Q&A with Jim Whalen, Optigo’s newest board member
We at Optigo Networks are pleased to announce that Jim Whalen, SVP Chief Information Officer at Boston Properties, has joined our board of directors. He has a wealth of experience in the real estate industry, and will bring keen insights to the company’s board. We chatted with Jim, to learn more about his experience, why he’s excited to work with Optigo, and what he sees as the future of smart buildings.
Monica McMahen: What drew you to the real estate industry?
Jim Whalen: As a New York City Urban Fellow in the mid-1980s, I was a young IT project manager on large scale tech projects in public residential housing — an exciting period of investment for the City. I had great mentors who grounded me in practical approaches that I still follow today.
MM: Tell us about your 20 plus years in the real estate industry since then.
JW: After five years in international development work that took me around the globe, I came back to real estate at Beacon Properties in Boston supporting its residential, office, and construction operations. Beacon eventually went public and was later sold to Equity Office Properties. In 1998 I moved across town to Boston Properties which had just gone public. Over my career in CRE, the pace of technology innovation and its adoption has only accelerated. It makes work exciting and challenging every day.
MM: What do you do in your current role?
JW: As CIO, my role is to facilitate the adoption of technology across a national real estate platform. Your technology investments need to align with the standards expected of your operating platform – how you engage and service your customers. Technology is an integral and increasingly underlying facilitator of both the business and buildings with the network as a fundamental enabler for connectivity.
MM: What insights and knowledge are you bringing to the Optigo Team?
JW: For over 14 years, I’ve worked in adopting converged building networks first driven by unique operational needs then by economies-of-scale and more recently by cybersecurity. The amount of technology being incorporated and layered into new buildings is only increasing and accelerating. The challenge requires both organizational and change management approaches in bringing engineering, property and IT disciplines together along with your outside partners to achieve efficiencies and service levels.
MM: What excites you about working with Optigo Networks?
JW: In my role, I engaged and worked with startups focused on innovation in the CRE space. Optigo has a focused set of innovations trying to solve a market opportunity in how buildings operate and stay healthy — how they are wired, monitored, and remain secure. I love that Optigo’s solutions are practical and designed with a deep understanding of how building systems need to be connected and maintained.
MM: What do you see as the biggest trends in the smart building industry over the last few years?
JW: The primary challenge of “smart buildings” is really implied in the question. We are in the very early innings of optimizing facility systems on a continuous basis, leveraging an increasing amount of available data points. The opportunity for the market is to provide cost-effective, easy to deploy and operationally friendly solutions that incorporate advancing technologies like machine-learning. This will be a continuing theme, with a focus on both operational and energy sustainability.
MM: Where do you see the future of IoT and smart buildings going in the next five years?
JW: Two trends will continue to move the industry up the curve: (1) the continued growth in the sheer number of endpoints and (2) the harvesting and correlation of data points for actionable triggers as an industry.
MM: Smart buildings are growing around the world, and the global smart building market is expected to reach USD 36B by 2020. How will this rapid growth change the industry?
JW: In terms of change, I think that skill sets across the industry need to adapt as buildings move from analog to IP, requiring more attention to integration and security. Manufacturers, integrators, facility managers, engineering, and IT are increasingly challenged to partner in the design, deployment, and maintenance of systems.
MM: How will smart buildings change the world?
JW: The promise of smart buildings can be glimpsed on a smaller scale in the innovation occurring in our houses, e.g., the simple interaction with an Amazon Alexa to engage with your space. Occupants will continue to push for better experiences and time savings in how they get to and from work and engage with their space.
MM: When you aren’t working, what will we find you doing?
JW: When not working, I’m an avid cyclist, runner, and hiker. My wife and I continue to add new countries in our travels every year.
Welcome to Optigo Networks, Jim!