Do you see a lack of integrations as a hugely frustrating problem in your commercial buildings? If so, you agree with the 83 percent of CRE pros surveyed by the Security Industry Association and CREtech. You might also have a sinking feeling that unreliable technology, spotty digital connectivity, and inadequate operational visibility are costing you growth.
As commercial buildings increase their number of complex technical systems, the right tech partner is more important than ever. To help you have seamless integrations and more resilient smart properties, in a new webinar series, our Co-Founders Thru Shivakumar and Nik Patel dive into the nuances of building systems, integrations, and smart building technology so you can learn to curate your buildings’ level of smart, make better-informed decisions for increased ROI, and create excellent operational visibility.
Q: What’s a Smart Building?
A: For commercial buildings, a “smart building is an ecosystem where everything is working together to make sure that whoever is interacting with the building has the best experience, the data flows between various systems, and it creates understanding of what to expect to ensure operations are efficient as possible,” explains our CTO and Co-Founder, Nik Patel. “At the core of smart buildings are integrations.”
And How Do Integrations Provide the Foundation of Smart Buildings?
Q: What’s an integration?
A: It’s two or more hardware and software systems working together to offer a single interaction point (singularity) through standardized data communication. The best integration is when you don’t know you’re dealing with an integration.”
Nik details more: If you need human intervention to complete your workflow, that’s not a true integration. Instead, a system reacts in milliseconds, which is the approach Cohesion takes for behind-the-scenes integrations for automated workflows, which saves time while providing high-quality tenant experiences.
“Seamless experiences don’t happen without integrations. It could be anything from work orders to reservations to conference room bookings, or Single Sign-On (SSO). All of them need to work together to become as simple as one tap of a button and everything works instead of going through a flow of 10 different steps of manual intervention in hours and days, now it takes seconds because of integrations.”
For example, smart commercial buildings’ most common integration use case is gaining access to specific spaces. “Generally, spaces are locked, and you’d use your plastic key card or mobile phone to tap at a card reader. You have an intent of getting in the door and take action of tapping your phone at the card reader and it opens the door for you. To make that happen, the mobile phone or plastic key card, card reader hardware, door controller hardware, access control system software, and magnetic lock that opens the door must work together.”
Integrations make this single tap simple for building occupants to use in seconds. And for the context of the extent of integrations available, Cohesion offers about 800 integrations, with a typical smart building setup taking less than two weeks: or 37 hours in the case of their client, Datawatch.
Q: What Do Integrations Mean for the Future of Smart Commercial Real Estate?
A: “The reason integrations are so important is that everybody’s attitude about ease, ease of use, and everything happening immediately are driving today’s interactions and technology,” explains our CEO and Co-Founder, Thru Shivakumar.
“For example, Apple’s iMessage recently crashed globally and everyone on social media was panicked, confused, and frustrated. When the tech doesn’t work the exact way people expect it to, especially for highly reliable tech and tech-savvy people, they have very low patience for that.”
Especially in a smart commercial building where 10 to 15 systems with potentially 20 integrations need to work together, those integrations are the building blocks for seamless experiences. To solve issues, modular integrations fill the different needs of the spectrum of building stakeholders as well as provide topline differentiation, cost savings, and insights on crucial building data.
Q: Who’s Responsible for Data Collection and What Data Questions Should They Ask?
A: Plenty of data swims in unstructured formats within a smart building’s systems; however, they’re not leveraged leaving potential opportunities behind. Yes, we expect to get the data and do something with it, but getting it from the system within the building and making it into something usable is critical for CIOs (Chief Information Officer) and CTOs (Chief Technology Officer) because they’re responsible for it. Thru said it well that everyone benefits from integration, regardless if you’re technical or not.”
Nik and Thru then further dive into the top questions CIOs/CTOs should ask:
- How can we make things better for our buildings and tenants?
- How’s the data being governed?
- Who owns the data?
- How will the data be used?
- Who has access to the data?
