This week on the IoT For All Podcast, WiredScore Founder and CEO Arie Barendrecht joins us to talk about the smart building space and what we can expect to see from the commercial and residential buildings of the future. Arie starts us off by sharing a quick history on smart building certification and the challenges that WiredScore was founded to solve, beginning with a pretty consumer-focused need for visibility into building capabilities for things like connectivity. Arie also shares his definition of what a smart building actually is and how he expects that definition to change as technology and demand evolves; he speaks to his experience in the space and how he’s seen the smart building landscape change; and, finally, Arie shares what incentives he sees really pushing the market at large toward smart building adoption.
Arie Barendrecht is the Founder and CEO of WiredScore, a platform that has been evaluating internet connectivity in office buildings and multifamily real estate to help tenants since 2013. He is passionate about making it easier for people to access the internet. At WiredScore, Arie helps building owners to improve leasing by giving prospective tenants a detailed snapshot of available connectivity and ensuring that tenants of all shapes and sizes can find the best buildings to meet their tech needs.
Interested in connecting with Arie? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
About WiredScore: WiredScore is the organization behind the WiredScore and SmartScore certifications: the internationally recognized digital connectivity and smart building rating systems for real estate, helping landlords design and promote buildings with powerful digital connectivity and smart capabilities.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:00) Introduction to Arie
(01:56) Introduction to WiredScore and what is the SmartScore Certification?
(08:10) What does the landscape for this vertical look like?
(12:32) What is a smart building? Do you differentiate between a smart building and a connected building?
(15:47) How can a building be future-proofed? What does the office of tomorrow look like?
(18:23) How do you gauge the security level of a building?
(22:41) What connectivity issues has the pandemic exposed? How has that affected business for you?
(28:04) What kind of challenges have you seen companies encounter while trying to develop and attain their smart building goals?
– You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All podcast on the IoT For All Media Network. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon one of the co-creators of IoT For All. Now, before we jump into this episode, please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or join our newsletter at IoTforall.com/newsletter to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. Before we get started if any of you out there are looking to enter the fast growing and profitable IoT market, but don’t know where to start, check out our sponsor Leverege’s IoT solutions development platform, which provides everything you need to create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. To learn more, go to IoTchangeseverything.com that’s IoTchangeseverything.com. So without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All podcast. Welcome Arie to the IoT For All show. How are things going on your end?
– [Arie] Things are going well, really nice to meet you and thank you kindly for having me on the show. Excited to be here.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. I think it’s going to be a great conversation. I wanted to start off by having you quickly introduce yourself to our audience, tell them anything, you know, on regarding your background experience that you think would be interesting and exciting to get a better sense of who we’re listening to.
– [Arie] Yes, of course. So I am the founder and CEO of WiredScore for those that haven’t heard of us, we are the world’s leading certification company for in-building technology. What that means is we assess and improve digital connectivity and smart technology within homes and offices around the world. The easiest analog for the uninitiated is probably the sustainability certifications that have been around for a couple of decades. That many people will be familiar with, Lead certification being the largest in north America. We follow a similar model to Lead, but we focus on in-building tech. And so we use that category that, that term in-building tech to talk about digital connectivity and smart tech.
– [Ryan] So tell me a little bit more about kind of what that certification looks like. I know you have a global certification called smart score, and there is a, you know, you guys just recently launched WiredScores North America home. Can you tell me a little bit about the certification kind of the purpose of it, and then also I’d be curious to hear about the backstory of why you founded the company, what opportunity you saw and kind of the fit it has within the market.
