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Robotics in the real estate business
"A shopping centre is the perfect laboratory for building technologies - a lot of technology is installed, it is a high-frequency property and this is rarely to be considered as a single entity, but rather as an entire ecosystem."
How can robots be meaningfully integrated into real estate operations? What path is ECE taking in dealing with robotics? Dr Christian Schlicht gives an insight into how large properties such as shopping centres can react much better to the needs of customers, shop operators and guests in the future and how processes can be optimised with digital support.
Moderation: Marius Münkel (Messe Frankfurt)
Topic: Building planning & real estate management
...Director Center Management - Facility Management at the centre operator ECE Projektmanagement GmbH & Co KG. Together with his team, he ensures that centre operations run smoothly. In doing so, he attaches great importance to being well informed about technological innovations in the field of facility management. So it comes as no surprise that ECE, together with its corporate partner Reply, has been allowed to test the globally acclaimed robot "SPOT" from the robotics manufacturer Boston Dynamics as a pilot project in the centre's operation.
The globally acclaimed robot "SPOT" by robotics manufacturer Boston Dynamics is being tested by centre operator ECE Projektmanagement as a pilot project for use in large properties.
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7.000.000m² of sales area divided between 200 shopping centers European-wide. In addition, 4 million visitors are entering the properties day after day. These impressive figures are provided by the company ECE Projektmanagement on its website.
Our guest today is Christian Schlicht. As Director Center Management and Facility Management, he is one of the people at ECE who play a key role in ensuring that this operation is possible without any problems. And we are delighted that he has found his way to us from Hamburg - digitally, of course, due to Corona...
Gude, Marius, good to see you!
Christian, of course we would have liked to welcome you here in Frankfurt today. Unfortunately, the number of cases has interfered with our work, but we are flexible and can easily conduct the conversation digitally.
Today we want to talk about robotics in the real estate business. Christian, you are Director Facility Management and Center Management at ECE. You and your team ensure that center operations run smoothly. But before we get into this topic, we would like to get to know you a little better as a person, so I have five short questions, and I need five answers from you...
Yeah, sure, go ahead.
Dreamer or realist?
I am a realist.
Coffee: black or with milk?
With milk, but with oat milk.
Michael Jordan or Lothar Matthäus?
Home office or office?
Then the last question - shopping, do you do it in a shopping center or online?
Of course you do that in a shopping center.
I almost thought so...
We already heard in the introduction what you do at ECE. Why don't you tell us again briefly - what is ECE's core business and what is your role within the company?
Yes, I'm happy to do that. Of course I’m often asked that question... Me and my team are taking care of the shopping center operations. In a very simple way: We make sure that the door opens in the morning and customers come in, and in the evening the door can be locked properly again.
So what does that mean? In the end, it's the entire value chain. That means: We make the budgets for our stakeholders, in this case the investors, who of course invest in the property. But we also do the budget planning for the rental partners who rent units from us. In this case, we are talking about operating costs and incidental expenses, among other things.
And then, of course, we take care of all the relevant issues that are necessary for operation - from cleaning to technology, since we have installed a lot of technology in the shopping centers. In other words, we ensure that the technology is properly maintained and properly tested. Simply everything so that our end customers feel comfortable and stay as long as possible in the shopping centers and feel well looked after. Something that, due to the current situation, naturally presents us all with great challenges at the moment.
You just mentioned it: You have different target groups or customer segments that you have to satisfy. Which customer group requires the most effort?
Well, of course this depends on the individual situation … Especially at the moment we are massively supporting our clients to keep everyone financially alive, i.e. with the lockdown at the beginning of the year and now, since yesterday, with the slimmed-down lockdown, our core business has been hit hard. Our rental partners also ask us why one store can open and the other has to close. That is of course extremely difficult in the current phase. With our department, we are trying to make sure that the costs that are always incurred in a property due to the operation are currently reduced to a minimum, so that it is just barely bearable. And we, on the other hand, also comply with the legal requirements and obligations.
