HP desktop computers have Windows 8. MacBook Air has OS X. And now, buildings have BuildingOS.
Lucid launched BuildingOS on Monday, an online operating system for buildings. It brings together meter and building system data into one integrated platform. Lucid spent years doing back-end technology integration so that the platform can essentially be plug-and-play.
“We were writing software for buildings,” said Vladi Shunturov, CEO of Lucid, “and we just came to a wall as to how [we could] scale this.”
The Oakland, Calif.-based startup put its head down for the past few years and invested millions of dollars of its own revenue to build the platform. The most difficult task was establishing technology partnerships, including those with building automation giants, demand response providers, metering companies, lighting controls providers, distributed generation and building energy management analytics startups. From there, the data had to be scrubbed and cleaned to be useful, then funneled into a single stream. Lucid has been testing the system in beta since the beginning of the year.
The effort means that the average customer now doesn’t have to pay for integration of its various building data systems. While deep-pocketed clients like Google might be able to pay $10,000 and upwards for an integration to get all of the data in one place, "If it’s truly a software-as-a-service offering, it has to be self-on-boarding,” argued Shunturov. He said the cost of integration is essentially zero with BuildingOS.
Though it may sound like Lucid is potentially competing with everyone in the building energy market, the firm is actually looking to make friends in all corners. “We won’t get anywhere if we compete with all the other vendors,” said Shunturov. “Proprietary communication and integration hurdles have been the Achilles' heel of the energy management industry for decades,” he added. “That’s just not the way it will work in ten years.”
Instead, he sees building energy analytics as a commodity. Lucid made a Venn diagram of analytical offerings across the market and offers basic commodity analytics, but that’s all. “We don’t want to compete with their secret sauce,” Shunturov said of other companies such as FirstFuel, BuildingIQ or Retroficiency. The platform includes the basic offerings that BuildingOS also includes, such as Lucid’s Building Dashboard software, which shares building energy info with both facility managers and tenants.
While some customers might want Lucid’s dashboard for occupant engagement, others might want remote audits by a company like FirstFuel or to run its public energy disclosure program off of BuildingOS. Lucid says that the platform isn’t about its ROI by providing visibility into building energy and water use, but rather, building owners "have decided they won’t make improvements until they have everything monitored with interval data and see what’s the best candidate for the dollars.”
Much of Lucid’s early business for BuildingOS has been born of “sales of frustration,” he said. Half of what some companies have installed is working, half is not. But there is no open platform that’s both easy to use and accurate.
Johnson Controls’ open, cloud-based Panoptix is close, but Shunturov argued that at the end of the day, Johnson Controls still has a vested interest to sell more of its products. Even if that is not entirely true, Johnson Controls relies on far more human resources for data integration because it can. Lucid is a startup that has had to rely on technology for seamless integration because it does not have the advantage of a vast pool of human resources.
Lucid may be a tiny player compared to building automation giants like Johnson Controls and Siemens, but it claims some large customers, including Disney, Google, PNC Bank and the city of Washington, D.C. The BuildingOS platform could enable the big guys to sell more of their hardware, but it is also a threat to the proprietary nature of the dominant technology. Lucid also works with Honest Buildings, which shares Lucid's open approach to the real estate market.
Lucid believes that it must be a company without vested interest in hardware and legacy systems to provide a truly consumer-friendly product. “For the customer to really win, the software has to stand alone,” said Shunturov. “Our goal is to enable nontraditional technology giants.”
The "trailer" for BuildingOS: