oh, this year, we're doing the HVAC. Five years from now, we're doing all the occupancy sensors on the lights, and, you know, little by little, the Chrysler building becomes a smart building. And we sort of get to get the best of both worlds that way, even if you never get to the point that you hypothetically could get to on a new building, which is fully independent of power grid, for instance, or whatever. - [Robert] Yeah, yeah, that's very true. I think where we start to struggle with building fabric is very difficult in that scenario, but you're right When it comes to the technology inside the building it does become a plan that you need to chip away at things that you need to do, you know, build up and out on over time. As to what's right for the business at this moment. You know, that could be the lights. It could be the building management system. It could be the IT infrastructure - [Ken] For a long time, the smart building world's been about efficiency. It's been about, you know, make sure the lights go off, make sure the heat's not turning on when it's not necessary and is on when it is necessary. That kind of thing, you know, watching for leaks and floods and sort of safety, security, and efficiency. Is that still where we're at with buildings or is it moving in a more sort of proactive new direction? - [Robert] I think it's definitely moving in a completely new direction because those things are just table stakes now. They're expected, You don't build a building that isn't efficient. You don't build a building that doesn't integrate those systems together. I think what people are looking for now is a building that helps keep the occupants happy, content, efficient. If you talk to a lot of people that are building new facilities, it's all about the talent. It's all about getting the best talent in the building, whether it be an employer, whether it be a hospital looking for the best doctors, a university wanting to recruit the best, you know, students every year. It's all about those occupants and that occupant experience. And I think in the same way that, you know, when you buy a new car, you're never looking at the tires anymore. You're never really thinking about the braking system. You never think, well, has it got four seat belts or not? Because that's just table stakes, that's happening now. You're looking at, from a whole new perspective, as to what the building is. We see a lot of our customers really think about their building as an asset, and not just a financial asset, but an asset for their brand. It's the first thing, you know, visitors see, and therefore that's customers and stakeholders. Of course, it's employees. - [Ken] I think that another aspect, which is pertinent to the other topic that we want to talk about which is sort of the future, is this occupancy and flexibility in a building space. And for this, I think I'm thinking less of residential and more of commercial spaces, but listeners, this is a big secret behind the curtain, Robert and I have already talked once. And on that talk, we talked a little bit about this because I think it's really important. I think that the commercial real estate space is at a bit of an inflection point because of COVID and everything that happened over the last, you know, year to creeping up on 18 months now, where the buildings have been empty or a lot of them have been empty and now people want to go back, but they're also used to their houses and having a lot of convenience and a lot of that kind of thing. So I think a lot of people aren't going to want to go back, gonna be a little bit of push me, pull me, I think, and some of those decisions are going to be made based on, did my building spend the last year making it a better place to be? How are they going to do that? And for those that don't get back to full occupancy, how can they rethink the way they use their space and still remain viable? - [Robert] Right, yeah, it's a good point. I think you know, it's been a very strange year. That's a heck of an understatement. And I think initially when we all started working from home, a lot of large employers, kind of your Fortune 50, you know, big players said that employees could work from home indefinitely in many cases. Working from home was now just a new norm. And, of course that really worried the real estate, commercial real estate market that we're going to have you know, cities all around the world that are empty, a lot of empty office space. And of course, things have changed over the last 15 months, as you quite rightly say, in that a lot of us are done with working from home. As much as we love our families and our houses and being so close to the refrigerator has both its perks and its tremendous downsides when you get on the scales in the morning. We now are looking, I think a lot of us are longing for that in-office experience, being more collaborative, easier to onboard employees. You know, we've done a lot of recruiting over this this time period, and it's possible, but it's not optimal. And the same working on projects, you know, with multiple teams, again, it's possible, you can do it like this. It's not the best way of doing this. So people want to get back to the office. I think coming out of this the new normal is going to be a blend. You know, there were people that had to be in an office nine to five, Monday through Friday. I think that is going to be a very rare case. I think there's going to be a lot more flexibility. And so with that builds comes a different way when we think about the spaces, you know. There's