Driving the Thai property market with smart technology

Driving the Thai property market with smart technology
An expected outcome of Thailand’s rapid economic expansion is widespread urbanization as more and more people migrate to cities. Bangkok, the capital city alone, is expected to see more than 2 million new residents between 2015 and 2025, according to reports from the country’s National Economic and Development Board (NESDB) and JLL. The total urban population could see an increase of 6.7 million.

In this context, there is a spike in the demand for buildings that meet the need for office spaces, residential complexes, and commercial buildings. Speaking at a panel discussion held recently in the run-up to Secutech Thailand, Chakrapan Pawangkarat, Head of Property and Asset Management at JLL Thailand pointed out that Bangkok has grown 3 times compared to last 3-4 years ago.

“Obviously, when a crisis or recession happens, people will not build anything, but after the Hamburger crisis, the demand of office building has risen up,” Pawangkarat said, adding that similar growth is seen in the residential sector too. “This is the characteristic of Bangkok demand and supply.”

Making cities smarter to meet demands

Smart cities, with their technology-driven mixed-use buildings and facilities, are widely considered the ideal answer to meeting the demands that have come up. According to Kecha Thirakomen, Chairman and MD of the EEC Academy, the Internet of Things (IoT) platforms that facilitate data generation and analytics would help in minimizing resource consumption and ensuring sustainable development.

The EEC Academy is part of the EEC Engineering Network Company that focuses on developing technicians in both technical and management segments. The company is involved in green certification program, national energy planning, and smart city development, making advancements in technologies including energy management system, safety and security system, and more.

But while technology is a solution, the problem is that many developers and end users are not aware of its advantages and necessity. Kaveepan Eiamsakulrat, Executive Chairman of K.E. Land noted that while cost reduction is the single major selling point of smart technologies, educating the consumer is critical to getting the desired results.  

 “For instance, face recognition looks interesting, but users don’t know how to use it,” Eiamsakulrat said, adding that there is a lot of hardware available in the market, but solutions are what is now needed. “There is also a need for clarity and awareness on how analytics can be used to turn data into actionable information.”

K.E. Land has three core development businesses, which include high-end residential housing, commercial properties, and strategic operations of retail, F&B, and hospitality.

Echoing comments from Eiamsakulrat, Suphat Suravichai, Sales Director of Panasonic Life Solutions (Thailand) mentioned the smart system is not only about simplicity but also about being user-friendly.

“It’s about developing user-based behavior,” Suravichai said. “To better serve the Thai market, we are open for partnerships to develop software and hardware together.”
 

Requirements of premium buildings

As living standards improve, the demand for premium building projects also rise. This segment may be more open to faster adoption of smart technologies. Giving a developer’s perspective on this, Thanat Kriausakul, VP of Sustainability, Smart City, and Estate Management at Frasers Property Holdings (Thailand) said premium customers expect solutions that address concerns like energy efficiency and waste management.

“Another requirement is security solutions such as access control or video surveillance systems,” Kriausakul said. “Also important is hygiene. I want to do a building looks clean as a hospital or hotel, so what is the benefit that users will receive? The last one is parking. This is more sensitive for Thai people as they don’t pay money for parking. If we cut cost from the rent, are the costs manageable?”

Improving air quality is also expected to be a prime requirement in the coming years as pollution levels in the country are a major concern. Kriausakul pointed out that in areas like northern Thailand, institutions like schools face high air pollution rates. In fact, experts across the board agree that in the coming years, air quality would be a major issue that smart technology will have to address.

Frasers Property's assets range from residential, retail, commercial, and business parks, to industrial and logistics in Singapore, Australia, Europe, China, and Southeast Asia. One of its noteworthy projects is One Bangkok, which has a gross floor area of 1.83 million sq. m with five Grade-A office towers, five luxury hotels, three ultra-luxury condominiums, four distinctive retail precincts, and art & culture spaces.

