Over the past few months, we have experienced a tremendous change in how we go about our daily lives and how we do business. Like many people these days, most of my interactions with colleagues and customers take place in front of a computer screen. This same shift applies to our personal lives as well. Currently, I’m engaged in multiple chess games online with friends and neighbors, some of whom, pre-coronavirus, would have scoffed at the idea of trading a physical chess board for a virtual one.
Before the pandemic, economies around the world had already been facing the challenges that come with such global megatrends as digitalization, globalization, urbanization, and climate change. With COVID-19, many companies have had to shut down production as supply chains or demand dried up, while in other sectors production had to be ramped up quickly to meet urgent needs, such as for medical products. In addition, many businesses have had to close their physical offices, forcing a wider – and for some, sudden – adoption of digital tools in order to pivot to virtual collaboration.
Renewal, not return
Although the situation has begun to relax in some regions, we have yet to see the full impact of the COVID-19 virus on our societies. I firmly believe we won’t be returning to normal as we knew it but rather shaping a “renewal” – where physical and digital experiences will coexist and converge in new ways.
Throughout all of this, one thing is clear: We are all becoming more digitally minded, because we must. There’s no going back to yesterday’s way of doing things. Especially imperative is that the places where we live and work adapt quickly, for the health and safety of the occupants, as well as for their overall sustainability. But we all know progress starts with choices. Making our commercial and industrial buildings, hospitals, offices, factories, university campuses “smarter” requires financial investments.
Reinstating trust into public places
Before COVID-19, a process of digital transformation had already begun to equip the built environment to better meet the needs of our time. Those building operators that have proactively implemented digitalization measures have reaped benefits from greater efficiency, flexibility and cost savings – providing a real competitive edge for early adopters.
As Cedrik Neike, CEO of Siemens Smart Infrastructure, pointed out in his recent article, making our cities more “human-centric” is now more important than ever in order to help avoid or slow the spread of infection and reinstate a sense of trust into public places. For example, access-control systems can keep track of the number of people in a building, entry badges can aid in contract tracing, advanced HVAC systems ensure air quality, and room sensors can help facility managers make real-time decisions. And new collaborative efforts, like this partnership between Siemens and Salesforce, not only helps drive a more “touchless office” but also supports safe distancing measures by enabling employees to identify and reserve available desk space via the Comfy app on their smartphones.
Coupling digitalization with smart financing
Our research at Siemens Financial Services (SFS) found that because new systems need less energy and resources to operate, the costs of investment are mostly – if not entirely – offset through the gains in efficiency. Furthermore, it’s also possible to connect the technology in a smart building via MindSphere, the cloud-based, open IoT operating system from Siemens. This enables pay-per-performance financing where the amount the customer pays is tied directly to the use of their new hardware. These kinds of XaaS (short for“X as a service” or “anything as a service”) financing models connect our financing solutions to the planned outcome, efficiencies or performance fluctuations, thereby supporting our customers to embark on, or extend, their unique digital transformation journey.
Coupling digitalization with smart financing enables building owners and managers to react quickly, flexibly and efficiently in order to meet dynamically changing needs – even in highly adverse conditions. The coronavirus pandemic has proven that to ensure people’s well-being, while maintaining business continuity and competitiveness, organizations must be able to move beyond traditional thinking.
How has investing (or not!) in digitalization impacted your business or place of work in the current environment and your feelings of preparedness for the “next normal”?