There have been a few articles recently about investment companies looking to buy large national US retail companies, for example, JC Penney and Dillards. Their historical approach was to purchase the land and develop the sites as a retail centre and operate their stores. They then lease the remaining retail space to other retailers. It is a business model which has been in use for many decades.
Historically a long and deep negative economic cycle has caused some retail operators/developers to sell part of their operations. This happened in the US in 1995 with Sears. The real estate development and investment companies’ interest is in exploring if there is a higher and better use for the properties. That is the essence of land economics, going from a lower economic use to a higher income/value use.
A key difference this time is the use of advanced technology. We see this in many dimensions: building systems and operations; retail management, social media, entertainment and food and beverage (F&B) operations.
The Smart Building revolution in Retail is about changing the management philosophy of buildings and using technology to aid in the process. The defining characteristic of building smarter is not the application of technology or a function of outcomes on energy use or maintenance. Instead, it is a commitment to leveraging the overall footprint to achieve the goals that perhaps inspired the building in the first place.
Evolution of Space for Retail Activities
The old axiom of real estate is location, location, location. This means that every retail centre will have to be assessed for its best purpose for its locations and surrounding environment. Retail has been morphing in the past few years from a traditional purpose of picking something up to an intersection of shopping and entertainment. This combines on-premise activities with a buying transaction which can be handled either onsite or online. Technology infrastructure investment opportunities are driven by optimising the customer retail experience.
Retail centres are seeking new functionality, including the adaptation of both design and use. Below are four approaches we believe can be used to assess each retail centre.
Reuse: Retail Lifecycle – Consumption to Redemption
There is a shift from consumers discovering and experiencing products in a physical retail space to retailers delivering on-demand. Many smaller retailers have capitalised on this by becoming pick-up points for online orders. They hope to increase footfall by drawing the customer into their own premises when retrieving their online delivery.
Retail centres need to expand on this trend to become a fulfilment location rather than a retail shopping space. Consumers could pick up online orders, recycle used goods, get products maintained and repaired, have appointments for personal services (dental, eye, hair, dry cleaning, etc.), try and test goods in mini-showrooms and collect points and benefits from gamification activities. By having a centralised exchange facility with multiple functionalities, consumer data can be leveraged to create marketing pull activities such as exclusive shopping events, and personalised customer service based on preferences and purchase history.
The current square meterage can be reallocated for distribution including the use of dark stores, green recycling centres for 3D printed product disposal and retail pick-up and exchange points. Staff will not be salespeople, but customer delivery service managers. The technology opportunities in this area would be re-allocation of network resources; focus on efficiency in delivery and customer satisfaction; and automation tools for customer service staff.
Redesign: Blended – Community Environment and Retail Experience
An alternative and more involved development approach would be to redesign the retail centre with deeper use cases to get more customers to come and stay longer. If a consumer stays onsite longer, there is a higher probability they will spend more at the retail centre. The future retail centre (Figure 1) would include additional space usages for a community space, a distribution centre for pick-ups, expanded F&B and remote working.
The technology opportunities are in two areas: customer experience and building operations. From a customer perspective, some technology examples would include entertainment and gaming in the F&B area, digital signage and mobile device technology to further engage people. For building operations examples could include technologies to control climate, lighting, security, energy management and building management.
Redevelop – Living Space for a Quality of Life
In some locations, the retail environment could have an oversupply of newly development retail centres. This means the optimal use for the centre would be to change it to a ‘Village Community’ – a community where people can live, work, learn and play. It would encompass multiple uses – multi-family residential units, a community centre, learning centres for younger children and a co-working area. The technology opportunies would be identical to a connected Smart City – at a lesser scale. Smart residential solutions would make the living environmental more user friendly. Retail could include digital media, mobile push features, enhanced and operational technology, energy management, climate control and security. Schools could include interactive and collaborative tools. Parks would have Wi-Fi and enhanced security. Connected Services (eg utilities, fire life safety, security and communications) could include operational technology systems for utilities, audio and video security systems and communication.
Repurpose: Knowledge & Learning Environment
For some retail centres a redevelopment may not be required, but would instead need a major repurposing of the space. The repurpose could be as a learning or healthcare centre. Learning environments require large open spaces with high ceilings for auditoriums or class rooms; common areas for gathering in between classes; onsite housing for students; food courts; and adequate parking for commuters. A healthcare environment would require patient reception, examination rooms, inpatient rooms, surgical units, and administrative offices. It could also include a medical learning centre.
