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By Ajay Kamble, CIO, Turtle & Hughes, Inc.

Automating Smart Buildings in a Smarter WayAjay Kamble, CIO, Turtle & Hughes, Inc.

Being a customer-focused digital leader with an affinity for transforming businesses through innovation, Ajay Kamble is passionate about on-boarding a perfect blend of design and technologies. With considerable experience in manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain, Kamble enjoys simplifying complex issues while solving tomorrow’s problems.

The growth of smart buildings in the last few years has been exponential; however, the automation required to operate the amenities in the build­ings has remained quite sporadic. The plethora of devices in the marketplace and the differenc­es in each of their configurations are making it increasingly difficult to incorporate technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT), to connect all the devices and attain a seamless operable environment. Against this backdrop, a brand-agnostic, universal approach conveys an efficient path toward automating the systems in the construction space.

How does Turtle & Hughes address the challenges in the building automation landscape by utilizing the current trends?

Most of the advancements that we see in construction are relevant to the innovation in residential space. On the commercial side, similar automation becomes challenging due to the inability of the devices to interact with one another and the number of platforms required to manage such independent devices. In the building automation arena, property managers are faced with a multitude of dominant solution providers and are, therefore, unable to choose devices that are compatible with one another. All of these challenges boil down to one necessity—the existence of a universal framework, which would facilitate seamless connectivity among all devices, irrespective of brands, in a specific building. Nevertheless, there is still a catch.

Even when devices start interacting with each other and begin aggregating user behavior data, managers often overlook the need to analyze them and glean actionable insights. 

In addition to new technologies, most of our solutions come through the journey of problem-solving for our customers

For instance, interior smart thermostats are installed to sense the occupancy inside a building and set the temperature accordingly. However, it lacks the ability to assess the outside temperature with humidity and adjust the air conditioner, or turn on the fan, or actuate other mechanics based on real-time conditions. On similar lines, we are working to enhance efficiency by connecting relevant devices in order to offer a seamless experience for the individuals in a smart building.

The functionality of connected devices revolves around human or environmental data. Presently, most of the data collected by construction firms is stored by providers in the Cloud. While cloud computing offers secure options to store data, most of it stands the risk of being compromised or misused. Edge computing, on the other hand, is a safe counterpart of cloud computing; all data gets stored closer to the devices, providing near real-time computing and limiting access to a select few.

Please shed some light on any of your current projects.

Currently, we are working with a large pharmaceutical company with about 35-40 manufacturing plants, which are operational around-the-clock in three shifts. The company has storerooms for issuing materials needed in the manufacturing plants. While there is human supervision in one of the shifts, the other two shifts mostly go unattended, as the company depends on volunteer supervision. The situation resulted in material leakage, which could only be prevented by installing an around-the-clock automated surveillance system. Turtle & Hughes has proposed to solve the problem by combining multiple IoT devices. For instance, this will enable the process of tapping the existing security cameras, leveraging facial recognition, and connecting them to the employee database to identify the employees coming in or out of the storerooms. When an employee walks into the storeroom, these devices scan the database to confirm if there is a pre-existing work order for that employee, and if so, they have already identified the list of products that will be picked up.

If the individual picks up a wrong product from the shelf, with a combination of location identifiers, and 3D imaging, he receives an alert that the wrong item may have been picked up.

What inspires you to keep the wheels turning in the building automation landscape?

My role in the building automation industry is to influence new-age thinkers and guide them in the process of ideating new technologies. In addition to new technologies, most of our solutions come through the journey of problem-solving for our customers. However, Turtle & Hughes does not apply automation and technology, just because it is the trend. More than speculative knowledge, we allow our teams to learn and make mistakes, step upward, and collaborate in real-time. We bond with our customers onsite, observe their processes, and come up with automation strategies, as required.

How do you think the building automation space will evolve over the years?

In the coming years, all data generated will help in predictive operations, which will be a win-win situation for both manufacturers, as well as the property managers. This will further eliminate the companies’ need for maintaining multiple inventories. The entire chain of real-time data analytics transforming into predictive analytics and finally, prescriptive analytics will be helpful for reducing waste and carbon emissions. The devices will evolve to become smarter as they will be capable of predicting when they require maintenance and then schedule maintenance sessions unassisted, which will enable workers to receive the right product, on time.

A message you would like to convey to your fellow C-Suite executives?

As an indispensable part of a company’s technological advancement, CIOs must hold themselves responsible for the evolution of digitizing in an organization. Failure to do so may lead to friction between the technology and digital divisions of the company. By collaborating digital strategies with the technological vision of a business, CIOs can be the true digital innovators for every organization.

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