going to be a lot less fixed desks. There's going to be a lot more flexible, working desks, a lot more flexible working spaces. People are very concerned about, okay, I'm going to go. You know, I know my building envelope, my home envelope residential envelope, I know how clean it is. I know who comes in here. I know whether they've been tested, vaccinated. I know just their philosophy with COVID and how respectful and responsible they are in the community and in society. But what about when I go to a bigger building, a public building? So we've been helping a lot of our customers through this. When we just personally released a document to help customers through that, looking at what things they could do from increasing the amount of fresh air changes they do into a space per hour. You know, we've seen guidelines from ASHRAE here in North America to help customers bring more fresh air into the space. Now that means that that air has to be either heated or cooled often. So therefore your energy is going to go up, but of course that is more than worth it compared to, you know, contracting a virus. We've helped them with touchless technologies, as well. So we mentioned a little bit earlier that 03 three sensor hub. That does give us the ability to control things within a space without actually having to touch anything, light switches, temperature sensors on our walls. All of that now can be done with a mobile phone that, you know, you're the only person that touches a mobile phone these days. So you feel there's certainly less contact points from touching. The other good thing about a device like the 03 is that we know how the space is being used. So we know if the space is being overused, if there's higher than average occupancy in that space we can maybe spread people out around a building. We can also steer people using this technology to, you know look, the hot desks on level two or floor two, are very occupied, go to floor three, they're pretty empty. So using this technology now, and we've been working on this for a number of years, this wasn't a response to COVID. We'd been working with technology to make people more productive and more efficient inside buildings. We're now just getting to use it to make them feel safer and to be safer. So it's a very exciting time. I think there's going to be a balance as we come out of COVID as to how occupied buildings are. Personally, I know I'm ready. - [Ken] You know, I will be fully at home indefinitely, so I am going to miss an office once in a while and I'm going to probably bring some headphones and work in a coffee shop every once in a while, just for the sake of the change of pace. So I can definitely sympathize with that feeling. Do you think there's much to the thought of more shared space as individual companies decide to use less square footage? Do you think there'll be more of, I dunno, bullpen style building space, where there are shared conference rooms or whatever. Or are companies still gonna want their own sort of walled garden? - [Robert] Yeah, this is a trend that we've seen been happening now for a number of years in North America. Europe has been definitely on this track at a faster pace is what we see with our customers and the people that we talk to on a regular basis. And it's not so much been around COVID obviously, or, you know, a pandemic like this, but it was more around lots of people, a lot of professional people, aren't doing nine to five, Monday to Friday sitting at the same desk. They are in conference rooms, working on collaboration projects. They are out visiting customers. They are working from home one day, two days a week because of the commute is horrible or they've got to do something with the kids or whatever it may be, or they just want the focus time. They want to just have some one-to-one time with the device and get some work done. So we've been seeing that trend for a while of moving away from designated, either, you know, physical office space or designated cubes to a lot more hot desking capability. And I think that is trend is going to grow with COVID because, you know, a lot of companies in the commercial office space are saying, well, if you're only going to come in for 20 hours of a week or 15 hours a week, you're a hot desk. And you need to be over 30 to have a dedicated desk, whether that be a physical office or a cube or whatever it may be. And in that way, it enables them to really focus on the amount of square foot that they need, the amount of actual desks that they need. And a lot of times that's technology that we can help them with. We can help them understand how much space are they using and how are they using it? You know, it's all part of that workplace efficiency world that real estate managers need so that they can better reuse the space. You know, quite often there's not enough meeting rooms, there's not enough collaboration space. And so really understanding how you're using the space and what the needs are, what the demands are, is going to help people better design buildings and run buildings for the new normal. - [Ken] Yeah. As we get near the end of our time, Robert, we've talked a lot about something I think everybody's interested in because everybody listening here works somewhere and has these thoughts. And a lot of them probably run and own buildings. I want to sort of give you the mic and give you the floor here to talk to those members of our audience who are in the IoT ecosystem world and want to provide technology to enable smart building, want to work in that space. What should they