The technology opportunities would be to develop a 24×7 site, with technologies to support the key purpose of the centre. The learning environment could include collaborative audio/video tools for Smart Classrooms. The social areas could including advanced food ordering and delivery systems and multiple player gaming centres for entertainment. The living areas would include systems and technology for smart living. The parking area could include enhanced security and surveillance systems, and smart parking systems. Behind the scenes, the building operations would need to upgrade energy management, building maintenance and management, digital food court operations, and a wellness air quality system.
The Future of Sustainable Retail Space
The decline of a retail centre is not necessarily a bad thing for a community. It is just the “Circle of Life” as an area evolves. Locations morph over the long-term. This has been seen in all the large cities around the world which have stood the test of time, eg. London, Paris, Amsterdam, New York, Tokyo and Beijing. The transformation also breathes fresh air into the surrounding environment. There are multiple layers of technology available to provide for an incredible Sustainable and Smart Community. It is large opportunity, not only for real estate developers, but also for technology vendors who understand the transformation process into the multiple variations of smart environments. Large real estate players and REITs will buy these retail portfolios and begin to transform older, low revenue, semi-vacant shopping centres into vibrant destination centres. Technology vendors should bring their ideas and systems to the attention of retail real estate owners early on in the the process. This will increase their chances of having their systems incorporated into the overall design concept and operational approach. It is a physical and digital transformation which improves neighborhoods, businesses and the city. It is a win for all.
Get more insights on the new use of retail space; and the functional and operational changes that real estate investors will need to develop for this period of adjustment in this report authored by Ecosystm Principal Advisors, Alea Fairchild and Mike Zamora
Today’s crisis creates opportunities for platforms such as ProperyGuru to engage customers throughout their journey. It can potentially transform the residential property business, by becoming an Uber-style platform for agents, movers, shippers, storage companies, interior designers, renovation firms and all other stakeholders within the residential property ecosystem. Subject to regulation, it could also act as a mortgage broker and an agency for the exchange of contracts. In other words, it could ‘own’ the customer journey and act as a platform for all services associated with residential property. From the customer perspective, such a platform would be a welcome way of enhancing the experience associated with buying, renting, maintaining, improving, managing, and selling residential property.
IoT and the Commercial Property Sector
From a commercial property perspective, the COVID-19 crisis can also be expected to accelerate the digitalisation of many activities associated with the construction, maintenance, and management of buildings.
According to the findings of the Ecosystm IoT Study, the Construction industry is evaluating several technology solutions that are expected to benefit the industry (Figure 1).
While the industry views these solutions as beneficial, the adoption has so far been low. This will change. Drones have been used to inspect the outside of tall buildings for several years, but this is not yet standard practice. Structural inspections and maintenance of buildings will be automated at a much faster rate post COVID-19. IoT technology will be used for building management. Using IoT technology for the predictive maintenance and management of lighting, climate control, elevators, security, windows and doors will become standard as firms seek to reduce human interactions. Technology that measures footfall, manages safe distancing, takes peoples’ temperatures and identifies those who enter and leave buildings will be introduced, as organisations guard against disease clusters developing within or around their premises.
In essence, the COVID-19 crisis will act as a catalyst for the digital transformation of the property sector. There is a huge opportunity to create new business models not least by offering customers a digital platform on which all of their property-related needs can be addressed. For the commercial property sector, a similar platform can be offered. Additionally, many core activities ranging from construction to building management will be automated, fully leveraging robot, AI and IoT technologies.
Bosch Software Innovation (Bosch SI) hosted its annual analyst briefing in Singapore on 6th December 2019 to provide an update on its business, strategy and solution portfolio in the APAC region.
Bosch has expanded its capability and reshaped its go-to-market approach in a bid to not only position itself as a world leading IoT company, but also help move the IoT market forward.
A number of new solutions were demonstrated through the day. From tenants asking their building management if the gym was busy, to smartphones detecting a manufacturing fingerprint so you could avoid buying a counterfeit.
At the heart of the business updates though was a new organisational approach to prove markets and integrate user perspectives into solution development. Bosch is looking to achieve this by setting up dedicated, cross-divisional entities which can focus on user needs to drive growth while collating requirements for the Bosch SI centres.
