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5Q PropTech Interview – Troy Harvey CEO at PassiveLogic

July 7, 2021

1. Could you tell us a little bit more about your background and what brings you to where you’re today.

I started my career as a Software Architect for an embedded internet of things software stack and protocol translation.

During the early 2000s, I built software for simulating the physics of buildings and quickly found myself inundated with requests to help support the growing high-performance building market.

I ended up founding a company that worked with architects, engineers, and developers to design and build next-generation high-performance buildings.

PassiveLogic was born when I met Jeremy Fillingim: a founding engineer of Fusion I/O, which was one of Utah’s original Unicorns.

Jeremy hired my firm to construct a new high-performance home, and we started talking about the opportunity to transform the industry.

I started PassiveLogic with Jeremy as CTO in 2016, and I lead product design, engineering and manufacturing of the company’s autonomous systems platform, deep physics computation engine, and digital twin standard.

2. What led you to start PassiveLogic, and what is the company’s mission?

At my previous firm, we realized that high-performance buildings were not living up to their design expectations.

The operational results were falling far short of engineered design criteria.

As we analyzed this broadly in the LEED market, it was clear the problem was pervasive.

The root cause was the reality that buildings are the most complex system humans make, and today’s controls, commissioning, and tools are just not able to address that complexity.  

I developed some early concepts in physics-based control to solve this problem, which became the basis for PassiveLogic.

Our mission is nothing less than a revolution in the way we design, build, operate, manage and maintain our buildings.

The current technology behind building controls has remained unchanged for decades.

We are using ‘deep physics’ digital twins and AI-enabled future-forward controls to make buildings truly intelligent and self-managing, not just connected like most ‘smart’ buildings are today.

This reinvention of automation empowers our customers with future-forward control decisions at the edge, reducing operational costs and the world’s carbon footprint — while paving the way for grid-interactive smart cities.

3. What sets PassiveLogic aside from other existing building automation platforms?

Legacy building automation companies are working with century-old control theory that basically works like cruise control in cars: set the building to 72 degrees and maintain this set point with no embedded knowledge of the building.

Other startups in the space bring connectivity and AI to this outdated foundation, achieving something akin to adaptive cruise control with marginal improvements.

Fully autonomous systems can never be achieved using cruise control technology.

PassiveLogic uses Quantum Digital Twins to make buildings self-aware: aggregating information about the building materials, mechanical equipment, IoT systems, and people into one open format.

This technology is leveraged to run millions of simulations into the future before selecting the most optimal control path — delivering on comfort, energy, and operational targets far more accurately and adaptively than could ever be achieved with static set-point sequencing.

4. What are the main challenges of building and operating both hardware products and software platforms?

Challenges are where innovation is found.

The blending of software and hardware into a single user experience is where the magic is found in great products.

While everyone likes to say that hardware is hard, that is a misnomer.

Today’s breakthroughs in technology are mostly very complex software stacks wrapped in a thin veneer of hardware. While making great hardware takes a lot of design empathy for the customer, and deep embedded knowledge to weave industrial, mechanical, and electrical technology… the reality is one hardware engineer can support the work of twenty software engineers.

While there are interesting challenges in hardware supply chains and manufacturing, the real work is software.

Our software stack is deep. We’ve built the Hive operating system for AI control – from the ground up.

That stack includes everything from the edge control decision engine, a distributed AI sub-system, comfort management, physics processors, digital twin management, and completely new technologies in networking and IoT management.

We’ve even developed technologies at the compiler level to support our innovations in heterogeneous neural nets and deep physics that emerged from PassiveLogic.

At the end of the day, taking on the whole hardware + software solution is where the value is. Today’s world is built on antiquated platforms and band-aid add-ons. That’s not sustainable if you want to deliver the future.

5. What are your long-term goals for PassiveLogic and how do you plan to continue to scale your product?

We want to see a world of high-performance buildings – where occupants are comfortable and energy is used optimally.

Autonomous Buildings will trade energy in smart grid networks and coordinate with utilities, creating a new generation of sustainable cities and communities.

The building sector accounts for 40% of all U.S. primary energy use and associated emissions. The U.S. Department of Energy estimated that 40% energy savings could be achieved through better control alone — which adds up to a tremendous opportunity for PassiveLogic to have a positive impact on the built environment.

Beyond that, we’re excited about delivering digital transformation to professions that have been overlooked.

We talk to plumbers, HVAC installers, contractors — they have iPhones in their pockets, and they come to work every day and interact with 1980s level tech that just doesn’t work well.

If they are enabled with better tools, our buildings will finally live up to their design intent and become truly intelligent, not just connected.

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