Parking and access control solutions

Kriausakul’s comment on parking is worth a closer look. Parking spaces and solutions have historically not been seen as products of value in Thailand as the people are used to free parking. However, Kaj Miyake, GM of IHI Asia Pacific explained that there is a shift in this perspective bringing in the need for more solutions in the segment.

“In Thailand, the attitudes of the people are changing too,” Miyake said. “Let’s say, look at Central World [a shopping plaza in Bangkok] for example, it used to offer 8 hours parking for free before. Now it’s 4 hours for free. The free time has been shortened. People have become aware of this value. Definitely, when it comes to property development, automated parking systems can save spaces.”

IHI Group delivered its first Tower Parking in Japan in 1962. Since then, the company has built more than 8,000 car towers and holds a 40 percent share of Japan’s automated parking lot market.

Elaborating on this further, Pawangkarat said that a queue management system is also necessary to ease parking concerns in Thailand. Ratchakrit Kaewkrungsri GM of HIP Global, a tier-one total security solution company in Thailand, added License Plate Recognition (LPR) solutions are becoming more popular compared to card-based accessed systems. In the future, facial recognition could become a key solution as well.

Challenges ahead of builders and solution providers

Customer requirements can often be unique and to meet them solutions need to be customizable. For instance, some customers now want to be able to control the air quality in their personal space. To bring about such a level of personalization, getting best-in-class solutions is crucial. However, this presents yet another problem.

“There are many problems that we face as an engineer,” Thirakomen said. “Some products are not available in Thailand. Why does Japan have it and we don’t? For example, if we want the best ERV, we can find only in Japan. Even when we find something here, the price is 10 times more than the original price.”

Napol Kieatkongmanee, Assistant VP of Magnolia Quality Development Corporation (MQDC) spoke about the challenges of system integration these days.
 
“When we have many technologies in home or condominium, multiple controlling tools or apps are there,” he said. “But they can’t make things convenient for the customers. We are looking for system integrators who can solve this problem.”
 
“No one can work alone,” pointed out Asapol Boonyakiat, GM of Nex Inno Tech, a major Thai brand of smart lighting and living technologies. "We have had good opportunities to work with PEA (Provincial Electricity Authority) for the integration of some popular virtual assistant devices. We are now working on the integration of IPTV and video surveillance cameras.”

Bottom line

That the Thai market requires more solutions to keep up with the evolving requirements and increasing demand is clear. However, solution providers should be able to offer features that work in local conditions. What works in Europe or other places may not necessarily do well in Thailand.

According to Boonyakiat, Thai people are still used to remote control in terms of lighting. “People prefer to use a remote control more than the app on smartphones because they are not familiar with such kind of IoT tools,” he said.

There is also a need for more effort to create awareness among end users on the benefits of smart technology. This will further boost demand, helping the market grow further.

On a concluding note, Wisuth Thawornratana, Assistant VP of Magnolia Quality Development Corporation added that as a developer, they have to help users be more aware of what technologies can be beneficial to the customers.
 
“We used to engage big players, but now we engage more with start-ups who can integrate big data to bring out useful information,” Thawornratana said. 
 

Secutech Thailand 2019
Date: 28 – 31 October 2019
Location: Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Center, Bangkok, Thailand
www.secutechthailand.com

Secutech Thailand will be showcasing more than 260 exhibitors displaying products and solutions focusing on safe and smart cities. The SMALiving Thailand will make its debut to highlight technologies for enhancing smart home and building while Fire & Safety Thailand will be returning with the latest fire and industrial safety solutions. The show will be co-located with the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) Digital Thailand Big Bang, Thailand Lighting Fair, and Thailand Building Fair to create a 1-stop platform for safe and smart cities.

Show Features:

- 260+ Exhibitors
- 5 Themes: Intelligent security, fire safety, smart living, smart city solution, cybersecurity
- Vertical Focus: Smart Police, Smart Transportation, Smart Factory, Smart Building
- 16+ Exclusive VIP Tours
- Engaging seminar sessions



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