A lot transpired in 2021 — we witnessed geopolitical shifts, new unicorns, the crypto surge, post-pandemic revival, and, importantly, rapid adoption of digitalisation by companies. On the flip side, sectors with considerable exposure to digitalisation are now waking up to the harsh reality of proprietary protocols, which leave much to be desired in terms of holistic efficiencies. 

Let’s consider the healthcare sector — it has made great strides in digitalisation, with electronic health records (EHRs) becoming the norm, new diagnostic tools entering the market, virtual consultations finding traction, etc. But each technology is accompanied by vendor lock-ins and specific licenses, which do not allow seamless integration or communications with others, creating silos and operational blind spots that limit efficiencies. 


Sanjeevv Bhatia, Chairman, SB Group and CEO of Netix Global BV

Conversely, in open protocols, the scope for a seamless integration is broad, enabling the easy addition of new technologies into the mix. While the advocacy for open protocol systems and interoperability had been simmering for years, the pandemic and the ensuing uptick in digitalization have energized it. Therefore, in the healthcare sector alone, the device connectivity market is projected to reach $4.9 billion by 2026 from $1.7 billion in 2021, at a CAGR of 24.4 percent, according to Marketsandmarkets. So, 2022 is set to be the year when the vendor-agnostic, open protocol approach enters its accelerated growth phase, permeating business and industry. What does this entail for the facility management industry?

Machine-to-machine communications

An open protocol ecosystem is characterised by devices that can directly communicate with each other, regardless of vendor lock-ins. 

For example, an IoT sensor fitted in a smart building can communicate the recorded information with the BMS, enabling operators to analyse the data and derive insights. As Machine to Machine communications is established, they can unearth new possibilities and opportunities to unlock greater efficiencies. 

Unprecedented efficiencies

In the commercial real estate and hospitality sectors, businesses often rely on 40-50 vendors, each with its proprietary protocols. Such facilities found themselves in a precarious situation as the pandemic led to lockdowns and supply chain disruptions. In the event of a repair, the vendor-specific license meant that the facility faced downtime till the technician arrived — which wasn’t feasible during prolonged lockdowns. An open protocol ecosystem with a centralised command and control centre would have avoided downtime by enabling proactive maintenance. The portfolio-wide visibility, combined with data-driven insights, unveils inefficient sub-systems and processes that can be rectified. Operators can thus enhance their productivity, optimise the workflows, set effective KPIs, and monitor progress. 

Value-centric services

Due to benchmarked performances and real-time monitoring, businesses with open-protocol infrastructures have optimal resource utilization. As a result, they can add new value and services, enhancing the customer experience. Free of vendor lock-ins, businesses have the opportunity to take full ownership of their services, ensuring greater accountability and transparency. 


The ability of open protocol systems to facilitate sustainability-centric transformations perhaps makes the most compelling case for adoption. Deep-dive analysis across operations unveils specific aspects that could use optimization. For example, buildings comprise energy- and carbon-intensive systems like HVAC, central boilers, etc. With open protocols and a network of IoT sensors, single-window operators can pick up usage patterns and establish mechanisms that can adjust energy consumption as per peak and non-peak demands. By design, open protocol systems are highly measurable, which bodes well for sustainability reporting and compliance with regulations. 

While open protocols are set to make inroads into every sector in 2022, they are already well-grounded in real estate. Previously, this approach was only actionable in state-of-the-art, intelligent buildings. So, operators and owners in relatively old buildings with legacy systems had no option but to overhaul the entire hardware and invest in new ones to unlock greater efficiencies. Yet, even after the cost-intensive hardware overhaul, they depended on OEMs and vendors. Lately, with the emergence of smart retrofits, unlocking open-protocol outcomes in old buildings has become a mere plug-and-play undertaking. 

Netix Global’s “Android Approach” to building operations was predicated on this open-protocol notion. This posits a building framework similar to the Android OS, which is open-source, easy to operate, and more accommodative. 

An “Android Approach” of retrofitting old buildings can unlock high efficiencies and savings in existing BMS without any downtime. This approach has the potential to start a brownfield revolution by bringing scores of old buildings into the digitalisation and sustainability fold. 

In a sector with massive energy and carbon footprint, high operating costs, and vendor-locked devices, open protocols will uphold owners/operators’ “right to repair.”

(The author is the Chairman of SB Group and CEO of Netix Global BV)

( Any opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own)

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