– [Arie] Definitely. Why don’t I start as, as some stories do from the beginning and, and proceed from there and I can also talk a little bit about why I think this is such an interesting and important time in the world of in-building tech, but the company was founded, I founded it back in 2013 and originally created it from one pretty simple, ‘Aha’ I guess, which is that now more than ever we’re depending on technology to communicate with the world around us, to remove friction from our lives and to access better experiences, but pre WiredScore, it was basically impossible to evaluate or choose space, whether it’s in an office lease or an apartment that you’re looking to rent based on its technology offering. That was, you know, you’re basically constantly rolling the dice in those basic decisions that, that the tech is going to be suitable for your needs. And that seemed to me in 2013, seemed to be a massive problem. Like connectivity and, and tech driven user experience, shouldn’t be this kind of occasional luxury, if you’re lucky enough to find it. It’s so important to everything we do. It’s so foundational to our lives, that we should be able to have data and transparency into which places have the best technology, so we can make better decisions. And so that, that kind of realization birthed the concept of WiredScore, which is really a simple rating system that aims to bring transparency and clarity to which buildings offer great connectivity and smart tech and which ones don’t so that people can make better decisions about leasing, renting, or buying. And as part of, of creating and rolling out this rating system now internationally, we ultimately want to drive improvements in the built world. We want to, we want to see a better connected and smarter future and believe that through a certification platform, we can not just bring transparency to the real estate ecosystem, but also give landlords and developers, the people responsible for our buildings, a roadmap, and a playbook for building and operating well connected and smart buildings. And that’s what we aim to do.
– [Ryan] Okay so you all are not just going in after the fact and providing a, kind of a score certification for their building, but you’re also providing the guidance on how to achieve certain scores and kind of the best practices for these or these buildings to, to achieve kind of a score that will help them drive business, in a sense.
– [Arie] That’s exactly right. So, so really broadly we have, we have two main products. We have WiredScore, which is a connectivity certification for both office buildings and multifamily buildings so for commercial or residential. And then we have smart score, a smart tech certification for office buildings. And-
– [Ryan] Okay so what’s the difference there on the connectivity side? I understand. So like when, when you’re talking about the technology side for the smart score, what kind of technologies are you assessing or kind of looking into?
– [Arie] Sure, so clearly there’s, there’s a little bit of overlap here, but on, on the connectivity side, you get it, It’s, it’s both the building infrastructure, as well as the connectivity technology that provides building users with a great connectivity experience. So we’re looking at everything from outside plants, planning to telecom room, risers, electrical resiliency, mobile planning, and kind of breadth of, breadth of services available in the building. On the smart technology side, it’s, it’s, a much broader breadth of, of areas of the building, areas of tech that we evaluate and the best way to think about it is really in two categories. And I’ll try to explain this as simply as possible. As you imagine, this could get pretty complicated pretty quick. So the first category we look at is what we call building functionality. And within building functionality, we’re really looking at like user stories. So what are, what are the experiences that a smart building should provide? And we look at user stories across six sub categories, things like productivity, health and wellbeing, sustainability, community and services, maintenance and operations of the building, and safety and security. And so this is, you know, if you think about user stories, it’s, it’s like within the, within the productivity section, we would look at how well the building delivers user outcomes around visitor arrival, wayfinding meeting room booking, desk writing, you know, these are, these are all things you would expect a great building, a smart building uses technology to deliver. The other half then of course, is not going beyond the user stories and looking at the technology foundations that enable and drive those user stories. So this is where we’re looking at building systems, landlord integration network, we’re looking at digital connectivity, that’s where there’s a little bit of overlap between WiredScore and smart score, as well as data governance, cybersecurity, data sharing policies, all the things that enable a building to deliver great smart outcomes.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, absolutely does. So what does kind of, I guess from a, are there other companies out there that do similar things? I’m just curious because there’s lots of real estate out there, commercial real estate, residential real estate, that I’m curious how you have been able to provide the, the scores and kind of the assessment for, for, for all, you know, kind of what’s out there. Do you guys focus on a certain region, a certain type of business, a type of, sorry, a certain type of building, or is it kind of, is this something that you all go out there and seek out, or they come to you and say, Hey, we’d like you to kind of rate our, our setup because this obviously helps drive business for us.
– [Arie] Yeah. So a little bit about our, maybe the easiest way to answer is tell a little bit about our journey, we launched in 2013, we launched with just WiredScore our connectivity certification and only in New York city.
– Oh, okay.
