Live From AHR Expo: Ep 7

About the Episode

Travel with us to Chicago to catch Brian at the AHR Expo – – the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition. FM:Systems is exhibiting with Johnson Controls in this massive tradeshow. Brian shares his first impressions of the sheer number of attendees, size of the exhibit hall and what it is like working alongside Johnson Controls in one of our first exhibits since JCI acquired FM:Systems.

Listen in to see how Brian answered the following questions to give us insights into being at the AHR Expo: 

  • The AHR Expo is brand-new to FM:Systems. Give us the 30,000 foot view – what is AHR?
  • How is this tradeshow different from others we normally attend like IFMA?
  • Johnson Controls is a major player in the world of HVACR, what is their presence at the AHR Expo? (mulitple exhibits – critical environmental controls, OpenBlue, etc)
  • How do the FMS solutions fit into this broader industry of building management?
  • What is the most surprising thing to you about this show?
  • What is the most exciting thing you have learned or discovered at AHR?
  • What is your biggest takeaway as Day 1 winds down?
  • What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

Watch the Episode

Episode Transcription

Jennifer Heath  0:14

Hello, everyone and welcome. We are excited to have you join us today for our first podcast of 2020 for the hybrid hangout has been renewed for a second season. And this year, we are going to do a couple of different things, one of which is a live from a certain location. And that’s what this episode is going to be today. Brian Haines is joining us live from the HR Expo in Chicago. trade shows and expos are a huge part of our business. It’s how we stay connected with our business partners. It’s how we better understand some of our competitors. It’s how we keep track of some of the emerging trends in our industry and the unique challenges that different clients and prospects are facing.

So it’s a really key part of what we do in our industry. And I am so excited to hear how it’s going in Chicago, this is our first time as FM:Systems to attend the HR Expo. So Brian, start us off. Tell us a little bit about what the HR Expo is?


Brian Haines  1:21

Well, first of all, Jen, I was hoping to be on the floor to do this because it’s live from the HR Expo. And I guess I didn’t understand what it’s like to be in a space that large with 50,000 people, it’s it’s so loud, it’s so crowded, that using my phone, there’s just no way that you would ever understand what I was saying, really exciting environment. So I had to I came back up to my room to do this. So So that’s interesting. And so HR is the largest conference and expo for HVAC or heating, ventilation and air conditioning and refrigeration, I think in the world. So there’s 50,000 attendees, and it’s at the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago, which is an absolutely massive place and it’s filled, there’s, as a matter of fact, there’s two halls.

So I walked the floor during market analysis with our VP of product this morning. And he was a little bit confused, because he didn’t see the booth of a certain company and I said, Oh, that’s the other half. And he was completely blown away by it. We literally walked for about two hours and had only covered half of it. So we’re gonna, we’re gonna go back down here shortly and do the other half. So really exciting. A lot of fun, little overwhelming.


Jennifer Heath  2:47

It sounds like it 1000 People, there’s hundreds of presenters, hundreds of panelists and seminars, I know it’s a lot to take in. So tell me a little bit what’s different about HR compared to other shows that we traditionally go to, like IFMA.


Brian Haines  3:05

So this is the first show where, you know, all of our staff were in one of Johnson Controls two booths, they have a 60 by 60. Booth, which first of all, we’ve never had anything nearly that large. And then their second booth is probably about as big as our typical, you know, our typical work booth. What’s really interesting is, so I sent a picture, and I will share pictures. Hopefully we can include that in the in the recording of this. But, you know, when I first walked in to the booth last night, as they were setting up, there was a giant chiller and heat pump setting, which was, you know, like as big as my, my room and I’m thinking to myself, wow, we’re in a different world now. Because you know, FM:Systems was almost purely software, we had, you know, some small hardware components, like our digital signage and sensors.

But this is a, this is a whole different world. And it’s also the first tradeshow for FM:Systems where we’re, you know, I’m wearing this proudly, we’re actually wearing Johnson Controls, you know, essentially swag, right? So that we’re identifying as Johnson Controls employees, which is really interesting. So that’s, that’s different. Totally different.