What I can say in addition to this: I think our team has also shown during the Corona time that it was extremely important that we had already existing systems, existing tools at the start and that we could therefore quickly reduce the real estate operation to a minimum. And after the decision that we were allowed to reopen, i.e. the re-opening, that we dealt so well with our service providers that we were able to restart the real estate operations and reopen the stores.
Yes, that is our range of tasks, quite multifaceted...
Yes, absolutely, I would say that sounds like a great responsibility and a great effort above all. It's almost impossible to manage without digital aids, isn't it?
Absolutely right. Fortunately, we were able to successfully complete the SAP implementation before Corona. Perhaps a little anecdote... I always thought during my studies: Computer science? What do I need it for? I didn't pay that much attention. I should have done that. Because everything we do today has to do with computer science, with IT in general.
As I said, we've been implementing SAP for the last five years and I think we've done a really good job of implementing and training it, from the process model to the data model to the implementation. And digitalization is actually based on this. So, ECE has SAP at its core and everything that is added to the left and right is practically based on this ERP tool, SAP in this specific case.
You have also dealt with the topic block chain in the past, right? Now this is a topic that many people know from Bitcoin or from other online currencies. How can this be transferred to facility management?
Well, when I heard it for the first time, a good friend told me that she had read up on crypto currencies. My brother did the same thing and then I was a bit hooked and thought: crypto currency, what is that actually and where does it come from? And everyone knows Bitcoin from somewhere and then I thought, okay, what is the technology behind it? And, coming back to the history of computer science, I was thinking, how can I implement this DLT case, that is Distributed Ledger Technology - among other things, the block chain is one way of doing this - how can I transfer this to my real estate business?
Actually, in the last few years I have always tried to use existing technologies and systems to solve the problem I have in a specific case on the business level. And in facility management or real estate operations in general, we have a lot of rules, regulations, laws, standards and guidelines. You know how it is... We have VDMA, VDI, DIN standards or laws, standards, regulations down to the level of the statutes. That's why the Waste Statutes in Hanau are different from those in Frankfurt, because this is of course a local issue. That's why there is just the yellow bag for plastic garbage and the green garbage can and the other one has a blue garbage can and coincidentally another brown one.
That is of course very important for us, because we have 16 federal states in Germany, and then down to the level of the statutes the complexity of correctly screening this everywhere increases. There is a tool from Rödl & Partner called REG-IS - which stands for "Regelwerksinformationssystem" - and it gives me information about which regulations, i.e. laws, standards, guidelines and so on, are changing, so to speak. And I took this structure and integrated it into SAP. So, the technical equipment, such as the ventilation system, the smoke and heat exhaust system, etc., is now in the SAP system. (now speaking purely from the Light + Building world), I have the whole technology wired, so to speak, to the regulations, which then change.
And what does the Blockchain stand for? For manipulation security. That is, that information is stored on several computers and if one of them wants to manipulate it, then it is obvious because the hash values are compared with each other. If they do not match, it is obvious that something is wrong. And so I took advantage of this to digitize the process on the SAP master data basis and data model basis - from rule changes to documentation.
Let's play this out: the set of rules changes, in SAP we marry this with the equipment, the colleague on site - in Frankfurt, for example, in the Skyline Plaza - presses the button that the order is executed and then the service provider sends back the log, the maintenance or test log. We store the protocol in our document management system, we call it a property file, then we put the hash value on the document and write the export to the block chain.
In this way, we have completely digitalized the process, from the change of rules to the documentation. This has never been done before in this form in the real estate environment and we are therefore very glad that we are a step ahead.
Yes, sounds interesting in any case and has also brought other things with it, if I have understood it correctly. In the past, ECE was happy to start with pilot projects. For example, I remember a project with the company uvis, which involved disinfection with UV light for escalators.
With Cluster Reply as a partner you have now started an extremely exciting new pilot project - tell us, what is it all about?
