Buildings IoT

Understanding the OT Backbone

By Clint Bradford | September 18, 2018

What it is, why it’s crucial to an IoT building integration and what your integrator should be doing to maximize its potential.

Whether you’re a building owner, operator or investor, you’re familiar with IT and the role it plays in buildings. It’s less likely you know what OT is and what it’s doing in your building, even though it’s equally important to the security and functionality of your assets. OT and the OT backbone stand for operational technology. It’s critical that everyone who enters a building have at least a baseline understanding of what OT includes.

IT covers the network gear and know-how that connects computers and public-facing devices. OT is the hardware and software that monitors and can affect change in the building itself. Increasingly, OT also includes networks and networking devices like routers and modems. That’s where things get interesting.

Networks are made of connected things that need to communicate with one another on a regular basis. Anytime you have a network you have data packets traveling back and forth. And anytime there’s data passing through copper, fiber or cellular cables there’s opportunity for hackers to steal those packets for nefarious purposes.

But this isn’t a story to make you scared. Our purpose here is to explain how things have changed, how you can protect your assets and what a good system integrator can help you accomplish.

How the OT Backbone has changed building integration

The OT network of today makes it possible to connect controllers across building systems. The OT backbone also creates a secure highway for data to transmit to a cloud – off site or on premise. From there, composite data is delivered through a dashboard for machines and people to analyze and proactively monitor.

From an integration perspective, this changes everything. Connectivity is our business, and it’s the core element of the IoT.

How Operational Technology can help protect your assets in the IoT

Integral to any high functioning OT backbone are network switches. Switches allow operators to control the flow of information without having to run extra fiber. Although fiber can be more expensive than copper, switches make fiber cost-competitive.

An OT backbone is also flexible enough to handle fluctuating bandwidth, and scalable without opening additional ports. These features reduce security risks and limit calls to IT for building ops requests.

What your System Integrator should be doing for your OT Network

The OT Network is squarely in the wheelhouse of your master systems integrator. This team should be on the project from the beginning. This ensures proper design that incorporates security, scalability, flexibility, cost-effectiveness, future-proofing.

While the OT Network establishes a certain amount of autonomy between OT and IT teams, at least at the outset the buck stops with IT. Your MSI should be able to answer all of your IT team’s questions to ensure they are comfortable with the design and operational procedures that the OT Network will bring.

Your Master Systems Integrator should be your go-to for everything related to the OT network. This includes design to installation and commissioning, graphic rendering and ongoing management. If you’re interested in more about how an OT Network can fit into your building operation and ownership strategy, contact your MSI.

 

 

Buildings IoT

Co-Work Spaces Are Coming to a Mall Near You – Challenges and Opportunities for Property Owners and Operators

By Natalie Patton | August 10, 2018

Macerich, the luxury shopping mall owner, and Industrious, a high-end co-workspace operator, made news on Wednesday with the announcement that they’re teaming up to create the first-ever co-work space inside a mall. This introduces interesting challenges and opportunities for property owners to consider with their controls contractors and system integrators. But first, some more background on the news.

Scottsdale Fashion Square in Arizona, owned by Macerich.

The mall is Scottsdale Fashion Square, located in the downtown center of Scottsdale, Arizona. Industrious is picking up a space left vacant by Barney’s in 2016. They’ll be near a Shake Shack, a pub and a day spa in addition to the traditional stores you’re used to seeing in malls, the ones that sell clothes.

“We think a mall provides the type of setting that enables you to move around to different types of spaces, [with] great food and beverage, etc,” said Jamie Hodari, Industrious CEO in an interview with CNBC on the day of the announcement.

He went on to hint at potential future co-work spaces at Macerich mall properties in Santa Monica and Walnut Creek.

This got us wondering – how will this new type of tenant change the way that controls and integrations are done in malls? What will these new tenants require that base building systems will have to supply?

On the Facilities Side

At OTI, we have experience with controls installations and integrations for a major player in the data driven co-working industry and we have longstanding relationships with some of the largest mall property owners in the world. That is to say, we see both sides of this equation.

