Insights from Bloomberg’s The Future of Smart Cities: Smart Real Estate – Accelerating IoT

By Jenny McCall, Bloomberg Live

At Bloomberg’s September 30th  virtual event, The Future of Smart Cities: Smart Real Estate — Accelerating IoT, Claire Curry, Head of Digital Industry, Bloomberg NEF, and Alex Webb, Columnist, Bloomberg Opinion, engaged in a series of conversations with key smart cities stakeholders.

The event started with a panel discussion focused on IoT in buildings; participants included Kareem Yusuf, General Manager, AI Applications, IBM; Dave Hopping, President and CEO, Siemens Smart Infrastructure USA; and Simon Mulcahy, Executive Vice President & Chief Innovation Officer, Salesforce.

This was followed by a discussion on security and how to ensure data privacy as IoT accelerates in real estate. This panel comprised: Elisa Costante, VP of Research, Forescout; Greg Day, VP and Chief Security Officer Europe, Middle East, Africa, Palo Alto Networks; and Katerina Megas Program Manager – Cybersecurity for IoT, NIST.

Keep reading for more key insights — and you can watch the full event here.

A few of the key takeaways:

  •  Kareem Yusuf, General Manager, AI Applications, IBM, believes that IoT has helped change how companies understand space. “I think what you can expect is a building in tune with its usage. Think about a conference room. How do you make that simple and ensure you know how many people are using it? So, when you think about contact tracing how do you capture preference and know who was there? So, it’s about changing the dynamic on how people enjoy a space.
  • What we are doing here at IBM to help people as they start to return to a building — we start with automation and linking that to badge access. So, think about being in the building, you can look at desk placement and you can link that with occupancy information and then you move that into the next realm, so you can use beacon data and cell phones and object data. This allows you to detect if workers are wearing their face masks, etc., and all of this is done by using object detection and Artificial Intelligence. So these are the things we are all linking together to have a streamlined operation so people can stay safe,Yusuf explained.
  • He continued, “In our Munich building, if you would like to know when the cafeteria has a shorter line so you can optimize movement from your desk to the coffee shop, we have started to use CO2 emitters to understand density. So, how do you demonstrate whether it’s dense or not? The simplest solution is a LED bar which goes green to red and shows what’s going on within the cafeteria. So, we use some sophisticated technology, and we do this to serve employees. This is the driving goal and it’s how we apply AI.
  • Simon Mulcahy, Executive Vice President & Chief Innovation Officer, Salesforce, believes that adopting more smart systems within buildings requires different approaches. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, so welcoming our employees back will be a different journey for each one. How do we do this? We do this by using data, and this will include manual contact tracing and a command center dashboard and these are data-driven tools. This will be used for the foreseeable future — until there’s a vaccine — and our offices need to reflect this.
  • Mulcahy reflected on the changes as a result of Covid-19. “The utilization of the offices is different and it will be shaped by the virus. We will have work from home components, so how we work in the office will evolve. It encourages, as Kareem said, better use of the workplace.”
  • Dave Hopping, President and CEO, Siemens Smart Infrastructure USA, sponsor of the briefing, discussed how Siemens had been partnering with both IBM and SalesForce to bring autonomous concepts to life. A smart building is needed to make buying decisions on power. You have utilities and renewables but also on-site generation. Real-life examples are major universities in Texas, New York and San Francisco. Employees in their buildings can control the temperature and lighting, and I think we can have our cake and eat it, too.
  • Hopping continued, “These technologies that we are talking about beyond the safety aspect are also helping with the energy footprint. This is where renewables are helping and this is where you can reduce the carbon footprint. As we expand out into the buildings and as they are more connected, you can actually use solar power now to do this but you have to have the proper strategy.
  • Greg Day, VP and Chief Security Officer Europe, Middle East, Africa, Palo Alto Networks, discussed cybersecurity and the measures that need to be put in place to protect data. What do criminals want — money? Where would you find more money than Vegas, so, if I’m a criminal, I want to figure out who the high rollers are. So, they run wireless fishers and they find a point in the casino that they can connect to the network, and they become an insider and get access to all that high-value information. The pertinent point is that the issue is not with IoT, it’s with the other things they connect to that are the biggest risk.”
  • Day continued, “In my own home I have smart TV and doorbells and Alexa, and when I look at my home network there are over 50 things. My business network is on a different network and some of those other networks can be used to get into my business network or even human profiling. This is where a criminal can gain access to your Fitbit to see where you run each day and understand your daily habits.
  • Katerina Megas, Program Manager – Cybersecurity for IoT, NIST, stated, “We look to the cybersecurity framework. We are focused on network solutions and the outcomes that can be prescribed; so, for example, having a unique identifier for each device. If you don’t have one for each device, how can you support asset management? Every device at a minimum should have a unique identifier and any IoT device should be able to support this.” 
  • Elisa Costante, VP of Research, Forescout, believes identification of the autonomous devices you have is the first step to protecting data from cyber criminals. “What are the devices out there and do they have a unique identifier and a risk associated with them? This is the very first step, and then we will allow an asset manager to assess what to do next. So, identify if your devices behave in an anonymous way. If I have 50 devices in my house, a fridge connected to other devices you can put in your network to identify the threats that are there. See what parts of the network are critical for you and have the highest risk.”
  • “Working from home will stay and will not go away even if Covid goes away. So, that is how we convince companies to invest in cybersecurity,” Costante concluded.

Bloomberg’s The Future of Smart Cities: Smart Real Estate — Accelerating IoT was proudly sponsored by


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