Technology procurement challenges for ‘smart building’ developers and operators

Originally Appearing in Corrs Chambers Westgarth, July 13 2020.
Authors Daniel Thompson, James North

State of the art ‘smart building’ technology has rapidly become a key differentiator for all stakeholders in the real estate value-chain – owners, operators, tenants and end users. However, as building technology becomes more complex, building developers and operators face new challenges that require technology-specific skill sets to address.

The data-driven ‘smart buildings’ of tomorrow will be made possible by the core technologies of Industry 4.0 – namely, 5G, IoT, AI and cloud. They will offer unprecedented customisation and control, operational efficiencies and cost saving, and will also generate valuable data sets. Smart building technology will use fleets of IoT sensors, machine learning and data analytics to learn occupant preferences, monitor occupant activity, connect physical and electronic identity, provide digital design tools, and automate ‘operational’ building technology (e.g. climate control, lighting, fire, and security).

COVID-19 has brought many of the benefits of smart buildings into acute focus: automated and remotely managed building systems have minimised the need for onsite staff during lock-down, and technologies such as thermal cameras, occupancy monitoring systems and dynamic space allocation management offer innovative solutions to safely return to work. However, with these benefits come a number of new challenges that require technology-specific skill sets to address, for example:

  • IoT devices used in smart buildings, and their connection to various cloud environments, present a far greater attack area for hackers to gain access to building systems, and the interconnectedness of building systems will increase the risk of harm that may be caused by cyber breaches;
  • the data sets generated by smart building sensors and analytics systems are likely to contain personal information of individual occupants or visitors and will require rigorous attention at the design stage and ongoing controls to ensure privacy compliance; and
  • the design, integration and lifecycle management of smart building technology will involve an increasing number of vendor solutions and greater complexity to manage internally.

Many developers and operators will not have the internal capability to address these challenges and, for this reason, procurement and management of smart building technology is increasingly outsourced to specialist building technology contractors, or ‘Master Systems Integrators’ (MSIs). However, the procurement approach to (and commercial and contractual model for) engaging an MSI is not well established.

Traditionally, building developers have contracted numerous technology vendors for a range of particular building systems, generally under the head building contractor and after the building planning and design stages are complete. As technology moves from the periphery to the centre of future building design, early engagement with an MSI will be integral to ensuring that technology solutions are adapted to meet business objectives and overall building strategy.

MSI engagements will become far more complex than traditional technology contracts, and will often involve outsourcing end-to-end responsibility for design, build, commissioning, and ongoing management, support and evolution of smart building technology. Developers and operators of smart buildings should be rethinking their procurement and contracting approach to technology implementation in order to reap the benefits promised by smart building technology.

Outcomes-based procurement

The reality of most building systems today is that information is siloed in individual systems. A core aim of smart buildings is to integrate building systems to enable data flows from these systems to be collected, analysed and used in real-time to support desired outcomes. For example, a business objective may be to identify whether a meeting room is occupied. There may be many ways of achieving such an objective, using data from one or more building systems:

  • data from a meeting room scheduler may show a room is booked;
  • data from a lighting sensor may show that a room is unoccupied; and
  • data from workplace tracking systems may show that the scheduled attendees are not in the building, or in another meeting room.

Generally, when procuring smart building technology, developers and operators should focus on developing clear business outcomes or capability ‘use cases’, rather than prescribing particular technology requirements to achieve these outcomes. This ‘business outcomes’ procurement approach is well suited to the smart building context, as it allows MSIs to utilise their specialist knowledge of legacy, new and on-the-horizon technology, and design and integration expertise, to propose cost-effective solutions. This approach will also speed up the time to issue an RFP, and increase the scope for MSIs to innovate and compete to provide the best value solution that meets the required business outcomes.