Exactly, so the topic "Boston Dynamics SPOT" was added. We worked together with our technology partner who built us the block chain - quite frankly, Marius, I'm not a block chain expert either and had to get someone on my side who could explain it to me and also implement it technically. This is not quite trivial now and as I said, it exceeded my ability, but there are experts and that's how we started the race. The block chain case was a show case because I said we had to test it. Because only when you test it you can understand whether it fits or not. And so, in the show case, we showed you visually how something like that could look like.
The following came out of this block chain show case: Of course, ECE is testing a lot left and right, and there was a research project on the horizon and it was called "from BIM to Digital Twin", i.e. how we get from the BIM model into the digital twin. This was very well received because our data model, which we built, allows us to import everything from rule changes to documentation into the BIM model. And the idea, the next step, would have been to ask how I could display the property more intelligently... Because in the best case, the escalator or smoke extraction system would of course commission itself, it has the information in its stomach and knows that I have to be serviced or inspected in this and that cycle and then it could commission this itself via SAP - in the best case via a Raspberry Pi or IOT device, or whatever. That was, so to speak, the second step we took.
Then we got into a conversation with Reply, i.e. as part of the discussion. Such topics are a creative process. It only comes about when you have several experts present and can therefore discuss more freely. And there was the idea of saying, why don't I have a mobile IOT device that can run through the property and of course order certain things or provide the technical manager with information at an early stage?
The real estate is usually quite large in such a shopping center, we have 30, 40, 50, 60,000 square meters of space to manage there. It's the same for you on the exhibition grounds - a lot of time goes from one gate to the other or from one hall to the next... and in order to act more proactively and at an earlier stage, we discussed use cases in the discussion to see what a robot can actually do.
Of course, we already had the classic topics such as cleaning robots in our mind. You may know this from your private environment, a lawn mower or vacuum cleaner/wipe robot. These are such nice little helpers that do simple jobs that you don't like to do when you're not at the start or at work.
So we thought about it and got in touch with Boston Dynamics. They really liked the use cases - we called it the multi-use case approach, in other words, a multifunctional use case that combines several use cases. They liked the approach and said that we are in the "early adopter program". And that's quite an elitist story in this research project, so I'm particularly pleased that our ideas are also being taken up there.
I think one can say "welcome to the future"!
How exactly can one imagine this now, i.e. the use of SPOT? Is it already running somewhere?
Yes, it is already running and it has been running for quite a while. But since the project hasn't progressed quite as far as we did, I'd like to summarize briefly what our goals were and where we are in the project right now.
As I just mentioned, we have quite large areas and a lot of issues to deal with in the property, so we need to be proactive in knowing what is happening. Let me lead you to the first use case. Very few people know this, but ECE also manages many parking garages, and of course that's the way it is there: a parking garage ages on the one hand, but on the other hand it is also subject to a lot of wear and tear if it is highly frequented. This is where damage occurs, and of course you have to recognize this early on. And the sooner we detect them, the sooner we can reduce the extent of damage, replace components or the pavement, etc., so that downtime does not occur. You can imagine if parking revenues fall away because we have to close a parking deck, that's not really good for the economy.
The earlier we can detect the damage there, the earlier we can react. In this case, the Boston Dynamics SPOT - imagine it like a multifunctional Swiss Army knife - I can attach anything to it, sensors or additional sensors, various things, I can even attach a gripper arm to open doors... we haven't done that yet in this case, but what I'm getting at is that the SPOT is fed by images of us. We show him what kind of damage can occur in such a parking garage. We have such expert test reports, which are accompanied by a photo documentation, and we take them and play them, figuratively speaking, into the SPOT's brain. When he walks across the parking deck, he scans the surface with his cameras, with his sensors, so to speak, and compares it with the images that we have given him.
That is already pretty cool, because it concerns static topics, around stability, it concerns traffic safety obligations. That helps us immensely, of course, because people, our colleagues from the technical department, of course they also walk on the parking deck, but of course they don't have X-ray vision and see where potential damage could occur, they only see that when the time comes. So this is the one use case.
