For the latest episode of The Cabling Podcast, Cabling Installation & Maintenance sat down for a 2-part talk with Matt Koch, chief information officer for Allbridge, a provider of an integrated property technology, i.e. proptech, platform for smart buildings that 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.
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 new observation, as the tendency for the commercial intelligent buildings and residential smart homes markets to intersect.