From the latest episode of its Cabling Podcast, SBT's Endeavor Business Media co-publication Cabling Installation & Maintenance (CI&M) here provides video from its 2-part conversation with Matt Koch, chief information officer for Allbridge, a provider of an integrated proptech platform for smart buildings. The Allbridge platform integrates functions for design and planning, engineering, installation, and managed services and support. Building industry segments served by Allbridge’s proptech platform and services include hospitality, mixed-use, multifamily and senior living.
With a background as an ISP systems engineer and network admin designing and building guest internet solutions for hotels, Koch was also previously a system administrator for Geneva OnLine, a regional ISP specializing in wireless broadband internet access, and worked as a system and network administrator consultant in the Silicon Valley for various companies, including Sun Microsystems and Uptilt. “I started my career climbing towers and running cable,” he notes, allowing CI&M to get the benefit of his perspective both as an ICT deployment executive, as well as someone who has worked in the installation field.
In Part 1 of the interview, senior editor Matt Vincent starts by asking Koch (1:36) about 2023 prospects regarding what core connectivity elements Allbridge’s ICT system integrators and project managers are considering in terms of Ethernet, fiber-optic, wireless LAN and broadband networking options, and also power, in order to achieve a "full connectivity" smart property. Koch admits that while most of the growth in connectivity he’s seen lately has been in fiber-optics, it’s important for integrators and stakeholders to hold a “well-rounded” perspective, and that he’s feeling some hope for “still young” CBRS and private LTE wireless technologies in the field.
The discussion then turns to the federal funding and service provider outlook (3:33) and considerations for deploying fiber broadband infrastructure in buildings. “For us, being an ISP is not a core focus,” says Koch. “We really are about integrating, supporting, planning the technology, so it's important that we are well-paired with those last-mile providers.”
CI&M then inquires (4:36) about the depth and particulars of Allbridge’s process for converging IT and OT elements of building operation. “As a proptech provider, I like to say we focus on anything that takes power on-property,” says Koch. “And as these technologies become more interconnected, as the building becomes a ‘smart building’, the network at its core become a utility; we refer to it as the Fourth Utility. In terms of ‘when’ in the process, the earlier that we can be involved, the more helpful we can be,” Koch adds (5:22).
The discussion moves onto the specifics (6:07) of Allbridge’s cabling and connectivity deployment practice. “We find it very important to be vertically integrated,” says Koch. “It helps in revisions and any designs in access point layout, camera placement – all those things are considered carefully.” Part 1 of the interview concludes by probing the topic of sustainability (7:25), in terms of benefits and challenges for building owners and designers.
Part 2 of the interview (00:10) dives into a discussion of the most cutting-edge IoT trends for buildings, with consideration given to smart cabling and connectivity design. Koch alights on (00:54) the post-pandemic movement toward hybrid working spaces and scalable lighting and other smart building integration ideas driven by Power over Ethernet technology (01:30). CI&M at this juncture takes the opportunity to obtain Koch's perspective on the status of Single-Pair Ethernet (SPE) technologies (2:32) in buildings emerging in co-existence, or perhaps competion, with retrofit solutions.
"What has been interesting for us are some of the adaptations to switch SFPs with coax cable. Now there are switch SFPs that you can hook a standard, F- barrel connector onto, and if you have end to end connectivity, suddenly you've got Ethernet over, frankly a cabling plant that you've probably abandoned or are no longer worried about (you know, with the move to IPTV and so on). People are finding new ways to repurpose old coax in some cases."
CI&M then inquires (03:39) about what, as applications advance and end-user expectations evolve, some tips might be for planning scalable proptech deployments, the better to foster optimal future customer experiences. Koch says (04:06) the key is to vitally understand particular end-user requirements, while retaining "a wide view of the market," adding that Allbridge "has the advantage of being in many different markets," while noting that he expects deployments to senior living and senior active communities to be a gathering trend.
Talk then turns to smart building standards (05:27), and how a proptech integration firm such as Allbridge parses them (06:24). In his response, Koch observes:
"I think the key driver in smart buildings, certainly there are the bells and whistles, the livability. But when it comes to the things that will be implemented first, they will be generally around sustainability and energy management. Those sorts of applications will drive investor value. Owner-investors love the value of the asset that they have increasing when they deploy a smart building technology like energy-management thermostats, for instance. The USGBC put out a study last year, and the investment side was the number one trigger for smart buildings for investors and owners. But, I found it interesting, the number one trigger for architects and the engineers and integrators was that user experience, the customer demand and livability."
CI&M then (7:51) asks some particular questions about the proliferation of wireless technologies in smart buildings, about which Koch observes there's been "an interesting evolution." He adds, "It was a Wild West of wireless protocols 5 to 8 years ago, but now we're definitely seeing an uptick in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technologies." Due consideration (08:50) is then given to the ongoing viability of Wi-Fi solutions and the reasons for this. Koch also recounts the benefits (09:12) of potential CBRS and private LTE implementations for building communications, on which he says Allbridge is "keeping a keen eye."
The interview winds up (10:15) with Koch's comments on what CI&M characterizes, from recent industry news observation, as the tendency for the markets for commercial intelligent buildings and residential smart homes to intersect.