The other use case we have is: We also have many side passages. You have to think of it like this: the logistics in a shopping center do not take place in the mall, but always in the back areas. And there it is of course also important whether there are objects stored that represent a fire load, for example. So what we also did is: We let the SPOT run through the aisles and it scans whether the fire extinguisher is on site or not. If it's not on site, the Technical Manager gets a push that he has to check there again. If it is on site, the fire extinguisher is also checked - so it is scanned whether the test badge fits or not. These are also very important issues. After all, how often do you run past a fire extinguisher in a hotel or in public areas and think: oh, it should be checked or is about to expire. These are also topics, which can be supported thereby.
And the third use case is pretty much the most complex of the three. I just mentioned that we are working on the BIM model and also 3D models, i.e. the digital twin. And of course, in a shopping center like this you quickly have 100 or 200 store units in it, and the property is not that immobile. There is always a tenant moving in or out, or people moving in or out, or there's a special offer somewhere in the mall, or the Christmas decorations are coming, or whatever... Of course, it's important for us to always have the most up-to-date planning material. And the idea now is, as you saw in the video, that SPOT has a so-called LiDAR sensor on its head, a LiDAR application, and that makes it possible for us to keep the 3D model of the property up to date. So when the robot walks around on the parking deck or through the property, I actually always have the most up-to-date data, because it actually measures it and compares it with the latest version.
This helps us of course and it puts us miles ahead, because you always need space and information in real estate operations. If they are of course up-to-date, then there is already a great added value.
Absolutely, yes, many a science fiction movies become reality, that's what it sounds like.
Of course, some might ask themselves now: Are machines starting to replace humans now? And do many a facility manager now have to fear unemployment? What do you think?
That is of course a question that I had hoped for. Of course I asked myself the same thing at the beginning. What kind of worries and fears can it perhaps trigger, because it's already a cut, also a cut in the job. But I can answer this question with complete peace of mind, because we are not going to replace anybody with it, it makes no sense from our point of view. But it is important that we give our colleagues on site the time to take care of the essentials.
I just mentioned that if you are at work and the lawn mower robot or the vacuum cleaner robot is driving around at home, these are activities that you don't actually have to do, they can also be automated. And they give you the time to concentrate on the essentials. And now the analogy to the center: we currently have an extremely high demand for helping our customers, in this case the rental partners and also the end customers, and of course the investors, and we need more time for that. Of course, we can do this by supporting activities that take up a lot of time on the one hand and are perhaps handled more efficiently on the other. That is the idea.
And it will also be the case that we want to start with it for the time being, because honestly I can't tell you whether it will be 100% effective with the use cases as I have now defined them. This is now a kind of research project and this gives us the opportunity to generate early findings and then decide: does it make sense to implement this or not. I think this is very important to emphasize once again.
Interesting that you just said that. We have already recorded a podcast with Chris Boos, he is a member of the Digital Council of the Federal Government and also an expert on AI and he shares this opinion. He says it's a) the question, what do I want to automate? Some things you might want to leave in human hands. And b) it makes room for things that you might not have had time to think about before.
Now SPOT is going to work in an already existing property. Let's take a step back and assume that you have a new project lined up, for example a new building or the conversion of an existing center complex... Real estate is an absolute cross-sectional topic - you can see that quite clearly from our trade fair portfolio in the Building Technologies area. E2 Forum (elevators & escalators), ISH for sanitation / heating and air conditioning, Light + Building for building services engineering and lighting or Intersec Building for security technology - all these things have to be taken care of in the building context.
How do you proceed here in terms of innovations and the selection of potential suppliers?
Well, with us it's like this, especially I have a certain affinity, a certain weakness for, but you've now found that out... I think what's incredibly important is that you constantly ask yourself whether what you're doing is actually sustainable. And of course it's part of it that you always have your finger on the pulse of time on the technology side. Personally, I always make sure that we have a kind of screening in the proptech market and say, okay, which proptechs are there? Which start-ups deal with real estate related issues? And it was especially important to us at ECE, that we don't make a "closed job" out of it. In other words, that we say: "now we'll fiddle around on our own because we know better".