be thinking about? How should they be approaching this marketplace? And what are some of the important things that you see coming? - [Robert] Yeah, that's a great way. We like to look at it from the Applications perspective. You know, what are the Applications? What are you trying to achieve with the space? Whether it's bringing back your existing customers in a healthy way, whether it's attracting new customers, what's the Applications, what are you trying to achieve? And then we can apply the technology to it because we've got lots of technology. We've got to come out of our ears if we're honest, but understanding the Applications, that's really, really key for us. And, you know, we had a customer the other day that really liked the technology that we have for them, because they could... I told you a little bit earlier about how we can see when a building, excuse me, when a room is occupied based on noise. - [Ken] Right. - [Robert] And of course, they flipped it around the other way and said, well, does that mean you can tell me where all the quiet areas are? And we said, well, yeah, of we can. And they said, well, that's great because now I can tell people that need to go take a phone call, need to go work on some, you know, dedicated, you know, maybe they're writing something, they're looking over contracts. Something that needs that quiet time. We can now point them to this particular space, live in real time, you know, via web page, via mobile app to say, that's the quietest part in this facility right now in this building, in this campus, whatever it may be. So it's understanding those Applications. That's where we like to start. That's where we like to work with our customers. And I think the, the way the technology is going is that it's a hundred percent mobile. People do want that connected experience with their facility because they have it at home for not a lot of money. We touched upon this at the very beginning here, is that in the residential space smart buildings are very easy to achieve. I can go to Best Buy, they have rows of devices now. And it's all independent things from independent manufacturers, whether it's a camera from this manufacturer a doorbell from here, a thermostat over there, and I can buy these things, take them home, connect them to my wifi, connect them to my voice system of choice, whether it's Amazon's or Google's or Apple's, and my mobile device, and I don't need to be an engineer. I don't need a degree in programming. I can just connect these things. And I can have an experience that I share with the family very easily. So people are, they have this at home. They understand the value of it now in their home lives. They understand what it brings to them. They can very quickly turn everything off or everything on. They can get their levels just right, temperature and light levels exactly right. They feel safer because they're recording. And they know that there's a nice little perimeter of infrastructure around their home. They are expecting that same kind of technology and that same kind of connectedness when they go to their commercial space, whether it be a hospital, university, or a commercial real estate environment. And it's very achievable. All those systems have always been there. We've always had the temperature, the lighting, and the camera technology. It's now about giving a certain amount of control and connectiveness to the individual, to the occupants and letting them get the most out of that experience. - [Ken] I always like to end on focus on your customer and solve their problems. You know, it just sort of is the right answer for so many questions. Although, with all this touchless technology that we're putting in, I'm very disappointed how few buildings have Star Trek doors. I want more whooshing opening doors that just tap it when I come near them. I really want to thank you, Robert, for being my guest today. This has been a really great conversation, and always a lot of fun to chat with you. - [Robert] Indeed, it was a real pleasure, thank you. - [Ken] Thank you very much. Thanks again to all of you listening out there. I hope you've enjoyed our discussion, and if you have, please make sure you like and subscribe so you don't miss out on any of our episodes. We post every week, and I hope you'll leave us a rating, review, and comment on your favorite podcasting platform. If you'd like to suggest a guest, please click on the link in the description. And we also have a great sister podcast on our network, called the IoT for All podcast, so make sure you check that out. - [Ryan] Hey, Ken, let me jump in real quick and introduce your audience to another awesome show on the IoT for All media network. The show that started off the IoT for All podcast, where I bring on experts from around the world to showcase successful digital transformation across industries. We talk about Applications in IoT solutions available in the market and provide an opportunity for those companies to share a device to help the world better understand and adopt IoT. So if you're out there listening and haven't checked it out, be sure to go check out the IoT for All podcast, available everywhere. - [Ken] Thank you, Ryan. Now get back to your show, and thank you all for joining us on this episode of Let's Connect. I have been Ken Briodagh, Editorial Director of IoT for All and your host. Our music is Sneaking on September by Otis McDonald. And this has been a production of the IoT for All media network. Take care of yourselves. You are listening to the IoT for All media network.