Co-working space operators are redefining comfort for the modern workplace, but often they are tenants themselves. Property owners are always looking for new tenants, but they have a multitude of tenants to keep happy.

In that CNBC interview, Industrious CEO Hodari mentioned one huge trend that co-work spaces and healthy workplace initiatives underscore at every turn – the need for natural light. This is not something that comes standard in a shopping mall, even an outdoor one. Next time you’re in a Nordstrom, count the windows.

So first we can expect demolitions and retrofits galore. With that comes the opportunity for controls contractors and integrators.

Key Differentiation

These co-working spaces compete to offer the most comfortable, collaborative and creative work spaces for their clients. Air quality and high standards for HVAC equipment feed directly into these efforts. Thus the building management system must provide real-time monitoring, predictive analytics, occupancy control, and people counters in order to offer intuitive, adaptive control of the space. This means lighting, access control, HVAC, video, everything needs to be integrated into one central BMS whose operator is aware of the goals of this and better yet all tenants.

Further, these co-working tenants are likely coming into the space with their own advanced conference room booking systems. They also likely have sensors to gather usage analytics for their own purposes. Integrating these elements into the BMS allows enables even more predictive control.

If an HVAC schedule is created from data in the room booking app, you can pre-heat or pre-cool. If your system is really advanced, it can even prepare the room based on the specifications of individual people.

High-End, High Value

The value of this for the mall as a whole is scale. Once the technology runs in the co-work tenant space it can be deployed in less predictable environments around the mall. This will introduce new standards of comfort to those tenants while furthering energy and operational efficiencies for everyone.

Just as Macerich and Industrious are luxury in their industries, this kind of building control is extremely high-end. But it can be done. The more fine-tuned these tenants get, the more they’re going to expect building systems to learn and adapt. This is surely just the beginning not just for a redefinition of office space and shopping malls but a redefinition of the entire built environment.

 

 

Buildings IoT

Could SpotHero and Autonomous Vehicles Accelerate Energy Efficiency in Parking Garages?

By Natalie Patton | July 13, 2018
autonomous-vehicle-parking-garages
Renting underutilized spaces to self-driving cars through SpotHero could present energy management opportunities for property owners.

Earlier this week, SpotHero, the Chicago-based parking space reservation app, announced it has outfitted 500 lots with sensors to accommodate autonomous vehicle parking. This could present new opportunities for energy efficiency in parking garages. Let’s explore:

How it Works

The way it works, and has been working for SpotHero since 2012, is the human driver searches the app for a parking space, reserves and arrives at the garage at the predetermined time. With autonomous vehicle-enhanced lots, the self-driving car will interact with the app through an algorithm. License plate scanners and internet-connected meters facilitate the process.

SpotHero software HeroConnect handles payments. HeroConnect also makes parking data available to entities like car makers, ridesharing companies, cities. And presumably anyone who wants it.

With autonomous vehicle-equipped parking garages, SpotHero is especially targeting companies like Uber, Lyft, and Waymo. These are the cars that will be on the road most, requiring the most storage and re-charging stations.

On Physical Infrastructure

One key point to remember, SpotHero doesn’t actually own the garages. Property owners partner with SpotHero to rent their spaces. With that, increased sensors and IoT devices can mean new opportunities for energy efficiency in parking garages. Aside from the SpotHero pitch that renting out those “underutilized” spaces can add up to $120,000 per year to operating budgets (depending on building type), using that parking data could provide ways to better manage energy use.

Right now, the main (possibly only) data points from the parking garage in the energy management system are lights. Now let’s say the building owner is renting out five spaces through SpotHero in it’s self-driving-car-enhanced garage. Data on when those spaces will be occupied and for how long can inform schedules on those lights. In a truly data-responsive world, each space would have its own light fixture with sensors. Those sensors would be integrated to the HeroConnect API. The light’s schedule could then be automatically created when the spot is rented by the computer operating the car that will park there.