– [Arie] And interestingly, we partnered with mayor Bloomberg and his team, and mayor Bloomberg here in New York was, was highly focused on turning New York into a technology hub ecosystem you know, to rival Silicon valley. And the original idea was that this rating system for connectivity would be one, one characteristic, one strength that businesses could use when relocating to New York. How great is it that when you’re looking for office space, you actually know where the connectivity is, is good or bad. We then branched outside of New York city across the U S in 2014 and 2015 and excitingly, this was largely our clients in New York city saying, Hey, this is really valuable for us to be able to kind of assess our buildings and, and promote the connectivity in our buildings in New York, can you do that for us in other markets. Long story short, we then expanded to the UK in 2015, then into France and Germany. And now we’re working in, I think, 12 countries with aspirations to be global in the next couple of years.
– [Arie] So that’s, that’s, and it’s largely because of, of, of client demand, landlords and developers that understand connectivity and smart tech is important for their, for their customers and they want to make sure they’re providing best in class quality services.
– [Arie] More recently we launched smart score. So fast forwarding to April of this year, we launched our second product, which is a smart building certification focused on the areas we already discussed and the thesis behind that, particularly coming out of the pandemic is that the pandemic is really this trend accelerator and tenant requirements and demands are evolving more rapidly than ever. And real estate coming out of the pandemic is going to be increasingly polarized and tenants with more power, you know, increased vacancy rates means more, more tenants, more tenant power in the equation and they can demand that landlords, the landlords, at least that will get their business, are providing inspirational experience to their employees.
– [Arie] And because of that, the, there’s a, you know, the leaders in the real estate market are now more than ever investing heavily in connectivity and smart technology all within the, the aim to provide this great inspirational tenant experience and make sure thar in this kind of, you know, some are some say once in a lifetime leasing battle, that they can win by being proactive and investing in technology while their peers might be slower to act and, and will eventually lose, lose their tenants and, and be unable to thrive. And so that’s, that’s why we brought smart score to the market now, because we thought more than ever, the real estate industry could use a playbook for how to think about smart technology for their buildings, how to invest in it and deploy it and ultimately communicate about it to the rest of the market.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I think it’s, it’s, it’s super important. I mean, when we were moving into a new office, one of the biggest questions we had was how is the connectivity going to be because it’s required for us to do business and, you know, so we were very picky on the internet service provider we had, how’s the connectivity in the building, you know, what kind of technology was available to us, so, so I think what you guys are doing is fantastic. What I wanted to do is kind of take a step back and go a little broad for a second here and we’ve talked about smart buildings, we’ve said connected buildings kind of used them interchangeably, a lot of people use them interchangeably, but I, I’m willing to bet kind of, from your perspective, you view them in a different way. So if you could just kind of take a second and just at a high level, explain what a smart building really is and why maybe it’s not the best choice to use smart and connected when it comes to a building interchangeably and kind of what the difference is.
– [Arie] Sure, absolutely. One of the, one of the big reasons we started both WiredScore and then launched smart score was the lack of an industry-wide definition. Like every, if you go to any, any smart tech conference, people are talking about smart buildings in a different way. And how can you have a playbook for smart tech if there’s not even a foundational definition that everyone’s aligned on what we’ve done to figure this out, because it’s not a, it’s, it’s a hard question, is we assembled a, what we called our, our smart council. So we got 50 plus landlords and developers from around the world together in virtual rooms, of course, to try to align on the definition of smart. And the biggest conclusion we came to that I think is a new idea is around, like the definition of smart, not being about technology itself,
– [Arie] But being focused on the user that a smart building like has to be one that delivers outcomes for all of the building’s users to kind of exceed modern day or, or, evolving expectations using digital technology. And the outcomes that we found were the most important that users were looking for. And that’s not just tenants, that’s property managers and investors, and kind of everyone involved with, with a building is for things that a smart building is cost efficient, it’s sustainable, it provides inspirational experience, and it’s future-proof, it can evolve and meet, you know, expectations as they change over time. And so our entire framework around our smart building certification is centered on, on that idea that a smart building is cost efficient, sustainable, inspiring, and future-proof. And we believe that when a building is, is achieves our certification. So it’s smart, smart score platinum, smart score gold, smart score silver, that the promise that building is making to the market, to its users, is that it’s, it’s achieving that definition and in a really compelling way.
