How connected buildings could enrich our lives
We spend an inordinate amount of time in our workplace. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend 87% of their life indoors. The majority of industrialized countries follow suit. So, it’s fair to say the buildings in which we live and work play a significant role in our daily lives.
Interestingly – when you ask people what kinds of buildings they use – most of us have a hard time to think beyond their home and work place. A simple exercise to overcome this is to chronologically go through your last week(s) and focus your memory on what you did in context of where those things happened. And all of a sudden you will remember the time you spent waiting at the airport, picking up your kids at preschool, sweating at the gym or circling the crowded parking lot at the mall.
3 building categories
If we now grouped all the buildings you came up with into categories, we would probably end up with just a few such as residential, commercial and public buildings on the highest level. Whereas everyone of us has maximum control over their own homes and how smart it has to be to provide the adequate levels of comfort, security, sustainability and fun, we all rely very much on others to provide this in buildings falling into one of the other two categories.
What to expect of a connected building?
And as simple as it sounds: behind every one of those buildings there is a business model. And as we believe at Sales-force, every business model needs to be centred around the customer.
So, if we all consider ourselves as customers of whoever plans, owns or operates a commercial or public building or parts of it: What would we expect? Which services, features and experiences could add value to our stay as residents or guests?
Can you now begin to imagine how connected buildings could provide intelligent services and tailored experiences to each and every one of us? Think of apps at work allowing you to engage and balance the temperature, lighting and fresh air amongst all people in a meeting room or on a specific floor. Think of co-working spaces which know when you need how much space and what kind of equipment is helping you to get your job done – and, of course, offering a convenient reserved parking space at peak times. Think of vending machines that know which drinks to stock to ensure that your favourite one never runs out. Think of how you would like to experience work, travel, shopping, leisure activities and events.
Creating highly personalized experiences
The Internet of Things opens up a whole new world of opportunities through engaging residents and guests with highly personalized experiences. We move from connected products to a connected customer experience. This connected experience for commercial building can transform the way building operators manage their space and how the new millennial generation obtains their space and associated services.
How building technology needs to evolve
Building technology in commercial and public buildings has been mostly focused on sensors and alarm systems, which inform different target groups in a building whenever a certain threshold is surpassed. And this mostly happens in a very basic fashion e.g. through hardware in the building. But this is not really intuitive nor user friendly. Nor does it create much value beyond basic safety. Clearly, there is a huge lack of truly value added services, especially ones which are easy to consume and use e.g. providing the most effective and pleasant shopping trail through a mall you have never been to.
Connected buildings: When do they create value?
It is not rocket science that connecting devices and services will only be successful when it creates value for customers and employees. But I believe this to be especially true for connected commercial buildings which will play a key role in differentiating companies in the battle for customers and talent.
There is an opportunity to disrupt the way the market views building management – a move from selling a product, a room, a space, to offering services within that space that then sell that room. Building operators need to shift their thinking and understand that the next generation of workers wants services, not just a space to park their laptop.
Focus on connected building business models
We spoke about this being a disruptive service, from the standpoint of product to service, and new ways of determining cost and contract models by supply and demand, one month contracts vs. 10 year, and based on demand rather than a set fee.
To bring this reality to life in the context of your specific environment might seem challenging. One must define a winning value proposition and create a balance between what is technically feasible to deliver the most value for the customer and solve for the underlying business case.
Being a Maker I like to tackle these challenges to identify a differentiating experience from two angles:
- What value could be delivered through this experience and to or by whom?
- What technologies must be deployed to deliver distinct value to the customer?
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