Commercial Property Management Software by Octo Leverages Low-Code To Turn Real Estate Portfolios Into “Smart Buildings”
European software developer, Octo, drives digital disruption in real estate management with customer web portal built on Mendix low-code platform
Mendix, a Siemens business and global leader in low-code application development for the enterprise, announced that Octo, a Netherlands-based “smart building” solutions provider, is using the Mendix platform to digitally enable remote building management and inspections for real estate managers and property owners. Octo’s solution integrates data sourced from internet of things (IoT) sensors, artificial intelligence (AI), and drone imaging technology to conduct asset management, digital inspections, and predictive building maintenance for customers managing up to thousands of buildings in their real estate portfolios.
New Covid-related reservation app enables safer business reopening
Octo’s most recent offering is a Covid-related application called “HeadsUpp.” The reservation and notification app enables building and office managers to monitor indoor occupancy levels and maintain social distancing for companies seeking to reopen facilities after pandemic-related lockdowns. Created and deployed within a single week by Marieke Dijksma, Octo’s chief technology officer, HeadsUpp replaces time-consuming efforts by office managers using Excel and email to track employee requests to work onsite.
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“Transforming this data into a simple, cloud-based app allows us to send notifications to employees or customers who would otherwise arrive at the facility, only to be turned away because the site has reached capacity,” says Dijksma. The AI-enabled app incorporates an algorithm to track these unreserved arrivals. It then provides a micro-targeted analysis of daily or even hourly attendance by onsite workers. Lastly, HeadsUpp can share these numbers with related businesses, such as food caterers, to plan for potential customers.
Octo’s co-founders, Dirk Huibers, CEO, and Marieke Dijksma, CTO, see HeadsUpp as a gateway product for small and mid-sized companies to become acquainted with their overall platform and product offerings.
For larger commercial real estate firms, the Octo solution leverages a user-friendly, Mendix-built dashboard to query, contextualize, and quickly sort through a massive dataset, providing data-driven insights to a range of potential users including owners, managers, contractors, and maintenance crews. Customers use these alerts and insights to drive operational efficiency, allocate maintenance and rental budgets, and inform investment strategies. In one use case, customers renting interior square footage based on time, usage, and occurrence rates were able to reduce ongoing contract costs by 10% by leveraging Octo’s cost-analysis platform features.
Low-code development skills transform students into company founders
Octo’s Netherlands-based founders, Huibers and Dijksma, met as fellow building sciences majors at Delft University and began their careers working as architectural consultants. They became aware of the Mendix low-code platform as they searched for a tool to streamline and digitize visual presentations of structured data.
Huibers explains, “In our previous job, we were working in Excel on BigSheets. It was so slow, it couldn’t do anything we wanted. A programmer said we could solve our bottleneck by using Mendix’s low-code platform to create the functionality we needed. That’s how we got onto the platform.”
Low-code is a visual development approach that enables developers of varying experience levels to quickly create applications for web and mobile, using drag-and-drop components and model-driven logic through a graphical user interface.
“Being naturally curious, we agreed,” Huiber adds. “We learned Mendix on our own, creating new apps in the first week. That’s what enabled us to scale up our business and launch Octo.”
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Mendix integrates a smart building’s entire technology stack
For remote maintenance of building exteriors, Octo’s platform integrates Google Street View data, Cyclomedia imagery data, inspector and drone images with open source image-recognition tools such as PyTorch and TensorFlow to provide contextual information about each client’s building. Users can filter for measurements, condition, and material composition of windows, rooftops, exterior walls, gardens, and trees. Customers receive proactive notifications flagging qualitative issues, such as broken glass, masonry cracks, sagging roofs, dirt and graffiti, or placement of trees and branches.
“We create insights on the portfolio level for our clients that enable them to make more strategic spending decisions on maintenance,” says Huibers. Vital third-party inspection records stay within the company. Redundancies in maintenance work planning are reduced. “Multiple contractors don’t have to come onsite and take measurements before bidding on the project. The customer provides that information in advance, saving everyone’s travel time.”
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For interior maintenance, Octo leverages IoT sensors within client facilities to monitor heat, temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, and building infrastructure. The platform can also monitor traffic flow through lobbies and conference rooms, helping to ensure that visitors can maintain 1.5 meters apart for social distancing in the enclosed spaces. Octo has also used its platform to register furniture preferences for interior design needs, and track infrastructure issues such as stagnant pipe water or water vapor from air-conditioning units that could be breeding grounds for bacteria-causing diseases.
“Digital initiatives typically leverage multiple technologies, turning data into action,” says Johan den Haan, chief technology officer at Mendix. “In this new era of remote work, we are glad to see Octo’s open and extensible solution leading the charge to digitalize commercial real estate management. Once again, low-code is the core software platform that enables enterprises to build smart apps fast using IoT, AI, machine learning algorithms, API connectors, and legacy systems to seamlessly merge the physical and digital worlds.”
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