In autumn 2020, Unica launched Building Insight │ Air. This as-a-service solution allows organisations to measure the air quality in indoor spaces. In this way, Unica responds to the increased demand for safe, well-ventilated places to work and study, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Building Insight │ Air was developed over a very short space of time by the Unica Innovation Center, in collaboration with technology partner KPN.
“To me, the collaboration between KPN and Unica makes a lot of sense,” says Michiel Jol, Manager of IoT Products and Marketing at KPN. “I see two big companies who understand each other’s worlds and who would prefer to be seen as a quality brand rather than a low-cost option. We are both considering new earnings models, which will allow us to offer customers real added value.”
Internet of Things (IoT) was, and still is, considered as a bit of a hype term. “The idea was to connect as many devices and systems to each other as possible, over the internet. But hype is always followed by disappointment,” according to Michiel Jol, Manager of IoT Products & Marketing at KPN. “Because a connected fridge is great, but what does it really achieve?” That’s why Michiel enjoys working with companies that think beyond the hype. “Companies that see IoT as a way to genuinely change the way they do business in the long term. That requires courage and a huge shift in mindset; it can mean your whole business being turned on upside down.”
You start discussing things at a higher level, looking for the question behind the question
Over recent years, Unica has been profiling itself as a technology-driven company that can do much more than simply install and maintain technical installations. This makes the company a very suitable partner for KPN in Michiel’s eyes. “Unica is a serious company with a long-term vision. With its new solutions, it offers customers even more added value. Building Insight │ Air is not just a cool new technical gadget, it’s a valuable ICT application that allows businesses, schools and universities to reduce absence due to sickness and therefore actively reduce their costs. I really believe in this approach to the earnings model, in which you profile yourself as a quality brand. You start discussing things with customers at a higher level, looking for the question behind the question together. Not just ‘you ask, we deliver’, but finding out what it is that the customer truly wants to achieve and which solution would be the most suitable for this.”
KPN has been working with the Internet of Things for about ten years now. “Five years ago we started to become really involved in hardware, as we noticed that this was where the development process often became unstuck,” says Michiel. “Around three years ago, we found a match with a hardware party and we now have our own hardware testing team. So we do a lot, but we can’t do it alone. That’s why we enter into partnerships with companies who have a good idea of how IoT can be implemented.”
Last autumn, KPN was approached by Unica. “Unica asked us to help develop a solution that would allow customers to measure the carbon levels in indoor spaces. Unica indicated that they could build the necessary platform to display data and trends themselves. They asked KPN to supply the sensors and connectivity for the safe generation and use of sensor data. The entire project – from start to implementation – lasted just four weeks. That is an amazing achievement.”
Over the last few months, Michiel has come to know Unica as a future-oriented organisation that intends to move forward and that might just have a golden formula on its hands with Building Insight. “The great thing about this technical solution is the fact that it doesn’t require any explanation,” he says. “After all, everyone wants a healthy living environment. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has even made good air quality a requirement for a safe return to schools and offices after the Covid-19 pandemic. So now it’s important for Unica to get in contact with the right people at organisations, universities and schools: Look, we can make your building smarter in a simple and easy way, and these are the (financial) benefits for you.”
Michiel believes that trends such as ‘as-a-service’ solutions and predictive maintenance will become increasingly important in the future. He thinks that these will offer a whole range of possibilities for Unica, such as expanding Building Insight with other modules or developing brand-new IoT solutions.
Finally, Michiel has some good advice for companies who want to achieve success with IoT, just as KPN and Unica. “Commitment is crucial. You have to embrace it at management level and you also need broad support within the organisation. IoT takes a lot of time and energy, it’s not something you can half commit to. You also need other companies in order to make progress. But if it works and you can upscale, you really do have a win-win situation. In other words, if Unica is successful, KPN is successful too.”