David Willett is the product manager for Trimble Basis, a next generation platform for easily capturing and making sense of actual workplace utilization, offered by the real estate and workplace solutions division of Trimble Buildings. David is a registered architect who has spent his entire career designing and building things, from cogeneration plants to office buildings. His passion is good design, whether it be as tangible as a building or as intangible as a business plan.
How did you become involved in the Smart Buildings industry?
I was fortunate enough to attend architecture school during the personal computer revolution and to become a registered architect on the cusp of the Internet revolution. I’ve spent my entire career designing or overseeing the construction, maintenance or management of buildings. None of it would have been possible without technology. Today I work for one of the world’s leading software companies dedicated to the entire building lifecycle. It’s an exciting time for the industry as more and more technologies, such as IoT sensors, are built into refurbished or new infrastructure. With sensors, planners can see exactly how employees are using the office, identifying overused and underused areas. Access to more accurate data leads to more informed decisions and recommendations, such as redesigning the workplace to suit the changing needs of the organization.
What excites you about the Smart Buildings industry?
What excites me the most about the prospect of Smart Buildings is the unification of people and information in a more meaningful way. The behavioral data collected by IoT sensors or indoor positioning can be used to help organizations support new ways of working and provide valuable insight for more accurate business decisions on the strategic management of the building. For example, data can be used to produce an accurate picture of what’s happening within the building at any time. The information may also highlight any significant shifts in the demand for workspace, including any changes in the types of spaces that are required.
In addition, access to more meaningful data can help to improve workplace design - an important element of the building lifecycle and a challenge that now has strategic importance within the C-Suite. Workplace design can play a key role in attracting and retaining talent, reinforcing brand values and differentiating an organization from rival employers. Smart building data can help identify the types of workspace needed to optimize productivity and enable staff to communicate and collaborate more effectively with each other. This information can also be augmented with external statistics for work environment benchmarking.
Are there any particular technologies that we should be aware of, but are currently under the radar?
We haven’t heard many people talking about 5G and the impact true indoor Location-Based Services (LBS) will have. The spatial patterns that location-related data and services can provide is one of its most powerful and useful features when location is a common denominator. Using Bluetooth Beacon technology to create a high density positioning network within a building can provide added value, offering far more than the ability to instantly capture accurate utilization data. LBS has the potential to significantly enhance the way workspace is planned, managed and maintained and could fundamentally change the way people interact in the agile workplace of the future. When used with a smartphone or a tablet, LBS can drive functions such as indoor location monitoring, in-building navigation and wayfinding, location of colleagues and team members, and identification of staff and visitors. Solutions leveraging 5G could unlock the true potential of the built environment in much the same way that GPS did for outdoor navigation.
What services does your company offer?
As I mentioned earlier, I work for one of the world’s leading software companies dedicated to the entire building lifecycle. You may have heard of SketchUp, Tekla, e-Builder or Manhattan Software – all well-known industry brands that sit within Trimble’s Buildings portfolio. As a result, Trimble provides the widest breadth of technology solutions for managing real estate portfolios, optimizing building construction projects and streamlining workplace operations.
Earlier this year we launched a new software application designed to make it easier for corporate real estate teams to see how office workspace is being used. Built on our Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, Trimble Basis enables organizations to capture and measure actual workspace utilization as it happens. A flexible application programming interface (API) allows integration with a wide variety of occupancy sensors and indoor positioning systems to track space utilization. This ‘mixed fleet’ approach means users can select the type of sensors that best meet the needs across their entire real estate portfolio, as opposed to settle for one type from a single vendor. Workplace data can be visualized through interactive dashboards and Basis even allows organizations to display real-time space utilization on large-screen monitors positioned in the workplace. The software’s LivePlan system enables staff to orient themselves and easily identify available meeting rooms and workspaces.
Are people aware of the regulations that they will need to comply with in the near future?
The new lease accounting standards set by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) will come into effect at the end of 2018. The new rules mean current off-balance sheet leasing activities will have to be shown on the balance sheet. This will make it easier for investors and other users of financial statements to understand the exact rights and obligations associated with leasing commitments. However, because real estate is the largest or second-largest asset on the books of most businesses, this new requirement will have a significant impact on corporate balance sheets.
Once the dust settles, many lessees will see their operating cash flow increase; driving finance leaders to scrutinize real estate strategies, decisions on lease periods and the cost of fixed office space. To help answer some of these questions, property and real estate professionals will need to gain a more accurate understanding of space occupancy and usage. Smart buildings can provide just that through instant information about when, how and why a desk or a meeting room is being used, and who is occupying it. Measuring accurate up-to-date utilization data can then help teams make decisions about the way people are actually using the space of specific buildings and their entire portfolio. More accurate space management = optimized usage = lower costs = a positive impact on the balance sheet.
What are the benefits of a smart building?
There are a number of benefits associated with a smart building. Benefits include more active control of the building’s conditions, lower consumption of energy, more efficient maintenance and optimized workspaces. In summary, with the right technology, a smart building is easier and less expensive to operate and when designed properly, more pleasing to use.
Who has been the biggest influence in your career?
Many people came to mind as I considered this question, all of whom I am thankful for, but I would have to say that my architectural education has had the biggest impact on my career because it taught me how things fit together while not losing focus of the big picture.
What is the question you are most often asked in your business life?
I rarely get the same questions asked of me because things change so quickly.
What are the best/worst things about your job?
The best thing about my job is the satisfaction I get from solving problems and the relationships that form as a result of the process. The worst is that I tend to be impatient when it comes to
getting things built, whether it's software or an architectural project.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Believe in what you do. You need to have passion for what you are creating in order to make an impact.
What living person do you admire and why?
A 99-year-old family friend whose is still sharp as a tack yet demonstrates contemporary empathy that most of us would be lucky to emulate.
Where would you most like to live?
A place that has all 4 seasons and is, at most, a short drive from an ocean.
What is your favourite book?
I have many, but at the top of the list is the Master and Commander series by Patrick O’Brian.
How do you relax?
Sitting back and admiring a job well done, be it a shiny car, a manicured yard or a gourmet meal.
What sports team do you support?
The New England Patriots
What is your desert island disk?
Stadium Arcadium, Red Hot Chili Peppers
What is your ideal holiday?
One that is long enough to actually relax.