Posted on February 27 2020 with the following editor’s Letter:
We’ve discussed data as a decision-maker, data as a money-saver, even data as a sustainability-enabler, but we haven’t really covered data as force behind creating exciting and vital new products for the real estate market. Thanks to Milan Bogár, that’s all change as he takes us through an interview he recently conducted with Pavol Magic, CEO of Biotron, covering everything from product development to an intentional avoidance of buzzwords.
Last year, at Future: PropTech in London, I noticed a “poor” spot on the European PropTech map, an region where very little activity seemed to be happening. Specifically, it was the small area of Central and Eastern Europe in and around Slovakia, the country I happen to come from.
I was intrigued as to why this gap appeared on the map, but then I discovered there was a distinct language barrier that hindered the global PropTech movement from driving innovations in buildings and cities in this region.
Despite this obvious barrier, however, throughout the whole year I was constantly bumping into interesting players from the region, all with eminent PropTech potential. One such player was Biotron Labs, a data and analytics studio that has mastered the art of turning data into innovative products for people in buildings, cities, and regions. They have also been recently recognised by CIO Applications Europe.
I have to admit, I was impressed by the data analysis solutions for Shell and HB Reavis in Slovakia that Biotron was able to deliver, as well as by the composition of its team, enriched by years of experience from leading global tech players and organisations like Sygic, Avast, Microsoft, CERN, etc. With such team, it is quite easy to predict promising results.
“What we, tech people, should learn first, is to use the same language as our customers”
I first met Pavol Magic, CEO of Biotron, last year at SlovakiaTech, in Košice. I then contacted him again in February this year, in a month symbolically dedicated by Unissu to the theme of data. I thought it would be great if he could share some of his valuable insights into the theme, as so many other great thinkers and writers have done already.
Fortunately, he agreed to share. Some of his answers were gathered during a morning meeting with me and some during very good discussion on FutureNow Tuesday evening Vol. 43 about data-driven spaces held on the same day, in Bratislava, where Pavol was one of the speakers:
What kind of data could be used in buildings, cities and regions to improve their management and administration?
“With virtually all data gathered from various sources, systems, people, devices, and so on, Biotron is able to use more than twenty publicly or privately accessible datasets available in a country. E.g. from state and city monitoring systems for transportation, mobile operators, providers of mobile applications or customers themselves.
“Parts of this data even enable backward analysis. The level of their reliability can differ, but all together can provide a very solid database. But, we are then able to add any further relevant data into the analysis from all kinds of sensors inspecting movement of people, quality of the air, energy consumption, water, etc.
“You should not try to hit the nails just because you own a hammer”
In what ways can your data analysis solutions help buildings and cities?
“There are so many usage cases that naming them all would be too distracting. That is why we need to hear the actual pain points of each respective customer, that’s what we focus on. You should not try to hit the nails just because you own a hammer.
“But one of our preferred solutions is Mobilyze that helps municipalities make data-driven decisions based on the movement patterns of people. It enables more reasonable transport and city planning, wiser location of housing zones, commercial centres, logistic or industrial zones, scheduling infrastructure maintenance and so on.
“It also has a feature making it possible to reward people for using preferred means of transportation. One of the main visions of the company from the beginning was to start sharing part of the revenue generated by data driven decisions with people, whose data could be used for the underlying analysis.”
In Košice, I was surprised by the fact that blurred buzzwords like artificial intelligence and blockchain were missing in your presentation despite the fact that Biotron won the CESA award for being the best blockchain start-up in Slovakia the year before, so…
Why do you avoid mentioning the various buzzword technologies that you are so well-versed in?
“The problem with buzzwords like ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘blockchain’ is that they are very distracting for anyone with less-than-expert knowledge, which accounts for many of those who are sitting in state or city administration offices and are deciding which smart solutions will be selected and procured in the city, building, etc.
“That is also the problem of the whole smart city movement in Slovakia: it is being driven by many tech companies that usually push their solutions for smart buildings and cities via technocratic presentations, which are full of buzzwords, complex graphs of all available sensors and, in the end, you miss one important thing: the people they should be working to serve in the first place. What we, tech people, should learn first, is to use the same language as our customers.”
Despite this, do you believe that we will have real smart cities in, let’s say, ten or twenty years?
The problem with buzzwords is that they are very distracting for anyone with less-than-expert knowledge, which accounts for many of those who are sitting in state or city administration offices…deciding which solutions will be procured
“Yes, but it won’t simply be a result of technology roll outs that cities become smarter. People living in the cities must be smarter, too.
“They should utilise the technologies more wisely and understand the identified bottlenecks. If all the smart analytical tools show that traffic jams can be solved by more frequent usage of public transportation, but all people continue to use more and more individual cars, the problem will still not be resolved.”
What plans does Biotron have for the future? Does the .io in the name of your webpage mean that you want to expand to Indonesia and Oceania?
“No, it is an abbreviation for input-output, but that is a good point. Maybe once we have provided some of our services in other markets like Europe, Africa, among other regions, especially seems to have very promising markets with very big potential for development thanks to utilisation of our services. They could easily leapfrog many years of development and avoid many mistakes that happened in more developed countries like ours.”