On the contrary, we have initiated a cooperation with Bosch, Bosch Connected World. And that was called the Smart Building Challenge. We also openly dug up topics where we said that we needed an external opinion on the issues. So we defined use cases where we said there was always a bit of pain in operations, and we had start-ups pitched in on them in this Smart Building Challenge. It was really interesting to see how this external view produced completely different ideas. And also how the start-ups joined forces and said: I can't do it alone, but if I cooperate with the other start-up, I might be able to solve this use case or pain point.
As I said, we are very open and offer a great playground. I mean, a shopping center like this is the best laboratory you can have. Because: There's a lot of technology in it and we have - unfortunately not right now, but before that - of course a lot of frequency, it's a high-frequency property where you have 150,000 people walking in and out at peak times, just so that you've heard a number. So you find out relatively quickly whether something works or not. And on the other hand, it is never solitary. It's like the Skyline Plaza in Frankfurt, there's an office tower on the left, a living area on the right and maybe a spa. So you always see a complete ecosystem or cosmos and that's pretty cool. That's why we are always very open when it comes to innovations, start-ups and cooperations.
Let's take another look into the future. What do you think, in 10 years, will we have gotten used to robots in our shopping malls?
Well, I think so. Of course, the technical possibilities are already there and by then we will have gained experience. Let me take another step back again. As I said before, what we already know in the private context will also be the case in the real estate sector especially in the commercial real estate sector, too. It will be like that, I am firmly convinced, that we will have several robots in real estate as well. Be it in a shopping center or in an office building. There you have the cleaning robot, there you have the SPOT and maybe there are other possibilities to use the robotics.
And my vision, or my firm conviction, is that one simply enter orders into the portal and whether the cleaning robot then updates the 3D or BIM model or the SPOT, it makes absolutely no difference. We're more likely to go into this so-called "swarm robotics", meaning that multiple robots can collect data or perform tasks in the real estate, real estate context, which now helps us to give our customers a completely different kind of attention, to spend more time. That will definitely be the case.
And, I also firmly believe that we will immerse ourselves much more strongly in this ecosystem thinking in the real estate sector. What does that mean? As I just mentioned, real estate is never seen as a solitary entity, it is not a proprietary system right now. Rather, it will be the case, also with regard to climate change, that we will produce the energy we need locally. We will produce it where it is consumed and where it is needed. And so it will also be that we will outsource facility services, cleaning, monitoring or technical hard services locally and offer them in a standardized way in the ecosystem, in the form of a marketplace.
I regard this as a vision of the future for the coming years...
I think one can be curious in any case. Christian, thank you very much for the interview and that it has now also worked out so well digitally. I'd say that we'll maybe catch up again physically, maybe even with the first findings, when the SPOT has been running a little longer at your centers.
I hope you at home, dear listeners, enjoyed it and you were able to take a little bit of our conversation with you. If you want to stay up-to-date, please feel free to check out the social media channels of the Building Technology Experts - on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on Instagram.
All that remains is for me to say: stay healthy, stay excited and stay tuned!
On the safe side: connected!
"Trust and ethics are important trends in the future of security technology. Security harbors trust and this in turn has to grow and thus to be ensured. That only works if I respect the privacy of my fellow human beings and, above all, protect it."
There is talk of smart building everywhere. Maximum comfort and maximum efficiency through intelligent networks – that is the goal. Intelligent infrastructure, however, requires protection, and so security technology is increasingly becoming an indispensable part of all building technology areas. But how and, above all, when can one guarantee maximum security in a smart building? Jochen Sauer provides the answers in this very podcast episode.
Moderation: Marius Münkel (Messe Frankfurt)
Topic: Building services engineering & building automation
...Business Development Manager A&E at Axis Communications GmbH and has been working in security technology for more than 30 years. Video has been one of his core competencies for many years. Against this background, Jochen Sauer gives us an insight into the challenges of integrating security technology in connected buildings.
More information about Axis Communications GmbH can be found in the Contactor.