Energy Efficiency in Parking Garages – Strategies

To truly achieve energy efficiency in parking garages, additional strategies will be needed to handle the additional energy needed to charge all those self-driving cars. One would think those spaces would be more expensive to cover the cost. There could (perhaps should) be opportunities for energy management systems to track and bill that usage, especially at peak times.

Parking garages attached to retail properties considering this space-renting option should also consider the impact on mall traffic. It may become necessary to increase energy efficiency to offset losses in foot traffic of casual mall goers. Self-driving cars won’t make last-minute stops at the food court.

Challenges aside, the more start-ups that enter the buildings space, even on the periphery like the parking lot, the more opportunities there are to harvest new data sets for smarter operations. Keeping an eye on these ancillary innovations could present big opportunities to early adopters. To us, this is just one more reason to partner with companies that employ programmers and data scientists to constantly inform new strategies for your buildings.

*Photo by James Loesch on Flickr.

Buildings IoT

Building Analytics are Difficult – Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Otherwise

By Clint Bradford | July 10, 2018

There’s a paradox in the analytics landscape today, especially for building analytics. On the one hand, analytics seem to be everywhere. Take an autonomous vehicle like Tesla. When you buy a self-driving car today, the analytics system is not part of the sales pitch. But everyone knows they’re there. How else could a self-driving car work without analytic rules in the code and data scientists in the background?

Eventually, this will be true for all controllers as building analytics will be standard. But right now, IoT buildings diverge from the rest of the analytics industry in key ways. First, everyone in commercial real estate asks for analytics without understanding how those building analytics can be applied. Second, there’s misunderstanding on how building analytics may affect existing workflows. And finally, projects start without established goals for what the building analytics system should achieve.

The rise of analytics makes it easy to take for granted their implementation in smart buildings. Obviously, a building is not a self-driving car.

overview of building analytics

Factors That Contribute to the Difficulty of Deploying Building Analytics

Typical building projects fall victim to two major constraints – time and expertise. This leaves contractors in a bind and can result in cut corners on building analytics because they’re the last thing to get implemented into the system.

The reality of today’s building controls contractors is they’re using the same resource to manage the project, engineer the system, deploy it, integrate it, build the graphical user interface, deploy the building analytics and train the end user. No one can be good at all of that, especially on an abbreviated timeline.

The popularity of analytics also makes it seem like something easy to deploy. In my conversations with clients, it’s hard for most to explain how they will apply the analytics in their system, what specific rules they want to run, what insights and actions they want to gain from the analytics.

Even with the huge focus on analytics across industries, for smart buildings, analytics often become an afterthought. We find that’s because most people aren’t thinking beyond the initial roll-out. What happens when you receive analytics alerts or sparks? What are you going to do with monthly analytics reports? How will you respond to the inefficiencies that the analytics system identifies throughout your building?

False Claims About Building Analytics

First, we often hear people discussing how easy it is to gain access to a building database. I actually find this to be one of the most challenging aspects of integration and analytics. There are so many different, proprietary building systems with so many different communication protocols and obscure point-naming schemes. There is precious little standardization in this industry (efforts like Project Haystack are making huge strides which is exciting to see but these challenges still remain across the board).

As with accessing any database, there are also security concerns. Accessing building databases requires involvement from different players across teams, from facilities to IT, from a single location to a corporate headquarters. A good rule of thumb we follow is if it sounds too easy to be true, it probably is.

Too often we hear the market say “let us run analytics on your data.” Or “we can have analytics running against your data in minutes.” I strongly question these claims. No building is the same, and no database is the same. Deploying true building analytics that make an impact is hard, don’t let anyone tell you differently. Successful deployment of building analytics requires a talented team of engineers, data scientists and data analysts to truly make a building more efficient through analytics.

The Way Forward

To overcome these obstacles and join other industries in successfully utilizing analytics solutions, we need to treat buildings like living, breathing things. Analytics engines are only the first step in really understanding your building. In order to continue gaining value from the system, consider its future from the beginning. How will you continue to maintain the building efficiently? What plans are in place to fix issues once the integrator has moved on to other projects? Who on your team has the interest and expertise to manage the analytics long into the future? What training do you have in place to promote efficiency with your workforce?

