KINTalk: Real Estate Technologies, towards a smart workplace

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On 24 January 2020 at KIN Center for Digital Innovation, we invited Erik Ubels for an interesting talk on real estate technologies. Erik is the CTO of EDGE and the mastermind behind The Edge, Deloitte’s building in Amsterdam Zuid.

Interestingly enough, Erik opened the floor by sharing how he has never liked the term ‘smart buildings.’ When people talk about smart buildings, it’s all about reducing their CO2 footprint. However, the future of buildings is also about people as much as about sustainability.


Buildings are still the biggest polluters

That being said, tackling global sustainability is one of the missions of EDGE. Buildings are responsible of 39% of all CO2 emissions in the world. Every 38 days, the global building industry is constructing a city equivalent to the size of New York City and this is scheduled to continue in the foreseeable future. In this light, Erik shared an example of The Edge for which they used solar panels in between the glass for the façade. It is technically well feasible to build energy-neutral or even energy-positive buildings that generate more energy than what they require. However, the decision to make such a building hinges largely on investors and future tenants of the building.

From shoe box to marketplace

Another mission for EDGE lies in people. To enhance the well-being, engagement, and productivity of every person in the building, the notion of circular building plays an important role. A circular building offers abundant choices for people by having multiple functions and adjustable settings. It provides the right settings for conversations, working out, focused work, relaxed work, etc. through, for example, individual light and temperature control. Another key notion for an inviting building is an atrium. An atrium is “like a marketplace” where people get together. It is a huge open space that takes up multiple floors with functions such as convenience shops and coffee places that invite people to meet and connect with each other, instead of everyone being in their own little compartments or “shoe boxes” as Erik called them.


The 4th Industrial Revolution building

In traditional buildings, all systems such as for elevators, heating, security, audio-visual are isolated, easily adding up to 100 different systems per building. All these systems use different clouds, doing more or less the same stuff. On top of this, users bring their own smart devices into the environment. At the end of the day, there rises a problem of too much data, compliance issues, no convergence with each data input and output costing money.

In the larger context of the 4th Industrial Revolution which is enabled by developments in Computing power; Bio/Nano Technologies; Internet of Things; 3D printing, which all connect and reinforce each other, the future of building looks somewhat different. The future of buildings include new technologies such as upgradable sensors. This means that sensors, for instance, in the ceiling or in lights, can be exchanged on the spot without the need to change whole parts. With the help of machine learning and data science, data collected from all sensors will generate new analytical insights and allow for a smarter, more efficient use of building functions.


Better buildings for a larger population

As always, we closed our talk with rounds of Q&As. From our audience, there was a question whether Erik sees if better buildings will ever be relevant for smaller buildings. Erik answered by saying, “Technology always becomes cheaper, right?” giving an example of LED lights. Erik believed since prices for these technologies are dropping rapidly, better buildings will be relevant for a larger population.

Another audience posed him the question of whether there has been any push-back from employees of Deloitte regarding data privacy. Erik answered that they try to tackle this problem by collecting information only on an aggregate level, e.g. how many people there are in a given meeting room, instead of knowing an individual’s whereabouts.


Join a KINTalk

Did you find this to be an interesting read? Or are you keen to hear vivid stories from experts that are on the forefront of various forms of digital innovations? Good! Then do not hesitate to join us in our next KINTalk! Stay tuned for more information and sign up for the next event on Eventbrite. Looking forward to seeing you at our next KINTalk!


Author: Bomi Kim