SkySplat – 10-Reasons why SkySpark and other HVAC analytics platforms are failing to advance the Smart Building market

Find out why the future of HVAC is not in HVAC analytic platform and a few solutions you can use instead

By: Zach Denning

 

Big Data. Analytics. Insights. Machine-learning. IoT… The list of buzzwords touted by HVAC analytic providers goes on-and-on. The HVAC and Smart Building markets are now inundated with buzzwords, but where’s the value? What do these analytics platforms offer that current building automation systems can’t provide?

Let’s explore some of these questions and put the analytics debate to rest –

 

    • Analytics platforms are 100% proprietary – You own nothing!

      If you’re a service provider that currently resells mainstream analytics platforms like SkySpark, you don’t own any of the Intellectual Property (IP) you’ve developed – Same goes for customers!

      Those thousands-upon-thousands of lines of code you’ve written are all contained within a proprietary platform owned by another entity – You’re not an OEM! Meaning if you fail to meet their partner requirements, or even worse they go into default, you’re left with nothing – So much for that six-figure investment!

    • HVAC analytics platforms cost companies an average of $175,000 in life-cycle costs to design algorithms or ‘sparks’

      Yes, these are just platforms. Are they capable of ‘tagging’ or ‘analytics?’ Maybe. But there is no difference between these coding languages/platforms than, say, JAVA. (Expect JAVA is free, implemented by millions of developers, has multiple environments to develop within, 10x more capabilities… To name a few)

      If you’re a customer this cost looks astronomical – “I only spent $40,000 on my platform.” Correct? Well, maybe.

      The installing provider spent at least $100-200,000 in backend Research-and-Development (R&D) costs to implement his algorithms on your site; Everything from Partner Channel fees, research, development, etc. If they spent less you’re probably not getting proper return on your investment – But who looks at those anyways?

    • There is no verifiable payback, or really any payback for that matter

      Each implementation of SkySpark is based on the providers interpretation of HVAC problems and how the system is supposed to operate efficiently. Unfortunately, most HVAC providers aren’t experts in energy efficiency and often misinterpret efficient operating in lieu of overemphasizing comfort.

      When payback of these implementations is solely based on discovering issues and providing actionable intelligence, the average implementation fails miserably.

    • 95% of all HVAC analytics platform implemented don’t deliver capabilities beyond existing building automation technology

      Yes, you read that right. There’s no advanced software technology in your SkySpark implementation or your existing building automation system. How can that be possible?

      SkySpark has yet to release any machine-learning – The most commonly associated buzzword associated with cloud-analytic platforms. So what does it do?

      Real-time alarms: HVAC alerts based on real-time deviations in equipment operation. For example, your space temperature deviating from its setpoint by more than two-degrees. Not machine-learning. Not AI. Just a simple alarm.

      This was the same software-technology present in the building automation market since 1980 – Which was more than 30-years ago – Which was before I was born…Barely.

      SkySpark makes it easier to write these alarms for providers – That’s it. Customers are sold on buzzwords and ‘unicorn benefits’ that are up to the provider to not only provide, but design in their entirety.

      One of the main reasons these platforms fail to deliver value is that real-time alerts don’t adapt as the design conditions of the building change – Which happens on average at least once every 12-months!

      Hopefully your subscription was only 6-months!

    • Customers can spend $20,000-40,000 in setup fees just to get started

      Setup costs are astronomical as customers paying for point licensing, hosting, custom logic, etc. Their overall deliverable is extremely customized with ongoing management considered a ‘grey area’ in HVAC analytics.

      Customers forced to manage their own systems can expect to pay another $10,000 -$15,000 annually in software-based adjustments just to keep the system functioning properly – But only after they pay another $5,000-$10,000 to send an employee to training.

      Don’t worry your investment will pay off… One day. Maybe.

    • There is virtually no standardization on analytical evaluation of HVAC systems

      Let’s be honest, it’s still the Wild Wild West in cloud-based computing for commercial HVAC which should be a giant red-flag for customers who are concerned with payback.