We’ve found that it helps to have champions on your team who show interest not only in the energy and operational efficiencies of your buildings, but who embrace new technologies with a healthy dose of curiosity. It’s also important to have a plan for phase two of the analytics, when the deployment is complete and the alerts start rolling in. Clear delineation of maintenance and training responsibilities is crucial for continued success.

With the answers to these questions and a trusted partner who will be honest with you, you’ll be well on your way to a smarter, more efficient operation.

Buildings IoT

What I Learned and Didn’t Learn at Realcomm IBCon 2018

By Clint Bradford | June 12, 2018

Our team is back to our respective offices after Realcomm/IBCon brought more than a handful of us out to Las Vegas. This show always offers an interesting mix of perspectives from service providers like OTI to manufacturers like SkyFoundry, Optigo, Dell and Intel to end users including Berkshire Hathaway, CBRE, JLL, GGP, Cushman & Wakefield, you get the picture. It’s a unique mix of people representing various aspects of real estate investment and innovation.

The Realcomm organization was celebrating its 20th conference this year and for one of my colleagues, last week marked his 13th consecutive Realcomm\IBCon. While it was only my third foray and OTI’s first as an exhibitor, I noticed both familiar refrains and new ideas permeating the show from the exhibit hall to the session rooms. Here are a few takeaways:

Back to Basics

New people are entering the industry all the time and IT folks are getting involved in more levels of controls and operations so it’s good that we continue having conversations around the basics of systems, networks and security. The construction process is still not finely tuned when it comes to integrating building systems. More conversation around the basics and the process of involving Owners, General Contractors, IT personnel, and Master System Integrators creates a better process that will lead to more efficiencies. I’m definitely optimistic.

Realcomm IBCon 2018 was hosted in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Agree to Disagree

Speaking of OT, IT, systems, networks and security, the question of convergence once again reigned supreme. No one seems to agree on the best approach for networking IT and OT devices. Same network? Different network? The jury is out indefinitely, but there was plenty of ping-ponging on the subject. Some integrators firmly said yes to converged networks, whereby OT devices live on IT networks through one or two extremely locked-down access points. Other integrators insisted that separate networks are the only way to insure the highest levels of security and network uptime.

Here’s my take: First, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to system integrations. Second, there are a lot of new products on the market. It makes sense that IT teams are hesitant to allow a converged network in their buildings. Their questions are good ones – how secure are these new devices? Have they really been put through the same rigorous testing to which we subject our IT devices?

During a couple sessions on convergence, end users were on hand to discuss how they’re expanding teams of white-hat-hackers. These groups test all devices that come into their networks. This increasingly includes OT devices, driving OT teams and IT teams closer together. In my view, this is a very good thing.

From the end user perspective, it’s encouraging to hear agreement around value added when devices talk with one another. It doesn’t matter what we call the network.

A hub of smart building innovation, Vegas was the perfect backdrop to an intelligent buildings conference.

Debate on Digital Twins

The concept of digital twins has been around since 2002. It started reaching mainstream audiences a couple years ago and Realcomm focused on the idea in a variety of ways. I can see advantages of a development environment for experimentation with new controls, analytics and operations processes. We’re at the very early stages of this, though. We need to see it pencil out before we can confidently deploy this approach without compromising project delivery.

A few people posited that this digital twin approach wouldn’t have any impact on project completion time or budget, but can we be sure of that?

Aaahhh Analytics

The Realcomm IBCon show this year, and others so far in 2018, have made it clear there is no longer a debate about analytics. Most vendors have some sort of analytics package and most end users perk up at the word.