Jennifer Heath  4:20

Yeah, that’s a really exciting part of it, for sure is that it is our first big show as a part of the broader Johnson Controls family. So tell me a little bit more about their booths. I know they’re featuring their open blue platform, which is really kind of where we fit into the Johnson Controls ecosystem. But tell me a little bit more about what else they have there. What else are they talking about? Yeah. So


Brian Haines  4:42

Jen, just say you understand the understand the scale. Johnson Controls has 200 employees at this conference, and most of them dedicated to being booth staff. I think at tip, our largest conference that we do every year is World workplaces. And we have somewhere from eight maybe 10 employees. So there are as many Johnson Controls employees here as was in FM:Systems company when they got acquired last summer. So that’s a little bit different. So the amount of resources is absolutely phenomenal and really exciting. Obviously, the equipment being in the booth, really large equipment, Johnson Controls is a leader in the manufacture and sell of a lot of the most highest performing building equipment for heating and cooling in the world.

So it’s really exciting to have that stuff. So we’re actually in the 60’x60’. Booth, that’s where the open blue sort of digital products are in around the outside of us or where, where the hardware is. So all of the the big chillers and things are actually in, we’re in the same booth. The other booth, which is which is smaller, is dedicated to building control systems like medicines verisys, facility Explorer, and other products, including their sort of edge controllers for being able to bring data from all those building systems. Together, we’re really going to be talking about that quite a bit this year, because we’re going to be having a significant play in that area.

So bringing those two together. What’s interesting is that FM:Systems is in the one booth. But we’re really a significant component for bringing those both those booths together. So the building control systems in into the sort of FMS, workplace, if you will, digital worlds, so really combining the two. And that’s going to be a really powerful thing that we explore this year. Really exciting. And we’ll obviously be talking about that. More as the as the quarters go. Yeah,


Jennifer Heath  6:45

That was a perfect segue. My very next question is, where does FM:Systems fit in to all of these chillers and building control systems? Talk a little bit about the questions you’re getting and how you’re conveying the unique value that FM:Systems is bringing to Johnson Controls.


Brian Haines  7:03

Yeah. So it’s interesting, Jen, as I was mentioning earlier, if most world workplace is the largest conference that we typically participate in all of our competitors, on the software side, I WMS, providers, from a desk looking vendors, analytics vendors, they’re there. They’re not here, most of the companies that are here are, you know, all of the largest competitors that Johnson Controls, has competing on the global market for, you know, building control systems and the big, you know, rooftop chillers, and the heat pumps, and air exchangers. They’re all here, not only are they here, but everything that connects them even, you know, the piping, the electronics, the sensors, all of that stuff is here as well.

And it’s interesting, because, you know, I’m gonna be bold when I say this, but I think FM:Systems is, is the bridge for bringing those two communities together, I was talking to a global marketing leader at Johnson Controls this morning about really elevating their presence within our market through IFMA and making sure that, you know that that thought leadership that opportunity to be able to speak bringing them into our world, but also bridging that because I think bridging bridging it is is going to be absolutely game changing.

So you’ve got sort of hardcore building engineers on one side, and on the other side, you’ve got sort of lifelong facilities, professionals. And often they’re not communicating very well, maybe within meetings, they’ll be able to say things, but the systems, and the way that they look at information is typically done almost as if it’s done in an island. So what we’re going to be doing is bridging that and taking that really smart building, energy management view of the world, combining it with our views of the world really looking at optimization of space and assets within facilities. We’re gonna combine both of those in really ways that the markets not seen before. I’m excited about that as well. Yeah,


Jennifer Heath  9:02

it is a really exciting development for both FM:Systems and Johnson Controls to be able to bring all of that utilization data and activity data to then inform all those different systems. So it is a really exciting new era for us for sure. What has been the most surprising thing to you at HR?


Brian Haines  9:26

Well, 50,000 people turns out, I really thought that, you know, I was gonna go down on the floor, and it’s gonna be like, you know, I’ll see the half dozen people that I’m working with, and we’ll have interviews in the booth and we’ll be able to do all this. I’ll have my phone and I’ll talk to Jen. I’m an I’m a you know, I’m not somebody who shies away from a crowd. I love a crowd of people. You know, I’m not an introvert. I’m an extrovert. I really feed off the energy of people. But this feels like being at a concert. Right? It’s like, trying to talk about chillers at a concert. It’s just as easy and the amount of energy is, is off the charts. You know, the number of people flowing into the space is is phenomenal every booth everywhere is packed, I was walking the floor with our VP of Product Travis was I was, I think I mentioned earlier and we at some points, we literally had to wait for people to clear out to get through in the passageways, not just that passageway.

