Erik Ubels, EDGE

Erik Ubels gave insight into what makes an EDGE Technologies building.


Catch up: Trend Talk Amsterdam

The second stop on our European Trends Talks tour brought around 80 property and tech professionals to the thriving tech city of Amsterdam.

Held at the Kimpton de Witt Hotel and chaired by PlaceTech publisher Paul Unger, the event featured a mix of Dutch and UK presenters and focused on key trends and issues currently circling around the proptech industry.

PlaceTech Trend Talk Amsterdam was organised in association with PropTechNL, Mills & Reeve, Bruntwood and Manchester Science Partnerships, OBI Property and Redwood Consulting.

The event also saw the release of the PlaceTech TRENDS Q2 2018 report which maps the trends and innovators transforming the sector. You can download the full report here.

See below for gallery + slides

Watch the video below to get an insight into what our delegates think are the hottest proptech trends.


After a ‘Goedemorgen’ from Paul Unger and Menno Lammers from PropTech NL, the event opened with the first showcase of the day from Dutch startup, Simaxx.

The company has a bold statement; “we want to make all buildings in the world energy efficient” said CEO Dick Fens. In the showcase, Fens discussed the latest in building management technology and how Simaxx uses algorithms to turn a constant stream of data from buildings into useful information for its clients. The system continuously checks the data from the building management system and monitors the energy consumption and installations. An example of one way in which the software can be beneficial is: “If the temperature is too high in a building, users can click on the temperature and it will show the different technical installations that are part of controlling that temperature,” explained Fens. It also displays the elements responsible for increasing the temperature which means that management can quickly attend to the issue and therefore save energy and money.

The audience then heard from Chainels, a tenant engagement portal aimed at shopping malls, business parks and multi-tenant offices. “A shopping mall can waste around €16,000 annually because of inefficient communication,” said co-founder Sander Verseput. The cloud-based platform allows data to be easily exchanged within the the community of stakeholders, whether it’s information about landlord leasing, marketing, security and even police notifications.

The app has many features including; the ability to send messages to groups, be it a floor or a whole building; tenants can produce surveys and get results back immediately; and access to services including turnover reporting, dashboards for leasing management and an area to rent out promotional spaces. The aim is for tenants to be engaged, to have access to premium services and improve operational workflow.

Andy Dyer from Coyote, then took to the stage to talk about the company’s cloud-based acquisition pipeline and asset management tool. Founded in 2009 by Andy and Oli Farago, the London-based company is undergoing a period of rapid growth. Coyote tracks an asset through its lifecycle which is split into 4: introduction, acquisition, management and disposal. Dyer presented 5 challenges Coyote solves: the software has a tracking deal pipeline, it integrates multiple systems into one dashboard; it’s accessible on any device; it’s easy to get up to date with tenancy schedules, and; it has a bespoke reporting engine which produces reports within seconds.

Showcase panel

The showcase from Coyote was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Unger, where he was joined by the other showcase companies, Dick Fens from Simaxx and Sander Verseput from Chainels. The session began with Unger questioning the companies, who have succeeded in launching a tech business into property, about what is the most powerful value proposition that gets prospective clients over the line to work with them.

  • Dyer from Coyote explained that it’s usually their million user hours figure: “Technically, yes, we’re a startup in the fact that we were only commercially available from September last year but the fact that we’ve had this 8-year history is so reassuring for the clients. Being a proptech startup as we are we’re very lucky we have the background that we do. If you don’t have that background, I can see how tough it is to get that first client.”
  • For Chainels, clients started to pay attention when they were able to quantify savings. When Chainels was founded it was just a community platform, Verseput explained that people thought the messaging tool and the ability to view data was nice but wanted to know how it would save them money. The company then started to look at workflows in shopping malls and found that it was really complicated, and they could improve it with their software and make a viable business case.
  • Fens from Simaxx said that their unique algorithms for gathering data and connections to many building management systems acts as their showcase for potential clients.

How are the companies expanding their networks and businesses internationally?

  • For Coyote, their focus has been on the UK as the software has only been commercially available since September last year. They have assets in 27 counties so there’s a footprint in Europe, but their mission at the moment is fact-finding for the next six months.
  • Visiting different real estate fairs, like MIPIM, is an important aspect for Chainels to meet a variety of different people.
  • Simaxx receive a lot of requests from outside of Europe, like Dubai and Singapore. Fens explained: “There are a couple of complexities and technical rules that need to be adjusted to go internationally.” Currently, they’re focused on Europe and the Netherlands.

What tips do they have for startups trying to break into the property market?

  • Dyer from Coyote pointed out that there are many great products out there, but many are only solving a small percentage of the client’s day. To break into the market real pain points need to be solved. Fens added that startups need to make sure the solution they’re developing is right for the person they’re targeting, whereas Verseput believes that the best thing to do is to develop the minimum viable product, go to the market, and then go back to the board with the feedback.

