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Big Data Don't Ignore Small Business

Back when I was in grade school we would pick teams for pickup games of dodge ball and kick ball. It never failed that the smaller kids were always left for last. Now, the funny thing was that the team captains judged the talent on size and it never failed that a kid named John was left out. However, this day we happened to play a pickup game of baseball and the team that finally picked John found out real quick that John for his small size was an amazing pitcher.

Life's like that, when you meet someone you size them up and instantly make hundreds of judgments on their capabilities. Well fast forward several decades and now I am in the business world and it's a sad fact that we do the same thing to our customers. We size them up and instantly determine their value as a client and their need for technology.

What does the little guy look like?

Well as the title of this article says don't count out the little guy. For those of you who sell equipment there are customers whose average square footage does not exceed 50k sq ft but yet spend more on controls and equipment than a 1M sq ft project.

Who are these folks? They are Data Centers.

In a data center environment, especially a tier 4 DC, your customer requires a minimum of 5 9 up-time, (that means the network must be up 99.999% of the time. That means, not only do you need redundant everything, but you also need to properly design the throughput of your systems to handle the HA (high availability) requirements.

The data center is just one example of a vertical market that is often ignored due to people not understanding the business and account value. As we move towards having data analytics within the BAS/ICS sphere we need to approach our marketing and targeted selling from a different perspective. When I often talk to people about Big Data they assume that I deliver solutions only to large enterprises that can have a private cloud and on-site storage. They have bought into the myth that technology is expensive, doesn't scale, and is only for the big boys. In regards to some technology they are right.

So who can use Big Data?

The recent trends in distributed architecture, cloud computing, and SaaS have enabled Big Data analytics to scale. This means that a client who doesn't need real-time analytics but rather would like to perform monthly data analysis can accept a less expensive SLA (service level agreement defines up-time, availability, and all that fun data governance jazz).

With this shift we now can provide commercial real-estate entities that are challenged to reduce operating costs with the ability to perform detailed data analysis on their systems in order to delay/defer maintenance and prevent costly capital equipment degradation.

Break it down, Data Time!

The advent of big data analytics brought effectively to a client opens a whole new world of account management. Imagine, being able to call up your client and let them know the vibration on their motor shaft is off 1% and you predict they have a x% likelihood of a fan failure based on your database of other HVAC system's. If we are truly concerned about the success of our clients then we should do everything in our power to help them harness and analyze their data.

Collecting and analyzing Big Data allows us to deliver multiple outcomes that are invaluable to any organization, here are a few of them:

  1. It's all about the Benjamin's- I have a shocking concept for you... Most businesses exist to make money (yes, there are some who have product lines that seem to defy logic, and exist solely to create articles on business failure for MBA Case studies). If you want to do business with a customer, it usually helps if they are still in business.If you can detect failures before they happen and your customer doesn't have to replace a $50,000 part what's the value of that?If you can measure weather, occupancy, and HVAC performance to adjust control in real-time what's the value of that?

    If you can take all of your data and influence the construction cycle of a building ensure the proper sizing of systems and networks WHAT IS THE VALUE OF THAT?

  2. Meet Joe my Mechanic/Plumber/Painter/Network Technologist- Small businesses are in a challenging spot, they need to perform a set series of tasks and they have a strict operational budget in which they have to operate. I have been on the receiving end of being called out to a customers site in order to help them with their problem just to spend 2 hours searching for the problem.Read through the following scenario and tell me if customers, especially smaller ones,who are loosing their in-house expertise could find value from the solution.

The Rest of The Story

Somewhere in downtown Chicago there is a 40,000 square foot building. This building is owned by a man who owns a few other properties but by no means would consider himself a real-estate mogul. He has a single maintenance man who maintains the buildings and relies on local contractors to perform any "heavy lifting".

At this building there is a Air-Cooled Chiller, fortunately for the owner he chose a chiller with built-in data analytics. Everything is humming along just fine until one day the chiller starts to notice some irregularities. The pressure in the compressor isn't trending the same as it was in the past. The program notes this and chugs along.

A little while longer, the analytics software notices that the compressor run-time and delta between the supply and return water are drifting from their historical norm. The analytics software notices these differences and knows to perform a systems check on the chiller, during this check it notices an abnormality in the FLA (full load amps) from the compressor in circuit 1.

The chiller now performs a sanity check on the rest of the systems, flow is good through the condensing coils, flow is good through the pipes, the second circuit is performing well, and there are no phase imbalances. All of this data is being compared remotely referencing a cloud based database in near real-time. The chiller determines that the compressor on circuit 1 is close to failing and notifies the client. The owner receives an e-mail with the suggested issue and fix, along with part numbers and projected ship times.

Now when the owner calls the mechanic how much time does the mechanic have to spend hunting for issues?

What could this analytical system do with an out of tune control loop, a congested network, or a bad lighting controller?


If the name of the game is savings, efficiency, and protection of capital assets then you have now delivered a valuable solution to a client.

Small businesses account for more than 50% of the non-farm GDP (gross domestic product). However, they are often forgotten when it comes to building technologies.

It doesn't have to be that way.

As you can see with the brief story above, we stand on the edge of greatness, poised to deliver true value to a vast network of buildings and systems. My caution to my readers who may be in positions of influence is to heed my initial words. As you design your system architectures, don't get so focused on the big fish that you forget the little guys. As my title says,  Big Data Don't Ignore Small Business.

For those who work for smaller businesses what would you say is the number one thing you wish your products and service providers knew?

What do you wish they provided for you that would make your life better?

Let me know in the comments below!


Phil Zito

Written by Phil Zito

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