Meet the Minds – Putting People back in Smart Building Technologies – By Michelle van Weverwijk

12CU – Meet the Minds Nr 6

How do I reduce real estate costs while boosting employee productivity, keeping them happy and engaged?” This question touches upon the challenge of balancing. Balancing the money spent on space with the comfort of workers. The ultimate goal is to promote happiness among workers. Hence we selected the theme of happiness for the upcoming few Meet the Mind articles. We started by asking ourselves the question: What makes you happy at work. One of the first answers: Feeling like you can be productive! Hence today’s focus: Promoting Productivity using Smart Building Technologies When do you feel most happy? You feel happy when you have been productive!

As mentioned before, the everlasting battle between Finance or Human Resource management is cost vs employee happiness. This battle boils down to the following question: “How can we save on the staggering costs of real estate, without compromising on my employee’s motivation?” and what insights do I need to know how much space my employees need? Drivers to this question are the changing attitudes towards a more traditional workstyle as well as climbing real estate costs in bigger cities. It is only when you work in an environment that fit your work style that you become productive. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The answer to this business dilemma possibly lies in Smart Building Technologies.


Simply speaking, buildings with intelligent systems in place can automatically control many of its functions, for example, lighting, security, climate and a whole myriad of additional operations. However, this is not smart yet. What separates an intelligent building from its big brother, the way more capable Smart Building is the smart system integration. This integration includes a building’s operational networks, IoT devices and use of information technology. By integrating these individual systems, all of the retrieved data combined lead to insight into how the building is used and interacted with. This data can then be analysed in greater detail.

We ate 12CU analyse data in real-time implementing artificial intelligence software. As a result, two-way dialogue between user and building can be created. This takes Smart-Building even further. What makes a building truly smart is that a self-learning system grows and learns over time to answer to its users’ needs – a building becomes increasingly helpful to the people who use it over time.


All of the above sounds fantastic doesn’t it. Still, there are two options when implementing Smart Building Technologies both with very different result.

First of all a Technology-centric approach. What do we mean by a technology-centric approach? Implementing Smart Building technologies for the sake of staying up to date. Today, everyone is discussing the different opportunities technology offers to make our buildings function better. Professionals provide an overwhelming flood of AI, IoT, Big Data Solutions, Algorithms, ones and zeros and the pressure to go along with trends is higher than ever. In a rush to stay relevant we fill up our buildings with the most expensive hardware. We listen to the most beautiful promises of how these technologies will improve our lives. In the process we lose track of the work style of our employees and thus the needs of employees, leaving them struggling to be productive. By the end, we are left with a high-tech optimised pile of concrete that isn’t truly helpful to our employees and therefore fails to make them happy and productive.

The second option we prefer is a Human-Centric approach to Smart Building Technologies. In essence, Smart Building Technologies build connections, creating an environment that connects building users with information about the space specifically. It does so to be helpful to building users. So the questions to ask in a human-centric approach is: what Smart Building Technologies would be helpful to my building users? Our answer would be tools that allow users to save time, find colleagues faster, book meeting rooms for them, show where best to sit down and work, and that’s just the beginning. It is crucial in every choice to refocus on your people and find the tools that will allow you to attain the goal of increasing productivity among your employees in as little space as possible. The only way of doing so is by creating a Smart Building that can learn and get to know it’s users needs.


Now we still haven’t discussed what factors within a building influence productivity. So we haven’t answered our initial question quite yet. We have found that, productivity increases when we have a workplace able to respond to the needs of employees, a workplace that relieves stress over trivial things such as noise, privacy, search for a workplace or other office amenities.  Allowing employees to work productively means that an office layout should reflect the workstyle enjoyed by its employees. The past couple of years have seen a marked increase in workplace mobility – generally few people work from the same desk or even the same building every day. Employees walk, brows, switch, leave a trail of laptops, phones, papers and pens behind, and also occasionally work from home. With this flexible and remote working becoming the norm, a gap comes to exist between the workspace and work style. Consequently, the workspace needs to evolve to accommodate this new approach better.

So how can a Smart Office help solve the problem of empty desks while still enabling a flexible work style and make employees happy?

Smart buildings can analyse building users and show where they like to work and floors employees would rather avoid. Places that remain empty all the time probably do not fit the workstyle needs of employees. Smart Technologies focused on people could notify business leaders and come up with a real picture of building use. As a result, business leaders can come to understand how people walk, brows, and use office space. Based on an understanding of “productive behaviour” the office layout can be adapted. As a result, how a building is used becomes the basis of your office layout and the amount of space you rent. By understanding office use and making decisions based on the behaviour of building users we strike a balance between costs and employee happiness/productivity. We at 12CU like to call this process of analysing: Human-Centric Office Analytics.


We see two positive results of Human-Centric Office Analytics. Firstly, this approach harnesses the power of a smart building, generating a material reduction in operational real estate costs. Additionally, it draws attention to the needs of your employees. Answering to the needs of employees will help them become more productive.

Today, companies have started to place employee welfare and productivity way higher on the company agenda than ever before. One of the most important enablers of this paradigm shift in working culture has been technology. We believe it is technology that will help people conduct business in new ways. It has already done so for years as Youth Incorporated underlines in their article how has technology changed the way we world. From a human-centric perspective, technology will only become truly helpful when our focus is placed on people and not just because everyone else is using it! This is why we focus on people in our 12CU products. Technology and people can go hand in hand with the right guidance and a strong human-focus.

So can Smart Building Technologies contribute to employee productivity and help save on real estate costs? Absolutely, as long as we put people back into Smart Building Technologies, select tools only when they lead to an understanding of how employees work, and tools that help us understand what employees need to become productive. At least that’s 12CU’s opinion.



Meet the Minds – Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the SMARTEST of them all – By Michelle van Weverwijk

12CU – Meet the Minds Nr 5

This month, we are putting smart office technologies to the test. I took a look at one of the biggest international Smart Office jams. RBC Waterpark place in Toronto. I wanted to know whether being “so smart” lead to actual ROI for RBC or not. Why? Well, I have always been the kind of person only to take tools seriously when I have seen their positive results in practice.

Image by Iconics UK Ltd.


The last couple of months offered the perfect opportunity to conduct my little experiment. I spend time visiting old friends in Ottawa Canada, and while I was there, I heard rumours about this “smartest building of them all” in Toronto. Now, with smart office technologies, everything (OBVIOUSLY) sounds smart, but the question whether it is remains somewhere up in the air. So, I turned to great uncle Google to find the address and visit them. Before my visit, I came up with my list of smart-jam checkpoints.

I based the list on what I thought to be the ultimate trilogy of smart office technology.

  1. Increased productivity
  2. Saving money (can you blame me, We’re talking business after all)
  3. Lessening environmental footprints ( yes, I am one of those hipsters)


Picture by SkyriseCities

Allow me to bring you along during that moment visiting RBC Waterpark place: I opened the door, and while stepping inside, I had to blink at least twice to take it all in. Grand, white, spacious, glass… so much glass and people seemed, well, happy.

Still, what I went inside to see was not only the interior but especially someone to talk to about the results of the project. Finally, I found a Facility Manager willing to sit down with me. He explained that RBC built this Smart Office to enhance employee satisfaction and productivity. I can only think of one word to describe this office: uber-connected. The office directs employees to the quickest elevator; It adjusts the height of your desk soon as you sit down. The building even recognises the number of people sitting in a meeting room and adjusts the room temperature accordingly. For me, to see all integrated technologies work together as one vast technological eco-system blew my mind. I took some time to talk to the people working there to check off my smart-jam check-points before going back to “reality”.

Flabbergasted as I was, I sat down for a coffee nearby to sort through my thoughts. It honestly felt like I had just spent an hour inside a chapter of my favourite science fiction story. Believe me; I’m just a simple (wo)man trying to make my way in the Smart Office universe managing 12CU’s marketing. I know that our team is working on similar tools I saw at RBC. As a consequence, I understand it would seem weird for me to feel this surprised but I honestly was. I guess I am just more like an ordinary Harry, uncertain of how all these smart technologies come together and transform a building and its users.

I managed to get over the initial shock and started looking over the answers of the employees RBC gave when it dawned on me. Instead of feeling overwhelmed the people at RBC felt relieved. They felt more productive, check. Facility indicated they saved money in space and electricity, check. The Co2 output had even decreased significantly over the last year, so yes even environmental friendliness, CHECK.

Funny enough seeing these answers reminded me of conversations I had with 12CU about their product and the future when I became part of the 12CU team nine months ago. I mentioned it once before in another Meet-the-Minds article, but the gist of it was that smart office technologies are all about people. Additionally, it is not something for the future. It is something we need today. As Star Wars writers put it so adequately:

“In time, the suffering of your people will persuade you to see our point of view.’ Obviously, the quote is just a joke. But Star Wars does make a point. Why not take a lesson from RBC and use tools like ours to improve the workplace of your employees?

Authors note

When I found myself on a plane to take me home, I held a better understanding of the company I am proud to work for. At 12CU the future is just so clear: show everyone that smart office technologies are not intimidating. No, 12CU works to keep smart office technologies simple to simplify the lives of clients and illustrate that transformation can start today. RBC showed me that the mandate held by 12CU is realistic. Working towards becoming a smart office is just a matter of doing so. Our lives, our worlds and the way we work are all influenced by today’s digitalisation. It seems almost ridiculous to protest the integration of technologies to have a building serve us. Doesn’t it just sound like a logical next step? Or is that just me? Anyways I’ll leave you all to answer these questions for yourselves.

Because (1) I cannot help my nerdy nature and (2) I was still looking to end this blog post funnily, I’ll round it up with one last Star Wars reference:  ‘You can’t stop the change, any more than you can prevent the suns from setting.’ So let’s see how we can make change exciting working together.

Meet the Minds – Let’s say Artificial Intelligence will dictate our future, then what? – By Michelle van Weverwijk

12CU – Meet the Minds nr 4

Every technology we use is already changing our lives in profound ways. I guess for us at 12CU AI is a practical tool for the present and not just a fun article about the future.

Artificial Intelligence, let’s see what the experts have to say!

AI, short for Artificial intelligence, has been changing all of our lives for decades. Still, never has AI felt more ubiquitous than it does today.

Let’s be honest, it seems as though not a single week passes without yet another AI system appearing that overcomes any unprecedented hurdle or just outperforms human beings.

To us, this sparked the question: What will happen next? But exactly how the future of AI will pan out for our society remains to be seen. We do not like to receive a “no” for an answer and so we decided to dig deeper.

We lined up five AI experts including researchers, roboticists, and computer scientists to shed some light on the future. Their testimonies include a couple of the most profound change artificial intelligence could bring.

By the end, we’ll tell you more about what our perspective is on the future of AI within humankind.

Pieter Abbeel, Simply Robotics

Let’s start off with Pieter Abbeel, a computer scientist at the University of California. Pieter believes that robots will keep us safe, especially when disaster strikes.

AI for robotics will enable us to address the challenges that come with taking care of an ageing world population. They will allow much longer independence.

Insights given my smart city analysis will enable us to drastically reduce, or maybe even eliminate, traffic accidents and deaths.

Shimon Whiteson, we are all cyborgs

Next up: Shimon Whiteson, an associate professor at the Informatics Institute at the University of Amsterdam, he says everyone will become a cyborg.

“I believe in a future filled with cyborgs, where all of our bodies are at least partly automated. I am sure this is a part of AI that people really underestimate.’ According to Shimon, People prefer to think, there’s “us” humans and then there is “them” the computers. A scenario where either the computers will be our friends or where they’ll be our enemies. At least, we’ll exist separate from one another.

That’s simply not true, he thinks the human and the computer will quickly become just one tightly-coupled cognitive unit. Just Imagine how much productivity would increase once we could augment our human brains with infallible memory and infallible calculators.

Society is already challenged by hard questions about privacy limits and cyber-security raised by the internet. AI will just continue to push these boundaries.  Imagine the internet as part of your brain and hackers who can just hack into your “being”. A fun concept to think about, but it sure will be happening.

Yoky Matsuoka, we’ll be better!

Yoky Matsuoka Commentary from Yoky Matsuoka, former Vice President of Technology at Nest, says AI implants will make humans better at everything.

AI will come to function as an assistant for humans. IT will serve to make us better, making what humans aspire to do and what humans dream to become, way easier to achieve.

Just imagine the following scenario: what if you would lose one of your limbs and as a result, you can’t swim as fast as you used to, and you could just get AI to control this robotic limb that’s attached to your body and efficiently allow you to swim once again?

Those are the ways, our brain is in control today. However, to an extent, there are things that our bodies can’t fix, if those spare parts could be intelligently handled, the future would be perfect, if you ask Yoky. It’s almost like a partnership between man and machine.

Joanna Bryson, Change starts today

Joanna Bryson,  computer scientist and a visiting fellow at the Princeton University, says some of these amazing applications are already here, and it’s making people easier to predict.

Basically, what learning is about, for us as well as for machine learning, is using the past to understand and then predict the future.

You might be able to predict who will start dating next year or who will get a divorce. You can understand exactly when people are going to have kids by having AI analyze the stuff people buy and what neighbourhoods they move into. You can figure out more and more intimate details and be able to predict what each person will do. This is already happening today.

Peter Stone, We won’t notice what’s happening

But these changes will happen so slowly we won’t really be able to notice it at first, Peter Stone, a computer scientist at the University of Texas, Austin, says.

There’s not one most significant change AI will make within society. AI is really embedded in many devices we use on a daily basis, from cars to or smartphones to search engines, everything. Peter thinks all of these, every technology we use, are already changing our lives in profound ways.

The change caused by AI is a cumulative effect of everything in our lives, AI inherent to many of the technologies that have been changing our world over the last several decades and will continue to do so.

So what about the here and the now??

Okay, we’ve had our fun. Now, it is time to shed some light on the industry we find ourselves in. Our entire service is based on AI. Hence, we are more than familiar with the multifaceted side of AI. The above-described speculations are an interesting read, but we prefer to focus on the here and now while baring the future possibilities in mind.

The 12CU perspective

Our team focuses on creating Smart Buildings. Gathering data to transform your building into a partner. Like Yoky said, the ideal future is one of a “partnership between man and machine’. We see your building as a partner who will tell you when and where to work, what time to take the elevator, and when to meet colleagues for lunch. That is only the beginning.

Funny enough we recognize ourselves in all five of the previous perspectives. We experience every day how our clients are challenged by hard questions about privacy limits and cyber-security. Yet we believe in protecting privacy while still seeing the potential in using Wi-Fi data. By retrieving data through Wi-Fi we can increase employee productivity and understand the needs of building users. Our solution is based on a self-learning algorithm, and just like us, our algorithm uses the past to understand and then predict the future. This will help you to adapt your building layout to the needs of the building user. Our buildings have the amazing potential to serve us and improve our lives. I guess for us at 12CU AI is a practical tool for the present and not just a fun article about the future. This is why we live by the mission of making office analytics simple and showing our clients that progress can start today. Other than that, of course, we’d like to be the first to have a fully functioning robot on the team. But even though that might be talking about the future, we’ll never be scared to look ahead. For now, our office analyzer comes pretty close.

Meet The Minds – TECHNOLOGY, BUILDING, BIG DATA, IoT…. Wait a second, it is about people – By Martijn Traa

It’s no longer a nicety to have a random set of smart building applications.
A smart environment is one where technology works in tandem with people and continues to evolve in line with their needs. 


