Rudin Family Unveils Building With A Brain

One of New York’s real-estate dynasties, the Rudin family, is casting itself in a new role: tech startup.

The generation that now owns and runs Rudin Management Co. has launched a company called Prescriptive Data LLC that offers an operating system designed to be a building’s “brain.” The system analyzes information including elevator use, occupancy, electric demand, weather and indoor temperatures, and recommends ways in real time to decrease energy use and costs—an estimated average savings of 50 cents a square foot for landlords.


“We, in terms of our family, have created this company and its platform for us, but it’s applicable to a wide universe of buildings literally all over the world,” said Bill Rudin, chief executive of Rudin Management. “It’s really been a ground-up effort from the operations team and engineers…”


The operating system, which Prescriptive Data has named Nantum, was unveiled at a conference in San Jose, Calif., focused on technological innovations in the commercial real-estate industry. The company is looking at setting annual fees of 7.5 to 8 cents a square foot.

While separate from Rudin Management, Prescriptive Data has had the advantage of developing the operating system with input from the Rudins and their employees, who have years of experience and expertise, and testing it on the family’s buildings, said John J. Gilbert III, acting chief executive of Prescriptive Data and Rudin Management’s chief operating officer.


“It’s built by people who run buildings for people who run buildings,” Mr. Gilbert said, adding, “It becomes the expertise that is important, and the algorithm is the tool.”

The Rudins have invested more than $5 million in Prescriptive Data so far, entering a market that already offers a host of software and hardware that provide so-called smart-building technology.

Competitors include Senseware Inc. and Aquicore Inc., which both sell hardware and software that operate similarly to Nantum, centralizing and analyzing data from a building’s different systems on one platform. Software from KGS Building LLC automatically detects potential problems in a building’s systems and offers potential causes.


“A lot of platforms were collecting data and weren’t showing you how to deal with it,” said Zach Aarons, co-founder of MetaProp NYC, a real-estate technology accelerator and seed investment firm. “So then software companies popped up to help you analyze what’s coming out of your buildings.”


The Rudins moved into smart-building technology out of sheer necessity—they couldn’t find a single product that would bridge a building’s different systems to save energy or react more quickly to power outages, Mr. Gilbert said.

Nantum links a building’s systems digitally so they influence the functions of each other. For example, occupancy factors in to heating and cooling. The operating system also is set up to take the data from the building’s systems, including security, and present the information on a “cockpit-style” control panel that can be accessed on mobile devices as well, Mr. Gilbert said. Many newer office towers have displays for their systems in separate areas, such as security monitors near the lobby and the screens for heating, cooling and ventilation in the engine room.

Another of Nantum’s key features is its ability to make recommendations from past usage patterns—when to start up or slow down cooling and heating. Often, timing has been based on a mix of guesswork, an engineer’s experience and even the ending time set in tenant contracts.


Nantum, according to Mr. Gilbert, grew out of conversations that Rudin Management had years ago with energy company Consolidated Edison Inc., which was looking to improve the electric grid.

Con Ed asked Rudin if a 30- to 45-second warning of a power outage would be valuable, Mr. Gilbert recalled. The answer was yes, because an elevator system could be programmed to take the signal of a frequency dip, go to the nearest floor and let out passengers rather than use electricity from a generator to lower the cars one by one. The catch, as the Rudins knew, was that there had to be an operating system that could process the warning from Con Ed.


Source: The Wall Street Journal

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