This is great to see. It suggests analytics will be more widespread in integration projects. With that, the future of building controls and operations will be more efficient and long-lasting. It was also clear that everyone is “doing analytics” making it harder to tell who is offering a valuable system. Loose standards make it hard for property owners, investors and managers to evaluate competing analytics systems. There are a lot of people saying they have deployed analytics. Experience has confirmed building analytics are hard. Additionally, they require professional engineers and data analysts to really have an impact.

Now that we agree that analytics are crucial, we need to dig deeper into what makes them successful in buildings. Are we really taking full advantage of all the data we’re collecting?

Final Thoughts

If the mark of a good show is leaving with more questions than answers, I’d say this year’s Realcomm was a success. Our industry still runs in circles around big topics but there is enough progress to keep me excited about the future.

Want to read more about what went down at the show? Revisit this post about the Digie Awards and our case studies page for peek at what we presented at the Showcase. Also check out our Twitter feed where we were live-tweeting some key sessions.

*Photo 1 by Dom Crossley on Flickr ; Photo 2 by Nelo Hatsuma on FlickrPhoto 3 by Schnitzel_bank on Flickr

Buildings IoT

GGP, Brian Turner win Digies at Realcomm IBCon 2018

By Natalie Patton | June 7, 2018

At this year’s special Realcomm IBCon 20th anniversary edition, the Digie Awards didn’t disappoint. Our longtime client GGP was nominated in two retail categories and we were delighted watch them win for the Best Use of Automation in the Retail category. The award recognized the Advanced Energy Information Systems’ operational analytics platform initiative. This project was created to manage and monitor the GGP portfolio of high-end shopping malls throughout the country. We’re proud to work with this innovative and committed team and congratulate them on the well-deserved recognition from Realcomm IBCon.

DigieWinner1

We were also thrilled to see our own Brian Turner receive the prestigious Julie Devine Digital Impact Award, pictured above with Realcomm’s CEO Jim Young. We work hard to create new solutions for building owners and operators. It is great to be recognized for our efforts.

If you’re in Las Vegas at the show, we’ll be presenting a case study at this morning’s Showcase on the GGP Woodlands Mall peak demand response program. Come by the exhibit hall and talk with us about why this project helped GGP win recognition at the Digies.

Buildings IoT

Where to Find Us at Realcomm IBCon 2018

By Natalie Patton | May 22, 2018

We’re counting down the days until we converge on Las Vegas for another exciting and jam-packed Realcomm IBCon. This year is especially exciting for us because it marks the first time OTI is exhibiting. We’re a new company with a big history and an exciting future. We can’t wait to show you some of what we’ve been working on. We hope you won’t be able to miss us, because we’ll be right next to registration and badge pick-up, at Booth 153.

realcommheader

As in past years, Brian Turner will speak on several panels throughout the show, starting with the increasingly popular PreCon Smart Building Integrators Summit. “Dealing with a Changing Industry — Defining the Master Systems Integrator” takes place June 5 from 3:45-4:15 in Mont Royal 1. This continues a long-running discussion on what an MSI is and does in IoT buildings. We hope you’ll contribute to the conversation as well.

During the main Realcomm conference be sure to sit in Nolita 2 on June 6 from 2:15-3:15 for “Developing, Implementing and Maintaining a Building Network Strategy.” This one is straight out of our “IT, OT and business convergence” theme we’ve been exploring in different ways since our inception. It’s also something we work with every day, so we expect this to be a very informative discussion.

We’ll also be at the case study Showcase early on Thursday morning, showing off a GGP peak demand response program and an Infomart fully redundant, smart network control system.

Some other sessions we’re putting on our Realcomm show calendar:

“The Smart Building Technology Skills Gap”

“Location Services”

“Connected Multi-Dwelling Units and IoT”

“Understanding the complex relationship between tenant and landlord”

“Smart Buildings and Data Analytics — has reality lived up to the hype?”

See you in two weeks!

 

Buildings IoT

Convergence is here, so what does that mean for IT and OT teams?

