The evolution of the Master System Integrator (MSI)

Sept. 14, 2017
A new breed of folks called MSI and data engineers are rapidly evolving to help us with the process of "getting There from here."

A new breed of folks called MSI and data engineers are rapidly evolving to help us with the process of "getting there from here."

What do Master System Integrators (MSI) do? They make sure all systems communicate properly, they collaborate with building owners to ensure systems information will be accessible and usable, and they develop software layers responsible for integration, aggregation, and communication of the building systems.

In this interview from AutomatedBuildings.com, Scott Cochrane the President and CEO of Cochrane Supply & Engineering provides this further elaboration on who MSI’s are and what they do:

MSI’s are service providers. They typically provide a common data view for the systems they control within a building, campus or enterprise. Their purpose is to connect the building stakeholders to their systems and provide useful, meaningful, and important information and control. They make sure all systems communicate properly, collaborate with building owners to ensure systems information will be accessible and usable, and they develop software layers responsible for integration, aggregation, and communication of the building systems.

To achieve this, it is an MSI’s responsibility to educate the construction team, look for synergy to save money, review progress, collaborate with IT Departments, and connect subcontracted systems and provide the interfaces required to run and advance the building. We work with MSI’s, and many are contractors that have evolved from Mechanical, Electrical, Data/Telecom, Process, and now Database companies that are getting into analytics.

In this article, Cochrane interviews Sid Blomberg, the founder and President of K & S Ventures, Inc., about how the MSI position has evolved over the years.

When I first started K&S Ventures Inc. in 1990, I could not have imagined becoming an MSI, because no one really had done it before. As technology had become more evolved and advanced over time, the business opportunities were becoming endless. So, when I say I had no plan to become an MSI, I am honest.

And in this interview with Joe Napieralski, the Co-Founder and Director of Development of Smart Building Services LLC, Napieralski explains how MSIs were practically forced into business:

Despite having an automation contracting background, Smart Building Services started as more of a technology consulting company. Our focus was on understanding our clients’ operations and building challenges and helping them utilize all the available technology to simplify their operations.  As several of our consulting projects entered the implementation phase, we encountered significant resistance from traditional systems contractors on implementing what we had designed. Not because it couldn’t be done, but because many of them looked at it as additional risk and more labor intensive than a typical project.

We disagreed and took that resistance, coupled with several clients who valued the relationship with our team and dove into the MSI role. We now almost exclusively work in a design-build MSI services model where our focus on understanding our customers’ operational challenges is critical and where our final product truly makes an impact and delivers on the design promises. It is a highly-satisfying role that keeps us working with customers who value our services as a partner and not just a transactional relationship.

To help convey this concept of an MSI to the industry we have added this panel discussion to our AHRExpo Education sessions in Chicago.

That panel discussion is titled, "Are Master System Integrators Becoming the New Building Data Architects?" Topics will include: Defining an MSI and their role as service providers; how MSIs can maximize the evolving intelligent edge, unlocking the power of people to generate new data; strategies to accomplish working data designs; embracing online convergence to achieve valuable end results, and more.

Presenters will include Scott Cochrane, Brad White, P.Eng, MASc Principal SES Consulting, Inc., and others yet to be named. And as an added bonus, Yours Truly gets to act as moderator.

Once we provide a vision of the design, it is difficult to find contractors who can implement that vision. Even when the good ones sign up to a project, the MSI needs to project manage, inspect, and generally babysit the process to ensure it is finished with quality control. So many loose ends are common, and projects are regularly left coasting along, rather than performing at the design intent.

Performance commissioning is an import aspect of any automation system, and is a completely different role than the 'compliance' commissioning that occurs on many LEED projects.

And the MSI role continues to evolve along with the technology. What will the next step be – and what will we call it? Building Data Architects? Master Data Integrators? Data Engineers? Data Gods? Definers of the edge and the middle and cloud?!?

This article by Therese Sullivan, Principle, BuildingContext, Ltd., The Wouda, Couda and OODA of Building Performance Data Engineering, talks about the evolving roles of data engineers

As part of the Project Haystack open-source community, I’m learning that small can equal big, and less can be more, and that ‘big data’ engineers and ‘building performance data engineers’ have important but different roles in the coming era of the IoT and machine learning.

Project Haystack members share some common knowledge, skill, and interests with 'big data' engineers, but a better title for them would be 'building performance' data engineers. They are domain-experts from their respective parts of the buildings industry, who see the value of the data created by smart devices and want to help the industry and society, in general, take maximum advantage of that value. The methodology they have created - Haystack tagging - is simple, lightweight, clean and easy-to-use and apply. That is what makes Project Haystack a huge accomplishment, and that is why it is gathering such momentum right now.

I believe that Master System Integrator and Data Engineers will hurry the transformation that it needs to occur; the "getting there from here” process, and accelerate the Autonomous Actions on the Intelligent Edge discussions.

About the Author

Ken Sinclair | Editor/Owner/Founder

Ken Sinclair has been called an oracle of the digital age. He sees himself more as a storyteller and hopes the stories he tells will be a catalyst for the IoT future we are all (eventually) going to live. The more than 50 chapters in that ongoing story of digital transformation below are peppered with HTML links to articles containing an amazing and diverse amount of information.

Ken believes that systems will be smarter, self-learning, edgy, innovative, and sophisticated, and to create, manage and re-invent those systems the industry needs to grow our most important resource, our  younger people, by reaching out to them with messages about how vibrant, vital and rewarding working in this industry can be.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Contractor, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations