On July 22, three up-and-coming property technology (“PropTech”) companies pitched their businesses and technology solutions in front of a panel of real estate and technology industry leaders. With a similar format to that of CBC’s Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank in the US, presenters had 5 minutes to introduce their businesses and convince the panel that they were worthy of investing in (albeit, no real prize money was on the line).
The ULI Toronto event was sponsored and hosted by Deloitte at its Bay Adelaide Centre office. Multiplex also acted as an event sponsor.
Opening the event was keynote speaker Sameer Verma, Internet of Things (IoT) Leader at Deloitte, who introduced IoT and discussed its potential added business value. The phrase IoT has been in use for several decades, but with cheaper storage costs and increased processing power, the technology has recently gained attention and exposure.
“If you can connect a physical device to the internet, that is IOT,” said Verma. He described that there are already sensors in most devices and apps and that IoT is more about the collection of data using those existing sensors and using it to help solve business problems. Deloitte, as Verma described, has used IoT to improve the experience of their employees by using sensors to tell employees what desks are open on what floor.
Another potential use Verma described is predictive maintenance, with an example of a vibration or speed sensor on a piece of machinery. “Take any motor, we can put a sensor on it, and what it will do with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), or machine learning, we can figure out what the ideal speed is. Then anytime there is an anomaly, it can send a message to the monitoring team that this motor has something coming up,” Verma said. “That is the power of IOT — where it can tell the machine is about to break maybe weeks in advance and there is a problem coming and we need to go and fix it proactively rather than reactively.”
Following Verma’s presentation, the three panelists were introduced who would be providing commentary and feedback on each of the three companies. The three panelists were: Angela Choi, Manager of Value Creation Services, M&A Advisory at Deloitte; Thano Lambrinos, VP of Smart Building Technology, Digital Innovation at QuadReal; and Mary Criebardis Singh, Head of Ventures at R-Labs.
The first presentation was made by Daryl Letto, VP of Solutions Engineering at Shift Energy. Shift Energy is a Mariner company headquartered in Saint John, New Brunswick. Shift Energy’s Energy Optimization Software (EOS) helps to increase the energy efficiency of buildings by optimizing its mechanical systems (HVAC or lighting). Letto mentioned that real time data collection, analysis, and optimization can lead to a measurable Return on Investment (ROI) by saving 10% to 20% of a building’s operating costs.
David Kim, CFO at Xandar Kardian, presented next. A promotional video that Kim played summarizes: “Using 10 million micropulses per second, Xandar Kardian can detect how many people are on a floor of a shopping mall or in a particular office space, or even a corridor at an airport… Imagine controlling your HVAC and lighting by simply knowing where and how many people are in each room of your facility.” Using these data points, Kim described an application of this technology in malls, supermarkets, or in LCBOs where a business is able to determine the busiest areas to help with product placement or determining rents. The data is anonymized as it doesn’t include any person information, only physiological data (sound, movement, and vibrations) which is beneficial in light of privacy concerns raised in media like Black Mirror, a science fiction television show that explores the unintended negative consequences of technology.
Presenting next was Shashbishan Yenkanchi, a machine learning specialist with Netramark. Netramark is an explainable AI company that features a smart building platform called NetraIoT. “One of the major problems that property managers and owners deal with in smart buildings is security… Another problem smart buildings face is the big data problem,” Yenkanchi said. He describes that terabytes of data from sensors such as cameras or wifi signals are collected and stored every day which can increase storage and processing costs. He presented Netramark’s three solutions to these problems: CRUSH, an algorithm that compresses and integrates the data collected from smart buildings; LOZEN, a cyber security platform that is able to detect potential cyber threats; and ARGOS, a computer platform that uses all available sensor data on the premises and fuses the information in a meaningful way.
The presentations were each followed by a round of questions and feedback from each panelist. Criebardis Singh offered positive feedback for Shift Energy’s automation aspect, “There’s a lot of other products on the market, and they usually require human interference, so automation is really valuable,” he said. On Xandar Kardian’s presentation, Lambrinos noted, “The tech is clearly very advanced and very interesting. Some of the use cases on the health care side were extremely interesting.” Choi offered the panelist’s comments for Netramark, saying, “It’s really creative in the ability to integrate all of the existing data and to ‘crush’ it, it was interesting and we think could be scalable.”
Although no prize money or “offers”, both the panelists and the crowd chose Xandar Kardian as the company they would most likely choose to invest in.
With Toronto rated number three in North America for tech talent (CBRE’s 2019 Scoring Tech Talent Report, July 2019) as well as the city having the most active construction cranes in North America at 120 cranes (RLB’s North American Crane Index), the conditions are ripe for more exciting technological innovations in Toronto’s real estate and land development industry.