Employers can utilize smart buildings to reinvent the workplace and encourage people to return to the office in a beneficial way. Stefan Schwab, CEO of Enlighted, joins Ryan Chacon on the IoT For All Podcast to discuss smart buildings and the future of work. They cover the current state of smart buildings, using IoT data from smart buildings, leading use cases of smart buildings, how technology can encourage a return to the office, the importance of smart lighting, how retrofitting works, and innovation in the smart building space.
Stefan Schwab joined Enlighted as CEO in 2018. Prior to Enlighted, he was the Executive General Manager for Siemens Building Technologies in Australia and New Zealand where he led business transformation by empowering people and increasing customer centricity.
Interested in connecting with Stefan? Reach out on LinkedIn!
Enlighted is a leading provider of proptech IoT solutions. It offers a unique combination of cognitive environmental IoT sensors and lighting controls that connect to intelligent workplace experience apps, offering a singular, scalable, interoperable solution to address a spectrum of building, space, and productivity needs. Enlighted’s customers leverage these solutions to enable occupant well-being, greater business efficiencies, and momentum toward their sustainability goals.
By intelligently connecting and managing thousands of sensors and smart devices throughout any built environment, customers gain real-time, data-driven insights about the use of space, and the movement of people and things through those spaces, to make complex operation and management decisions easier and more effective.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(14:48) How does retrofitting work?
(21:25) Learn more and follow up
– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast. I’m Ryan Chacon, and on today’s episode, we’re going to talk about how far smart buildings have come and what organizations can do with IoT data to create the ultimate smart building. With me today is Stefan Schwab, the CEO of Enlighted.
They are a part of Building Robotics, Inc. A Siemens Company, and they are a leading provider in PropTech IoT solutions. Fantastic conversation today. I think you’ll get a lot of value out of it. But before we get into it, I truly appreciate it if you would give this video a thumbs up, subscribe to our channel if you have not done so already, and hit that bell icon, so you get the latest episodes as soon as they are out.
Other than that, let’s get on to the episode. Welcome Stefan to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Stefan] Thanks, Ryan, for having me. Looking forward to our conversation.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. I am as well. Let’s go ahead and kick this off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself and the company to our audience, if you wouldn’t mind.
– [Stefan] Yeah, happy to. My name is Stefan Schwab and since 2018, I lead Enlighted as the CEO. And also since two years Comfy, a workplace experience application is part of Enlighted, which we formed during the pandemic we formed one company, which is now called overall Enlighted, but consists when you look at the history out of two companies.
And actually what we do with Enlighted today. We are a global PropTech company and we provide IoT solutions for our customers. And actually we focus at the intersection of people, work, and space and where these three things come together. We help our customers, our users, to optimize this in terms of energy efficiency, in terms of wellbeing, and in terms of removing actually all hurdles when it comes to using space and how to perform work.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Yeah. I want I wanted to talk about a lot of things you just mentioned. Obviously the smart spaces kind of world has grown a ton in popularity since the pandemic. But if we look at smart buildings in general, can you talk us through how far we’ve come in the smart building space and where we are now from just, evolution standpoint?
– [Stefan] Yeah, as a, first of all, I think we’ve come a long way already. And even if the world of smart building it’s out there since I would say roughly 2012, 2013, I heard it for the first time. What we see nowadays and maybe also a little bit fueled due to the pandemic, we see now actually real traction when it comes to optimize buildings and make smart buildings a reality.
So again, the talk was actually almost, talk is already there for 10 years. What I see now recently is really an acceleration of implementation. And for me the top reason is there that first or top reasons are for me, first of all, the awareness in terms of that smart buildings. What can they do to reduce CO2 footprint?
But also then actually when you see vacancy rates now in buildings, what actually can you do with smart buildings to attract people back to come to the office for collaboration purposes? And last but not least, I think also from a technology point of view, we have made tremendous progress to make IoT implementations easier because it was always a big hurdle actually to do these smart buildings, to do the connections between different systems and so on.
And this got also much easier over the last couple of years.
– [Ryan] Yeah, those are all great points. We’ve, we talked before on the show about a lot of different industries and what have been the big enablers of IoT solutions across those, and like cost is a big one. Maturity of a lot of the technologies. Just a lot of different kind of things have helped drive different industries forward.
And the smart building space has been a very interesting one to focus on. Talk to me about how organizations can use data from IoT solutions to create that ultimate smart building. What are businesses doing, what are building owners doing to not only collect the data, but utilize that data to improve the experience for its tenants or themselves to make smart buildings better than they’ve been before.