In terms of competition, how easy is it to stand out as unique company?

  • For Coyote, Dyer explained that because of their lifecycle process they tend to not see a direct competitor across all four areas. The only competition they really deal with is competing for budget, time and client’s headspace. He added that competition overall is changing as people are becoming more collaborative.
  • Chainels’ only competitor is in the UK and they believe that the technical product isn’t as good as theirs. At one point the competition had a feature before them so Chainels reacted to that by speeding up development.
  • Simaxx see direct companies but only in certain areas of what they do. Fens pointed out that their ability to cover all areas like predictive maintenance, energy focus and comfort levels sets them apart and makes them unique. 

Are there areas you want to see develop within your own products?

  • Coyote are looking at machine learning technology to read property brochures to get a base level record of price, sq ft etc. Dyer revealed that the company is hoping to have something to test at the back end of this year.
  • In the next couple of years, Chainels are hoping to incorporate an issue reporting feature with predictive maintenance. Verseput added that they’re not going to develop it themselves and instead are going to create a partnership to do so.
  • Simaxx are looking at integration with partnerships, integration with sensor manufacturers and also becoming more integrated with big companies, like Microsoft. As well as monitoring and showing what’s wrong, they want to develop the software so it’s possible to control and alter things that need to change.

Question from the audience: To what extent is the end user or consumer in your solution? Do you have any examples of how your solution changes customer behaviour?

  • Verseput pointed out that this is something they could see developing within their software: “With some of our services I think we can make users more aware of for instance, their energy consumption. These are things we haven’t developed yet, but I can imagine the service cost in a shopping mall is a big issue as people are talking a lot about it. If we can display energy consumption in our app to our end customer that would be quite interesting, and it is a question that’s already been asked by our clients.”
  • Simaxx found that occupants in buildings that complained about issues, like temperature, didn’t have an open ear from facilities management. With their software they could show that the occupier was right and in turn reduce complaints.

Not if, but when

After a quick break of refreshments and networking, next up on stage was Linda Chandler, co-founder of Liquid Real Estate Innovation, which provides transformation and innovation consultancy to property companies. Linda is an expert in the use of technology across the built environment and also founded Hyperlocal Cities, which aims to solve long-term urban challenges. Linda previously led the smart city agenda for Microsoft in Asia and was CIO for the London Development Agency.

  • The theme of Linda’s session was ‘not if, but when’. Linda explained that “very often we hear that phrase in times of vigilance, very often it’s in a negative context around a threat, maybe a cyber or a terrorist attack. Let’s turn that phrase from a negative context to a positive one. Let’s look with great anticipation at how we can turn things into opportunity for the future.”
  • The first of two long term propositions Chandler wanted to look at was ‘valuing the digital asset’. Last year a report by Savills valued the global real estate market at 217 trillion dollars, 60% of all global assets. Some of those assets are measured using guidelines from RICS, which Chandler added that some would argue haven’t really changed.
  • At the World Built Environment forum, RICS held a mock investment panel and looked at three global properties in three global cities. When they were discussing them, it was all about location, amenities, utilities, the quality of build, the tenants and occupancy. As well as around the risks of environmental and political. Chandler highlighted that there wasn’t a lot of talk about the data. Chandler asked the question of how can we change the conversation to value the digital asset.
  • The 4 Vs of big data (volume, variety, velocity and veracity) is a common phrase but one Chandler believed to be missing is value.
  • WeWork have been valued as worth ten times its nearest competitor. Chandler prompted the question of whether this is how we start to value the intangibles, how we start to value brand or experience or data.
  • Chandler believes the future could be ‘The City is My Office’ and that we will come out of our ‘silos’ of working to have a much more horizontal layer across cities. She highlighted that she first came across this idea in education with the Gazelle group who are starting to think of higher education as not as a building but how to use a local garage or gym franchise as a school. Chandler explained that she thinks the same could happen with offices and working lives.
  • A key factor is the advent of hyperlocal co-working and how it redefines our cities and communities.
Linda Chandler, Liquid REI

Linda Chandler, Liquid REI

Society is in the iPhone stage, the built environment is in the Walkman phase 

Roger Tan, managing director of arch-tech company UNSense presented his ideas surrounding smart cities and buildings.

