We talked with Lukáš Převrátilem, director of M2C’s Space Surveillance Center, about the possibilities of using 21st-century technologies in the field of facility management. The conversation was about remote building management, interesting tools developed and offered by M2C’s technology division to their customers, and trends in remote monitoring.
What led you to work in the surveillance center?
An interest in technology. I previously worked in the industrial and logistics management division, but I always had an interest in new technologies. When the opportunity to lead the surveillance center arose, I enthusiastically accepted the challenge.
M2C, through its technology division, is a supplier of technology and software solutions. What role does your Space Surveillance Center play in this?
Space provides our customers with services through the technology tools that we develop, produce, and sell. It is a provider of the end service.
What can you offer your customers and how do you help them the most?
We provide all services related to property management, such as security, maintenance, or evaluation of various types of building data. We offer customers cost efficiency and a modern way of building management.
Regarding security, you have cameras, but how does maintenance work?
Today’s technology has advanced to the point where we can remotely control buildings. For example, if a water pipe bursts, we can detect it with a sensor in our center and even remotely shut off the water.
Although we can’t repair it yet, we can send a repairman from our mobile team (similar response teams are also used for security). This is a significant advantage for the customer, as they no longer need to have a repairman constantly present, waiting for something to go wrong. This saves on personnel costs.
How many customers and in which countries does Space provide its services? Can you reveal some specific names?
There are over 1,300 customers in all 12 European countries where M2C operates. In the Czech Republic, for example, there is the retail chain Albert, Auto Palace Spořilov car dealerships, and hotels and shopping centers owned by CPI.
What benefits does the Space Surveillance Center bring to clients? What do you take care of so they can focus solely on their own business?
We do not eliminate all guards, maintenance workers, or cleaners, but we can provide these services more efficiently and in a way that corresponds to the 21st century.
For example, if a chain or shopping center previously had ten guards in ten locations who monitored the camera system and sat there even when closed, we can replace all these people with one experienced operator. This operator monitors all ten objects using a modern analytical tool that can evaluate all objects simultaneously. If an unauthorized person enters, the operator is immediately alerted. We then call the police or a response unit, depending on the situation. This eliminates the traditional security service, and a similar approach is used in maintenance.
People don’t have to worry about their jobs. They engage in activities that technology cannot yet provide, so they do more efficient work than in security.
You also mentioned data evaluation. What do you offer in this regard?
Our systems generate a large amount of data, which often adds value. Just as we use cameras for security that detect human movement, similar systems can also be used for marketing purposes (such as visitor numbers in shopping centers). We can count the number of people in a shopping center, providing data on visitation. Or in maintenance, where we need to monitor certain devices in online mode.
In the long term, we can assess that a particular electric motor has a certain consumption at a given temperature. When it increases, we alert the customer that the motor may be nearing the end of its life and needs to be replaced. This way, unnecessary energy consumption is saved. However, inspections used to take place about once a month, so it was not possible to obtain such information.
Does GDPR regulation complicate your work in this regard?
Of course, we would be more efficient if we could use all the tools that today’s technology offers. Meanwhile, in the US or Asia, it is common. I’m talking about facial recognition, for example, which is essentially banned here.
On the other hand, the technology is installed by the client, who usually installs it to comply with GDPR. So cameras cannot be placed in toilets or changing rooms. The client also handles data storage (except for exceptional events); we only ensure their secure transmission. Thus, we only access data that is legally compliant.
Do your customers have to invest in their buildings to use your monitoring center services? Isn’t this investment sometimes higher than the benefits of remote monitoring?
Investments must always pay off. If they don’t, they won’t be realized. That’s why an audit or analysis of the building is always done, followed by a feasibility and return on investment study.
Based on the time it takes for the investment to pay off, the client decides whether to proceed. However, as labor costs increase, clients usually opt for technology. While technology costs also increase, it doesn’t happen at the same rate.
As for new buildings, they are usually prepared. For very old ones, such an investment usually doesn’t pay off.
What do you usually install?
Mostly cameras, thermal sensors, fire alarms, and we also need connectivity. Each country has different requirements for fire alarms, for example. In the Czech Republic, they are stricter than in Slovakia. That’s why we have legal departments in each country to ensure compliance with local legislation.
Where can remote monitoring be used, and in which segments is it most commonly used? Is it just retail, industry and logistics, or can it be used in residential buildings and households as well?
We are in all of these segments. We connect private properties such as family houses or villas, which is a classic type of security. Then there are apartment buildings where we deal with issues like theft from garages or bicycle storage areas.
In recent years, construction sites have been popular. Of course, logistics centers, industrial parks, small businesses, shopping centers, retail, and even hotels. We started connecting hotels a lot during the COVID pandemic so they wouldn’t need security and wouldn’t have to heat the building when the hotel was closed. And after reopening, it stayed that way. Some security remained, but we monitor hallways only from the monitoring center, for example.
What are the trends in remote monitoring?
A significant trend is automation and automatic data analysis, machine vision, etc. I saw this at the CES trade show in Las Vegas.
People’s costs are always the highest, for example, our operators. However, if you can prepare the final solution automatically, when a person only decides yes/no, you save a lot because people have less work.
Can you provide some specific tools within remote monitoring that you offer?
For example, there is ScaleCheck, a tool for retail. It can detect a certain number of items on a shelf based on their weight. It is also used for marketing. For example, a brewery pays for an additional small stand in a chain, while their products are also in the regular shelf – and our technology can track where customers pick them up most often because you can’t find out from the cash register data.
Or we deal with cases in security where an organized group targeting thefts of expensive products enters a store. This is, of course, a problem for the merchant. For example, if they have 300 stores, the costs of security would be huge. However, if we have information that a large amount of a specific product suddenly disappears from a particular shelf, it directs us to the designated camera – and we can solve the problem.
Another tool for merchants is Tracksys. It is our own tool developed to meet the needs of clients for analyzing cash register transactions. The system can alert to a suspicious receipt and pair it with video of the transaction.
What else are you working on? What do you have planned for this year?
We want to improve our tools, which is mostly about software. That’s why we decided to acquire a medium-sized software company, Good Sailors, so we can tailor many tools to our clients’ needs.
Lukáš Převrátil, Director of Space Surveillance Center at M2C
He has spent his entire professional life with M2C, which he joined after completing his studies in 2007 and gradually worked his way up to managerial positions. He has been working long-term in a division focused on industrial facilities, and in 2019 he took over the leadership of the Space Surveillance Center.