Bosch SI essentially will perform a role of an IoT business incubator within Bosch Group, and once a vertical within Bosch SI has reached a certain level of business, it is spun off into a separate company focusing on that area. There are three business units that have met the threshold and have spun off so far.
Broader challenges still remain for IoT adoption. Patchy connectivity, varied regulation, and a lack of standardisation will continue to hamper the IoT market. However, from a user perspective the timing is right. Ecosystm research shows that while IoT uptake is limited, intention is strong. Enterprises will be looking for partners with a willingness to understand their needs and design around them, in order to help get initial projects off the ground.
Bosch Business Update – From Innovation to Commercialisation
Bosch SI was created to build Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, leveraging Bosch’s 133-year experience in developing and manufacturing products for the automotive, industrial and consumer segments. Founded in 2008, by 2019 Bosch SI has established 10 global offices, of which some have solution development capabilities, employing over 700 IoT experts. Four of the Bosch SI offices are located in Asia Pacific – Singapore, Nanjing, Shanghai and Tokyo.
Figure 1: Bosch Software Innovations in Numbers
The Bosch IoT Vision and Strategy is not limited to Bosch SI’s but spans across the full Bosch Group. An indication of the dedication to the IoT story is that Bosch is committed to enabling connectivity for all existing product portfolios ranging across its industrial, automotive, manufacturing and consumer product lines by 2021.
Another indication of Bosch’s IoT business maturing is that in 2018 Bosch it formed 3 new subsidiaries, each being a dedicated entity to take targeted IoT Industry solutions to market. The new business entities focus on
with other areas such as Agriculture, Retail, Energy, Mobility, Manufacturing and Home & Building as potential future spin-offs. The announcement is significant as it separates the innovation and commercialisation functions. Bosch SI becomes the dedicated R&D and incubation engine to take new industry solutions to a defined threshold before a dedicated entity is formed to achieve commercial scale.
Despite the fact that IoT has been greatly overhyped since the term was coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, Ecosystm research shows evidence that adoption is accelerating across the region. Figure 2 outlines the current and planned adoption of ‘sensor-based analytics’ within organisations. The research strongly supports Bosch’s timing for investments in scaling the commercialisation of its solutions.
Figure 2: Industry Adoption of Sensor-Based Analytics
Market Pull over Technology Push is creating proven Industry Use Cases
The locations and specialisations of Bosch’s Innovation Centres across Asia are no accident and result directly from engagements with local clients. Each innovation centre specialises in certain solutions that have arisen from the productisation of solutions developed for customers. This ‘market pull’ strategy is a clear differentiation to the commonly practiced ‘technology push’ approach which has seen many vendors struggle to gain traction for their IoT solutions. Key industry solutions developed by Bosch SI are:
Agriculture – Bosch Plantect: (Japan). Plantect is a sensor-based monitoring system for early detection and prevention of plant diseases in greenhouses. The current solution targets greenhouse farmers for tomatoes, cucumber and strawberries.
Smart Building – Bosch Lift Manager (Singapore). Lift Manager is an AI-supported solution that can be retrofitted in existing lifts with set algorithms to monitor and predict lift malfunctions and enable predictive maintenance.
Smart Building – Connected Buildings (Singapore). Bosch Connected Building leverages cameras and sensors to optimise business operations such as Air Quality, Light Monitoring & Control, Lift Monitoring, Occupancy Tracking, Asset Tracking, Carpark Monitoring, and Object Tracking.
Manufacturing – Secure Product Fingerprint Solutions (China). Secure Product Fingerprint captures a unique fingerprint for products to combat counterfeits and connect manufacturers with their users.
The Bosch IoT Ecosystem – Open Source and API enabled Platform
Bosch has realised that IoT is a concept that cannot be owned and delivered by a single entity. As such Bosch aims to establish its Bosch IoT Suite as the platform to connect any Bosch or third party “things” to deliver targeted industry services and solutions.
Bosch IoT Suite can be deployed on Bosch’s own IoT Cloud or through Cloud partners such as AWS, Microsoft or Huawei (for China only). It is a PaaS offering that packages unified device APIs to connect things with device management, software updates over the air, data management and security capabilities. An inbuilt analytics engine assists with business logic tools to drive business value out of the data collected. The open source and open standards architecture promote the development of in-house or third-party industry applications as platform add-ons and use cases.
Bosch and Market Outlook
IoT has been one of the most hyped ‘buzz words’ for the last few years but true market adoption is yet to follow suit. Ecosystm research shows that market intention is positive with more industry-focused uses cases and simpler ‘plug and play’ style solutions available that require less CapEx and shorter time to value.
