The digital platform Building Insight is a prime example of how Unica’s wide range of services come into their own. This data platform, developed in 2020, bundles various knowledge areas from the Unica network. As a digital shell, the platform connects digital data and Unica’s in-house technical expertise. It was developed by the Unica Innovation Center, the independently-operating strategic division through which Unica has focused on putting innovation into practice since 2019. Innovation thus forms a third pillar of Unica’s growth strategy, alongside organic growth and acquisitions.
Building Insight is an open data platform that collects all relevant data from building management systems, sensors, smart meters, access systems, weather forecasts and phone apps. Building functions can be improved by combining all these data flows with user behaviour information. Thanks to clear dashboards and real-time models, expected changes in use can be anticipated, allowing more comfortable, more efficient and safer building management. Business processes can also be intelligently adjusted by modelling numerous building parameters and making targeted predictions about building use. For example, it enables energy cost reduction, more efficient use of space, increased comfort due to improved climate system settings, better use of expensive equipment, determination of correct walking routes and more efficient cleaning in buildings. Practical applications such as these are suitable for hotels, industry, offices, museums, retail, schools and hospitals, etc.
The platform was implemented at the first clients in 2020 and a specific application for measuring air quality was added in autumn. The Covid-19 crisis created uncertainty about indoor air quality as poor ventilation may play a role in spreading Covid-19. The Unica Innovation Center developed the Building Insight | Air module to provide certainty about carbon levels. This module continuously measures carbon levels, which users can view in real-time with their phones. SMS notifications can also be programmed, allowing users to take immediate action if a threshold value is exceeded. The module was developed in partnership with KPN, which provides the data connections. This solution is particularly popular with educational institutions, nursing homes, care homes and offices.
Besides Building Insight, the Unica Innovation Center worked on a whole range of pilot projects with both Unica companies and external partners. For example, experiments are being carried out at a prestigious theatre on measuring the occupancy rate in combination with energy consumption. By correlating energy consumption with visitor trends, the theatre owner gathers precise insight into costs per visitor, and is able to adjust the indoor climate in its theatre based on the actual or expected number of visitors. The Unica Innovation Center also helps industrial customers, including those in heavy industry, to spread out energy consumption to prevent expensive emission rights from being exceeded. The Living Lab at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, where the quality of various spaces is determined using sensor data, also deserves mentioning. The Unica Innovation Center is sharing its experiences and expertise in this project with architecture and facility management students.
This separate division is not solely responsible for innovation; innovation similarly takes place throughout the organisation. For example, Unica Fire Safety developed a method for testing sprinklers on-site with its Sprinkler Integrity Test. This examines the coherence of the sprinkler system as a whole in practice and under prevailing environmental conditions with mobile testing equipment. The company also set up a new demo area to showcase various fire protection solutions in operation.
In addition to the innovation processes that became part of the portfolio, major steps were taken in the ICT environment that Unica uses for its business operations. The renewal of the ICT landscape initiated in 2018 is in full swing. After implementing commercial processes, Unica used 2020 to make all preparations necessary to implement financial processes in the new landscape. This will be carried out in early 2021; two of four core processes within business operations will then be transferred to the new platform.
Unica’s central IT infrastructure is also gradually being improved. The inclination to work from home accelerated the implementation of the Microsoft applications Teams and SharePoint across the company in 2020. These have greatly simplified remote collaboration and consultation. Various optimisations have also been implemented in the HR ICT landscape, allowing employees to arrange their leave and time registration more quickly and easily.