  • Tan highlighted that the world is changing, and more people are living in cities. 50% of the world population live in the urban environment which will increase to 70%.
  • However, he believes that “society is already in the iPhone age, the built environment is in the Walkman phase.”
  • UNSense sees an opportunity to build cities that are sensitive to humans and go beyond smart buildings.
  • Sensing, understanding and supporting are key words in this progression.
  • Tan highlighted the point that seensors are now ubiquitous and cheap.
  • We will see more mixed reality, with technology interlaced into our physical environment. One example being in Japan where a terminal hub has a digital floor which helps guide people more efficiently.
  • Voice interfaces will become common place and expected in professional environment and facades will become dynamic with interfaces.
  • Architects have always worked with stone, glass, and the more physical tradition material. Now, it’s time for architects to design with data.

How do we use sensors and data to make people happy? 

Erik Ubels, OVG Real Estate’s Chief Technology Officer, who is charged with driving innovation at the Amsterdam-based developer took to the stage to give an insight into what makes an EDGE Technologies building.

  • Ubels started with the question of ‘what separates EDGE Technologies from the pack?’. He explained: “I love technology, I love sensors, I love data analytics but it’s not about technology at the end of the day. It’s about what does the building do for people who live in the building, who work in the building, who have to get to the building. How do we make them more happy?”
  • One of the key things that EDGE does is hire behavioural scientists, health experts and psychologists to figure that question out.
  • Ubels went on to explain that big companies are more and more looking to attract people to the building due to the war of talent.
  • The Edge Olympic now allows people to talk to the room. Ubel pointed out that this might initially be a gadget but after some time it won’t be.
  • When EDGE find a plot, they find an architect and when the building is finished they personally take a 20-year main lease on the building to demonstrate they are serious about what they have built. They have changed their whole leasing perspective as well, and now offer options of three, five and seven years.
  • Ubels raised the point that the industry has been very fragmented, so many buildings are of low quality. This is due to people trying to build as cheap and quick as possible. The average lifecycle of a building is now down to 12 years.
  • Sensors are importants as they show what’s going on in the building. “With the sensors and with the data we can analyse and start optimising energy consumption. We can use the data to optimise the occupancy of the building.” explained Ubels.
  • “We do not just buy technology from the big vendors because we do not like what’s in their catalogue” said Ubels. It’s not about EDGE making the technology themselves, instead they want to drive those in the industry to do so.
  • In EDGE buildings they have one cloud system. It’s important as they then don’t have to worry if one of the partners is going to move along. For example, if Microsoft say they’re going to the next version, then by default that’s true for the rest of the technologies in the building.

Presentation Panel

After Ubel’s presentation he was then joined back on stage by Linda Chandler, of LIQUID REI, and Roger Tan from UNSense with Unger chairing.

Linda, in terms of valuing data and the idea of the city is the office, is there a role for authorities and regulators to step in and shape those valuations or is it more private sector play?

  • Chandler explained that cities are very difficult to deal with and asked the question of how do you sell to a city which is made up of a number of functions. Materially, in the property industry, Chandler believes that we can make more of a difference when cities are struggling from falling budgets.

Roger, are there some cities that are getting this right, in terms of innovation?

  • Tan pointed out UNSense are working with a couple of cities in the Netherlands right now, including Amsterdam that are driving innovation forward. However, he sees that many cities are struggling with seeing and concretising the added value of technology.

Erik, interesting around ideas of standardisation, can you share any of the lessons learnt about how easy that’s been?

  • Erik explained: “When worked with Philips on the lights, even with large companies they still need to understand that you can’t do it all by yourselves. We separate the sensors from the light infrastructure now because we can then change and update it. A lesson learnt is that if the big ones don’t listen to you, which usually happens, we need to push them to start moving to forward thinking. Then you go out and find a small company that wants to build a sensor for you, that wakes up the big companies. There’s always somebody who will build it when no one else will.”

Looking at the international strategies of your organisations, how are you going about doing that? How do different countries compare and what would your advice be for those looking to expand?

  • Chandler explained: “At LIQUID Real Estate we’re quite new, we’re focusing on the UK. Having had experience working in Asia and Europe it’s really about understanding how the city functions.”
  • UNSense’s strategy is to follow UNStudio, which has clients all over the world at top tier. Many of these are open to innovation therefore the plan is to export ideas by following the footprint of UNStudio.
  • EDGE Technologies started in the Netherlands, and has since moved to the US three years ago and is now going into France and the UK. EDGE want to be global but they’re going to focus more on a North American/European approach initially. Ubels explained: “The question going in is always ‘Is this tech globally applicable?’ Yes or no? If it’s not we don’t use it.”

View the slides from the presentations on our SlideShare page, using the below links:

Dick Fens, Simaxx

Sander Verseput, Chainels

Andy Dyer, Coyote Software

Linda Chandler, Liquid Real Estate Innovation

Roger Tan, UNSense

Erik Ubels, EDGE Technologies

Videos of all the presentations and discussions can be viewed on our YouTube channel

The next Trend Talk is due to take place on 31 October 2018 in London – click here for more information and to book.

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