SSAO Bridges and Bytes – Summer 2016: Clayton Miller, Scott Campus, mentors, internships, and more…

In this issue:

Three Minutes with Clayton Miller

millerClayton Miller became a Scott Scholar in 2002. He is from McCook, NE and holds a BS and Masters of Architectural Engineering from University of Nebraska, an MSc from National University of Singapore (on a Fulbright Scholarship), and (soon) a PhD from ETH Zürich. He lives in Singapore, researching for ETH Zürich’s 3 for 2 Project.

The goal of the 3for2 Project is to get 3 floors a building where you normally only get 2 through better integration of HVAC systems. Similar to the phones in our pockets with innovative tech in compact form, as the engineering of cooling systems get better, you’re able to reduce the height of floors, thus the 3 for 2.

Since 2009, I’ve been based in Singapore and Zurich, spending most of the last two years in Zurich. ETH Zurich (or Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) is often listed in the Top 10 of all universities, considered the MIT of Continental Europe. They have a satellite campus in Singapore where I’m finishing my PhD and will continue with my post-doc on 3for2 through March of 2017.

I am the data guy on the project. My role at the beginning was to ensure that we had the right sensors installed with the right accuracy with the right control system – tying them together. On top of that, which is not common with buildings, I’ve setup a data acquisition process to stream data into a time series database with a dashboard on top to visualize the data.

My thesis is about feature engineering on time-series data for machine learning. Basically, being able to determine insights from temporal data – data with a timestamp. Features are the inputs to the machine learning model – basically the rules and patterns the machine uses to understand the underlying data. Within my particular context of data on buildings, generating the features is one of the hardest things to do. Simple features like mean, median, max only get you so far. A whole library of different types of features can be used, with the goal of improving accuracy of characterizing the data for predictions.

Visual Analytics is my next research focus, with the goal of using machine learning techniques for a user to investigate data within a dashboard. I’ll be trying to improve the speed a user navigates a dataset to zoom-in and zoom-out of a hierarchy. You can follow my findings at

Control systems of buildings are the original Internet of Things – they’ve been doing it since the mid-90s. Every commercial building has loads of devices, most often connected to the web, streaming data on temperatures, etc. The IoT buzzword is from the low cost that can now be applied across many types of sensors in many industries. But commercial buildings have had the budget to buy the sensors for a few decades.

We can now describe buildings through sensor data but comparisons across buildings, across time are still difficult. In the US, there are over 50 million smart meters collecting data at high frequencies, but if the buildings lack proper classification, the data becomes tough to use. If a building is mostly offices but also a yoga studio, a data center, and a science lab, it’s going to show different results than something that’s purely offices for people in shirts and ties banging on laptops. But this gives me things to research!

There are a lot of startups that are screening smart meter data, providing services back to utilities. Next spring after my post-doc, I’ll either look at continuing with academia or some of these startups.

Technology is not the hard part of tech startups. I was the CEO of Optiras in Singapore before my PhD program. We had a software platform to monitor buildings, with a similar approach as the 3 for 2 program. Our seed funding got us through 2 years, where I learned a lot about enterprise sales, positioning, and pricing, ultimately understanding that Singapore’s market and culture wasn’t the ideal fit for our offering.

World travel gives you a strong understanding of context that enables you to make sense of global events. There are constantly stories in the news about people doing things you think are crazy, but when you’ve immersed yourself in the context of those events you can start understanding why things are the way that they are. For example, when people in Singapore or Zurich asked me the culture in Nebraska, I try to describe nice people, Warren Buffett’s lifestyle, and Husker Football. People are super confused because it’s not the New York or California they’ve visited or seen in the movies. If they haven’t been, they don’t understand it. Same for us with the rest of the world. Travel is the ability to exercise shifting contexts. It’s working those gears of switching mindsets. If you can switch mindsets you can be a better person and citizen.

Scott Campus

pkiIn July, the Board of Regents renamed South Campus as Scott Campus, in honor of Mr. Scott. His vision and generosity is now even more embedded into the part of campus where we’ve all spent so much time. As I’m sure we’ll all agree, it’s a fitting name.

In addition to much of new construction over the past few years, including conversion of the Scott Hall parking lot into new dorms, the First Data building has been purchased by the NU Foundation.

 Walter Scott, Jr. retiring from Durham School Advisory Board

As you may know, Walter Scott, Jr. was instrumental in collaborating with industry and other philanthropic supporters to provide an endowment for The Charles W. Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction. Since the endowment was established in 2005, Mr. Scott has provided valuable guidance to the Durham School by serving on its advisory board.

To thank Walter for his contributions, the NU Foundation and Durham School are hosting a celebration on campus in Omaha. Local Scott Scholar Alumni graduates with degrees from the schools of Architectural Engineering, Construction Engineering, or Construction Management should be on the lookout for invitations to the upcoming even.

Quick Bytes

  • Mentors are needed for the new class of Freshman. Please email if you’re interested
  • 2017 Summer Internships: PKI is always looking for interesting places for students to gain experience; contact Kyle Hoback If you know of or can create any interesting opportunities
  • Jenny (Frahm) Addante is a self-employed retail sales rep in Austin, TX
  • Daniel Hassing is an Associate Attorney at Lamson Dugan & Murray, LLP in Omaha
  • Jeremy Neilson won the 2015 Forum Law Student Writing Competition at the Forum on Construction Law
  • …and the SSAO Facebook page has recently been updated

Have anything you’d like to contribute – thoughts, ideas, comments, content? Contact Kyle Hoback.

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