In episode 14 of The IoT Podcast, we spoke to guest Bob Sharon who is the Founder & Chief Innovation Officer at Blue IoT. An Innovative and award-winning company, disrupting the commercial building space in progression towards a sustainable and environmentally friendly world.

 

In this episode we explore:

    • The role of Blue IoT in bringing the Blue Economy closer through IoT Solutions.
    • What the Encompass Blue Platform is and how it is innovating sustainability within buildings on to the progression of Smart Cities!
    • Traditional Vs. New Systems of Smart building monitoring.
    • Long-term management of COVID-19 and future vulnerabilities through IoT – – Smart building monitoring.
    • What the future will look like with sustainable IoT Solutions.
    • Discussion of Blue IoT’s place at the forefront of innovation and sustainable IoT delivery.

 

Episode Transcript

Tom:
Welcome to the IOT podcast show. I’m your host, Tom White. I’m joined today with Bob Sharon. Bob is the founder of Blue IOT. Blue IOT is an innovative and award-winning company disrupting the commercial building space and its progression towards a sustainable and environmentally friendly world. Bob is also the executive counsel for the IOTAA, and we’re very pleased to have you on the show today, Bob. Thank you for joining us.

Bob:
Thank you for having me, Tom. Very much appreciate it.

The mission of Blue IoT

Tom:
You’re very welcome. Bob, could you start by just explaining who you are and what your experiences within IOT and the mission behind Blue IOT?

Bob:
Okay, well basically I’m the founder, chief innovation officer, chief bottle washer, and CEO of Blue IOT, which was formed about four and a half years ago now. And the whole idea is to leverage IOT as an enabler. We don’t sell IOT. Some people go selling IOT as this great widget, “Isn’t it great. You’ve got to have one. It’s cool. It’s awesome.” But if it doesn’t achieve anything, what’s the point? And so what we do is we leverage the Internet of things as an enabler to support the blue economy, hence Blue IOT.

And the blue economy is, “What does it take to build something? What does it take to maintain it? And what effect does it have on the people using it? And what effect does it have on the community and the greater planet?? So it’s a 360 degree approach. And so that’s what Blue IOT is all about.

And so we’re basically a disruptive, an innovative smart cities’ vendor, an integrator renowned for our Encompass Blue platform, which is in fact, the world’s first cloud-based IOT platform suite for smart cities’ management. And it’s basically driven by Green Tech PropTech and systems thinking approach. It’s a 360 degree approach. And so we’re very much at the forefront of sustainability, innovation, delivering outstanding results because at the end of the day, it’s not about, “We’ve got a great thing.” What can we do? What are we delivering? Not what the marketing says, what are we actually delivering? And challenging times like the present have acted as a catalyst for advancing smart buildings, cities, assets, to optimize the wellness of people and the planet.

So Blue IOT acts on this urgency for sustainability, rendering solutions for substantially preserving our planet’s resources while simultaneously enhancing the human experience and executing a move towards carbon net zero, which is very important. So what we’ve done, at the heart of our system is Encompass Blue, which delivers savings up to 50% of energy, maintenance and subsequent carbon footprint reduction.

And so we consolidate an array of functions. The state-of-the-art technology embodies excellence in cloud IOT, interoperability, smart sensors and controllers, machine learning, predictive maintenance, cyber security, et cetera. And it provides a broad open platform for digital transformation in facilities management, infrastructure buildings, hotels, et cetera.

Additionally, this technology facilitates effective COVID-19 risk mitigation services, which is one of our al a carte menu line items. And we’re notable for its continuous engagement model.

Blue IOT is focused on a partnership with its clients, enabling continuous flow of benefits. Traditionally, companies will install something and if it breaks, they’ll come back and fix it. But what we do, we’re continuously there through our ongoing subscription, delivering continuous commissioning, continuous improvement, continuous safety and interpretation of data. One of the big problems out there is everyone’s bombarded with data. They don’t know what to do with it.But we interpret it with our experts in-house and then continuously return to the triple bottom line. So, we’re an organization that actually cares about outcomes and we’re continuously innovating and we’re both, as I said, a vendor and an integrator. So we’ll collaborate with other companies, we’ll interoperate through open API’s to other organizations and other platforms in order to deliver not a 10% benefit, but 30, 40, 50, 60% benefit as well as a much enhanced human experience in order… In keeping with WELS ratings as well as sustainability ratings. So it’s an entirely different model.