By Brian Turner | May 3, 2018

iot-convergence-hero

In the interview with OTI’s new VP of Information Technology, we outlined the dynamic conversation surrounding OT networks and IT collaboration in a building project. That same week, I sat on a panel session at Niagara Summit called “The Value of OT Networks.” It quickly turned into the “IT vs. OT” debate we outlined in that blog article. In my view, we’re well past that. We’re no longer looking at OT devices just sitting on the IT network, or two completely separate networks. It’s now a truly converged IoT network where each team needs to understand and work together on a bigger picture.

What is Convergence in Smart Buildings?

For buildings and OT, convergence has accelerated as the price of enabling technologies has decreased. Controllers the size of your hand now come with IP connectivity and they’re purpose-built for building automation. Fiber has advanced so that it’s now cost-competitive with Cat5 cabling and much more scalable. On the information technology side, IT teams are faced with larger, more connected networks that offer access holes to malicious parties at every turn.

On the Buildings IoT “One Network” Debate and What’s Been Missing from the Conversation

When OT comes to the table for a building network strategy session, we’re talking to a room full of IT people about network and fiber like it’s new. IT has been doing this for a long time. The only thing that’s new is the application. In order to better work together, OT needs to help IT know what the device is, what network ports it is listening to and how often, how much bandwidth it needs and most importantly, which device starts the conversation.

When a Switch is Not Just a Switch

While OT is leveling-up on the technology side, IT needs to reframe the way it thinks about building devices.

“To IT, it’s just a light switch,” says Rich Miller, VP of Information Technology at OTI. “It doesn’t need very much attention. Instead, IT is focused on making sure all users have email access or that the personal devices people bring onto the office network are not posing threats to overall security.”

As convergence deepens, building devices are no longer just light switches. Devices are WiFi enabled, IP connected, power over ethernet, data sharing smart devices. They are part of a larger effort to improve operations, maximize profitability and keep people comfortable. They’re flexible and programmable because they’re not inherently secure.

Enterprise case study on truly converged IoT Network for GGP mall properties

“The crucial point that both OT and IT teams need to understand,” Miller says, “is that if you don’t secure every one of these OT building devices, it could be the jump-off point that ends up getting a whole office or corporate enterprise hacked. It is everyone’s mutual responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

How to Make Convergence Work Better for Everyone

Traditionally, IT has seen facilities as outside their network purview and OT has seen information technology teams as roadblocks to on-time and in-budget project delivery. Convergence has arrived and the internet of things is only going to continue intertwining devices, teams and networks. Everyone needs to work together otherwise networks will have security holes, machine learning will halt and entire industries will fall behind. Here’s how both IT and OT groups can better work together.

1.) Stop dreading the conversation

There’s a huge misconception that working with IT can push an OT project behind by three to six months.

“The mentality in the buildings industry has been ‘we don’t want to deal with IT, they’re a road block, we just want to do our own thing,’” explains Clint Bradford, head of operations at OTI.

The truth is, a clear path can be agreed upon in one to two meetings. Calling IT at the last minute saying “I need 100 ports open for my VLAN” is never a successful strategy. Neither is working around IT and placing a router anywhere that OT teams need access to a platform front-end. The first path is unfair and the second is not secure.

Data center case study on working with IT for 352 pieces of equipment

2.) Talk early and at key project points

“It always comes down to the relationship,” Miller says. “The more someone trusts you and the work you do, the more they’re willing to work with you to accomplish a mutual goal.”

Convergence means that IT is part of the OT network, OT is part of the IT network and everything works together for the sake of the IoT.  With this in mind, it only makes sense to have both IT and OT start working together early in the project process.

OTI is going all-in on IT/OT collaboration

3.) Outline exactly what you need

Building controllers and network devices have advanced so much that it’s hard for even industry veterans to keep up. Imagine how out-of-the-loop IT is. There are a few specific reasons IT must be involved in OT network integrations. Conversations should clearly outline these needs. First, discuss bandwidth needed for each device on the network. Then explain the important features and functions of the system and latency/up-time required. Finally, determine port assignments, data transfer and storage methodologies.