– [Stefan] So what we see with our customers is that they break down the silos. This means that the data they collect from our solutions, for example, they correlate with other data, which is already there in the building. And then when you do this correlation of the data, you create far more value in terms of outcomes, in terms of to make the building smarter.
And also, again, coming back to what we do, when I look at workspace and people that you actually drive at this intersection, the best possible outcome for whoever is in the space, but for the building itself or for the owner when they wanna reduce energy consumption. And again, this is what we see these days more and more that customers, coming back to what I said, break down the silos and build these correlation.
And also, technology made it much easier because we talk a lot about openness of the systems. Also this a long talk, but I think also there now we get into an era where there is real openness and where it’s much easier to actually connect systems with each other from different kind of vendors and create value for the customer, the consumer, the client.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. When it comes to the use cases that you’ve been involved in and seen, what provides the most value to those users, to those clients is there any one area or one kind of use case or problem that needs to be solved that really leads the way when it comes to these solutions because from my experience, it seems like if you talk about being able to monitor occupancy movement of people, you collect a lot of data that can influence other elements inside the buildings, but is that kind of the one that leads the way or are there other ones that you would say are the main priority for most of these buildings that once done give you access to a lot of data that you can then inform future decisions on what else you need to focus on?
– [Stefan] I think actually what you mentioned, occupancy is definitely one of the top priorities or vacancy these days because what we see actually, when you are able to measure real time occupancy with our sensors, then you can actually drive down, if you know there is no, there are no people in this space, for example, you can drive down, for example, your HVAC system in this area, the ventilation, you can drive down, the lights we do anyhow because we control the lights as well with our sensors. This is one thing, and this really actually helps to reduce the CO2 footprint and get closer to net zero.
For example, if a customer is net zero or carbon neutrality even, this is the goal of the customer. That’s one thing. But on the other side, what we hear these days a lot is actually that the building needs to be attractive. That people wanna come back to the office because we have these high vacancy rates these days because not many people come back to the office.
And then you have two choices. You can say, as an employer, I want to mandate it, and you have to come back two to three days a week, which is not very popular. Definitely not at the beginning. Or you can say, okay, how do I remodel? What do I have to do with my building actually to make it attractive enough for employees to come back for the right reasons.
And the right reasons, we always call purpose-driven work. So in the end, mainly it’s collaboration with others. It’s not doing my one-on-one, my one-on-one teams calls from the office. I think this is not the purpose of the office in the future or even today. Today, the purpose is to facilitate collaboration, innovation, and people work together at the whiteboard area or in any other kind of area.
And this is also something what is on top of mind of many not only owners in that’s even more about the tenants in there because we as executives, include myself here, we hate it when we walk through a top class office building and it’s completely empty.
– [Ryan] So talk to me a little bit more about that because that’s a discussion point that’s come up a lot is being able to bring employees back to the office in a positive way. Not something that you’re dragging them back in. They’re frustrated, they’re annoyed, they’re very used to working from home.
But what is it about technology and IoT technology in particular that’s helping employers encourage employees to come back to the office? Is it the experience that’s being set up? Is it the data that the employer’s collecting to then inform certain decisions and things to help improve the day-to-day of the employees or what is it really about the technology that’s helping bring employees back?
– [Stefan] So the first hurdle, what we hear and what we see is actually, when is the right day and the right time to come to the office? And most of the time this is related to with whom do I want to collaborate. So we call this, people don’t come to the office for a free pizza or a free cake. They come to the office because they are people in the office they wanna collaborate with.
So you have to take away the cognitive load and make it as simple as possible that employees can decide, hey, now is the right day and the right time to come to the office. So again, giving them with data, you related to that in the question actually, giving them hints with data or a notching, for example, with certain tools that, hey, this person just signed up to come to the office.
You collaborate a lot via Teams or via Slack with this individual, maybe it’s a good time and day also to go to the office to have an in-person experience. So that’s as, that’s actually the first step. And if you get to that point that you can get more employees back to the office because you take away, again, coming back this cognitive load and just texting everyone, emailing, slacking, are you going to the office?
When do you come? And so on. You take this away. Then the in-office experience itself also has to be top notch and different to what we were used to in the past. So then it comes back to technology in the building. Do I need to book a desk? Do I need to book a room? Do I need to be any AV equipment?
