As digitalisation becomes more and more central within Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s strategy, every single aspect of its activity is evolving, especially asset management. And the data provided thanks to digitalisation offer vast opportunities. We sat down with Dominique Barthoux, leader of the “Smart Asset” project for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, to understand how the Group has turned it into action, especially through a successful concrete case: the collaboration with Deepki, a tool that helps monitor energy consumption of the French shopping centres.
Smart Assets: Proptech, digitalisation and data to enhance services for customers and better manage the assets
Consumers and retailers require increasingly effective services and facilities within shopping centres. In turn, reconfiguring centres with technology to meet these demands is becoming critical for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. WiFi connection, directories, centre mapping, wayfinding and smart parking, for instance, must work continuously with a great performance to maximize the satisfaction of customers and retailers. An efficient digitalisation of the assets will lead to a more intuitive and pleasant experience for all users of the shopping centres.
Obviously, the process of digitalisation has been ongoing for years already, and important challenges are at stake: the Group works on enhancing the assets’ environmental efficiency as well as to create value for tenants by offering them new services and by reducing their energy-related costs.
To address these issues in the most efficient way, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield has created the concept of the Smart Asset, which is part of the third pillar of our Innovation strategy “Strengthen Agility”. Smart Asset refers to the digitalisation of assets: the Group is building on its IT system and infrastructure to bring more functionality, connectivity, security, information, flexibility and efficiency to its operations. The growing market of Proptech – that encompasses all technologies applied to the real estate sector – has also contributed to making Smart Asset possible thanks to big data and artificial intelligence.
Smart Asset hence enables a virtuous cycle where data – related to energy or water consumption for instance – is central in the value proposition: first, it is collected, then analyzed to enable a decision and an action is finally taken to improve the asset. In the end, Smart Asset brings an answer to the constant need of value creation for our assets. Beyond offering higher quality standards to business partners, Smart Assets also enable the Group to get a better knowledge of assets throughout their lifecycle and in turn to manage them in a smarter way (with more adapted maintenance, operations, cleaning, security, works, and so on).
A successful concrete case with the deployment of Deepki, an energy and fluids monitoring platform
For these past few years, the Group has been leading exploration and experimentation around the Smart Asset topic, especially around assets operations & maintenance. It has collaborated with and tested various solutions, such as robots or odor sensors for instance. And the Group has also been investigating solutions that can support the Group’s CSR strategy Better Places 2030. In that respect, the various submetering implementations in the shopping centres allow to precisely monitor energy flows, therefore finding new levers to optimize consumptions: this has a direct impact on the carbon footprint of the assets and the operations costs.
The collaboration with Proptech start-up Deepki is a case in point. Back in May 2019, the Group started experimenting Deepki in a few French shopping centres: it is a solution that enables to monitor and improve the energy efficiency of the buildings. It works as a collaborative platform centralising and analysing data on energy and fluids consumption (electricity, gas and water consumption) of the centres. Thanks to remote data management of energy consumption, shopping centres are able to monitor and analyse it in relation to the shopping centre’s activity (opening hours, surfaces, etc.). This allows the Group to understand fluctuations, identify misuses or malfunctions and find solutions to reduce energy consumption when possible – in particular power usage that represents a significant part of the centres’ energy consumption.
After six months of test, in February 2020, the Group started to roll out the partnership in all French shopping centres to optimise and monitor energy consumption. New countries are being initiated (the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Germany) with an objective to cover all European countries by the end of 2021. Additional topics are ongoing with Deepki for more precise analysis, such as connecting BMS, submetering, IRVE and also private energy consumption of our tenants.
We are thrilled to be collaborating with Deepki to make the assets’ energy consumption optimal while contributing to the value creation of the Group. So far, the results have been very satisfying: for instance during the French lockdown due to Covid-19, we were able to increase the reduction of the energy consumption of our French assets by 50% with regular analysis and dashboard provided by Deepki and the team to the operations teams. These encouraging figures show how important it is for the Group to keep working and accelerating on this topic with such solutions to collected and centralize data.Dominique Barthoux