Engagement model

There is no ‘industry standard’ model of MSI engagement, and contracts take on a number of forms. However, the MSI engagement model will expand beyond simple consulting services, or delivering integrations between particular building systems, and will often encompass end-to-end responsibility for the design, integration, operation and lifecycle of all building technology systems.
The characteristics of deeper MSI engagement models will generally include:

End-to-end design & build responsibility. The MSI will be responsible for designing and delivering a turn-key technology solution that meets the customer’s requirements, including responsibility for ensuring all third party systems incorporated in the solution are fit for purpose. This approach shifts design risk from the developer to the MSI, whose expertise in the vendor market leaves it best placed to recommend the right systems, and removes the opportunity for finger pointing between vendors if requirements are not met. This model of engagement is generally contracted on a fixed-price / fixed-scope basis.

Project responsibility. The MSI will have contractual responsibility for delivering the technology solution to meet a project timetable, and for project managing third party technology vendors and the inputs from the building owner and other stakeholders. In the case of a new construction or renovation, the MSI will need to develop its project timetable around the construction timetable, and work closely with the construction project team to identify design and access requirements. Early engagement in the building design stage is essential for ensuring that the technology and construction projects progress in harmony.

Post-commissioning ops. Traditional facilities management functions will be transformed and in many cases replaced by smart building systems, which require specialist IT and data expertise to operate and maintain that may be beyond the abilities of in-house facilities management and IT teams. Accordingly, MSIs will have a greater role to play in managing the operation of smart building technology than traditional ‘operational technology’ contractors, which may include IT support and maintenance services, technology vendor management (including management of licensing, vendor software support, and end-of-life issues), cyber security, unified data management, privacy compliance, optimising and improving building operations through data analytics, and training services for in-house teams. A key part of the value MSIs offer in the operational phase of a smart building is to connect building stakeholders to the data generated by building systems in meaningful ways, and assisting operational decision-making based on such data. Performance of such ongoing operational services will be driven by service levels, which may include metrics for systems availability, energy efficiency, preventative maintenance, systems security, and customer satisfaction, among others.

Upgrade and enhancement. Building lifecycles are significantly longer than technology lifecycles, and the technology in smart buildings will evolve in time. In many cases, technology upgrade or enhancement work will commence from the moment the building is commissioned. There is often a gap in perspective between the design and build teams and the stakeholders most invested in the operational use of the building, and this will often result in the MSI development team being engaged in continual development or re-configuration of building systems to meet operational needs. MSI contracts need to contemplate more than the initial solution delivery, and include terms governing how future projects or continuous delivery will be governed. Engagement models may include minor enhancement work built into operations and support services, priced technology roadmap options, gain-share mechanisms for joint investments, and/or agile project development regimes.

Looking ahead

How a smart building owner chooses to engage with a MSI will depend on a number of factors, including the complexity of their technology requirements and their in-house capabilities. Although engagements with MSIs are likely to continue to involve significant consulting work on an hourly rate basis, and piecemeal integration projects, the trend in MSI engagements for truly integrated building systems will shift towards outsourcing end-to-end responsibility for all building technology, both in the delivery and operations stages.

There will always be a cost for pushing greater contractual responsibility on an MSI, but as technology and the smart building industry continues to develop, the value in deeper partnerships with such service providers will become more compelling, and MSIs will become more accustomed to accepting and capable of managing such risk.

World Wi-Fi Day 2020: During an Uncertain Time, Wi-Fi is Keeping the World Connected

Originally Appearing in Wi-Fi Forward, June 18 2020

This Saturday is World Wi-Fi Day — a day in which we recognize the countless benefits and accomplishments of a technology that most of us use every day. This year, World Wi-Fi Day comes as changes from COVID-19 seep across our culture and economy in ways no one could have envisioned just a few months ago. Across the globe, people have been forced to adapt to new ways of doing things — at home, at work and at school. One thing that makes this possible is fast and available Wi-Fi.


