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Data infrastructure platform maker Mapped has raised an additional $6.5 million in seed II funding, on top of $3 million raised in February, to build out a universal API for connecting control systems for elevators, HVAC, and other physical assets. Investors include MetaProp and Allegion Ventures as co-leads, as well as Singtel Innov8, Greycroft, and Animo Ventures.
Mapped simplifies access to physical building assets through a standard vocabulary, while supporting a secured API perimeter. The company already provides access to 30,000 different types of equipment. This investment will help it expand to support more equipment types and integrations and grow its go-to-market efforts.
The platform can be thought of as a digital twin of data infrastructure, Mapped founder and CEO Shaun Cooley told VentureBeat. This complements other types of construction digital twins for pre-construction modeling, simulation, and digital representation.
Today, developers confront different APIs, security models, and data elements when building applications spanning multiple physical devices and cloud applications. Mapped provides a middleware tier to simplify the work required to describe the relationship between people, places, and equipment in new applications. For example, a developer can create applications for triggering restroom service requests driven by fixture sensors, integrate visitor management applications with access control systems, or share building data with managed service providers.
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Painful integration challenges
Cooley conceived of the idea while vice president and CTO for IoT at Cisco as he watched the largest industrial and commercial businesses in the world struggle to scale their digitization efforts.
“A successful pilot in one building or factory would immediately run into the painful realities of integration when it was moved to the building or factory across the street,” he said.
The big challenge is that existing modern buildings were automated by one or more systems integrators using whatever technologies were available at the time. For example, HVAC systems used one approach, lighting systems another, and plumbing another. The integrator’s job was to automate the necessary processes — and not to worry about how the components, configuration, and programming of the automation compared to that building or factory across the street.
Mapped provides a consolidated data infrastructure layer for discovering, ingesting, and normalizing data. This eliminated months of manual integration efforts for applications that may span multiple systems.
Ontologies on the rise
Ontologies provide a dictionary for characterizing how to structure data in an organized, simple, and extensible way to support data reuse. But there are many ways to do this. Cooley said that existing middleware platforms and digitization efforts left ontology as an exercise for the implementer, which resulted in custom ontologies on top of custom equipment.
Mapped has spearheaded an open source ontology called the Brick schema for describing physical, logical, and virtual assets and the relationship between them. It complements other industry ontologies for describing physical building layouts (Building Topology Ontology), tagging building assets (Project Haystack), and describing smart appliances (Smart Applications Reference, or SAREF).
Cooley is betting that Mapped can follow in the footsteps of other companies that have normalized data and ontology layers in pivotal use cases. Examples could include Twilio for communications, Plaid for financial records, and Stripe for payment. Mapped can normalize data from nearly 50 different system and source types, including HVAC, lighting controls, elevators, 3D maps access controls, air quality monitoring, calendaring systems, digital signage, energy management, fire safety systems, indoor positioning, visitor management, parking systems, security systems, telepresence units, and Wi-Fi.
Mapped uses several techniques to discover and ingest data from disparate devices in industrial and commercial environments. It can both actively speak to machines and controllers and passively monitor existing communications to extract data without adding load. The gateway can also reach into a controller, interpret existing programs, and present and generate a service interface to other apps for securely adjusting equipment.
Another significant innovation is that Mapped can move the security perimeter from each class of equipment ecosystem to a unified security perimeter in the cloud for all types of equipment. As a result, partners and software developers get a simple, robust, and reliable API rather than wasting months building one-off integrations for each deployment.
“The inbound interest from partners and their developers that want to make use of Mapped’s APIs has been amazing, and we will continue to work with partners to simplify their integration efforts and build new capabilities,” Cooley said.
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