EdgeX Foundry Member Spotlight: Switch Automation

By September 25, 2017 Blog

The EdgeX Foundry community is comprised of a diverse set of member companies that represent the IoT ecosystem. The Member Spotlight blog series highlights these members and how they are contributing to and leveraging open source solutions. Today, we chatted with Deb Noller, CEO and co-founder of Switch Automation.

What does your company do and what is your role? I’m the CEO and co-founder of Switch Automation. Switch is committed to creating a more sustainable world, one broken building at a time. We recognize that buildings contribute 39% to CO emissions in the U.S. alone and have a massive impact on everything from climate change to employee health and productivity. Our end-to-end solution helps enterprises uncover hidden inefficiencies in their real estate portfolios and provides real-time insight to optimize building performance.

How would you describe your company in three sentences?  Switch Automation is a smart building platform that collects disjointed building data, aggregates it in a cloud-based global framework and synthesizes the data into actionable insights. From on-site IoT monitoring devices to energy metering and sub-systems, our configurable dashboards provide a single interface where a range of facilities management professionals can understand building performance, employ fault detection and diagnostics, and execute real-time control and command. The Switch Engineering Services team, in-house data scientists and integration experts work closely with customers to ensure smooth implementation and a best-in-class user experience.

Why is your company investing in the IoT ecosystem? When Apple introduced the iPhone, they didn’t set out to build every single app. The IoT industry is enormous and there is plenty of room for many companies to be successful. However, it’s a complex space and can be difficult to build an end-to-end, quick to deploy solution. My belief is that best in-class solution providers will partner together to solve this problem and deliver more flexible, scalable options for customers.

How has IoT impacted your company? What benefits have you seen or what do you expect to achieve? IoT is our business. In the last 5 years, we’ve implemented the Switch Platform in more than 70 million sf of real estate and helped a wide range of customers realize hundreds of thousands in operational and energy savings.

Given the forecast for 70 billion connected devices by 2025 and the building-related IoT market growth to $76 billion in 2020, we will continue updating the Platform to accommodate innovative technologies, artificial intelligence and machine learning as they become operational mainstays.

Businesses currently have to invest a lot of time and energy into developing their own edge computing solutions. What are some of the business or technical challenges you have faced when adopting edge computing technologies? How have you overcome them? We had to build our own gateways and software stack to provide the interoperability, security and connectivity between systems and devices that our customers expect. Security can present a big challenge, but fortunately we’ve partnered with Dell for our hardware solution, the Switch Gateway. The Gateway utilizes TPM, Secure Boot, and Trusted App to help tamper-proof the Switch Platform. We then built a state of the art software solution on top of the Switch Gateway to reinforce protection from external threats.

Why did your company join EdgeX? For the last five years we’ve seen what a truly cohesive IoT ecosystem can do to foster connectivity, sustainability, scalability and generate huge savings for our customers.

One of our clients, a leading financial institution with 7,000+ branches, uses the Switch Platform to monitor signage, lighting, space temperatures, occupancy, energy usage and more. Prior to implementing the Platform, their operations team endured the tedious and time-consuming practice of gathering vast amounts of data from multiple disparate sources then wrestling it into actionable insights. Each branch was an isolated silo of information and by the time the information was filtered down to meaningful findings, the window for significant savings had closed.

By leveraging the Switch Platform to connect vital systems, our customer now spots problems in real time and engages the appropriate resources to repair it before incurring costly operational and capital expenses.

We want to help more businesses achieve these kinds of results and believe that supporting collaborative industry endeavors like EdgeX is a great step.

How are you going to use the framework? We already use the framework and recommend it to our customers as the best way forward for their business.

Where do you see enterprise and industrial IoT in 20 years? In 20 years, enterprise and industrial IoT will be the norm. Cars in the 1950s didn’t have electric locks–now they do. People will have devices all over their buildings and the data will be freely shared across the organization. Automated analytics, machine learning and AI will all have a seat at the table and align with evolving customer needs.

In the IoT age, what shouldn’t be connected and why? Just because you can connect to a plethora of widgets, doesn’t mean you should. I like to ask, “Does connecting to this device deliver a worthwhile and tangible benefit to the end user?”