Five questions for Thomas Thunnissen

BeSense, the digital gold

BeSense is a smart sensor system developed by Heijmans in cooperation with cleaning company CSU and sensor manufacturer Clickey. The sensor collates data in buildings. An analysis of the data leads to better management, maintenance and comfort. A talk with Thomas Thunnissen, Project Manager Innovation at Heijmans, about digital gold. “The possibilities of BeSense are enormous.” 

February 22, 2017

Heijmans is deliberately pursuing the crossroads of construction, IT and hospitality management. Why?

An office building was once a collection of elements comprising facades, a roof, floors. Interior decorators furnished the building. Who the end-users were or what they required of their workplace was irrelevant. Heijmans is turning this around, because it’s all about people. We place people at the centre of what we do. The building may be beautiful but it is merely a shell. Our aim is to make a building as comfortable as possible for its occupants. A healthy, pleasant and clean environment increases productivity. Above all, it befits a good employer.

Through BeSense we collect relevant data about user behaviour without actually knowing the user. Anonymity is guaranteed. This information is the basis for sustainable building management, maintenance and hospitality management, but it also provides insights and data that we can use for renovation or for new-build projects.

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"We expect that BeSense will become big. The time is ripe."

What data do you collate – and how?

We make use of sensors that we initially mount on desks. It is also possible to mount them on walls or ceilings. All sensors have a unique ID number. The sensors are connected wirelessly to a software system. They continually measure things that we find important: room occupation, temperature, CO2 levels, light intensity and humidity. Analysis of that data provides valuable insights. Examples? You discover that a room which is heated day and night is only occupied twelve per cent of the time. Or that there is a disturbingly high CO2 level in meeting room X, which undermines the concentration. Or that the east facade is by far the most favoured – and the reason why. This knowledge enables you to make strategic proposals to companies. That is pleasant for the building manager, the employer, the staff but certainly also the cleaners because they can then organise their work more efficiently.

What is the role of Heijmans in BeSense?

We are the initiator, connector and directing partner. Construction knowledge is indispensable, but we cross-link it with the Internet of Things (IoT). In other words: we enable buildings to exchange data with sensor networks and integrated IT systems. A pilot project of BeSense was started in June 2016 at the head office of Aegon in The Hague, which houses 2200 workplaces. We have already gathered substantial knowledge, but still continue to learn.

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A pilot project of BeSense was started in June 2016 at the head office of Aegon in The Hague.

What knowledge have you already acquired?

One of the most important insights: not only start-ups are flexible and innovative in their business model. It could also apply to two large organisations. It is about people being able work together, but emostly about sharing the same beliefs and commitment. The agreements that Heijmans and CSU have about BeSense do not cover more than a piece of A4-sized paper. Legal attachments are lacking. It all boils down to trust, whereby collegiality of everyone involved surpasses even the corporate boundaries. You see each other as colleagues, not as business partners who each have different interests. There is a shared will to win terrain together. That is how you also stand united at an exhibition.

Another lesson: dare to say goodbye. We have already said goodbye to one party. They did not share our pace, resulting in a delay of the product development. That’s when you then need to make decisions.

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“The possibilities of BeSense are enormous.” Thomas Thunissen with Theo van Rijn of Achmea on the workfloor.

Big future?

In five years' time we will be one of the Top 5 platforms for integrating, reading and managing software. In short, yes, we expect that BeSense will become big. The time is ripe. The Internet of Things marks the start of the sixth Kondratiev wave – the Industrial Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century was the first wave. The IoT is already providing interesting applications, from speech and image recognition to intelligent climate control. Is data the new gold? No, the real gold is the interpretation. We have the knowledge to make good analyses. Heijmans and CSU are dreaming often and out loud about future developments. We share the belief in the IoT. If substantiated, belief is controlled freedom to do whatever is necessary to achieve success.