What does the the Encompass Blue Platform do?

Tom:
Yeah, thank you Bob. It’s quite amazing really, what you’ve managed to achieve, right in this four and a half years, especially when it comes to the Encompass Blue platform.

You started to touch on that just then actually. But one of the things that I’m curious about and I know our listeners will be, was within the Encompass Blue platform, what are the specific things that it can do within the progression of smart cities and as a monitoring solution? How could you just describe that succinctly for our listeners, so they exactly know what the Encompass Blue platform does?

Bob:
Okay. Well, instead of having some kind of a box on site and things, and traditional sensors are wired up in a building connected to some main box or PC at the site, which is more traditional in the way things operate. Our system operates from the cloud where we’ve got big data analytics, we’ve got machine learning, we’ll soon have AI. And we have our visualization platform and a whole lot of things there because the idea of having it in the cloud is we can look at a building or a bunch of buildings or a campus of buildings or buildings spread around the planet for that matter or even agriculture, from the cloud and look at it as a total ecosystem. And understand the operation, not just some bunch of individual components working on their own.

And so what we do is we’re able to look at everything as a big ecosystem, but then we also have our own hardware that we’ve developed. So we might use third party hardware. We’ve developed our own sensors and we leverage LoRaWAN as a major protocol, which is a global standard. We like to use global standards, but we developed our own controllers, which are radio controlled, to actually run devices in buildings. So we run the actuators, turn things on and off remotely, and that all can be done from any device anywhere. That means a facilities’ manager could be running 10 buildings from their phone or their laptop, and have full control right from here and have all the alarms, have all the visuals and have everything.

And so the idea then of whether it’s just monitoring, whether it’s conditioned monitoring of mission critical infrastructure, or total control, total building automation and total management of a facility, which can be done. It’s all done that way and it’s done wirelessly. It’s done efficiently, so you’re not drilling holes through walls, even sensors are wireless and running on batteries, which on average will last five years. And so the beauty there is we’re now running in the 21st century where we’re not cabling everything up and drilling holes through walls. And the best part is cyber security. We’re not running on an IP network because all your traditional systems, they’re running BACnet over IP or they’re running some form of ethernet network across.

And they’re running VPN’s everywhere for a bit of security, but there is much more complexity, much more room for failure and higher risk of a hack. And we have the famous fish tank case. We have the famous Target case in the US where someone broke in through a temperature sensor and credit card details were stolen and it was a big disaster. So what we do is, we mitigate the risk by running a complete non-IP network. And that’s why we get the tick from IT departments. We’re not touching their network. And so the risk is by far reduced and yet we’re managing total facilities in a redundant fashion, by the way, from the cloud. So if gateways fail, it doesn’t matter. If BAC or Telcos fail, it doesn’t matter because we use multiple gateways, multiple Telcos, and we run in tier four data centers, which again are backed up.

If the data center got bombed, it wouldn’t matter because they’re mirroring to another data center. So it is totally redundant, totally resilient. And putting all this together has never been done before, but we are delivering this for many clients and we’re building our client base. And when you’re saving 50% over traditional systems and then a company doesn’t have to go to three or four different companies. One to get advice on what HVAC equipment or lighting or whatever to put in, or how to organize your control logic in the systems or how to do this or that, or then a different organization to work out sustainability for that part of the building and all of these things.

It makes life so much easier because we’re not having 10 companies blaming each other when things go wrong. And so we’re able to integrate and put it all together and take responsibility and just keep being the partner of our clients and working together for a mutually beneficial outcome and not fighting them or charging every time they want to change, “That will be $50,000, sir and you don’t get any french fries with that.” So it’s totally different. So it’s very satisfying. Every one we’re dealing with are just amazed because it’s disruption on many levels. Even our own staff, we have a highly discriminatory employment policy and every one’s ears are flappy. Isn’t that great? Some people think not.

Well, if you haven’t got a sense of humor, you can’t work for Blue IOT. I’m very strict about that part. So we love to have fun. We’re very flexible. It’s one of the few companies I’m aware of and I’ve worked for many companies, where people can write their own job descriptions. Because as people get the feel of what they want to do and they’re talented in a certain area, we’ll encourage it because we want them to work in areas that they’re talented in and we’ll leverage that. And guess what? People just become so productive. They just want to do.

Tom:
Yeah.

