Carrier Global Corp. recently launched Abound, a new cloud-native platform, as part of its growing investment in digital solutions designed to give people confidence in the health and safety of their indoor environments. Chris Nelson, Carrier’s president of HVAC, recently spoke with The ACHR NEWS about what this new tool means for the industry.)
ACHR NEWS: What was the reason for launching Abound?
DELIVERING THE NEWS: The Abound system takes an array of data about a building’s IAQ and translates it into an understandable report.
Nelson: There are really two reasons that met at an opportune time. One is we’ve been very clear strategically at Carrier that we’re going to continue to invest in our digital solutions and our software solutions as we look to increase that part of our portfolio. That partnered up with a real need in the marketplace that we saw going on in the past year. We needed to have a solution that was designed to give people confidence in the health and safety of their indoor spaces.
We’re really focused on creating a future where we can see all the health parameters in our indoor air quality as a way of life — when you drop your kid off at school or make a restaurant reservation or head into the office. With Abound, we’ll be able to make the air quality that you breathe visible. Then we can use our expertise in building systems to correct any deficiency that might exist.
It started with a pretty simple idea. An average person certainly wouldn’t drink a glass of dirty water, because they can see it. The average person only drinks about a gallon of water a day. They breathe in 2,000 gallons of air a day. It seems kind of odd that there’s no way for a person to have an idea if the air that they’re breathing is dirty or not. We wanted to create a future where we could see all the parameters of the indoor air quality that we would want, and then monitor and build the tools to the building owners to impact that. Whether it’s looking at the levels of CO2, radon, or VOCs, they can take control of the indoor air space.
ACHR NEWS: What sort of insights would a building manager get from Abound?
Nelson: It’s a cloud-based program that gathers data from various sensor systems and other sources. It enables building owners to see the data and resolve any issues that may compromise performance. Features that already exist or are coming quickly include air quality monitoring, people counting, asset monitoring, and energy usage. Because of the flexible nature, we’ll launch more features quickly. That’s the beauty of the digital architecture.
As importantly, Abound will allow building managers to benchmark that performance so they can measure air quality, ventilation, and humidity against the thresholds that have been identified by the standard from the WELL Building Institute. This verifies in a third-party way how their buildings perform against those critical characteristics. We see a future where occupants will want to be much more secure and understand what the environment they are in really consists of.
It’s something that’s become much more top of mind with the push for a return to the workplace. So much information and data has come out in K-12 schools and the amount of work that all those places need to get their IAQ and ventilation up to a standard where we can make sure our students are safely returning to school and are healthy. You can go down the list — restaurants, hotels, hospitality. There’s a real need for people to feel secure and for the owners to deliver on that promise.
ACHR NEWS: Will this help get people back into offices, restaurants, etc.?
Nelson: IAQ is invisible, and the invisible is unknown. The COVID pandemic isn’t the first airborne virus that we’ve seen, and it won’t be the last. This seems to have made a lasting impression on building occupants and people in general. This is going to be a real demand that people have going forward — really understanding the environment that they’re living in.
ACHR NEWS: What can the building manager do with this data?
Nelson: It will give them a history of what the issue is, based on the parameters that they’re looking at. Specifically, they can look at the control point or sensor to see what is causing the issue. That allows the building manager and the facilities crew or the contractor that they bring in to more readily go in with targeted understanding of what the potential issue is and an idea of where exactly the problem is.
Moving forward, as you think about the structure of the platform, we’ll be getting into the ability to not only see and highlight the issue, but then autocorrect using artificial intelligence and machine learning to remotely address those issues, in many cases in a somewhat autonomous fashion.
ACHR NEWS: Will this help HVAC contractors by easing the need for workers?
Nelson: The shortage of workers is real. Even if there weren’t a shortage, the drive to be efficient is never-ending. The ability to have an open system where you can have a better idea of what the issue is you’re facing before you get there allows the contractor to be much more prepared, have the right tools and parts, and have the right expertise going out to the job site. We think this is going to be a big focus for building owners, going forward, because of that need to be efficient.
With the structure of the platform — with being able to utilize multiple sources of information and bring that data together — it is interesting and appealing. It’s something that’s long been a challenge for the industry.
ACHR NEWS: While more data and information is good, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. How does the Abound system present the data in a way that is manageable?
Nelson: It’s a big part of the thinking behind our design process. A lot of data exists for a building today. The problem is that it’s in disparate areas and there’s such large quantities of it that it’s incomprehensible.
Think of Abound as something that unlocks the data and translates it into action. It’s like a multilingual expert that understands and translates all the building data into a simple language that is determined by the end user. It’s a cloud-native platform that gathers all that data from the various sensors and sources. It enables the building owners to see the data and resolve the issues quickly.
Right now, there’s just a lot of default data. We have rows and rows of default data. Now with Abound, you’re going to have something that is correlated with the building map, with the building controls and with the equipment and assets in the building. Then in an intuitive fashion, it can show what the issue is, rather than just that there’s an alarm.
Going forward, you’ll eventually want to get more prognostics on that data and see what can be done before the troubleshooting. That would be very valuable to a building owner.
ACHR NEWS: How is the early response from your pilot program?
Nelson: The early response has been really good. It’s currently being piloted in commercial buildings, schools, and sports entertainment facilities, including the Atlanta Braves and Truist Park. It’s also operating in our own headquarters. So far, the feedback has been wonderful.
As we roll it out, the feedback we receive and the nature of the platform is going to allow us to learn quickly. The open, cloud-native structure allows us to modify quickly and come up with new features that really meet the unique owner’s specific needs.
ACHR NEWS: There’s a lot of difference between an elementary school’s needs and a Major League Baseball stadium. How does Abound handle those different needs?
Nelson: The essence of the need is the same. The building operator needs to provide a level of confidence and certainty to the occupants that the building is healthy. The systems and the elements of what that means are going to be different, but the end need is the same. Then, the ability to initialize based on their own specific footprint is going to be unique to each application.
ACHR NEWS: What do you foresee as the growth of Abound?
Nelson: We believe that the desire for building owners to continue to invest in healthy and safe building solutions is going to be a lasting trend. It’s going to be pretty significant for market growth going forward. That comes in a lot of different forms, including advanced IAQ, higher-efficiency equipment, core ventilation, or in this case, digital solutions that allow there to be visualization and control of the environment. They’re all going to have a part to play.
We expect the Abound platform to be an important tool in our health, safe, and sustainable building platform. We’ll be committed to move quickly with new features. We’re not going to be bound by the speed of development because it’s a flexible platform. It’s very adaptable. We need to make sure we’re purposeful about working on the features that are the most desired by and drive the biggest impact to the customers.
As we roll it out, we’ll see what people think will be helpful for them. That’s going to be part of the journey. We started with this simple concept, and it’s gone pretty far pretty fast. It’s only going to continue to grow and drive more real benefits to building owners.