Telehealth has been a fast-growing part of the healthcare industry for most of the past decade, and Wi-Fi supports much of this critical practice. While many medical practices were already utilizing Wi-Fi in hospitals and doctors’ offices, some were slow to adopt, especially in states where insurance laws kept down reimbursements for virtual visits. This year, it seemed every doctor was encouraging patients to connect online. It’s safer for everyone — not just in a time of COVID-19 — but when dealing with any contagious illness or with patients with mobility challenges. Many more patients now realize there’s no need to go to a doctor’s office when there is a much easier way to “visit” the doctor using your home internet connectivity — keeping more patients out of the hospital and reducing the risk of infection.


With the onset of COVID-19, teachers and professors at every level were forced to rejigger their curricula to an online format. But as they adapted, many reported new benefits to distance learning. Beyond ensuring the health of students and faculty, students gained flexibility and can now attend class from virtually anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection. Wi-Fi has opened the door for new and creative ways of learning and has made school possible in this critical time.


When COVID-19 shut down offices across the U.S. in mid-March, companies scrambled to find new and innovative ways to stay connected and productive; many turned to wireless internet. Wi-Fi allows employees to collaborate remotely from the safety of their own homes using Zoom, email, and countless other web-based applications. Home Wi-Fi allows businesses to adapt quickly to the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic, assuring companies the ability to continue to serve their customers, all while ensuring their employees’ safety.

Wi-Fi has helped society and the economy adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from assisting in the continuation of critical functions like healthcare and education, Wi-Fi is keeping friends and family connected at a time when keeping in touch with loved ones is more important than ever. These alterations to the fabric of our lives would have been far less efficient had a pandemic struck with the ethernet connections of a decade ago. The past several months have proven the utility and value of unlicensed spectrum in an increasingly virtual world. So, on this World Wi-Fi Day, let’s look at what we have learned these past few months and ponder how we can move forward together in a world connected by Wi-Fi that connects us in ways few thought possible.

ISSQUARED®, Inc. Wins Fortinet’s 2019 North America Regional Partner of the Year Award

Originally Appearing in, June 8, 2020

We congratulate our technology partner ISSQUARED, a leading provider of IT technology solutions, on having been selected by Fortinet as the 2019 North America Regional Partner of the Year! This award recognizes technology partners that deliver superior business solutions. In cooperation with ISSQUARED, Red Bison has developed a platform of next generation value added services that will revolutionize how tenants turn on IT services in the future.

ISSQUARED® Inc., a market-leading provider of end-to-end IT technology solutions, announced today that it was named Fortinet’s 2019 North America Regional Partner of the Year. The Fortinet 2019 North America Partner of the Year Awards recognizes dedicated partners and distributors in the North American region.

ISSQUARED® has been a trusted partner of Fortinet® for several years. Together we have helped organizations create strong security postures and run successful security programs. As a result of our close partnership, we’ve collaborated on best practices for technology implementation, integration, and optimization, including for the Fortinet Secure SD-WAN solution. ISSQUARED is also committed to technical development with Fortinet through its Network Security Expert (NSE) certifications and training program available to partners for free.

“ISSQUARED® is proud to be recognized by Fortinet®. This award highlights our ability to deliver superior business solutions to meet ever-changing technology needs, as well as our expertise across Fortinet’s product offerings,” said Bala Ramaiah, Chief Executive Officer, ISSQUARED®. “Businesses need integrated solutions to tackle cybersecurity threats effectively in this ever-changing threat landscape. Fortinet’s broad, integrated, and automated Security Fabric platform protects organizations across the digital infrastructure from sophisticated threats while reducing complexity. Our partnership with Fortinet strengthens our strategic vision to implement best-in-class security solutions and threat intelligence technologies to combat growing security challenges and ensure businesses are better protected.”

“This recognition as Fortinet’s 2019 North America Regional Partner of the Year is a significant acknowledgment for ISSQUARED’s commitment and dedication to providing best-fit solutions and more orchestrated end-to-end cybersecurity services for our clientele; while carefully building a strategic relationship with our partners,” said Suchinth Kumar, Chief Revenue Officer at ISSQUARED®. “We continue to see an opportunity with Fortinet to create an integrated cybersecurity architecture for our customers in any environment.”