Bob:
So even internally we have a totally different… And it’s new for me too, by the way. I’m learning as I go on this one, but the point is, it’s fun and we’re getting the best out of people. And that’s just great.

Tom:
Yeah. It’s funny you should talk about talent right, because that’s obviously something I know quite a bit about in our core business.

But I was reading a book from the founders of Netflix, the other day called No rules rule, right? And they talk about building up talent density and then removing the parameters. So removing anything that stops people from being able to focus on what they need to focus on. And it’s a really good concept and something that seems like you’re doing, right? You enable people to write their own job description by empowering them to go out and be entrepreneurial within the business, right? So, I think that’s really nice to hear.

How can the Encompass Blue Platform help coronavirus risk management?

Tom:
And certainly, I think, given where we are in the world and coming through this pandemic… At the time of recording this, we’re mid-December, there’s talk in the UK about obviously a vaccine, et cetera. So we’re going to need to change that, right and how we’re working and what have you.

And that leads me on really nicely, actually Bob, to my next question about obviously the pandemic, right? So it’s really cast light on the need for risk management solutions and I’m curious to know specifically how, again, the Encompass Blue platform can help combat some of these issues for long-term management? Could you talk a little bit about that? Would that be okay?

Bob:
Yeah. There’s two parts to that. There’s the greater part, which is the bigger story. And that is, what’s come out of this is that because of this, you would have facilities managers not being able to go into buildings and not have access, because the old legacy systems don’t allow remote access. And they’ve got very little data, so they don’t know what’s going on. You just can’t shut equipment down completely. They have to keep going, otherwise you’re going to destroy millions of dollars worth of equipment. And so what this has borne out is that we need digital transformation in facilities and that’s very, very important. And I think globally, this is now being recognized. So this will hasten that move towards digital transformation in facilities, for existing buildings in that move. So, that’s the bigger picture.

Now let’s go down to our part here and that is what Encompass Blue can do, more specifically around COVID-19. And I guess to start with, when people walk into a building, what do you want to know? Have they got a fever? So we leverage and procure industrial cameras. So they can then take a distance of 15 meters and maybe have five, six, seven people at once come in. Straight up, we’ll determine whether they have a fever or not. That’s one.

Two, you’ve got issue maybe with building density. So, we have so many people who are allowed, say, in this building under COVID. So what we do is we run camera-based people counting systems, and put them at all the entrances. Carpark, entrances, elevators. So we know at any one time, how many people are in the building, and if you’re getting closer, you’re not allowed more than X.

We can send out alarms and do all sorts of things. Then the next one is more about proximity of people in meeting rooms. So we can map people in meeting rooms to make sure we’re not exceeding certain densities. And then the other one is about airflow management, because of course, if your airflow is not being managed correctly… In the many older buildings, there’s dead air spots, and there’s all sorts of things. And that will promote the transfer of bacteria and viruses. So we look at the number of air changes per hour and manage that better. And then we have anti-microbial sprays for filters and cooling evaporator and condenser coils for the HVAC air conditioning and heating systems. And that’ll last for up to 12 months. So the combination of all of these things, including air purification as well. So we work with other companies, we don’t make all these things.

Tom:
Yeah.

Bob:
But we’ll work with these other companies and then we’ll take responsibility, put them all together and provide any total solutions or any components because different clients might have certain components in place. And then we’ll provide the gaps and be happy to do that and work with our clients on that basis. So there’s quite a few areas. And then we’ve got environmental monitoring for air quality. So then we get into volatile organic gasses, we get into carbon dioxide, we get into a number of other things that we can measure. Also lux levels and noise and other things.

But in this thing, air quality’s also very important. And so by providing a complete set of options around this, we can not eliminate, but certainly go a fair why in mitigating risks around COVID-19. And not only COVID, because this will go for any bacterial or viral type strain. And what we’re going to mitigate is all of those things. So if something else comes down the track, which it could, then we’re set up already. The building is set up for this. And so that’s why it’s not only good for this, it will be good for the future.

Tom:
Yeah, thank you so much. And I think that’s the crucial part there, in layman’s terms, right is the fact that you’re being able to daisy chain and link all of these systems together, using a platform, as opposed to them running individual silos. And therefore the management of that will become more cumbersome. So, what Encompass Blue is doing is being able to manage this all as you say, from a device and being able to monitor this. And I think that’s great. And I think, given the pandemic and given the need to monitor all of these different bits and pieces, density, air flow, et cetera, it has to be simple.

