Pointr’s vision for smart buildings in 2023

In 2023, Pointr celebrates 10 years of digitizing buildings. With hundreds of deployments under our belt, it's clear the world needs indoor maps and location technology in every building, just like GPS and maps are standard in modern cities. 

Our mission is to be the default platform for digitizing every building. In a recent interview with Ege Akpinar, Pointr’s CEO, we discussed the company’s vision for smart buildings in 2023 and beyond. We looked at the readiness of buildings to be digitized, the challenges businesses face on their digitization journey, and Pointr’s view of the future of smart buildings. 

The interview

Les: Good morning Ege, can you tell us a bit about yourself, and your journey as a founder & CEO of Pointr?

Ege: Sure! My journey with Pointr began in 2013 when I was running a software consulting business in London and Harrods was an early client of mine. They asked me to work on indoor location technology to create a mobile store guide for their flagship store. It just so happened this coincided with the time that Apple introduced iBeacon. I came up with an algorithm which I presented to Harrods, and they really liked it. As interest continued to grow, we decided to co-found Pointr along with my brother Can, who's also a computer scientist, and Axel, who’s a close friend. We incorporated the business about 9 months after the initial R&D phase. 

Pointr has grown and evolved since then, and today we’re the leading indoor location and mapping platform. The company has seen significant growth especially in recent years. In 2022, we cemented our place as the market leader. 

Over the years we constantly improved our platform to a point where we now have the only scalable and accurate indoor location product. We’ve beaten most competitors at least once and taken over many deployments from other vendors. We’re now embedded with the strongest network of partners (from Cisco to CBRE to Siemens) and have an amazing roster of clients, including 14 Fortune 100 companies.

Les: What is your vision for smart buildings in 2023 and beyond?

Ege: Today in any city, you use location and maps every day. If you want to know where to go, you want to figure out where the museum is, you want to order food, order a cab, meet up with a friend, meet new people, all these tools we use are based on location and maps.

You take location away or you take maps away and none of those work anymore, but we just take it for granted it works everywhere. If I were pitching someone 20 years ago and saying hey, you're not gonna have to hail a cab anymore, you can use an app for that they’d have said, “I don't need to, I can just hail the cab in a few minutes, why do I need an app?”. Today, it's completely the opposite. It’s so easy to use an app, you just can't be bothered to hail a cab on the street anymore. 

I'm confident the same exact transformation is going to happen inside buildings as well. Next time you go to a shopping mall, or a hospital, or a stadium, or an airport, you'll have that kind of smart technology in your pocket, in your watch, or maybe in your wearable, that tells you what to do, how to get there, where your kids are, where your gate is etc., all automatically served to you, so you won't have to be bothered by doing it manually.

So, just like cities became digital and we got used to it, our vision is that buildings are going to get digital and we're going to get very used to it. And we’re on a mission to become that platform that enables it across the world. 

Les: In your opinion, are buildings ready to be digitized in 2023?

Ege: Right now, the two verticals I believe are ready to be digitized are office spaces and retail spaces.

To adapt to the new way of working, you have to have digital buildings - that's already started. A lot of large corporates are looking to cut down on real estate costs while improving employee experience, so they have to digitize their buildings. If your team is working two days a week from the office, that means three days of the remainder of the week the offices sit idle. So, you're going to have to shrink your real estate, maybe potentially by 60%, because you don't need as many desks anymore.

If you're going to shrink it so you can start sharing your desks, sharing your rooms, sharing the floors, for that to work effectively you need a decent solution in place. You need your building to be digital. You can't just shrink it and expect people to figure out what to do next. So, in the workplace, the answer is definitely yes.

We’re also seeing a huge digital transformation in retail. With Store Mode and hybrid shopping, customers are able to buy online as well as offline, and they get the same experience across platforms. That’s coming in much quicker than people anticipated.

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Les:  What’s the biggest challenge in convincing organizations they do need to digitize. Is it financial, is it logistical? 

Ege:  No, I think one of the biggest challenges is to scale. You can easily digitize one or two buildings here and there, that's no problem. Scaling it to hundreds of buildings requires buy in from a different set of stakeholders.

You need real estate management to say yes, they want it, you need IT to buy in, you need marketing and customer experience to opt-in. You have all these different departments involved and for large companies to make a decision that affects all their offices or stores is easier said than done. That's just the nature of the beast we're working with. If it was a website plugin, you’d just speak to the website owner and be done.

But in our case, you're touching the ceiling, you’re touching their internal systems and combining physical and digital assets working with a combination of different teams. That, I think, is our challenge and that's not a challenge unique to us. A roll out is not easy, but we've done it successfully many times, and we just need to repeat the process.

Les:  Is there a big building anywhere in the world you’d particularly like to digitize? 

Ege: Good question. Apple Campus comes to mind as I know it’s like something from a science fiction movie. JP Morgan's new campus in the middle of Manhattan is another significant one that we're hoping to start working with very soon. Kaiser Permanente - we've done one hospital and we have another twenty-five to go this year and working with such large healthcare networks is definitely very interesting.

I get excited by quite a few different buildings. There’s a bunch of airports out there and we’re currently preparing for Changi Airport in Singapore which I personally love, it’s a gorgeous airport.

But I don't want to give the impression that it's only large buildings that excite us. It's more the quantity if you will, not necessarily the size. Being across every Home Depot store, being across every Microsoft office, being across every Apple office, is more exciting. And those are the kind of rollouts that really excite us.

Les: What are your predictions for smart buildings for the next three to five years?

Ege: I think manual mapping will be gone forever. I'll give it a timeline of two years. That's subject to how fast we can move, but we’ve started showing the world this is doable. I'll give you two years before it's completely eradicated from the world and people are using AI. Because we’re living in a great time where AI is very abundant, it is doable, and it touches your life on a daily basis. Using AI and applying AI to mapping was just a no-brainer. We've been doing a lot of work and a lot of research there. 

Every Fortune 500 company will have an employee app in the next 18 months and will have figured out a better way of working - a more digital, hybrid way. Some can’t do hybrid because they need to do some on-site work, like Pharma, then they can't go hybrid. But most of those companies can and they’ll need tools to enable their workers in this new era of hybrid work.

All of those companies will have figured out a solution of sorts, some better than others. 

In terms of every building having IoT infrastructure, I think that's a five year timeline because hardware moves slowly and when you buy something for your office or your hospital you don't change it every year, you change it every five to ten years.

So, the timescales would be:

  • No more manual mapping - 2 years
  • Every Fortune 500 company adapting to hybrid work - 18 months
  • IoT infrastructure adoption - 4-5 years

Les: What Pointr achievement are you most proud of? 

Ege: I think launching 250 million square feet of mapping in a couple of weeks is a huge achievement that has not been done in this space before. That's definitely one key highlight. 

The second key highlight from recent months is launching MapScale® which is our automated mapping product, which goes hand in hand with mapping 250 million square feet, that was a huge milestone.

The third one is how we’re now able to smoothly deploy our technology, because we've really finessed our internal tools and processes. We’ve streamlined the process from the moment we take an order until full deployment, and I think that adds to our ability to scale at speed.

You know, everyone talks about scalability, but really, it's a question of just how scalable and our 250 million square feet deployment shows how we’ve developed. I can clearly see the difference between two years ago and now, in terms of how fast we move, and how fast we deploy. So that to me is a key highlight of where we’re at right now.