Bosch is well positioned to capitalise on this trend. Its focus on developing proven use cases for targeted industry sectors and then working with anchor customers and testing the solutions internally within Bosch, is a clear differentiator in the market. Commercially scaling these solutions will remain the key challenge as decision stakeholders may not be the key beneficiary of the solution. In the connected building example, tenants will be the key beneficiary of finding quiet gym slots or having better air quality but it remains questionable whether this will convince the building owner or operator to put pen to paper and sign-off on relevant IoT investments. An area that Bosch needs to focus on, is the articulation of its business proposition and more importantly connect this to the business value to prospects and customers. As solutions scale in the market, broader sales and partner teams will need to be enabled to bring this message to the relevant stakeholders. The fact that these stakeholders may sit outside Bosch’s traditional comfort zone will not make this endeavor easier.
Bosch will also face varying market regulations that could create road bumps in scaling its solutions. The Bosch Lift Manager solution as an example provides sensor diagnostics for predictive maintenance scheduling. Many existing lift maintenance contracts however follow local regulations that require ongoing scheduled servicing of elevators which reduces the cost savings potential.
The decision to establish standalone IoT entities is seen as a strong commitment and the right move to take advantage of the presented IoT opportunity. The high degree of customer advocacy and industry experience further makes Bosch a strong contender of the Industry 4.0 revolution.
This week I attended ServiceChannel’s ServiceX19 customer event in Scottsdale, Arizona where 300 ServiceChannel customers were treated to an update on the current and future state of FM. Annually, ServiceChannel’s customers raise over 100 million work orders, across 330,000 locations, fulfilled by 50,000 contractors in 75 countries. Equally impressive is that these customers are responsible for over $37 Billion spend on keeping building clean, bathrooms working, air conditioners heating and chilling, refrigerators cooling, lights switch on and so on.
Through their Facility Management Platform, which behaves like an online market place for their customers, ServiceChannel is rapidly becoming a valuable analytics and data management software company. Work orders are an incredible source of information for every asset connected into a building that requires any level of service. Just like State Farm Insurance who ‘know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two’, ServiceChannel have seen ‘a thing or two’ such as work orders to deal with alligators and of course cars crashed into shop fronts! However, some examples of more traditional analytics use cases include the following:
Predictive repairs on capital intensive equipment is being decided by the facilities manager before the original equipment manufacturer.
By using ServiceChannel’s comprehensive data visualisation capability, facilities managers have the ability to identify measure the difference between spending on preventative maintenance versus post failure repair.
Individual service fulfillment analysis can often show that engaging with the least expensive hourly rated contractor may not always provide the best outcomes.
Over time ServiceChannel’s data collection and analytics is enabling their customers to have visibility into their businesses that go beyond FM. ServiceChannel is enabling their customers to become more digital and creating higher value business outcomes. While IT and equipment manufacturers have tried to create digital ecosystems and attract participants into their network, they are still one step removed from the customer. This gap means that they are not truly able to help manage the customer experience within smart buildings. Rather, companies like Service Channel have access to the heterogeneous asset environments by working directly with facility managers. During the conference, I saw service records comparing the major HVAC vendors within a large retailer and immediately thought that individual HVAC vendors would be very interested to see how they stacked up against each other. The ServiceChannel connected asset analysis gives their customers the information that enables discussions based on transparency, trust and truth – which is a powerful negotiating tool.
The event showed a reality state of the IoT associated with analytics in an industry that is reinventing itself through enabled assets connected to their work flow systems. It clearly showed that the Smart Buildings industry is probably about 2 years behind the roadmap set out by the major IT research firms. Businesses are now beginning to understand what IoT is even if they do not call it by that name. Connected assets are becoming more familiar and the value from analytics is being realised to run businesses. Customer experience is now a tangible metric!
Separately, as ServiceChannel’s analytics engine matures and external data sources such a weather and environmental conditions are curated with asset management, then facility managers become more valuable to the CFO, the CIO and the customers they serve. To date equipment vendors’ attempts to build ecosystems of IoT-based partners has been met with limited success because they are still not close enough to the end customer. Original equipment vendors should make their products connected to an IoT infrastructure network as easily and as quickly as possible and then partner with companies like ServiceChannel who can curate and promote their asset data.