Q: Who Builds Integrations and What About APIs (Application Programming Interface) and SDKs (Software Development Kit)?
A: “With integrations and so many systems in the world, it’s very important to make sure they’re reliable and continue to work. Then there’s support and security along with it, including physical and cybersecurity.”
Your tech partner’s engineers, not third-party or outsourced teams, should build your integrations and understand how the systems work independently and together. For example, with access control, there are hundreds of vendors and OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) systems. That means working to standardize data to help integrations, hardware, and software talk to each other securely.
SDKs are pieces of software embedded within mobile phones that help integrate with these access control systems. And manufacturers including HID, Blue Diamond, and Wavelengths, provide these SDKs that work through smartphone apps so software engineers can embed them in an app like Cohesion.
“There are different ways to integrate, and, from the customer’s standpoint, they don’t need to know what the different integration ways are because we solve that problem for them. It’s important that it’s done the right way for everything stakeholders care about like scalability, security, data flow, repeatability, and what sort of data is received.”
Customers and owners need to define desired outcomes and standard policies to follow. “Hopefully, they have Cohesion, but they should work with a tech partner who can advise them on what those integration policies should be. In today’s industry, there are quite a few hoops to go through, but when you come with knowledge and a side-by-side tech advisor, you could drive the experience and outcome you’re looking for because a tech partner or software vendor can tell you how to make it happen.”
Q: What About Prime Data Collected from Smart/Healthy Buildings and AI (Artificial Intelligence)?
A: One of the best outcomes of integrations is data collection. While smart buildings and integrations provide great experiences, they also create data standardization for system communication, which allows AI to review data for different analyses.
Then, AI and smart/healthy building ecosystems can prep environments for tenant arrival and departure for productivity, air quality, and lighting as well as time, energy, and cost savings. “It provides the best comfort while optimizing operations for better ROI. You need enough data collected to learn human behaviors, and these can vary widely in commercial buildings, so you start to connect it to different roles of people and different tenants.”
Q: How Many Times Do You Have to Certify Integrations or Buildings? How Do You Ensure a Proper Data Governance and Security Policy?
A: You only have to certify the integration with OEM once in order to use it in multiple buildings with compatible systems. But you should keep security in mind beyond certification and make sure to ask these questions:
- Is the integration certified with the manufacturer (OEM) who provides that system?
- What about SOC2 compliance and what security protocols are in place?
- Where’s your data flowing and where’s it stored?
- What’s integration security like?
- Who’s authenticating with your system and how?
- How’s the data going to be used, leveraged, and processed?
Software vendors are responsible for getting integrations certified and completed while customers serve as bridges between software integration development teams and OEMs.
Q: Why are Integrations Tough to Complete and Why Do Other Companies Fail?
A: “The biggest thing is whoever’s building integrations needs to really understand the systems,” Other companies can fail in creating sustainable integrations for the long term because they don’t understand system complexity or human and reusability factors.
“A true smart building goes across multiple systems and system verticals like access control, elevators, BAS (Building Automation System), software systems, work order systems, IOT sensors, and doing integration across all of them is where it gets really hard, and why everyone can’t do it.”
How Cohesion is Solving Commercial Real Estate’s Lack of Integrations
Thru: Cohesion is continually building exceptional technology to address pain points with disparate systems and unproductive experiences. And once integrations are built, they can be plug-and-play in many ecosystems across smart building portfolios.
Nik: From a stakeholder standpoint, what matters is speed to value, and once the integration is built from a Cohesion standpoint, it’s a technologically repeatable integration, meaning we can create the value in a matter of hours, not days or weeks. For example, with their client Datawatch, because they had cloud connectivity established and Cohesion had integrations they built before, it took 15 minutes to go live integrating with the access control system and 37 hours to finish building setup.
Thru: Integrations done right are extremely powerful for data, insights, security, AI, and the overall experience. If we think about the future of buildings, there’s massive industry opportunities to look at everything in integrated, connected ways so we can make buildings more resilient. And resilience is sustainability.