Through the brave smart world with Dario Cohen


Dario Cohen has now been at ista for just over a year. As a Senior Vice President, he has helped to set up a newly created international department, which combines marketing, business development, product management and sales controlling. He has now answered INSIDEista's questions on the current market situation, the latest trends and developments.

The whole world is talking about digitisation. In short: what does “digital” mean for you?
Digitisation opens up fantastic possibilities for us. Thanks to new technologies and digital data, we are in a position to better understand our environment, our work processes and, in general, even our existence. The insight that we gain as a result of these data also leads to new business models which, in turn, can generate tremendous added value for customers. The Internet of Things is already penetrating our everyday lives now: networked devices are creating an intelligent environment and making our lives, our cars and soon our apartments “smart”.

It really gets exciting when you automatically notice that there is a 90% probability that a heating system will break down in the next two weeks.

Smart home is a similar buzzword. What makes a building smart?
A building is smart when various data from the building and on how it is used are combined, resulting in intelligent conclusions and control mechanisms. You collect information about whether the windows are closed, whether the heating is on and what the humidity in the room is. Depending on whether someone is in the room or not, the evaluation of these data is used to automatically turn down the heating, for example, or to recommend the customer to close the window. It really gets exciting when you automatically notice that there is a 90% probability that a heating system will break down in the next two weeks. This information is literally worth its weight in gold for the property manager or owner.

Does that only apply to Germany? Or also internationally?
That applies in general to buildings and houses but this trend naturally takes on different forms in different markets. There are markets which are still in the preparation phase; these include, for example, Germany. Other markets are making slightly faster and more innovative progress – for example, France. There, quite a few things have already happened in the smart home field although quite a lot is still in its infancy, too. The French are tackling the subject in a somewhat more casual manner: the French have a do-it-yourself culture – they try things out and do a lot in their homes themselves – smart homes therefore tend to have more fans than in Germany where we have a high percentage of rented apartments. However, studies show that the smart home is also catching on in rented apartments. The focus is, however, different here. Whereas in private homes it’s mostly about security and comfort, in rented apartments the emphasis is, for example, on energy efficiency. Basically, we should ask ourselves: why should people actually live less well in a rented apartment than in a private apartment?

And what is ista’s contribution? How does ista make buildings smart?
ista looks after about 12 million homes worldwide. And we are already offering intelligent systems which collect energy and other data in buildings – in other words, water, heat, humidity. We already install intelligent smoke alarm devices which are monitored remotely. Those are already features of the smart home.

We must now expand this with our partners. We want to combine the data in the metering sector first and then in a second stage connect them to other systems which can react to our data. Such as automatic heating control, for example. Here, we talk of interoperability, in other words, the ability of different systems to exchange data error-free, to understand information and commands and to correctly interpret and implement them. This then leads to bundled offerings. These are different performance packages which, in combination, provide an even greater added value – in other words, one and one is three or even more!

Basically, we should ask ourselves: why should people actually live less well in a rented apartment than in a private apartment?

The archiving and presentation of the historical building data also play a major role, especially in the sale of buildings, for example. An innovative and very realistic idea is the identity card which will professionalise the real estate industry. When a building is sold, the identity card is intended to shed light on all related historical building data. In this way, it supports the selling process and therefore underpins the quality of the investment.

Everything is becoming smart, everything in a building is being networked. But what about data protection?
Data protection is a very important topic; it must definitely be guaranteed. We already place top priority on this and that will not change in the future. Naturally, these systems grow over time, hackers are becoming increasingly cunning and the risk will certainly not diminish. However, we are also growing. We will do everything to guarantee data protection. And, in future, the customer will decide himself and be able to define where he is sending his data and for what purpose he is making them available. The more open he is in this respect, the greater the added value of the service can be for him. That is the situation today and will also remain so in the future.

What do the developments mean in concrete terms for your work and your department?
For me as Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing & Business Development, this means closely examining the subjects of the smart home, digitisation and smart building. And our field of work also includes partnerships and cooperation activities where we have managed to successfully conclude contracts and agreements, particularly in recent months. Here, I should mention our expansion of the long-standing cooperation with Aareon to France, Norway and Sweden or our cooperation with Riedel. With Riedel’s heating system, we will ultimately be able to provide such a bundled offering comprising different smart home cases. Using this system, the lighting can also be controlled, in addition to the heating system, and property managers and tenants can communicate direct using a display. I believe that is one of the first offerings of this kind for the rental market, in which ista is, of course, at home. Now our main task is to create such offerings with different companies and partners.

Photo credit: grasundsterne, thinkstockphotos