Smart home: Brave new world


From the intelligent door to a digitally controllable bath: Xing founder, Lars Hinrichs, has built a multi-family house in Hamburg full of smart home technology. At the dmexco fair he showed how the components interact. And explained his vision: a house that can be modernised with software.

The new way of living begins at the front door. “It is the most intelligent door in the world,” Lars Hinrichs explains. “It can be opened using a smartphone and if anybody tries to break into the house through it, a sensor registers that and sends a message to the smartphone.” Hinrichs developed the door together with a company from Augsburg. The door contains a surveillance camera, microphone and sensors and communicates with the user’s smartphone via Bluetooth.

Hinrichs has made a name for himself as the founder of the business networking platform, Xing. He has been a member of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Telekom since 2013. Now he is venturing into new territory as a property developer. In Hamburg, the 39-year-old has built Germany’s technically most ambitious multi-family building. The building in the up-market district of Rotherbaum is called Apartimentum and consists of 45 apartments.

A first prototype of the special door was installed in Lars Hinrichs’s Apartimentum in April 2016. This smart door costs the princely sum of 6,500 euros.

Hinrichs rents out the apartments on six-month, one-year or also four-year leases. “I call the model ‘Living as a Service’,” he explains. “It is aimed primarily at business people who are working at one location for some time.” He charges 4,000 to 11,500 euros a month – including electricity, water and Internet. For so much money the tenants also get a lot of technology. In a presentation on the stage of the Cologne trade fair, dmexco, Hinrichs showed how the smart home components in the building work.

Mobile devices control the Apartimentum

Residents can use apps to control when the light goes on in the morning and what music should play while they are showering. The bath tub also responds to digital commands and can be filled while the user is on his way home. The entire system reflects his philosophy: “The smartphone is the remote control to our whole life and in particular to this apartment,” Hinrichs explains. Even the letterbox notifies the user when post arrives.

Electronic thermostats in the heating system note preferences and control the temperature according to the particular residents’ habits. And they lower it automatically when nobody is home.

“The smartphone is the remote control to our whole life and in particular to this apartment.”

The smart features go right into the kitchen. When the cooker is on, the extractor hood and room ventilation switch on automatically – when needed. “All that increases everyday convenience and comfort,” Hinrichs enthuses. “I call it instant comfort.” The components can also be controlled via iPads, at least three of which are hanging on the walls of each apartment.

When you leave your apartment, the door assists you once again. It sends a signal to the lift to come to your level. Just a few steps and the lift is waiting for you with the door open. “The apartment door is just so practical. If a relationship breaks up, you don’t have to wait a long time for the key to be returned, you just delete the access account,” says Hinrichs with a wink at the dmexco.

Your apartment knows when you are there

Theoretically, the building could also record information about relationships. “Some 580 measuring points are installed in the building, from which we collect data in real time,” Hinrichs explains. “For example, the system knows when the residents are at home – and above all when they are not.”

“The apartment door is just so practical. If a relationship breaks up, you don’t have to wait a long time for the key to be returned, you just delete the access account.”

These data mainly help Hinrichs to optimise the heating: “If the central heating system reports that fewer residents are at home, it no longer has to run at full capacity but can be reduced to 60% or 50% of capacity.” On the technical side, a cogeneration unit and a heat storage unit ensure optimum control. “I believe that the Apartimentum will use at least 30% less energy than a normal building,” Hinrichs predicts.

Naturally, data protection questions arise for potential residents. “Every lease states that we collect these data so we can offer our services,” Hinrichs explains. “And the data collected cannot be traced back to the individual apartments.”

The kitchen appliances also communicate with one another. When the cooker is on and the room starts getting steamed up, the extractor hood and room ventilation switch on automatically.

He is, of course, very aware that this is a sensitive subject. For example, there is just one connection for a surveillance camera in the living rooms, but no camera is actually installed. “That is up to the tenant,” Hinrichs says.

Prospect of an appreciation in value

It remains to be seen whether Hinrichs will be successful with his Apartimentum. Some apartments are already rented out and Hinrichs has the chance of increasing the value of his property with the smart home concept. According to a survey conducted by the German Real Estate Association (Immobilienverband Deutschlands) in October 2015, 23% of tenants and even 37% of property buyers are interested in smart home technologies.

So every software update might well increase the value of a property. And Hinrichs would be one of the first to reap the benefits: “This is the first building to provide such a comprehensive infrastructure that it can continue to develop through software upgrades,” Hinrichs says and predicts: “In five years’ time, the bedroom will provide data and products to sleep better and the bathroom will be a health centre.”


High growth expected in the home automation market

Picture credits: ista, grasundsterne, HGEsch, Hennef