Let’s take a look at IoT, a hot topic among the smart building community. The Internet of Things “IoT”, allows employees to connect to each other and to their surroundings easily. As a result, employees’ collaboration and productivity increases. Simultaneously, all facets of the buildings the employees occupy are readied for reconfiguration in order to generate a more relevant and effective workspace. This, in the end then leads to significant cost-savings. Sounds pretty sophisticated and yet perhaps a little “Big Brother is Watching You” ish, we understand.

Of course, the above-described scenario is the ideal. Some people may say that we’re all dreamers, and critiques may hold the opinion that this kind of holistic approach where everything is integrated and connected, which is redefining what we mean with a smart space, is long overdue. The biggest problem, however, is that over the course of prior years the “smart” label has been used loosely and carelessly just to enhance any business narrative and therefore has lost its true meaning.

Many organizations forget to look at “smart” technologies as a complex technology that functions almost like an ecosystem with human functioning at the centre of this intricate system. And so, despite good intentions and generous budgets, the focus when trying to evolve into a smart building becomes too narrow, pressure is put on the organisation to get along on this trend of digitalization and as a result key errors are made around basic implementation which ultimately thwarts success.


Don’t get me wrong. The concept “smart building” is about technologies and software first and foremost. Yet, the key component to making smart building technologies work together effectively is the ability of technology to understand human behaviour. Almost like a form of empathy. Today, applying a piecemeal, ad hoc approach to smart technology is a common pitfall. The critical element that is missing is an overarching system which is able to make sense of the way that the end-user engages and interacts with the building.

Many organisations deploy truly intelligent systems placed into discreet silos where no one can find them, solely functioning at an infrastructure or even just an operational level. This results in critical data being collected in a singular fashion to resolve singular issues causing them to become redundant. Why? Well because data does not mean anything when it is viewed individually instead of in the context of a whole building “ecosystem”. Think of it as baking a cake, if you take away the eggs and put in solely the milk flour and sugar you will never end up with a nice dessert  And so again, More often than not, the humanistic element that is absolutely essential to creating a truly smart, engaging environments is seen as the lowest priority or in some instances even as an ingrediënt that can just be skipped.

A building is only able to become really smart when all data works in collaboration to make the environment more engaging, employees more productive and work more efficiently. This requires continual two-way interactivity and an overarching system to make sense of the dispersed data input. At the heart of true smart-technology, we find a connected human-centric strategy.

A Smart environment, a human-centric environment

The “smart” arena can come to feel as a hard to cross minefield for time-strapped and cost-conscious businesses trying to implement smart technologies. With the increasing number of organisations that are looking to maximise their office spaces more effectively, to increase efficiencies, and to foster workforce productivity and retention, causes the need to transform business practices. The need for transformation is becoming paramount.

The Smart thinkers can no longer be confined to energy efficiencies, lighting and security; detailed knowledge and strategy is critical to creating a functional smart ecosystem.

A smart environment is one where technology works in tandem with people and continues to evolve in line with their needs. Notably, a human-centric ethos permeates all propositions. Only with this synergy does our own 12CU software have the foundations to cause broader organizational change and the means to affect the way that people work.

By creating a sustainable Smart eco-system you do not only bring greater efficiency and convenience to your working place, but it can even have a great impact on your employee’s overall well-being. The “Smart” will become a central tool in the retention and productivity of talent because people will be working in a human-centric environment supported by technology.

If you could describe a truly connected, smart environment as a sum of parts, making the initially described vision work in practice involves addressing the challenge of integrating all elements into one cohesive, single software platform. Drawing and integrating information from a variety of Big Data sources, while making sure stringent security controls are in place, requires a scalable underlying architecture that is agile and ready to adapt to the changing behaviours of human beings.

The solution to meeting these growing demands is found in software solutions such as our own. Organisations that want to take control of their real estate, while supporting their connected employees, and attracting and retaining the best talent, need to have holistic smart technologies and strategies in place for their buildings. It’s no longer a nicety to have a random set of smart building applications. A sustainable, human-centric It has become a necessity in today’s business world.