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The connected home concept offers the entire property sector considerable scope for innovation in terms of both services and business models. Diego Harari, sustainable development and innovation director at VINCI Immobilier, and David Ernest, innovation and energy director at VINCI Facilities, explain their viewpoints.

How can digital technology revolutionise residential housing?

Diego Harari. Through a service-based value proposition. In the residential property market, service delivery has long been associated with the role of building caretaker. At a time when this profession is becoming obsolete, digital technology is set to reinject a culture of service into multi-occupancy buildings and private housing, offering not just controlled costs but also an enhanced value proposition.

David Ernest. Smart homes also represent a market-driven solution. The residential property sector is lagging behind in terms of the digital practices seen in all sections of society. This gap must be closed, especially since it is millennials – for whom living in homes that are “disconnected” from digital culture is inconceivable – who will be our next clients.

What should the new value proposition cover?

D.H. Let’s talk about private housing first. Innovation must be both scalable and open. It’s vital that our clients have the option to enhance – according to their needs and to residents’ needs – the range of services in the ecosystem that we provide. It’s also vital that this ecosystem is open to third parties. For instance, for elderly people receiving home care, what is the value of having a sensor system that detects abnormal behaviour if it isn’t backed up by a service that provides assistance?

And what of common parts in buildings?

D.H. We are starting to roll out services that are “common” to multi-occupancy buildings: smart lockers that enable residents to receive deliveries of online purchases when they are not at home, e-concierge systems to extend the service link to surrounding shops, shared cars, shared car-parks, etc.

D.E. I agree, scalable and open ecosystems are essential. But beyond the type of applications and features included in each property delivery, the value proposition must first and foremost be designed around housing performance: it’s about making space easier to use for end clients. What we should be aiming for above all is simplicity, giving clients the possibility to access the full set of service offerings from a single application. So this means ensuring all service components converge in a single management application.

That implies that the various players in the property sector must work collaboratively.

D.E. The digital revolution is set to have an impact on the entire property value chain. Professionals in the property sector must together find answers to the questions that will structure their innovations and service offerings going forward: who does what, who is taking over from whom and in which areas, and how should responsibility be transferred? Ultimately, again, it’s about delivering a comprehensive range of high value-added services.

D.H. The concept of partnership is crucial. As a developer, we must choose the best solutions for each problem. In December 2017, VINCI Immobilier delivered in Blagnac (in the Gironde department in south-western France) a connected apartment block with 78 housing units, fitted out with smart home infrastructure provided by a pool of specialists: Legrand for the roller shutters and lighting control, Netatmo for the smart thermostat, Ista for remote meter reading and La Poste for the digital hub used to control all of these functions.

What is the impact of all of this on the sector’s business model?

D.E. The smart home concept requires convergence among trades across the value chain. Developers will shift their value downstream, while facility managers will move their value upstream to take over the services aspect of the software interfaces set up by developers. This will apply both to technical maintenance and caretaking services. And let’s not forget, a high level of service cannot be fully achieved if offerings are not centred around people.