Earlier this year, global real estate investment, development, and property management firm Hines announced it had embarked on a digital journey to unite the technology that connects property operations, services, and building automation to enhance the workplace experience. The new digital ecosystem would aim to make accessing buildings, amenities, and experiences easier for tenants while generating in-depth insights about building utilization and client satisfaction.
Hines’ Digital Client Experience (DCX) platform utilizes real-time building data to create insights and analytics to enhance decision-making on space and amenity utilization, energy optimization, and other areas of efficiency. Hines is currently launching the technology at eight buildings across several cities—Chicago, Denver, Houston, Salt Lake City—and within two buildings in Toronto with plans to add more locations across its global portfolio.
Below, Jeannie Schneider, Hines’ chief technology officer overseeing all corporate and global real estate technologies, strategy, and standards, shares more about this digital solution, as well as the challenges and opportunities she sees in the adoption and implementation of smart building technologies.
SBT: How do you define a smart building today?
Schneider: The definition of a smart building has evolved in the last decade from the introduction of basic software-based technologies in the built environment to technologies focused on operational efficiencies to a user-centric focus connecting people to the property through technology and experiences.
Can you highlight a few of Hines’ initiatives related to smart buildings and technologies?
Hines has developed a technology platform to provide our tenants and their employees with a new digital experience tool that is accessible via a single mobile application and an online portal. Our DCX platform delivers a set of complementary technologies that will allow our properties to do more for our tenants, residents, and investors by providing the following: enhanced experiences and data insights; an “APPmosphere” giving consumers access to work and life experiences across our connected buildings; and a smart building integration platform that provides building and tenant spaces with comfort, efficiency, and consistency of experience and security.
What are challenges or concerns that are preventing more widespread adoption of smart technologies?
We are poised for widespread adoption because the ROI is there. But it does require us to address a few challenges in that some of the infrastructure in an existing building may need to be upgraded or replaced entirely to make it smart-compatible. This requires capital planning and adds a bit of lead time, but we have developed a playbook and selected partners that will enable us to do this at scale.
What are the opportunities? Where are you seeing the most growth?
We are creating a first-of-its-kind, technology-connected portfolio. Our vision is to connect our global portfolio so it’s accessible by a simple mobile tap. When the vision is fully realized, our clients and their employees will gain access to Hines buildings in numerous cities worldwide. Not only can they book meetings and events spaces wherever they need them, but they’ll have the freedom to work seamlessly from our locations. This is the ultimate perk—a global workplace that’s keeping up with the pace of today’s employees and run by a stable, hospitality-driven manager like Hines.
How are you leveraging data from your buildings, and how is it informing your decision-making?
Through the DCX platform, we can see the data from all the systems and sensors in the building in real-time from a single command and control interface. Add in AI and ML models using the historical data from the building and similar systems across the portfolio, and the power to make informed decisions begins to move significantly from reactive to predictive. This platform will allow us to activate and measure key performance drivers such as enhanced energy reduction, operational efficiency, and tenant experience.
How has AI impacted your business?
It’s too early to tell. We are already using AI in specific ways, such as enhanced natural language search over our private data warehouse and predictive analytics for operational efficiency. I’d characterize our approach as opportunistic: We are actively evaluating the potential to leverage AI to augment or accelerate market research, investment analysis, reporting, and beyond. We want to stay focused on outcomes that can be enhanced with technology—and that includes AI.