Paradigm shift: Five connectivity markets to be revolutionised by Wi-Fi 6E

Originally Appearing in Wi-Fi Now, Author Claus Hetting, May 5, 2020

When we say that 6 GHz Wi-Fi constitutes a ‘paradigm shift’ in connectivity – what exactly does that mean? Here’s the bottom line: Wi-Fi 6E (we like to call it 6E for short) will drive an irreversible change in how the world of connectivity works. It means the way we’ve been used to doing things will fundamentally change. Here are six areas that will be revolutionised by Wi-Fi 6E in short order. If you’re not already we recommend that you get involved in Wi-Fi 6E now.

Gigabits to the phone: 6E will make 5G look slow!
According to Broadcom Wi-Fi 6E will deliver 2.4 Gbps to your phone (160 MHz channel) which is at least five times more than what you have today. This kind of speed is unheard of today and is probably overkill right now but it will no doubt open up for new types of applications. It will also in most cases make 5G look slow (except perhaps for the not very practical mmWave kind of 5G) rendering 5G unnecessary indoors. Fortunately, we believe that 5G mobile carriers – where possible – will begin to embrace mobile offload to Wi-Fi 6E, so that 6E will become the de-facto indoor mobile solution.

The 6E-powered home will be something hard to imagine
What will the 6E-powered home look like? Well – we can certainly come up with some speeds and feeds for it. That’s the easy part. But living in the 6E-powered home is arguably hard to imagine at this point because the step up in connectivity is so vast that surely the entire home connectivity category will no doubt be reimagined and reinvented. Each room will likely be served by its own 160 MHz channel delivering clean, unobstructed gigabits of connectivity, and we’ll probably have (perhaps a Wi-Fi 7?) backbone covering the house or apartment.

Industrial connectivity reinvented
Here are three facts that will make 6E irresistible for industrial applications: The band is pristine, legacy Wi-Fi devices are (in principle) not allowed in 6 GHz, and the latency is as low as 2 milliseconds. This means 6E will experience very little interference, deliver all the performance industrial applications need – at a cost of a fraction of anything adopted from cellular. Remember also the extreme flexibility of Wi-Fi tech and its ability to present a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of adaptable tools to anyone developing industrial connectivity solutions.

“Eighty is the new twenty” for the enterprise
The indoor carpeted enterprise will see an enormous boost in capacity and speed. As a starting point, 80 MHz channels in the 6 GHz band will be the 6 GHz equivalent of the common 20 MHz channels we know today, and one such channel will more than quadruple average Wi-Fi speed. There are fourteen 80 MHz channels in 6 GHz, which will allow frequency reuse patterns that are so wide that co-channel interference will be a thing of the past. We can probably barely imagine how the fan experience at public-facing venues such as stadiums, arenas, and perhaps conference venues will be transformed by 6E.

A resurgence in Fixed Wireless Access
FWA is already doing very well in 5 GHz and even the 60 GHz unlicensed bands – but now the available band for outdoor FWA will be more than doubled: 850 MHz of new spectrum will be made available. This means that the business case for delivering very high-speed, low-cost wireless broadband to a home (or business) for example in rural or suburban USA just got better by several multiples. FWA offerings from WISPs will get more competitive as speeds go up and costs come down. We haven’t done the math but it’s a fair guess the economic value delivered by WISPs could at least double or triple over the next 2-3 years.

FCC’s Wi-Fi proposals will add $183.44 billion to U.S. economy by 2025

Originally Appearing in April 2020

Two pending Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Wi-Fi proposals would add at least $183.44 billion to the U.S. economy over the next 5 years. This is the finding of a new study by Dr. Raul Katz, a leading scholar of economics and telecommunications policy, on the FCC’s proposals to open the 5.9 GHz band and 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi. The FCC’s proposals will create a wide array of economic benefits:

Increase broadband speeds, accelerate deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT), and support the augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) market – adding $106 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP);

Allow producers to realize a producer surplus of $69 billion based on savings on enterprise wireless traffic and sales of Wi-Fi and AR/VR

Produce $8 billion in consumer surplus from increased broadband speeds.

