Talking Smart Homes with: Jorge De Oliveira

This the first episode of our new series "Talking Smart Homes", where we discuss the Smart Home technology of today, and more importantly, the future. Our guest for this episode is a serial entrepreneur Jorge de Oliveira.

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Hi everybody and thanks for joining us today, on the first edition of Talking Smart Homes. I'm Satja Lumbar, PhD automation, 10+ years in the industry, with more than a 1000 smart home projects in 15 countries under my belt. Today we'll be talking with Jorge De Oliveira a serial entrepreneur, smart building designer, and founder of Smart Cube and Cube4Metrum. These are two companies dealing with smart homes in Luxembourg. So, Jorge thank you again for joining us today at our first session of talking smart homes. I'm sure you'll be able to look back
a couple of years from now and remember your first you know because you
obviously never forget your first. So by the way; do you remember your first smart home project? How it all started, do you have some stories around that some interesting events you know do you remember your
first smart home project?

Yes of course first of all, thank you Satja for the invitation to be here at 1Home company. Yes of course, you know when I started my first project it was something very funny because when you start a company and then you're happy to get to get a project so I uh the first one I got it was something that has been started by another company and was not able to finish so I was happy to get the first project and it was very difficult because I had to find out what they did and there were a lot of things that were not working so it was really a big challenge for me but at the end everything worked and and yeah it was a nice experience and
yes it's how I started doing projects with Smart Cube

I understand it's very difficult to come in the middle of the project you know, the other company they left it unfinished and then youhave to finish it of course. Actually the main topic I wanted to talk with you about today is the hardship of after service in a smart home project, but let's begin elsewhere. I know that you are doing both like wired systems and wireless systems as well so I want to know your opinion regarding the types of customers and projects that decide for one or the other you know. So is there a difference like between customers deciding for a wireless or wired smart home and also what is the difference between those two kinds of projects?

Yes I think for me it's not always the customer that has to decide uh first of all I think we have to understand what is the the requirements of the customer when we understand the requirements of the customer and then it depends also of the situation is that a new construction that means a new house that will build or apartment or is that something that is still there and then we have to adapt?

Like a retrofit right?

Yeah, retrofit exactly so in case of a new construction, I always recommend to do everything by a wire, but sometimes it could be that we have to do a mix of of two solutions wired and wireless and in the case of retrofit i think it doesn't make sense to break all the walls and all these things so that not too many possibilities so in this case we recommend something that is wireless. But for me you know it has to be a solution where we can create a lot of functionalities and sometimes the the customer he only wants a solution so that's my job to find what could be the best system and also solution that fits to the to the requirements of the customer and it's this way that we have to work with the customer

Yeah, so basically you have to understand the customer and then decide on what kind of functionality you want to offer them, and then the technology to enable that right?

Exactly we have always to find what is the need of the customer how we can create all these functionalities and then we try to find the the product for that.

Okay, thanks for the very interesting explanation now let us move on to something all smart home integrators and all the people that are involved in smart home business know and understand, and that is the after service. In terms of, you know,
fine-tuning the home until it meets the user expectations. So what would you say a typical KNX smart home project, when is it finished? What does it take to finish
such a project?

Okay, so first I think for me a smart home project will never end. But it has to be a good start that means we have to to never answer we have also um to create a good design we have to also again we have always to understand the customer and know what the customer wantsfor the next 10 years because when we when we create a smart home uh you know we can do in one phase we can do a lot of things but we can also say okay we this is the scope that we defined but we will proceed by phase so but important is to know the completely scope of the of the of the customer and then we start to put things in place and depending also on the budget and also of the requirements then we can uh always go face by phase and implement and the next steps um but even we do it like that i think the the the smart home will never end because we have more and more products on the market and for me it's also very important not only to work with how can i say with one system but make the smart home that we can also later integrate iot products because we find more and more these things and we find also a lot of people that want to be connected they have a lot of of connected uh devices and for me the the we have to when we build a smartphone it has to be open.

Prepared for upgrades, right?

Exactly. And then what we do also and that is
very important is also we have to propose a service after after we finish the smart home because I proceed always by by two phases when when when we start to build a smartphone we define what the customer uh how he wants to uh switch lights blinds all these things is something that we defined with the customer and is integrated also and then we come normally six seven months later to check now because the customer needs also time to to adapt to the smart home to this technology and then we can improve things so we can change a few things but after we propose also an uh service contract that it's very important because you know you have servers in in in the in the in the in the smart room so they need some updates new functions maintenance and new functionalities and we can also then propose new functionalities for the customer.

But basically it never finishes

Yes, basically it never finishes, and that's good for everyone for the system integrator and also for the customer because sometimes the customer needs also someone that is following him you know that is explaining what is new on the market what we can improve what we can do and people want that also.

Okay. And which functionality would you say generates the most after service you know, so like in terms of like lighting shading heating maybe the weather station you know? Which one is like the one that requires you to do the most input after the project is already finished (even though it's never finished)?

It depends uh it depends on the projects you know you can go we
have sometimes very very simple projects and that can ends to very complex projects if you start to integrate weather stations then effectively then we start to have a bit more complexity because
sometimes the customers want to automate certain functionalities like when it starts to get dark, switch on a few lights make the blinds down but it gets more complex when we start to integrate other functionalities like audio and also the doorbells to the system. So sometimes it requires much more work and also after we finish the project we have to come back to to review some parameters because one short parameter and then things are not working like the customer wants and yeah, I call that fine tuning

And the customers really expect like perfect functionality right? So like even if there is some small thing wrong it's a big deal right?