Read the entire podcast
Whether in a new home or in the skyscrapers of the world's skylines - everybody is talking about smart buildings. Maximum comfort and maximum efficiency through intelligent networking - that’s the goal! Intelligent infrastructure requires protection, and security technology is therefore becoming an increasingly indispensable part of all building technology areas.
But how and, above all, when can I ensure maximum security in a smart building? I hope to get answers to these questions from our guest today: Welcome Mr. Jochen Sauer!
Yes, I would like to thank you for the invitation and I hope that I can contribute to bring some light into the dark of Smart Buildings.
Before we start to get into the subject, Mr. Sauer, we always want to get to know the person who is sitting opposite of us and that's why we prepared five short questions to which I need five brief answers from you. Are you ready?
Let's give it a try.
Beer or wine?
Well, it depends on the opportunity.
Then I'd rather take that as an answer in the direction of beer and ask Kölsch or Binding?
Apple or Microsoft?
Fingerprint or front door key?
Depends on the application.
And the last question: Will the Football Club 1. FC Köln remain in the Bundesliga?
This is pretty much the most unfair question you can ask anyone! I sincerely hope that the 1. FC Köln will continue to play in the Bundesliga. But if they are going to be relegated, then they definitely have a lot of experience in relegation...
That's right - the last successes of the FC took place some years ago, in the nineties, I believe. So almost thirty years ago. A short leap into the present: You are Business Development Manager at Axis Communications and have been working in security technology for more than 30 years. This also implies that you have been able to witness the development of the networked building over many years. When did security technology become part of this development?
Security technology has been around for as long as we can remember. This means that security technology began hundreds of years ago when people said: Okay, we have a door now and we have to lock that door.
Then at some point the lock was invented and at some point someone on the other side came and opened this lock relatively easily. And so it develops with both players... That means, first with the "good" player and then with the other one, who is trying to get in.
The pure security technology, as we know it today, came in the seventies. The first professional steps in the direction of security technology were made at the end of the seventies.
Yes, the most important milestone in the field of video security technology was in 2008. Three market participants, including Axis, got together to initiate a standard.
This standard is called ONVIF®. Parts of this standard are also included in the current standard, namely in DIN EN 62676, where camera protocols are shown.
In the planning and construction process of new buildings there has always been a lot to consider. And yet today we are talking about completely different dimensions than 30 years ago - not least because of the integration of networked security technology into building services technologies. Which trades have to be interlinked in detail here?
The idea would be that all the trades interlock. That means that the intrusion alarm system including the video security technology can talk to the access control system with the escape doors as well as with the building management system.
An example would be if you imagine the building being abandoned by all residents. Then the last one leaving the building should switch on the intrusion alarm system and it would be absolutely nonsense, if in the building the temperature is still held on a certain well-being feeling range or the light is turned on. In other words, in a smart building this is intelligent and sustainable networking.
So, back to your question, every sensor should play its role in the area of security together.
That sounds like a tremendous effort - and a lot of potential for error. As is well known, there are also numerous prominent negative examples where this may not have worked so well...
If we take a look at the project level: What is to be considered from the security technology side and when does it have to be considered? Maybe we divide the process into 3 parts: How does it look like in the run-up to the project?
I would even try to differentiate the area of security technology into two parts: once in SECURITY and SAFETY.
In other words, just imagine that security is to prevent someone from coming into the house and safety is to enable someone to get out of the house as quickly as possible, for example if there is a fire. Crime prevention basically on the one hand and protection of people or buildings on the other.
Okay, and in the run-up to the project, how do we manage to plan this well for both sides, safety and security? What has to be done?
The most important thing is to define the usage requirements. In other words, what is this functional building actually intended to fulfill? What is the function of the building, and on the basis of this functional description you define the risks that can affect the building or the building itself. Once this has been done, the rest is ultimately just a normal sequence of points that, in theory, must be routine for every good technical planner in the field of building services engineering.