So I think that’s a little overwhelming, seeing how big how big the world that Johnson Controls plays in is, is massive. And we’ve been talking about some of the most important buildings in the world that are being built, and how we really have a hand in optimism, the optimization of those buildings, working really closely with one another, not only from an energy management and sustainability, but a huge part of the conversation is around indoor air quality, and employee wellness, and the health of the equipment that really serves those buildings, anywhere from, you know, being able to see how they operate to being able to do things like whenever they experience a fault, having that fault, you know, come out of their systems and into ours, so that we can do the dispatch of service tickets to technicians, wherever they may be based upon their qualifications.

You know, the conversations that we’re involved in are just simply bigger conversations. And what’s really, what’s really exciting about that is that, you know, we’re talking about fundamentally changing the way buildings operate globally in a really positive way, you know, energy and sustainability, employee comfort, all of those kinds of coming together in a way that just means that we have a hand in, in making the workplace environment the built world better. And that’s, that’s fun. Right? That’s really fun to say that you’re involved in that. Definitely.


Jennifer Heath  12:02

It’s so exciting. So beyond the tradeshow floor, and all the booths, and the presenters, what else is going on? I know there’s seminars and speakers, you had a chance to participate in some of those other activities.


Brian Haines  12:16

Yeah, so there’s Yep, learning sessions, new product introductions, innovation awards, there’s all of that here. There’s also an adjacent Conference, which is connected, which is ASHRAE. So we’ve got HR. And then we’ve got ASHRAE, which is another very large conference and, and Johnson Controls, and FM:Systems, we sort of have a presence at both. So a little bit later, for instance, I’m going to another roundtable discussion to see our Chief Revenue Officer speak in a roundtable panel, which is going to be really fun. And so the massive amount of education that’s occurring here, as well as the ability to be able to access innovation, it’s just a lot of fun.

And I’ll be I’ll be honest, like there are booths here that have been like toll booths, and you know, it’s really easy to get sucked into those where they’re demonstrating like new tools. I’m, I’m a person who likes that kind of thing. So it’s just, it’s a broad, really super interesting world that they’re there.


Jennifer Heath  13:19

Try to stay focused.


Brian Haines  13:25

It’s exciting. Travis is like, oh, there’s a DeWalt. Booth. Let’s go here. Not Home Depot.


Jennifer Heath  13:34

That’s awesome. Yeah, so of all the different sorts of innovations and new things that you’ve seen, what has stood out to you is, wow, that is really a game changer, that something really unique. Yeah, the


Brian Haines  13:45

big focus on connecting these very large, complex pieces of equipment that have that are really getting efficient. So I love talking to people who have old buildings that have retrofitted those old buildings with old boilers and things with like super modern heat pumps and chillers that, you know, have massively reduced, their energy costs have massively increased the indoor air quality in these buildings, but also are just putting out a much lower carbon footprint, they’re using really advanced technologies, they’re not using a lot of power. They’re not using a lot of carbon inputs, and they’re not putting a lot of carbon output. So you see that a lot on the floor, you know, especially when you’re looking across the big companies that are competing against Johnson Controls for sort of control of that, what I think the future of buildings are, you know, not just smart buildings.

But you know, I’ve talked about this before, we’re starting to see components that are starting to lean a little bit more towards autonomous buildings. There’s a lot of conversation around things like artificial intelligence and machine learning, as they’re applied to sort of optimizing equipment performance. And you see a lot of that, you see a lot of sort of middleware components that are taking these really what used to be sort of really large, complex systems that didn’t communicate tape really well. And they’re now getting a voice of their own right like not speaking, but they’re they’re getting connected in ways that we can use edge devices to take, you know, information from those systems and communicate it up to the cloud where we can, you know, widely consume it with things like mobile devices, or even your laptop.

So that’s really the I see a lot of that are really, really interesting. Also, another thing I see Gen is a lot of sensor companies here. And that’s something that we’re trying to dig into. And these sensor companies range from everything from indoor air quality. Like in our, in our booth, we’re really showing off the air things, indoor air quality sensors, which are really cool. And it’s a partner of ours. And you see a lot of those across the board. But you also see all of these sensor types that, you know, we don’t necessarily do a lot with, like sensors that detect power usage, or combustibles. Like if you’re in a dangerous environment, and it could detect dangerous gases or particles in the environment that can be dangerous to humans, there’s a lot of that going on, as well, which is really interesting. So as as I see this sort of march towards smarter, more autonomous buildings, I think that goes sort of hand in hand sort of lockstep with safer buildings all across the board, you see a massive focus on that. So that’s, that’s really interesting. Yeah,


Jennifer Heath  16:41

that is really interesting that there is kind of the other side of that sustainability coin, that really is about safer and healthier buildings. All those things play in together. And one term that we have used consistently, the last couple of years, is multi data point analysis, yes, consistently come back to that theme that you need information from all these different data sources. And it sounds like that’s really what is happening. There’s all these different ways to capture data and aggregate and analyze all these different kinds of data sources. That’s what is ultimately driving us towards these more, the smarter, more autonomous buildings.