By spectrum band, the study concluded that by 2025:
● The FCC’s proposal to open the 5.9 GHz band to Wi-Fi would provide $28.14 billion in economic value;
● The FCC’s proposal to open the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi would generate $153.75 billion in economic value;
● Sales of Wi-Fi equipment for both bands would generate $1.54 billion in economic value.

Wi-Fi, return to speed, and consumer surplus
Numerous studies have shown a strong positive relationship between broadband speed and economic growth. Fixed broadband networks continue to improve performance, but consumers depend on Wi-Fi to connect to these networks. Without enough unlicensed spectrum, customers won’t be able to benefit fully from those speeds using Wi-Fi. The latest Wi-Fi technology can deliver these faster speeds. But it needs wide, contiguous channels to maximize its potential. The U.S. lacks these channels today and the FCC’s proposals would enable them. In this study, Dr. Katz shows that by doing so, the FCC would produce substantial economic value:
● Opening the lower 45 megahertz of the 5.9 GHz band would create near-immediate benefits by creating the first widely usable 160 megahertz Wi-Fi channel and relieving network congestion. The increased speeds would add at least $23.04 billion to GDP.
● The FCC’s 6 GHz proposal would increase speeds over time by creating several more 160 megahertz and even 320 megahertz channels. These new channels would ensure that Wi-Fi can handle increasing Wi-Fi traffic as fixed broadband providers roll out even faster speeds, contributing at least
$13.25 billion to GDP.
● Dr. Katz also notes that consumers value faster Wi-Fi speed ($5.10 billion attributable to faster broadband speeds enabled by 5.9 GHz and $2.92 billion attributable to 6 GHz).

Producer surplus from equipment sales
Building on the findings of studies in 2014, 2017 and 2018, Dr. Katz calculates that the FCC’s actions would lead to producer surplus related to the manufacturing and sales of new Wi-Fi equipment using the new bands.
This would produce $1.54 billion in surplus benefits to the economy.

Broader deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) devices
The FCC has proposed allowing a new class of Wi-Fi devices throughout the 6 GHz band: Low-Power Indoor or “LPI” devices. “These devices will operate at lower power levels than traditional Wi-Fi. Dr. Katz’s analysis shows that opening the full 6 GHz band to LPI technologies will drive the market to produce more machine-to-machine devices and develop new use cases and applications for connected homes, healthcare facilities, factories and sensor-based communications. This will yield a $44.03 billion contribution to GDP.

Savings in enterprise wireless traffic
By opening the full 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi, large office complexes, venues, industrial plants, stadiums, hospitals, and schools will be empowered to boost their ommunications networks and deliver 5G capable speeds indoors without having to rely on a cellular connection. Dr. Katz demonstrates that the cost savings to these enterprise customers will produce a $54.04 billion surplus for the U.S. economy.

Producer surplus from AR/VR equipment sales and GDP spillover from AR/VR uses
The FCC has also proposed to open the 6 GHz band to Very Low Power or “VLP” technologies. These technologies will drive an emerging Personal Area Network, or “PAN,” market segment, which includes AR/VR devices, body-worn sensors, and other low-power peripherals. Dr. Katz finds that the growth of firms producing just one type of these PAN technologies, AR/VR hardware, software, and content, will result in new revenues and value for the U.S. economy that will lead to $13.74 billion in surplus.
In addition, Dr. Katz notes that these new AR/VR applications will lead to new use cases like health care diagnostics, visualizations and displays for remote surgery, training for pediatric emergencies, immersive entertainment at concerts and events, remote technical assistance, and training for dangerous professions like mining and search and rescue. Dr. Katz finds that these use cases would have a “spillover impact” on
productivity, with the consequent growth of GDP ($25.78 billion contribution to GDP).

5G CAPEX and OPEX savings
Finally, the study also examines CAPEX and OPEX savings to cellular operators from offloading mobile traffic, including 5G, onto Wi-Fi, finding that this use alone will yield $13.60 billion in GDP contributions.