But yes, the interfaces are always a very special challenge and it is very often the case that functional changes also occur during the construction phase and then it happens that such irritations occur, to say it politely. So what happens in one or the other very interesting project? I think someone once called it the "Bermuda Triangle of the construction industry in Germany" - there was the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall in the north, Berlin Airport in the east and Stuttgart 21 in the south.
The best tool for complex buildings is simply BIM - Building Information Modeling. BIM is a structure that is actually much too undervalued in Germany and which is also a component of corresponding building applications in other countries, especially in Asian countries.
Building Information Modeling simply helps to manage and document exactly these interfaces between the trades. This means that I no longer have to let a cable duct go through a ventilation shaft because the two layers are not superimposed. That is the benefit!
And BIM is not only a three-dimensional planning, but you have 4D, 5D, 6D... you have other dimensions on board, where you can break down to the documentation and also to the dismantling so that I know when and where I can dismantle something.
And here I can also integrate security technology?
Uh, yes, you can see that I'm a bit hesitant. Security technology has not yet arrived one hundred percent in the field of Building Information Modeling. There are some manufacturers who provide so-called shapes for this. This means that a shape can be thought of as a model, which I use for example in Revit - Revit is the tool I use to make Building Information Modeling come alive. And these shapes are these components, these templates, for example of cameras, which I then implement in the project. The next step would be that I automatically connect to the next switch from these cameras.
These connections are of course going through cable trays and these cable trays are of course not only exclusively for these connections, but also for many other connections. At the same time, I no longer have the stress of having to calculate the fire load for this cable tray "on foot", but I automated it.
Let’s go a step further and say: the planning phase is completed. That's certainly how it was with one or two projects. Of course, a lot of planning is done in advance. What needs to be taken into account in the implementation phase to avoid a fiasco?
The planning phase is the be-all and end-all. The planning phase is where the documents are created and the next steps are taken. Not only for the realization phase. In other words, I know where I have to assemble things and I know where to connect them to. And not only for the hardware, but also for the interfaces.
In addition to the realization, I also have to be directly involved in how I test all these products and all these trades that I have networked with each other. This means that in the planning phase, the test framework program is also created for the phase in which - and I always like to compare this with my child - my child is learning to walk.
And yes, when the child is walking, he or she stumbles or falls, but the test framework program helps him or her to determine exactly that, to document exactly that, and then to walk into the usage phase accordingly.
So good planning is half the battle. "Before action, take advice" - nowadays this saying has a really good reason.
Now let's say our building is finished and goes into operation... I ask you deliberately and heretically: Can I now open a Kölsch, sit down on the couch and put my feet up?
You should definitely do that when the building is up and running! But you should stop after the first Kölsch and think about how you imagine the next few years of usage.
In other words, a building is alive - just like your child, grows and undergoes changes. Even if your child doesn’t need to be maintained, the regular inspections must be carried out. It’s the exact same with a building.
At home, the chimney sweep comes by once or twice a year to take a quick look at the chimney. And in the case of a security system, depending on the specifications, e.g. in the case of a fire alarm system four times a year and in the case of a video system it is definitely recommended that someone should come by twice a year. He will come by and not only check whether everything still works, but also, according to the test framework program that was already developed in the planning phase, carry out the tests in a documented manner, determine errors and eliminate them accordingly.
So basically the chequebook-maintained building, it reminds a bit of a car...
Yes, you are right and have built a great bridge. It's just like owning a car, where I have to do my oil changes, and it's exactly the same with a building, where I have to see that the safety technology works.
We all know it: Doors slamming or a magnetic contact sitting on a door may loosen and then it is easier to replace or tighten the screw instead of waiting until the magnetic contact between the frame and the door leaf is broken.
Ideally, a building should stand for a longer period of time and innovation cycles are becoming shorter and shorter. I would like to throw a keyword into the room for a moment: Total Cost of Ownership. I have to keep an eye on my costs and be able to calculate them. This naturally includes future updates in the building. How can I prepare and adjust for future updates and calculate my costs already in the planning phase, how does that work with the innovation cycles we have now?
