Every Building, IoT Enabled: Our Interview with Beth Worrall

Thu, 2017-12-07 21:14 -- Adam Beck

As part of our continued showcasing of smart cities leaders across the region, we caught up with Buddy Platform’s Marketing Manager, Beth Worrall. During the interview, we touched on everything from the smart building movement, IoT equity and climate change. Here is a summary of our conversation.

Q: Why does Buddy exist?

A: We know that the smart city needs to be driven by data from a range of systems and sources, but this requires collating, collecting and synthesising. To get maximum value, this data needs to be consolidated in a platform that is accessible, open and interoperable. That’s what we do at Buddy, gather data from a range of systems and turn it into a valuable and actionable asset.

Q: But where in the world of smart city data do you play in, and why?

A: Our buildings consume 40% of the world’s energy, and 20% of the world’s water. Through our Buddy Ohm service, we collect and synthesize resource consumption data for buildings, including energy and water data. And we can make data available to anyone – building owners and tenants, facilities managers as well as sustainability managers and CFOs.

Imagine driving a car without a dashboard and with quarterly fuel consumption bills. On a day-to-day basis, how do you know how fast you’re going? Whether you have any problems? You’re basically driving blind and hoping for the best. A lot of buildings, particularly older buildings, operate in this way.

We solve that problem for building owners and tenants, in an easy and affordable way. And by providing affordable, easy access to building resource monitoring we can help people make better decisions and unlock the value of their data.

Broader than that, through smart buildings we can help to monitor and reduce the resource consumption in our cities.

Q: As an organisation, Buddy seems to have a strong social conscious. How does this play out in your work?

A: I am genuinely inspired by Buddy's position on making IoT services that are affordable and more inclusive. With our Buddy Ohm service, literally any building can be smart. We are expanding into a range of regions, including the Caribbean and Latin America, offering an affordable service that helps governments and businesses gain access to the power of the Internet of Things.

Q: How does it feel being an Australian company, and having such a global impact?

A: Any ambitious company in Australia needs to think globally. The smart cities market place is a global one, and we are working hard to meet a global demand. Buddy benefits from having a team based in Australia and the US as well as a diverse workforce, which gives us a truly international perspective.

Q: What are your thoughts on the smart buildings agenda?

A: The agenda is emerging, with much more to be done.

It’s terrific that so many of our new city buildings are beacons for energy efficiency, but what about all the older buildings? We’re not building cities from scratch. Most of our cities are made up of older buildings, built at a time where energy efficiency was not a consideration at all.

So, I love that smart building services like Buddy Ohm can be so easily deployed in older buildings. We can bring the latest technologies and advancements to these buildings, they don’t need to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in building management systems. Once they have their data, they’re in a better position to make the changes necessary to manage energy costs.

Having led sustainability programs for a range of global companies, I love that we can make smart building data available to sustainability and operations managers, who can use it to create huge behaviour change throughout their workforce.

I also love that we can deploy across property portfolios, like banks and retail stores. In smaller sites, resource consumption is harder to control and monitor centrally, so Buddy Ohm could create a huge impact there.

Q: Is there a smart buildings opportunity that excites you?

A: Absolutely - schools! There are over 9,000 schools in Australia, and each one of them presents an enormous opportunity for smart buildings, creating hands-on opportunities to learn about sustainability and the internet of things, as well as helping them reduce carbon emissions and save money.

Building IoT systems like Buddy Ohm provides opportunities for principals and teachers to use the data to monitor resource consumption in real time, at a really granular level. The data can be used to engage staff and students to adopt environmentally friendly behaviours and provide hands-on STEM opportunities throughout a student’s learning life.

With schools, there’s no limit to how you could use this data. You could run competitions, hackathons, art classes using the data to make energy conservation fun. We want to empower the whole school community with the data they need to change their world. As a mother of a young child, I am so excited by the potential of this idea.

Q: What’s the biggest barrier to smart cities success?

A: Moving from talk to action, first and foremost. Sometimes it feels that there is not a sense of urgency when it comes to smart buildings and cities, and there should be.

Of course, you don’t want businesses and governments to create stand-alone, isolated smart city services but I think people understand that now. So, let’s now move beyond contemplation to deployment. It would be great for businesses and governments to adopt a start-up mentality of experimentation, iteration, and not being afraid to take risks. And when the concept has been proven, let’s deploy at scale.

Q: For 2018, what excites you?

A: I am so excited to be working in the smart cities space, it’s such an excellent opportunity for me to consolidate my skills in technology, health, entrepreneurship and innovation. I am passionate and optimistic about the use and application of technology in tackling and preparing for climate change, and look forward to working with like-minded people, businesses and cities in 2018.