Over six days in May 2018, German conglomerate Siemens made its smart building intentions clear. On the 17th, Siemens announced its acquisition of Los Angeles based J2 Innovations, a software framework provider for building automation and IoT technologies. Six days later, on May 23rd, the European manufacturing giant announced the acquisition of California-based IoT-enabled smart building solution provider, Enlighted.
Further underlining their ambitions, Siemens announced it would acquire a third California-based smart building startup, Comfy (Building Robotics), that provide personalized temperature and lighting control to office workers. In combination, these additions to the Siemens Building Tech family marked a significant moment in the increasingly competitive smart buildings sector.
"These acquisitions are not just stand-alone investments to help us grow our business. It is really about expanding our smart building strategy," explained Siemens Building Technologies President Dave Hopping. "We want to be the leading smart building company in the world and we need companies like Comfy to succeed in that mission."
It is one thing to build a great portfolio of brands but it is a whole other challenge to bring those independently successful startups together into the collaborative network of companies and departments needed to become “the leading smart building company in the world.” This is no doubt the intention behind the series of acquisitions but with 3 major deals in one year Siemens will want to take things step-by-step. The first priority, make sure each startup can continue to do the great work that made them a target in the first place.
Just months after being acquired by Siemens, Enlighted launched the 5th generation of its smart sensor for ‘Brilliant Buildings’. Then in May this year, the firm introduced ‘Enlighted One’, a easy-to-install IoT platform for new construction and retrofit applications. The system is an out-of-the-box building code compliant platform with features such as daylight harvesting, task tuning, and vacancy detection.
J2 Innovations has also recently released the FIN 5 software platform for Building Automation and IoT applications. Its release marks a major upgrade for the system, which pledges to be open, flexible, and user-friendly by design.
FIN’s architecture is the only platform for building automation and IoT that is fully based on the use of semantic tagging. FIN natively supports the Project Haystack open standard and was actually a founding member of the organization who is pioneering the definition and communication of building-related data across multiple instances.
“As the use of Haystack tagging continues to grow, the scope of the agreed tags could extend well beyond core building services systems and reach into areas like parking, even asset and facility management,” we highlighted in an article earlier this year.
The first iteration of the FIN system was the FIN Builder in 2010, which offered simplified and enhanced visualization graphics for 3rd party automation systems. FIN Builder later evolved into the FIN Framework, an approach to open frameworks that facilitated a full application suite for building automation and IoT. FIN 5 goes even further to provide monitoring, control, scheduling, alarming, visualization, integration, and analytics capabilities designed for OEM partners to customize and incorporate into their products or systems.
The new version also appears to have a hint of J2’s new parent company, Siemens, who have brought a higher level of vigilance and efficiency to the development process. “Many of the quality assurance processes Siemens incorporates in their design and development are now fundamentally part of J2 Innovations’ new quality culture. I believe we’ve been able to strike a good balance between innovative and robust products,” said Alex Rohweder, COO, J2 Innovations after the product announcement.
In addition to FIN 5 software suite, J2 Innovations has provided information about their upcoming FIN Cloud services. As part of the FIN Framework, FIN Cloud supports secure remote connection via the AWS (Amazon Web Services) cloud. J2 expects this to greatly simplify remote connectivity for multi-site building operators. “FIN Cloud provides OEM partners with powerful support for SaaS architectures, using the Haystack open standard protocol over MQTT for the Edge to Cloud connectivity. FIN Cloud simplifies remote site management by use of fully authenticated certificate based security, with the connection to the cloud “pushed” from the site to avoid the complexity and difficulty working with IT departments,” the company said.
Comfy remains the quietest of Siemens acquisitions last summer. "As a startup, you can move fast and iterate, but you also can’t bite off too many things at once... that usually leads to running out of money before you have enough traction," said co-founder Andrew Krioukov, at the time of the 2018 acquisition. "This [acquisition] changes things. We now have the backing and resources of a much larger company that sees this as a strategic initiative, not just a bet," he added.
One year on, we should probably judge Siemens summer 2018 spending spree as a bold piece of business, which has shown a huge amount of potential. Siemens influence will grow in each firm in the coming years, namely in optimizing their operations and refining their offerings. The real value of these acquisitions lies in the increased collaboration between the California-based trio, and Siemens ambitions of becoming “the leading smart building company in the world” will depend in part on their ability to manage these assets.