Digitalization in the real estate industry - Apleona and IBM rely on new technologies

Digitalization also does not stop at the proverbial concrete gold – that is real estate, which is fixed by definition, quasi immobile. But the real estate industry is on the move and more and more companies are realising the advantages of digital transformation and using the thrust of new technologies such as cloud, AI or blockchain.

An example is Apleona, which is one of the largest real estate service providers in Europe with a turnover of more than two billion euros and manages properties of all asset classes in over 30 countries. Apleona has recognized that it can expand its established facility management model by becoming a strategic partner to its corporate clients and transforming its offering into a digital one. Since 2017, Apleona has been working with IBM in a digital partnership, which is being continuously expanded. A number of common ideas have already been implemented and since this year there are the following new applications:

  • Room Booking is the easy and fast booking of rooms without much time expenditure via mobile apps. In addition, a visual representation is available on the mobile device to show which rooms are occupied or vacant. This allows you to find vacant rooms at short notice without having to wander around the building for a long time.
  • With Smart Ticketing, Office Workers can use a mobile app to create a so-called "ticket" with just a few clicks if they notice a problem in the office (e.g. contamination or defective devices). The Office Worker can track the processing of this order via the ticket in the app - simply and straightforward. Watson KI Services make it possible to "spot" problems in order to automatically create a categorized ticket.
  • Finally, Energy Pods are innovative and comfortable mini cabins for "power naps" in everyday office life, optionally accompanied by music or guided meditations. The stylish Energy Pods are used for "battery charging" for the employees and can also be booked by mobile. In the IBM headquarter, four of the units are in use and very popular - further are being planned for other locations.

New technologies and agile methods as key to innovative solutions
The new solutions were developed in the IBM Garage for Cloud in a co-creation model together with Apleona and experienced IBM IT consultants. Most of the applications are hosted on the IBM Cloud in the data center in Frankfurt, but they can be used flexibly according to IBM's customer-oriented, hybrid and scalable multicloud principle. Cooperation with existing Microsoft Azure solutions is also possible without any problems.

Every development is based on existing data, the intelligent use of which in real estate management - as in so many other industries - is key to new offerings. Data Analystics, Cognitive Automation, Edge Computing and last but not least AI are the keywords here; in connection with sensor technology and clouds, which make the processing and transmission of these data streams secure in the first place. This creates smart environments that are optimally adapted to the needs of the people working in them.

Innovative and agile methods are also an important success factor for digital transformation. Apleona and IBM work together in the IBM Garage for Cloud model, which has proven its worth and is to be expanded. In the IBM Watson IoT Center, we have currently rolled out the room booking solution and the center serves as a co-creation space in which IBM collaborates with Apleona. This innovative space is located on the 25th floor of the center and enables agile work.

From the laboratory to scaling
The real estate industry has recognized the opportunities of digitization, but there are also critical voices asking for business cases and cost savings. How do you quickly scale the new solutions? "In our industry, innovation and monetization must always be thought together. That's why it is so important that new ideas like the opportunities developed with IBM always have competitive advantages, efficiency improvements and better resource utilization in mind," said Dr. Keysberg, CEO of Apleona, during a panel discussion at Expo Real 2019.

With such digital solutions, individual potentials can be exploited. Real estate service providers thus offer real added value and exploit the opportunities offered by IT. The real estate industry cannot escape digitalization and, like Apleona, other facility managers will have to face new challenges in order to survive in the market. "Simply start, develop agilely and bring the necessary expertise to the table, then quickly validate and try it out with the addressed users - in our experience, this is how it usually works," explains Stefan Lutz, General Manager, IBM Services Transformation Program Leader at IBM.

And indeed, there are already new customers from various industries who are relying on the innovation of Apleona and IBM - including a large German bank and globally active companies from the technology and energy & automation industries. The solutions will also be used in other IBM locations. In 2020, further applications that have been in use since 2018 will be rolled out - so it remains exciting.

Author: Olaf Rick, Client Executive, IBM Global Markets