Be Brave! Technology is coming, whether you like it or not: harness the power of it now and be part of the solution. It’s the right thing for the future and the planet.
Property Council of Australia, Future Trends and Innovation Committee
3 August 2021
In a virtual discussion with Deb Noller, Co-Founder and CEO of Switch Automation (who joined us online from one of her offices in Singapore), the Future Trends and Innovations Committee were treated to an insight into how excited Deb is for the future. And her excitement is justified: launching Switch Automation in 2012 in Australia, the company is now headquartered in Denver, Colorado; has 70 employees across Denver, Sydney, Singapore and Europe; and has seen a x3 increase in ARR over the past year.
That growth has been propelled by partnerships with companies like Oxford Properties in Canada, who own 200 buildings. This has Switch at the forefront of harnessing the power of data: and, in the case study, Deb shared the company’s goal of wanting to bring a centralised team together using digital platforms to enable a more concierge, customer-focussed on site team - as opposed to purely reactive facility management type roles. This retiring skill set of 50-60 year old facility managers is the groundwork for succession planning, stemming the need for more digitally-focussed change leaders who can steer companies like Oxford Properties into the future.
The discussion with Noller covered a number of megatrends - and of the many, these were our top 3 takeaways:
Megatrend 1: Digitisation
The drive of digital transformation over the last two years is undeniable. Incredibly, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been quoted as saying they've seen two years worth of digital transformation in just two short months.
Megatrend 2: Generational Change
Some existing CEOs who do not understand how to use technology to change their business models may well find themselves out of a job in the near future. This need for decision making from spreadsheets is outdated and fraught with errors, and the new, upcoming digital natives will not tolerate this as ‘business as usual’ in the future. We are seeing people who are not afraid to go out on a limb to lead their organisations forward and drive digital transformation.
Megatrend 3: Services in a Death Spiral
Service-based businesses are defending the undefendable. Huge payrolls are basing their business models on a defence system that will see themselves fall off a cliff: either that, or they will be taken over by companies poised on the periphery, that are built around data and technology that provide higher levels of profit, and increased accuracy and engagement with their customers.
How does all of this impact on South Australia’s future? Despite some of our own internal dialogue, South Australia is perceived as a leading locale; due to its agile transition to digital skills. From Deb’s perspective, viewing South Australia’s capacity to act so quickly to solve the electrical grid collapse was a testament to our ability to solve both technical and funding challenges in a way that serves both the planet and our economy. The Tesla battery at Hornsdale, near Jamestown in the state's mid-north, is now capable of delivering 150 megawatts (or 189 megawatt hours). An independent review by consultancy firm Aurecon found the Tesla battery has saved SA consumers more than $150 million since it was built in 2017.
South Australia’s loss of the car manufacturing industry was an early indicator of the transition to come. We know that we need to catch up or move out, as has been highlighted by Clipsal maintaining their roots here until being sold to Schneider, as well as the recent sale of SA-founded tech companies Sweat and Sine to US.
From our perspective, Deb and her team at Switch are leading the way around this generational change required to support the future of smart buildings and proptech. Upskilling ourselves to be able to tackle what’s to come head-on will not only enable us to be braver, but remove the fear that often comes with tackling challenges that we are yet to understand the solutions for.
The Committee came away with a heightened awareness of the important, exciting opportunity that we, as a committee based on change makers leading the way in the industry; can proactively educate and encourage other property owners to partner with proptechs like Switch Automation, to actively have a say in the future of our planet and our economy.