By intensively selecting the partners with whom I operate this building. A partner needs trust. Trust must ultimately grow. And if you’re referring to updates, for example - there are options available today, such as LTS, Long Term Support is a key in the IT world with which I ensure that I don't have to replace the computer every two or three years to provide it with the latest patches.
You can also use LTS in video technology. This ensures that over a period of ten plus years, you can ensure that you have the appropriate patches, i.e. the corresponding bug fixes in programs.
What are errors that might occur?
Errors that might occur are of various kinds. On the one hand, it is the same where I started to build a bridge between the door and the lock, where hundreds of years ago someone said: I will lock the door now! But then someone came along on the other side who had found a way to open this lock with a bent nail.
And that's exactly how you can imagine it in the field of network security. There are always possibilities, the longer you look. And accordingly, programs are written today to find the errors and gaps. These gaps must be closed. They are closed with patches. That's why there is no system that I install today and dismantle again in ten years, as it was twenty or thirty years ago, where I don't have to make any software changes.
In the past, maintenance was different. Today it's more in the area of network technology, today the maintenance you do is more in the area of software.
Let's take a quick look at your employer, Axis Communications. Axis offers a wide range of products in the field of networked security technology. Not only network video cameras, but also network audio systems and "Security as a Service", which will certainly become a major factor in the upcoming years. Let's take a look into the future: where and how will networked security technology in buildings develop?
The various trades will move closer together. The individual players in the field, whether it is a camera, readers for access control or a loudspeaker, will be networked. Standardized via CPIP and these players will talk to each other. This means, for example, that the smoke detector on the ceiling will also communicate with the camera, or vice versa. What is the added value?
The added value is, for example, that the camera can tell the operator that there are people in the room. This means that the fire department still has to go in there, there are so many people and so many more who ultimately have to be led out of the building. Other case studies after combining a voice alarm system with a video security technology access control system are that I can speak into the object to give information to whoever is currently inside the object. That I use an appropriate acoustic information source to tell the people in the room: Please stay calm, please don't panic, help is on the way.
These are interfaces where I don't necessarily always have to add a risk management system that manages the whole thing, but where I can easily let the individual actors in the field talk to each other inexpensively and, above all, faster.
Finally, Mr. Sauer, if I were to ask you about the three biggest trends for the future of networked security technology... What would they be? Can they be limited to three?
Hm, that is a good question. I think an important trend is trust and ethics. That's not really on our radar screen, which is an absolute pity. Security is based on trust. And this trust must grow. And to ensure this trust, I have to respect the other person, its privacy, etc. For me, this is a trend that we simply have to bring much more on our radar.
In addition to the trends in communication between the individual players in the field. And it doesn't matter what kind of medium is used. Whether it's over 5G, over radio, over copper or over glass. For me, that would be the second trend that I definitely see there. In other words: In the end, how are the individual actors in the field talking to each other, at what speed, through what medium.
The third trend is, how can I empower the people who install this technology accordingly? Enable the technology that these people are planning? In other words, how do I get the know-how there to plan and operate the complex systems we have talked about in advance in a cost-effective, simple way.
Is there even a way around artificial intelligence?
Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence, yes. To be honest, I can't tell you the answer. Because in order to implement artificial intelligence, I need certain data that I have in advance to be able to evaluate it. It could be that if we are sitting here – even if I doubt it - if I am sitting here again in fifty years, that I will tell you: Yes, that is exactly the way. The future will tell whether artificial intelligence will help us achieve our goals faster and more easily. But it will definitely help us get a little closer to our goal.
That is a nice closing! Mr. Sauer, thanks a lot for joining us for today’s Building Technology Experts Podcast Episode. Thanks a lot for this exciting conversation. I enjoyed it very much and I hope you enjoyed it, too.
I also hope that you enjoyed listening to us at home, dear listeners*. If you would like to continue to receive new content from Building Technology Experts, please make sure to check out the social media channels, LinkedIn, Facebook, ... Otherwise, all I can say is: stay healthy! Take care! And stay excited!
I agree with these words. I thank you for the invitation, Mr. Münkel. Yes, stay safe and be careful!