And then also, if you have a desk employee ratio, which is I make an example one desk per two employees. So you also then have to give employees the tools that they are able to maneuver through an office day, because after two and a half of almost three years now not coming back to the office and the design has changed, you also have give them something at hand, which helps them to facilitate their day in the office. And when we get this right together, I can actually see more and more people come back to the office. But also let me make one point on the mandate because it’s interesting enough, I have the pleasure of traveling from time to our customers, also to different regions.
I just came back from Europe. And many of the, many of our clients in general also have a kind of a mandate people back into the office. And the general feedback is yes, at the beginning, it was not not appreciated for sure. As I said, it’s unpopular. But after a couple of months, actually, employees also see the benefit of that because they actually have then this in-person experiences again.
What they like is actually that you don’t mandate a specific day. You give them the flexibility and say, look, we wanna have you one or two days per week, but when? It’s up to you and then I come back to my opening to this question, then you need to give them something at hand, which also helps them to know what is the best day and what time to come in when other people coming in, I wanna collaborate with.
– [Ryan] Let me ask you another question related, but a little disconnected here. When it comes to, because this is a discussion I’ve had before is about smart lighting within these buildings, right? In these control solutions that you can build. A lot of that can be driven based on what we’ve talked about earlier, which is the occupancy data, movement data, things like that.
But why is the smart lighting so important from a, smart building standpoint and seems to be one of those leading use cases. What are the benefits? What is that really enabling?
– [Stefan] So why is it really important for us? So first of all, when you look at the main consumer of energy in a building, it’s normally the lights. So the lights consume a lot of energy. So if you actually attack this in terms of sustainability, you can already reduce your carbon footprint significantly.
Secondly, if you install smart sensors, IoT sensors like we do, which, for example, does daylight harvesting which also helps to reduce a lot on top of what the upgrade already helps to reduce energy, increases the reduction there when you do daylight harvesting. You also get a very high granularity of the sensors, so you collect a lot of data and because you collect that amount of data, it really enables much more use cases than it would when you don’t have the granularity. So that’s the one thing what makes lighting so attractive overall and again, coming back to the use cases, when I think then about lighting based RTLS, for example, we call it location intelligence, where you do actually asset tracking.
And if you need really accuracy, the granularity of the sensor network really helps you to get this accuracy because sometimes it makes a difference if an asset you wanna locate is on this side of the wall, or on the other side of the wall even it’s just maybe couple of of of feet difference.
In the end, it makes a difference for the individual who wants to look at it. Density, there is a very important topic, and lighting gives you that opportunity. And last but not least, when you connected to lighting and you do an upgrade, a lot of times the refinancing is pretty simple.
Because the whole IoT infrastructure can be financed via the energy savings you get through this lighting sensor upgrade in your building, but makes it also from a financial point of view very attractive. And what we’ve seen many times, customers start with, yes, we wanna reduce the energy footprint.
We have to do a lighting upgrade anyhow. Then you have the sensor network and then you can start a discussion when everything is installed about what additional use cases are now beneficial for the customer. How can we help them to achieve their goals, for example, and we touched on some, we touched on occupancy topics.
We touched, but also can we link the data, oh yes, we can link the data to other systems like HVAC, ventilation, air handling units, whatever, you name it. And last but not least was in location intelligence, when you wanna locate assets, specifically healthcare, logistics, manufacturing are very prominent verticals who actually value location intelligence.
– [Ryan] Let me ask about bringing in new technology and these to solve a lot of these things you’re talking about, enabling a lot of these solutions you’re talking about into buildings that may not have the infrastructure. How does that work and what is, how challenging is that kind of retrofit these older buildings or buildings that are not as up to date, possibly as other ones. Is that something that companies or owners of buildings or companies looking to go into buildings should shy away from because it’s more of a challenge to bring these technologies in? Or has it become, are we at a point now where it is easier to retrofit older buildings to work with legacy systems and to deploy these solutions without too much of a problem, regardless of how modern or up to date a building is, or what kind of, how do you think through those problems?
– [Stefan] Very good and valid question, and I think you can, what we see is both ways actually. So first of all, yes, it’s, it can be more challenging. On the other side, let me start with the positive. When you look at the older buildings, they have a worse CO2 footprint than already newer buildings. So first of all, financially very attractive do an upgrade there.
The challenge here is also what we touched on before when I think of corporate real estate or office buildings, the older ones have the challenge to attract actually tenants in there. Because what we see these days is that only the top class or the top A buildings they get they get the higher occupancy than the ones who I would consider maybe tier two and tier three, where there has not been done too much in terms of technology.