Brian Haines  17:20

Yeah, interestingly enough, Jen, I see us as being an absolute leader FM:Systems combined with Johnson Controls in that specific area, because I see no one messaging as strongly as we are into that world, you know, bringing FM:Systems into the mix, as I was saying earlier, is really that bridge between what I consider to be more narrow, probably vertically focused views into data, like maybe its energy data and see a lot of people doing that, or maybe it’s building systems data, you know, coming from faults and things like that, maybe it’s air quality data, most of what I see out there on the floor, or companies who are really focusing on one of those specific areas, what we’re focusing on, especially in FM:Systems, is the bridge, right, the multi data point analysis, which sounds very nerdy.

And what it really means is that we can bring into a single view data from multiple disparate locations and bring them in to help you make smarter decisions about your real estate, one of the ones that I always think about is, you know, we really have utilization down. I don’t think there’s another company in the market that’s as good as measuring space utilization, and how occupants interact with facilities.

But in the end, utilization is simply a way to look at the effectiveness of all other real estate functions. So if you’ve got a building that’s heavily utilized, and you’re looking at, you know, the total cost of ownership, and comparing that to a building that has the same operating costs, but is really underutilized, that one of those buildings is performing better than the other. And it could be maintenance costs, it could be project costs, it could be all sorts of operational costs within the facility, we’re able to kind of look into all of those, and compare those at work order performance, maintenance, performance to indoor air quality, performance, you know, space, occupancy, performance.

And, frankly, that we’re just at the beginning of looking at that multi data point analysis, we’re going to carry that out into all kinds of different areas here in the near future, which is going to be really exciting. So I think, you know, uniquely, I still haven’t seen anybody out there. Who’s doing everything that we’re doing. I just have it and very exciting. Yep, yeah. That’s exciting. That’s exciting.


Jennifer Heath  19:47

So you are gonna be there all day tomorrow as well. Yes. So what is on the agenda for tomorrow? What are you looking forward to you?


Brian Haines  19:55

Well, first of all, good sleep tonight, right? Because I’ll tell you, after two hours, we sat down to lunch and I felt like I’ve been walking for 25. Tomorrow is going to be today is really about seeing who’s here looking at all the new technologies. And tomorrow’s really focused on bringing that into our country. With all of our new friends at job, or into our conversations with all of our new friends, at Johnson Controls, we’ve got a whole series of meetings, talking about the way this data is going to come together, and how we can really start to enable everyone on our teams to really start messaging that out. So we’re really looking at those angles. You know, I really think that there’s a massive benefit to getting together, you know, on a frequent basis, if possible.

I think that’s one of the things in the fully remote world that we’re missing a little bit is sort of that human interaction, that ability to be able to see someone I ran into someone, well, multiple people for Johnson Controls, and I said to them, you’re actually 3d You are really a person, and only ever seen you on you know, on a display like this. And it’s there’s tremendous value to that, FaceTime. So tomorrow, we’re going to be taking massive advantage of the FaceTime with our counterparts and spending time sort of strategizing the way forward.


Jennifer Heath  21:16

Well, wonderful. Well, thank you so much for taking some time out from your 50,000 new friends to come and visit with me. I’ve been excited to know how it’s going. And I look forward to hearing more about it tomorrow. And all the ways we’re going to use all these exciting ideas going forward.


Brian Haines  21:34 

Yeah, and I promise more pictures and video from the floor. I’ve got a whole bunch of them on my phone. I’ll send them to you guys so that you can see it’s pretty, pretty cool stuff.


Jennifer Heath  21:41

I’m excited to see. All right. Well have a wonderful rest of the day. A great day tomorrow. Have a good rest tonight.


Brian Haines  21:48

Okay. See ya.


Jennifer Heath  21:50

Thanks, everyone.

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