      Yes, you have SkySpark on all your buildings – Congratulations. The downside is you were sold on the fact you could bid out future developments to multiple providers. This would be like developing an Android App in JAVA and sharing future builds between JAVA developers – There all the same, right?

      Without any standardization, most implementations lack true actionable intelligence or any other major selling points provided by platform developers. Why?

      SkySpark relies on HVAC and building automation contractors to deploy their software. The HVAC industry has struggled mightily with software-standards for the last 15-20 years which organically carried over to cloud-platform development.

      Unless you’re getting all your development done by one contractor, chances are those actionable-insights you’re looking for are being lost in all the ‘big data’ you’ve been collecting – Even worse they probably never existed in the first place!

    • Most customers are expected to maintain their own installations

      The biggest fallacy in HVAC is that building automation systems adapt with design conditions – You add a tenant and magically the building automation system changes the HVAC unit’s design conditions to maintain perfect comfort and efficiency.

      This story was invented building automation manufacturers and has been regurgitated hundreds-of-thousands of times across the smart building market to push product – And now it’s progressed into analytic platforms.

      Managing these analytics platforms is nearly impossible for somebody not skilled in object-oriented programming and in-depth HVAC troubleshooting; A combination that even in the HVAC world encompasses less than 5% of all programmers and technicians.

      What does that mean for customers? Within 6-8 months the majority of these cloud-based analytic systems begin to falter and results dwindle to nothing but ‘ghost alarms.’ (i.e. – Real-time alerts that aren’t related to actual failures)

      It’s like paying $1,000 to see Ghostbusters without Bill Murray – Seems a little underwhelming!

    • All the code is written in a proprietary coding language like Axon

      When Googling JAVA I found 135,000,000 results related to software development – Axon (SkySpark’s programming language and engine) returned a whopping 7,000,000 – Mostly pertaining to tasers – Devices that electrocute people in the name of self-defense.

      Although existing HVAC analytic-platforms may be capable of features like ‘tagging’ or ‘analytics’, most pale in comparison to true object-oriented languages like JAVA or C.

      Why choose JAVA over SkySpark?

      1. You’re going to invest the same capital to develop ‘sparks’ than you would to develop your own algorithms in JAVA
      2. JAVA is more widely supported and optimized
      3. Axon functionality is extremely limited in data analysis compared to JAVA
      4. You can host JAVA from any cloud-server
      5. You don’t have to pay any licensing fees
      6. You can use the same User Interface (UI) as SkySpark – It’s based on an API and isn’t platform specific.
      7. You actually own your JAVA code and can port it fairly easily to different languages

 

I only have eight reasons why you should pass on existing analytic platforms, (10-reasons seemed better in the title) but here’s some alternatives to consider if you’re still keen on generating insights from your HVAC –

 

    • Subscription-based analytics

      Subscription services ensure your investment payback never stagnates over time. Providers offering these services ensure continual value either directly by optimizing equipment or indirectly by monitoring and identify cost-saving measures.

      If not, cancel your contract!

    • Packaged or Managed Services

      Cloud-HVAC platform providers may be gunslingers, but when they’re forced to provide and manage their own solution the investment is more results driven and less capital intensive.

      As an end user you may not own any Intellectual Property (IP), but you’re also not responsible for guaranteeing massive paybacks from a system you don’t understand. Why not let the experts be the experts while you sit back and reap the benefits!

      No benefits, cancel the contract!

 

The world of ‘big data’ is still too big for most of the HVAC industry. Although SkySpark might be a good tool for HVAC providers, it delivers little value when placed in the hands of a customer.

If you’re still sold on the platform, find a provider that offers a subscription service that includes guaranteed results and isn’t capital intensive – Maybe then you’ll re-coop your investment. Maybe the Browns win the Super Bowl. Anything is possible!

 

 

My name is Zach Denning and I’m the CEO and owner of EnerDapt, Inc. We’ve developed an HVAC AI software platform that strengthens relationships between service providers and property management, while reducing operating costs 18-22%.  You can reach me at zdenning@enerdapt.com or visit our website at www.enerdapt.com

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