But coming back to how we will do it. So if it’s not occupied actually, this is an awesome advantage because you don’t disrupt any kind of business if it’s not occupied at the moment. And then also if there’s no BMS, we spoke about that there’s an old technology there, even without the BMS we have a solution that actually it feeds directly back to any kind of yeah cooling system you have in there.
And you can also drive via occupancy data, a lot of energy savings. So it has pros and cons, and I think now is actually, it is the right time to go for it. Financing is a little bit more challenging, but this then leads back to what I said before. A lot of times what we see with our project, they finance they finance actually themselves just through the energy savings you generate through lighting controls and lighting upgrades.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. One of the last questions I wanted to ask you before I let you go here is around, we started this conversation talking about how far we’ve come with smart buildings, right? And I wanted to finish this off and ask you how far or how much further we can go when it comes to innovation in this space.
So tell me and tell our audience a little bit more about your thoughts and expectations as we move forward in the smart building landscape, what you are looking forward to, what you expect, what you’re excited for, where you think we’re headed.
– [Stefan] So I’m in this industry now for, hard to believe, but 16 years in this not in the IoT and software subscription based business, what I’m now, but before that, I was in the building technologies business of Siemens. And actually, in my opinion, looking back, this is now the most exciting time to be in this area I’ve ever seen because there’s so much change happening. Unfortunately, also through to external events, which are not always nice we experience. But this actually, as I said at the beginning as well, this is accelerating the trend and the implementation of these smart smart buildings now. When I think about it, what will, what I believe will still make a huge difference there is AI.
And actually, why do I say that? Because actually we, from time to time, we also try it out here at Enlighted and see how can it help us? How can it make us more productive? How can it help our customers? And I think there’s a huge innovation jump we will see when we are able to deploy AI also in the area of smart buildings.
What I also have to say is actually when we would deploy the technology, which is already available today, we would not be in such a bad shape when we talk about sustainability, when we talk about fighting climate change because the technology out there can solve many of the problems which are man-made or human made.
And we have not deployed these solutions at scale so that it makes a large difference. And I also come back to a little bit the buildings because buildings make up roughly 40% of the overall CO2 output globally. So actually this is something worthwhile tackling because it has a huge lever there when we actually tackle this.
And I’m excited because again, this is a massive opportunity. I’m also excited because today’s technology which can makes things much better and we see as at Siemens slash Enlighted, we see more and more projects now getting executed, which is great. But also down the road, I see many more opportunities because there’s more technology coming in like AI, which actually, or another one which is more hardware related is is Edge edge devices and so on, which makes it also easier to deploy.
Coming back to the, take away any kind of hurdles for IoT deployments. So that’s the reason I believe this is a great decade we are in, but also beyond that decade I think this space will remain, first of all, in general challenging, but also very attractive overall to be in this space and to do good for, to do good for society and help fighting climate change, which is in my opinion also number one challenge we have besides all the other issues around the world, but this one will last for us, will last with us for a long time. Hopefully the other ones go away much faster.
– [Ryan] Gotcha. Fantastic. Stefan, you’ve been an absolutely wonderful guest. This is some information that we haven’t had the chance to cover this in depth before, so I really appreciate you taking the time. It’s an exciting space to follow. As we mentioned, ever since the pandemic kind of started to and people started to come back to the office, smart spaces, smart buildings just shot up to the top of everyone’s list when it came to developing for solution, developing solutions for looking into when, they’re choosing where to work or how to work, how to bring some people back to the office and this IoT data and technology is enabling a lot of that to really take off. So thank you so much for coming on to talk today and for our audience who wants to follow up, learn more, touch base after this, learn what you all have going on, what’s the best way they can do that?
– [Stefan] The best way is via LinkedIn. Big fan of LinkedIn as well. So connect with me on LinkedIn or go to www.enlightedinc.com. So there’s a lot of interesting material, case studies with customers, which I also really is when you have the real life examples where you have a customer talking about your solution makes, it makes it much more real and more, more exciting.
And you can find a lot of material there. But also really happy to connect on LinkedIn and exchange ideas, exchange experiences. And yeah, looking forward to it.
– [Ryan] Well, Stefan, thanks again so much for doing this. Really appreciate it and we look forward to getting this out to our audience.
– [Stefan] Yeah. Thanks for having me, Ryan. I really enjoyed the conversation and looking forward to change here the built environment.