The code-free revolution is changing the way we manage buildings
At its core, technology promises to make things easier and more efficient. But as the technology becomes more and more advanced, it becomes more and more difficult to keep up with it. Steve Jobs said it better:
“This is insane: we all have busy lives, we have jobs, we have interests and some of us have children. Everyone’s life is getting busier, not less busy, in this busy society. You just don’t have time to learn this stuff, and things get complicated… we don’t have a lot of time to learn how to use a washing machine or a phone. ”
Technologists, programmers and designers have learned to take this to heart. They are obsessed with the small details, trying to make every process using their creation as easy and intuitive as possible. But doing something “easy” and “intuitive” is subjective. No two people are the same, so the way each user prefers to interact with an interface can vary widely. In order to make everyone happy, you have to customize each software for the individual who uses it. Because of this, a new school of thought has invaded the tech community. What if the authoring software became as intuitive as its use?
Over the past five years or so, Codeless Development Platforms (NCDP) have been created to help users customize their technology. These easy-to-use, “drag-and-drop” programs are able to hook up several separate systems to work together. Now individuals and non-technical teams are able to create complicated processes that the original programmers might not have even thought of, without modifying even a single line of code.
This is a particularly important development for the real estate industry. Every building is unique and teams need to customize their systems to help them distinguish the signal from all the noisy data created by the buildings. Doing all this customization in-house can be very important in building teams that often have no experience in software development.
Some companies try to create “full stack” building systems, but they often run into obstacles because construction teams prefer (or are stuck) using certain companies for certain systems like accounting or access control. “If you try to do everything, you won’t be able to do anything,” said Lee Butz, CEO and founder of District technologies, a tenant engagement company. “Managers need specialized nodes for different parts of the building and nodes like access control and HVAC will always work on their own. Right now, no one is regulating how these systems speak, and API standards need to be created. Until that happens, it is very difficult to fit in easily. ”
If it was easy to integrate all the data from various building systems, it would have already been done. Buildings generate more data that must be used by other real-time systems like room reservations, occupancy, IAQ, access management, deliveries and many other office metrics. Translating all the different program languages and allowing all the disparate systems in a building to interact with each other is an ongoing task.
Butz explained that their team decided early on to build a customer experience app with the kind of architecture that would allow it to be easily customizable and extensible. They recently partnered with Juberi, a smart building design and implementation technology, to use their converged data architecture that allows all building systems to communicate easily without posing a security threat. Paul Walker, co-founder of Juberi, explained that “the flexibility of the District app means that additional bespoke tenant engagement needs can be managed by District and supported from the same cybersecurity methodology.”
Codeless interfaces are designed to be used even by the most tech savvy user. Understanding what people want to personalize and how they want to be able to make personalization appear is a never-ending task. “The Customer Success Team is the unsung hero of many successful technology companies,” added Butz. “These are our eyes and ears and they are able to take what customers want and translate it into technical language.”
Since tenant experience software is used by both building managers and tenants, there needs to be customization at each user level. Each organization has different metrics for its office performance. So the best practice is to let them configure their own application interfaces and dashboards. The ability for office managers to customize their dashboards, whether mobile or desktop, will be the key to creating the most value with a building’s digital layer.
Even as buildings are increasingly integrated, the facilities and property management industries still lag behind in the adoption of codeless software. But as we become more comfortable with using codeless interfaces to connect our own personal technologies, we will begin to demand them more from our buildings. There will be a lot of training and thoughtful design required to make our buildings customizable, at least digitally. But the payoff is well worth it. Technology should work for us, not the other way around. We might not have the time to learn all the building systems, but with an intuitive design we could definitely learn how to make them work together.