July 2018

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Intelligent Technology Is for Human Services,

Not Real Estate
Isla Vainio
Industry Pioneer Scout at HUB13

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June 6th & 7th marked the second edition of Nordic Smart Building Convention, the RE & Construction Industry’s annual gathering around current topics and great conversation. The two days held great discussions & networking and ten eyeopening industry keynotes & four hard-hitting conversations with the industry’s Finnish, Nordic and global pioneers. We were also proud to have’s very own Ken Sinclair on stage as a moderator and an integral part of the successful and profound conversations on and off stage.

As the producer, I’m unfortunately locked in the grips of small things for the duration of a convention. What I do demand though is to have time for the agenda, for there we can both see what’s happening in the industry today, and what we’ll be talking about tomorrow. Having designed the agenda to be grounded around services and human centricity, it was no surprise the keynotes touched base around those themes. What took me by surprise was the persistent appearance of deviceless mentality, scarcity of holistic smart buildings to use for examples, the impact of digital mindfulness and a true inspiration in services offered.

Deviceless mentality was pervasive throughout the convention starting from our first keynote and continuing through the event to the discussions afterward. We defined ”deviceless” mentality as the idea, that users, meaning humans, wouldn’t have to use devices, apps or interfaces to access smart services. The method of access was suggested as anything from a mobile phone to facial recognition. The underlying idea being that the creation of intelligence is hidden away in the engine room, always there and always on, but never visible to the user. This idea seems to arise from a widespread frustration at countless apps and interfaces we need to constantly be opening, learning, mastering, and updating.

In his opening keynote Dr. Arto Huuskonen, Director of Digitalization & Services at SRV, talked about the deviceless mentality through SRV’s project REDI, a collection of high-rise residential buildings on top of a shopping center in Kalasatama, a new smart region in Helsinki. REDI is said to open this fall offering a smart retail experience for visitors and a smart living experience to residents. According to SRV most of the pain points for residential buildings’ UX are small everyday annoyances like putting away a bike to the storage and carrying in the groceries. Always adding new apps and interfaces for the users to learn and master does not add to the experience, and thus REDI solves the issues with deviceless technology.

On stage, we saw a couple of examples of upcoming truly smart buildings like REDI but were astounded to see Europe has very few examples of existing green, service-based, through and through smart buildings. Every conversation keeps going back to The Edge in Amsterdam, which has lately been turning heads for its ambitious goals and the following falling short of. Speculations as to the reason for behind the phenomena has been colorful. Some credit the scarcity to the lack of reliable business models or the lack of connectivity between different smart solutions, some to the yet unclear ROI. Whatever the reason the reality remains: every discussion about green, optimized, the service-based smart building is tied to the future as the past doesn’t exactly hold many.

The Edge also demonstrates well our next key takeaway: digital mindfulness.

Edge user engagement has been extremely low as everything from air conditioning to desk use are on apps, and digital layer users are forced to themselves keep up to date.

Reliable Controls People grow weary of endless new interfaces and apps, notification and ad fatigue are on the rise and productivity decreases as we’re continuously sharing our attention. We’ve promised a simpler, more optimized life with Digital Twins but, much like The Edge, what we’ve delivered is a digital platform we expect people to replicate their lives on.

Dr. Lawrence Ampofo, Founder & Director of Digital Mindfulness & Semantica Research, brought the theme to attention and demonstrated how deviceless solutions and thoughtful digital design could easily fix the dilemma. Instead of hooking people into unrewarding attention hijacking digital experiences we could use technology to help in the background and be there when needed, much like our opening keynote speaker reminded us.

The closing keynote by Castellum AB’s CDO Mattias Nyström gave us one final key takeaway we should all keep in mind: Services too should always be there in the background, always on and always ready, not something you have to work to access and initiate. He gave us a glimpse to their service Beambox ( which is as close to teleporting as you can get. Its a great example of how any residential building can be made a smart service platform, unused real estate can be converted to smart use and existing logistics can be utilized for new revenues without compromising the old.

In a nutshell: we learned to consider smart as a great human experience enabled by technology. Next year we’ll continue the conversation about smart living around the service based themes with special attention to new great examples of smart buildings and smart business.

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