Convergence means that it’s not just OT devices sitting on an IT network. It’s a true IoT network where all applications share relevant data important to each application. With everyone on board, projects will go smoother, networks will be more secure and people will be more successful.

Buildings IoT

5 Questions with Richard Miller, OTI’s New Vice President of Information Technology

By Natalie Patton | April 25, 2018

Richard-Miller-Ontai network-small

The conversation around information technology and operational technology has changed rapidly in just a few short years. First it was “IT vs. OT” as if the two disciplines were involved in a boxing match over control of networks and processes. Then it was more kumbaya and free love with the “One Network” sentiment which begged the question can’t we all just get along? Finally, I remember just last year sitting in a session at Realcomm | IBCon called “IT/OT Closing the Gap” where OTI’s president Brian Turner tried to strike a more nuanced tone as moderator between representatives from manufacturers, systems integrators and property management firms.

Things move quickly these days and what we believed was true yesterday could be upended by a new situation we’re presented with today. This is as true in commercial buildings as any other industry. The biggest take away from this shape-shifting IT, OT, IoT debate is that all levels of building construction, management and maintenance are experiencing changes in the ways they work and collaborate. Call it convergence, a takeover, a battle royal or a convivial camp fire but just don’t pretend it’s not happening. For OTI’s part, with the acquisition of an IT managed services firm and its six employees, we’re embracing the change, leaning into it with our whole business in order to build more robust, total building solutions.

To that end, meet Richard Miller, the head of the IT managed services firm formerly known as Ontai, now VP of Information Technology at OTI. We asked him five questions to get his take on how IT and OT can better work together, what “managed services” really means, and the projects he’s most excited to work on at OTI.

Rich, welcome to OTI! From where you sit in the IT world, what has been your experience of IT/OT collaboration? How has this changed and where do you see it heading now?

I compare the relationship between IT/OT to the experiences we all faced during the early stages of VOIP. There were two different worlds that were on a collision course and when that happened, the fallout that ensued had some people reeling. Those who embraced it were very successful.  We had “phone guys” struggling to learn enough networking to make their new breed of products communicate. Then we had “IT guys” struggling to learn the concepts and proprietary terminology of traditional phone systems.  There is a vast difference between making something work and doing it both correctly and securely. In recent years, OT systems and facilities in general can become much smarter and more sophisticated. Building tools to enable that sophistication is the real purpose and goal behind OTI and the acquisition of ONTAI.

Talk about the need to break down barriers. How can both IT and OT become more interested in each other’s roles and responsibilities? And why should they?

I’m not sure it’s about breaking down barriers to be honest. I think it’s more about establishing trust and leveraging that trust to help both sides understand the needs and goals of the other.

Thinking about OTI now having an IT department, how will the project process change? What will OTI projects look like moving forward?

Ultimately our goal is to provide the most secure and right-sized solution, on time and on budget. Of course there are unforeseen circumstances with every project, but this is what we’re working toward. As a contractor, our team has been side-by-side with OTI to overcome issues in gaining adoption, designing and implementing solutions. As a managed service provider, we were also implementing secure solutions for customers in in small- to medium-businesses. Those worlds are similar. That’s where we find the pathway to convergence in our businesses and ultimately in OT/IT building networks.

Can you define managed services for us? Are IT managed services different than OT managed services? Will OTI be offering both now?

The definition of a “managed services provider” is “proactive delivery of their service.” In that sense, the methodology and processes are very much the same. Moving forward, yes, OTI will provide managed services for both IT and OT endpoints.

Broadly speaking, what projects either already underway or on the horizon are you most looking forward to? 

The projects that most inspire me are those where we are retrofitting a building that was built well before OT or even IT was a concept. We’re coming in and transforming those old, inefficient systems to turn the whole thing into a smart building.  We have a number of those in progress and coming soon so it’s been great from the beginning.

Keep up with OTI projects, news and events – subscribe to our blog and sign up for our newsletter. You can also connect with OTI and Rich on LinkedIn, and follow us on Twitter.

*Network connections photo by Claus Rebler on Flickr.