#5QuestionsWith is an interview series with RE experts to help the industry learn, grow, and be inspired. Read on as IoT and PropOps leaders talk to us about the highs and lows of what it means to be a change-maker in the smart buildings arena.

Nicolas Waern is the CEO, Strategy & Innovation Leader, and a Digital Twin Evangelist at the consulting firm WINNIIO and Podcast Creator for the Beyond Buildings Podcast.

He is a thought leader around Digitization and Digital Twins, IoT-expert and a Subject Matter Expert regarding Smart Buildings, Smart Cities, helping leaders compete in the age of AI. He is a firm believer that we have all the ingredients to make the world a better place for everyone.

 

1. How would you describe the impact of the pandemic in the building management and operations space? What did you do as part of your own strategy at Winniio?

The impact of the pandemic will have far-reaching ramifications for business models, movement patterns, and stakeholder behavior for some time to come. The new normal is anything but normal also taking in technological advancements at scale. We see that people are quitting jobs instead of going back to offices. We will also see more uptake in well-being, the Internet of Things, transparency and there will be a shift between old buildings and smarter buildings. The skill shortage gap will be even more evident because of this, which will put focus on the industry to attract new talent, which also demands more modern ways of working.

Hopefully, the perfect storm is here, and we’ll continue to see profit as a driver complemented with a planetary purpose due to increased awareness, digital transparency, and governmental regulations.

We were already positioned to cater to a global landscape and had been working remotely even before the pandemic started. But we also took the opportunity to start the Beyond Buildings Podcast to interview global leaders about the past, present, and future of buildings, and beyond.

 

Not enough information about the facilities that exist where companies are the definition of data-rich, but information poor. Low level of digital maturity leading to non-existing digital transparency at scale. Existing vendor lock-in, high switching costs and siloed ways of working when it comes to systems, and an overall lack of collaboration between different domains.

There is also a lack of incentives from all sides, considering the money that is still being made from real estate without changing the status quo.

There is no lifecycle focus from anyone, and not that many solutions can make it happen. There is still no linear equation between IT spending and monetary benefits for owners. Where systems integrators, channel systems, also perpetuate obsolete ways of working where the past clings to the future far too much.

 

3. What innovation around digitization in operations and smart building initiatives most excites you? What do you see as a strategic approach to begin?

What excites me the most is to get everyone on a shared starting point that can also scale into the future. And then continue to build from there. The ingredients exist, but the recipes are not here just yet.

I would begin with the whole portfolio, where it is in the world, and then zoom in and zoom out to what buildings are being considered.

Map out processes, people, hierarchy, culture, and existing systems for each individual building and to link this to the overall goals of any effort. Getting the organizational buy-in is extremely important so that it does not turn into Innovation Theatre only.

It is evident that older tools and traditional mindsets keep perpetuating the problems that exist. Therefore, I would love for companies to not be scared of new technology and instead use modern tools and a more modern mindset to solve ancient problems. Inviting new actors to innovate with their reality and to get to a point where we can create the foundations for the future. Connectivity platform, Engineering intent, AI-focused strategies from the beginning, and tools and technologies that can harmonize existing systems and work in interoperable ways.

 

4. Could you talk to us more about the benefits that smart buildings bring to the table?

A platform to build the future on for systems as well as people. Getting data out in a standardized way, creating a path to the future without vendor-lock-in and huge switching costs and instead offer freedom of choice. Full transparency between stakeholders and a shared reality to communicate around.

The benefits could be far-reaching because sustainable cities also demand smarter buildings, which will improve well-being productivity and also open up an app-store concept for all buildings in the world.

I see an increase in the ability to democratize innovation strategies to happen where data is not held hostage, where data instead can be turned into information, leading to insight, meaningful action, and a much necessary impact for people and the planet worldwide.

 

5. The responsibility of being sustainable and environmentally friendly is falling largely on our buildings today. In your view, how would AI help take that forward?

We have only one planet and we haven’t done a great job taking care of it as people. The people that live on this earth right now are the pinnacle of evolution spanning billions of years. And yet we have managed to destroy most of it in a fraction of the time it has existed. But it’s on us to reverse the situation and create a better planet for us, as well as future generations.

We must break out from the Status Quo-groups out there and usher in a new era. And we need to do this with an AI-first strategy, not just API-first. The reason being that AI can help the world heal faster and given the right quality data we could simulate the future and know what options to take before we take them. We cannot afford to sit around and wait for the world to crumble before our very eyes.

We need to act and do our part and create smarter buildings, knowing that we do not have the answers to what amazing solutions future generations might create.

We need to create future-ready facilities at scale with people, systems, as well as the planet in mind. And to do this, we need to combine existing industry dynamics with new ideas, outcome-based strategies, and more modern ways of working.

If not us, who? If not now, when?

 

More about Nicolas Waern:

Thought Leader regarding Smart Buildings & Building Automation for AutomatedBuildings
Speaker and Influencer Event Streaming Platforms as the Holy Grail for Industry 4.0 Applications
Subject Matter Expert Real Estate Digitalization Proptech Sweden – Digitalization Expert
And an active Member of Digital Twin working groups Digital Twin Consortium & Chalmers – Digital Twin City Centre