How can IoT create a sustainable future?

Tom:
And it has to be a robust solution that works because otherwise people won’t do it or there’ll be errors, human errors, people will forget to do certain things. So, that’s really interesting to know and something that’s really topical right now. Bob, so you’re a really prominent leader, obviously in IOT in Australia, obviously being a member of the IOTAA and various other industry bodies. In terms of the future of sustainability within Blue IOT but also the platform that you use, what are your visions for the future? Where would you like this to go? Where do you think it’s going to go over the next five years? What can we expect to see?

Bob:
Okay, well-

Tom:
It’s a big question. So maybe we’ll just tackle one vision for the future.

Bob:
Look, we intend to be a dominant market leader. We’re a leader already with what we’re delivering and our technology and our disruption. We’re leading the world, but we will be dominant. In five years time, we’ll be a dominant player, a major player around the world, delivering just health and wellness and comfort and sustainability on every level. So we’re talking carbon net zero, we’re talking about smart grid management as well as demand response. We have a whole number of services that we can do right now, but as we move forward with our… Next year, we’re moving into full, complete digital twins. But four dimensional digital twins. Anyone could do a digital twin. It’s just a digital image of a building and they throw it around like confetti saying, “Isn’t this rocket science?” No, it’s not. It’s what you do with it that can maybe make it rocket science.

And so there’s a secret set of ingredients and herbs and spices that we will be injecting into this. So we’re talking about making the whole thing living and breathing and organic in itself, that is this whole digital twin, but then delivering… Again, it’s about delivery. It’s about an outcome, not about the tech. And in five years time, we will be a dominant player, not just the market, not just the leader in what we’re doing. And we will be delivering safety and health and wellness and massive sustainability outcomes and dramatic reductions in energy and maintenance, even on old existing equipment, but making life so much better for communities and for people. And that includes parks, gardens, open spaces and all kinds of buildings and places even tunnels. All sorts of different things.

So we intend to really be a major player in making a city smart, but healthy and happy and at every layer, part of the vision is that everybody wins. I don’t believe in losers. So what do I mean? Of course, our customers absolutely will be huge winners because even financially, returns, we’re delivering sub three year returns and paybacks as well as a massive carbon footprint reduction. And that’s before government rebates, but we’re talking about health and wellness outcomes. We’re talking about happy, productive environments where people are going to love coming in to the office. So we’re collaborating with companies even for green walls and plants inside of buildings. We’re looking at, as I said, a 360 degree approach, not just making the plant room run better.

And so we’re talking about a holistic set of solutions and partnering with a bunch of companies. And when I say partnering, I mean an amazing supply chain of quality companies. Because too many organizations go out to tender and the cheapest price wins, and they’ve got these lousy companies installing stuff for the cheapest price and it’s a disaster. You’ve got, say a lead rating building that’s platinum lead, for example, or an Australia neighbors national Australian built environment rating system, a five or six star, five and a half star. But then when you get the practical outcomes for the last 12 months operation, it’s a disaster because they put cheap garbage inside.
So sick of that and so here, everyone wins and it’s not just about what we put in. It’s about continuous improvement. It’s about total cost of ownership, total operational outcomes over life. And so we see ourselves as a dominant player, just delivering an amazing set of outcomes, whether it’s the facility manages operating the building, the building owners, the people that are residing or tenants or guests inside a building, or a hotel, it’s about outcomes for our staff, for our suppliers, everywhere across the board, where everybody wins and everyone has fun. And we’re making the planet a much better place. So this is our vision. This is what we will achieve. Indeed we will.

Tom:
Bob, I love it. I love the confidence and determination. You’re a man after my own heart with that, right? I know you’ve got some super exciting announcements and news coming up as well. So for our listeners, stay tuned, have a look on the socials, Blue IOT on LinkedIn. All the links will be in the comments, et cetera. Bob, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much. It’s 20 to 12 here in the UK. I know it’s 20 to 10, isn’t it, in Australia?

Bob:
20 to 11.

Tom:
20 to 11, right. Okay. So, you’ve stayed up late for me and I really appreciate that. But thank you so much for coming on the show and I wish you all the best in the future. And hopefully, in a couple of years time, once you’re even further down the field, it would be nice to have a catch up and see where you are at that point.

Bob:
I would love to. And thank you very much for having me and have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful and prosperous new year.

Tom:
Thank you. You too. All the best. Thanks, Bob.

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