– [Ryan] So when you mentioned future-proofing, how does building future-proof itself with the way technology is kind of ever changing? And I guess in that same conversation, what do you feel like the kind of commercial office space of tomorrow looks like? Because I’m sure that kind of ties into it.
– [Arie] Yeah. So the, the easiest way to answer that question, I think is probably embedded in how do we evaluate, you know, a specific user story or a specific piece of building functionality, knowing that a high rated piece of building functionality is future-proofed, it’s not just, it’s not just delivering experience today, but it’s set to do so in the future. And so what we do for every single user story in our framework, so every part of what we evaluate is we look at how the building not just delivers the user story, but specifically how technology is used to allow for, or to kind of enhance the user story. So if you think about an extreme example, like access control, you could have a huge spectrum of access control options all the way down to something very analog like somebody sitting there, you know, at the doorway to the elevators checking ID, and we’ve had clients say, look, if we have, if we have an incredible security staff, that’s checking ID cards coming into the building, shouldn’t that earn, are we achieving that user story? Don’t we have great access control getting into our building. And this is a, maybe a dumb example, but because that building is not using smart technology in a sophisticated way, that user story doesn’t have a chance to kind of improve or evolve with tenant expectations in the future.
– [Arie] So we would expect that technology is used not just to kind of do the core of the, of the task at hand, but it’s capable of doing more in the future through technology add-ons or software upgrades, that there has to be more to it than just the base functionality task at hand. And so I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but hopefully it gives you a sense for, it’s not just about what it can do today, but it also depends on what it can do in the future.
– [Ryan] Sure. That totally makes sense. Then how do you all handle the security aspect of it? I imagine there is a, you know, there are a lot of consistent threats out there from kind of the hackers of the world, looking into kind of breaching the security of smart buildings. How do you either approach that? Or how do you I guess, kind of gauge the, the security level of a building and is that involved in the scoring that you all do?
– [Arie] It is, it is. And so, as I mentioned, we, we evaluate buildings in two large categories, building functionality and then technical foundation and cyber security is one of the areas where we are not creating our own cyber security, you know, detailed set of standards, but ensuring that a building complies with existing standards. So it’s part of the analysis of a building. We would ask for a copy of a standards-based cybersecurity policy, we would try to understand how that policy is implemented across things like the building systems, the landlord integration network, any software system of the building, and then we would also ensure that the building is doing kind of proactive cybersecurity assessments. So we want to make sure that again, that this isn’t just a one time compliance area, but that the building like built into the DNA of the asset, there is there is ongoing cyber security reviews that, that meet our baseline description.
– [Ryan] Ah, okay. And then when it comes to the guidance you all provide to the buildings that are looking to be scored, how, what kind of guidance do you provide to them when it comes to protecting the data in smart buildings? And you could even approach that from a higher level of what buildings are doing to protect, the data that’s being collected in smart buildings, but I’m just curious kind of how you approach that or how you view that, that kind of area when it comes to security.
– [Arie] Yep. It’s, it’s another part of our tech foundations assessments, because it’s, it’s more and more top of mind and we’re already seeing on both of these topics kind of, quite interestingly, in the same analog, as you said, when you guys were looking for new office space, one of the areas where you really honed in was what’s the connectivity like in the building, we’re starting to see similar tenant questions about data and data sharing policies and cybersecurity policies, which I think more than anything is going to move the markets. It’s, you know, WiredScore can, can kind of stand on its soapbox all day, as we do to talk about the importance of these things, but it’s really the users of real estate and tenants out there starting to ask these questions on tours, or in lease negotiations that’s advancing the conversation forward. With data sharing and governance we also evaluate and engage with our clients on broad, smart building strategy. So do they kind of have a roadmap and a data sharing roadmap that they’re using for the building? Do they have a tenant smart functionality integration guide? So is there, is there some policy in place where a tenant moves in the building, they understand what, you know, how they can interact with both the landlord owned areas and the tenant demise. In the data category there’s two things that we think a smart building should have in place. One is a user user data policy. So policy documents kind of outlining the data management process for any data captured from operational technology equipment in the network that has personally identifiable information.