It depends on the customer but i have customers that are
very... uh yeah... just really to work uh

Yeah, yeah. Do you have any ideas or suggestions you know, what would need to be done maybe in the sales process or in the integration process; how the project should be driven in order to minimize this after service in order to, you know, be able to finish the project and then come to the project less times?

Yeah I can exactly explain how we have to proceed for that. We need a smart building designer. Because the smart building designer will discuss the functionalities depending on the requirements of the customer. All these functionalities, you know when you decide that you want to integrate the weather stations to managing your blinds. In this case you have to integrate different "man-crafts" of the project that means the electrician, the company that will install the windows and the blinds, and this is very important because in this case when you have the smart building designer, this person will also coordinate the the whole project with all these "man-crafts" that are working on the project. And because we have for lighting, we have electricity, we have heating, we have for network, and when the the functionality is validated by the customer, then the smart building designer has to discuss with all these people that are part of the project, and then we are sure that we will be able to automate or create this functionality as described and validated by the customer. Then we are sure that everything will work because we discussed it all together and everyone is bringing their competence, and then for the system integrator is much easier, because everything is there as planned it works as planned so he only needs to do the programming for the integration. Yeah, so in this case when we work like that, then we are sure that at the end of the project we will have less problems with the customer and also with all the parts of people that are working on the project.

So this is actually the problem of a lot of those projects right? Because you just have like an electrician and the customer, and the electrician will try to take on the role of a smart building designer, but of course, he may not be qualified to do it, and then you get like these bad examples you know.

Yes. I don't want to make them as bad, but to be honest my experience shows that when I go to smart homes that have been created by this kind of people, electricians, it's not the best way to go. I can explain why: because the electrician is only looking at the electricity parts but as I explained before we also have the networking, so we have a server, we need to have also more competences on IP, we will have also the heating system so we have also to integrate the heating system, fresh air circulation and so on. You know there are a lot of things in a building today, electricity is not the only part and that's why for me it's wrong to say when I do a smart home I take an electrician. You need to take a smart building designer because his competences are transversal he's discussing with all the different parties and this is for me the the only way to create a really smart project.

Really nice explanation, thanks. I also wanted to brush on another topic which is like, smart home as a service, because I know that in your new company you are really exploring that. So do you think that this after service can be evaluated financially and charged to the customer after, you know, after the project is finished, but then you still need to do some work. So can this be monetized?

Yes, you can do it, because I did it. It's not easy, you have to bring an added value to the customer, because the customer will pay a monthly fee for that. So you really need to bring him something for the money. So, again, you have to define the service and explain how we proceed. We also defined three types of services and for each type of services we put a price so, depending of the needs of the of the customers they can then choose then the service that fits the best for him and then if he accepts this monthly fee, it's okay but for the customer it's very important to have to know that the smart home will be all the time updated that we will be able to have new functionalities and because a smart home is also something that is "living" you know, it's not a one-shot project. Your smart home has to be smart also in ten years and not only do something now and then finish. That's why the customer needs to have a a partner or a service provider there for him and to help him in maintaining the home.

Yeah, because I think a lot of, you know, involved stakeholders especially on the integrator side or small building designer side, actually are thinking about doing this "smart home as a service" but i don't know many people that are able to really bring it to the market, you know. What is the concept you're using here and how does it work for you?

In my case everything starts with the concept. Even the concept of the smart home that I propose to the customer is, you know, not based on the product or on protocol, it's really based on a solution. The same way when you are able to bring a solution, a concept to the customer and the customer is attached to this to this concept and the solution, then it's also very easy to to sell him the service. Because in the service is the continuous of the concept, you know, and if you are a bit creative, you have a few ideas, and you can bring that to the customer, it has to bring value; that's the important point. Then it's not so complicated.

Because in the end it's good for the professional and it's good for the customer as well. Basically you just have to convince them yeah and then everybody is better off right?

You know, for me, everything has to be a win-win solution. It's a win-win for the service provider, because they can make money and have all the time to work, but it's also very good for the customer, because the customer is always updated, the system is working well, and so he's relaxed.

And if something happens like water leakage or something he knows that he's covered.

Exactly! And for me you know, also the idea to bring this to the market is also that everybody is stressed today you know, you don't have time to check all these things we have more and more tech in a building compared to 10, 15 years before. We have ventilations, we have a heating system, and much more much more. And also sometimes people are not really understanding how it works, the technology. So for me it's very important to provide them an easy solution that explains: there is a problem, and they only have to see "oh we have a problem somewhere" because if the the system or the the solution is not bringing them to the customer it could be that you will not see that, and then you can have big damages. So in this case it's nice to alert that there's a problem but also to give him direct solution: you can do it or we can do it or we can find you a service provider. And this is what the customer needs.

Yeah, great! Okay Jorge; thank you for this nice discussion. I asked all the questions I wanted to ask, so maybe you have something to add in the end?

I'm really happy to be here with you and also to share my experience with you and to enter this session. So thank you very much for your questions and also for this interesting discussion.

Yeah, thank you as well!

So this concludes our first session of Talking Smart Homes. Thank you for being with us! Post questions in the comments section and don't forget to catch the next episode; same 1Home time, same 1Home channel.
Au revoir!