– [Arie] And the second thing is, within the realm of building data aggregations, that we, we want documented proof of which data structure or ontology is used and which systems of the building are integrated into that structure. So that’s, those are all things we would ask for as part of our smart score assessment and could earn credits for as part of our scorecard.
– [Ryan] And one, one thing I was thinking about is we talked a lot about the pandemic and kind of how it’s influenced the market on recent episodes. And one of the questions I had just regarding this is what you’ve all seen, kind of in the demand for, you know, for buildings to increase their connectivity, to increase their, you know, smart technologies and just maybe what the pandemic may have It kind of exposed because most of us were not working from home you know, you, weren’t working, let’s say you live in an apartment building with 50 people, you probably were fine with the internet whenever you needed it but now that you have now, you know, everybody’s at home working and has, you know, requiring a lot of bandwidth. What have you all seen on that front as far as maybe what you’ve learned from the pandemic and how that’s kind of been translated into the business that you guys are working with.
– [Arie] Yeah, but undoubtedly, there’s been a greater spotlight put on connectivity and smart tech. I think across asset classes from a, we haven’t talked much about, about residential, but it’s really interesting. Even pre-pandemic I think renter surveys from, from like national multifamily housing council would show really interesting data around importance of connectivity. And just to share a couple of things, I think half of residents check their cell phones during tours, rental incomes have been shown to be 8% higher for fiber equipped apartments. So within portfolios, landlords are saying that when they have fiber built into the buildings, they can command a rent premium and maybe most interesting, a survey of millennial renters showed that 86% were willing to pay 20% more for apartments that had great connectivity and smart features.
– [Arie] That’s the stuff that really gets the attention of the real estate community, of course, because that means that investing in this type of infrastructure and tech actually has direct ROI that can be calculated.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I think the more that the younger generation that is a, you know, a big target for apartment buildings and residential buildings like that, understand what it is that you all do and are seeking out buildings with higher scores because they understand what those scores mean. I think the more success these buildings are going to see, and obviously the more interest people are going to have in working with you, which I think is fantastic.
– [Arie] Yeah. I think we’re seeing that happening now. And on the office side, I think what’s most interesting is that when I founded the business connectivity, I mean, smart tech wasn’t on people’s radar screens quite yet. And even with connectivity, it was very much viewed as a tenant problem.
– [Arie] So simply put, landlord provides the box, hands over the keys, tenant takes the keys, and then the rest is their responsibility and real estate companies really didn’t want to be involved in the, in the tech infrastructure of, of the, of the tenant space and what the pandemic has accelerated because of increased competition is this is acceleration and the willingness for landlords to kind of get involved with and be a partner to tenants in providing a great experience. And that is a, such a big shift from seven, eight years ago, where there was nobody on, really on staff, at real estate companies
– [Ryan] Right, right.
– [Arie] That was really thinking about the connectivity of the buildings other than property management. And now you have, you know, folks like I got a couple of our clients have VPs of tenant experience, and they’re responsible for the second that employee walks into the building, what is their experience like throughout the lobby, getting to the office, you know, using the common areas. And technology’s a huge part of that now.
– [Ryan] Yeah. I mean, there’s just so many buildings, especially where I live right outside of DC. I mean, there are so many apartment buildings that go up on a regular basis. I just don’t understand where all the people are coming from that are gonna fill these. So they are, you know, are looking for every which way to stand out and to appeal to, you know, their demographic, their market. And I think the technology side is becoming more important than it ever has before. Like I wouldn’t live in a building that didn’t have good connectivity or had issues on the technology side because it just wouldn’t be viable for my lifestyle and I think we’re just seeing that more and more everyday.
– [Arie] I think that’s absolutely right. Absolutely right. And look, the other exciting thing is that I think real estate companies now have more responsibility again, because of, of tenants expectation to tackle some of the biggest problems facing society at the moment, like, like landlords clearly are responsible for helping us stay stave off climate change for, for supporting our health and wellness or protecting our physical and digital security. And, and these are all, not all newer ideas, but ideas that are getting a lot more weight now and building users, apartment renters, office occupants, are applying that pressure to real estate companies and saying, we think you should be responsible for tackling these problems.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. Well, this has been a fantastic conversation. I do have one question before we kind of wrap up here and it’s just around your experience working with a lot of different companies, different buildings, different kinds of environments. What, what are some of the common challenges you’ve seen with companies that, or I guess buildings that are looking to become smart, you know, more connected and trying to kind of go down that IoT journey. What are, what are some of the challenges that you maybe you’re consistently seeing them encounter and how they’ve kind of overcome it?
– [Arie] Yeah, I think, I think we’ve touched on one, which is a lack of a standard definition and playbook for, for connected and smart. And obviously our certification aims to attack that directly by arming landlords and developers with, with a framework and playbook they can follow. So that means when we evaluate a building and that building gets a 60 out of a hundred in our, in our WiredScore assessment, the 40 point Delta that that building has missed translates directly into a roadmap for improvement and real estate companies can bake that into their capital plans and their investment plans and starts to think about how they’re going to evolve their assets. The second thing is really that we hear lots of people struggling with is, is due to the fragmentation and scale of the tech solution space.
– [Arie] And lots of our clients are struggling with the fact that their email and their phone inbox is just filled to the brim with tech solution providers. And it’s really hard for landlords to navigate that, navigate that fragmentation, understand who the winners are going to be and, and place the right bets, understand which tech solution providers are gonna look after cyber and data policies that are interoperable with the landlords trying to achieve in the building. And so one of the biggest questions we get at the end of our certification process is, you know, thanks WiredScore, you’ve helped us understand what we can do to improve, Now, what do we do? Who do we work with to improve our building? And that’s something we’re taking a look at. Lots of people have made mistakes, implementing point solutions for solving problem X or problem Y and they’re starting to figure out that they need a more holistic approach and they need a better way to engage with the tech solution community so that they can navigate the space more effectively. And we’re, we’re, we’re seeing that problem and figuring out how we can help.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So anybody out there listening wants to learn a little bit more about kind of what you all are doing, or maybe they, you know, rent a building, own a building and want to kind of connect with you to learn more about the certification process, learn about best practices and just kind of get answers to their questions. What’s the best way to do that. And then the best way to reach out.
– [Arie] It’s a, it’s a boring answer, but, but WiredScore.com is, is the best place to go. There’s a place of course, to, to fill out a quick form and get in touch with us. We’d be happy to talk with anyone from landlords and developers to tech solution providers, as we’re constantly expanding our own network and making sure that we are supporting the ecosystem well, so.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. All right. This has been a great conversation I really appreciate you taking the time to share these insights, talk about some stuff we really don’t cover very much. We talk about smart buildings here and there, but we haven’t really broken it down in the way you guys talk about it, nor have we really talked about the certification process behind the, the technology and how important that is. I think now that people, you know, we have, we’ve covered it here in this conversation. I think more people are going to be looking for it and kind of making sure that something that is something that they’re looking into before they, you know, rent space or buy space, or if they own a building, make sure that it’s something that they have that they’ve, they’ve connected with you all on to ensure that they are certified in one way or another to ensure that people know that what they’re building that their building is connected and hopefully providing the resources that their tenants or potential tenants will need.
– [Arie] Awesome. Ryan thanks for having me on and congrats on building a great community around the IoT and smart tech. Love to see it.
– [Ryan] Thank you. Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s been a fun ride and we appreciate you having you all involved would love to find more ways to work together.
– [Arie] Perfect.
– [Ryan] All right everyone thanks again for joining us this week on the IoT For All podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you did, please leave us a rating or review and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on whichever platform you’re listening to us on. Also, if you have a guest you’d like to see on the show, please drop us a note at [email protected] and we’ll do everything we can to get them as a featured guest. Other than that, thanks again for listening and we’ll see you next time.