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The Warsaw Voice » Business » March 27, 2013
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Fascinated by Technology
March 27, 2013   
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Marta Małecka, a member of the board at Futurial, a company active in the building automation, telecom/IT and security system sector, talks to the Voice.

How does a woman come to be in a business that many consider a man’s world?
Technology has always fascinated me. I have been involved in the IT and security sector for years. I have been a consultant to investors and designers of the biggest sports and office facilities in Poland, introducing innovative applications of widely available technology, such as customer counting, drawing crowd flow maps for shopping malls and dynamic advertising. I have also launched new products and technologies on the Polish market. Today, together with Futurial, I am developing my passion and core area of interest, namely applying technology as a comfort- and security-building feature and one that supports eco-friendliness. I like it when you can design network, security and intelligent building systems once and then they stay functional at every stage of a given facility’s operation.

Where did the idea to focus on intelligent building systems come from?
There are two reasons why the company changed its core business area to a new one: the safety and profitability of such projects and a visible growth trend on the intelligent building market. Let’s take a look at what has happened to companies that stayed on the market involving electrical systems for industrial facilities and public utility buildings. The profitability of these projects began dropping dramatically a few years ago. Companies that were celebrating success just four years ago, announcing contracts they had won, are currently in a tough economic situation or even in bankruptcy.

There is a growing social trend to apply environmental solutions because this also means being economical. Public awareness as regards reducing energy consumption and protecting the environment is on the rise. On the other hand, there is increasing demand for comfort and intelligent systems. Carbon dioxide emission limits are being introduced, socially responsible behaviors are being promoted, and alternative energy sources (solar batteries, wind farms, heat pumps) are witnessing a market boom. Intelligent home systems together with energy-saving heating systems and appropriately designed architecture enable passive houses to be created—buildings using less than 15 kWh per square meter of surface area per year.

The economic reasons are obvious. What makes intelligent building systems eco-friendly?
Reduced electricity consumption, lower air-conditioning or heating costs are possible thanks to the functions of the intelligent building system itself, which facilitates management of lighting, heating and window blinds in a simple and intuitive way while ensuring comfort and convenience for the building’s users. The intelligence of these systems enables them to follow different scenarios, for example during a harsh winter the system will automatically open window blinds on sunny days to let the sunshine in, and close the blinds on the windows that allow heat to escape from the building. In summer, if we open the windows to air the place, the air conditioning will be turned down so as not to use up electricity to cool the air. The system also enables light intensity to adjust to the brightness in the rooms and outside, so that if there’s plenty of light, the lamps’ brightness will go down or they will be switched off. There are more possible correlations between weather, time of day, season of the year, the residents’ presence or absence and the functions of lighting, heating, window blinds and burglar alarms in our intelligent building system.

So far these systems involved substantial spending. Who is the target customer for the systems you’ve just described?
It’s true that systems based on a special wiring system are quite costly. You need to allow for outlays of a minimum of zl.300 per square meter of managed surface area.

The company I represent has obtained several million zlotys from EU funds to create an innovative, much more affordable solution. The cost of Futurial’s original system will be below zl.100 zlotys per square meter of surface area. This means that the target group of prospective buyers of this product will go beyond the premium client segment. We need to remember that more than 100,000 houses and apartments are built and renovated in Poland every year. That’s a huge market, and additionally our system —based on wireless communication—enables easy installation in existing buildings, without damaging any walls or replacing existing systems.

We are watching Western European markets very closely. There is a clear tendency to invest in eco-friendly solutions. In Germany, intelligent home systems have become the standard in 40 percent of newly built homes. That’s why we are expanding our portfolio to include solar batteries and photovoltaic cells in order to satisfy our customers’ needs in terms of environmental systems. This is the direction we are going in, just like our neighbors to the west. In Germany in 2012, 7.5 GW of new photovoltaic systems was hooked up to the grid. The Polish government is cautious in its forecasts and predicts that by 2020 Poland will have systems providing 235 MW, which is still a market worth zl.10 billion.

According to independent research, an intelligent building can yield savings of up to 60 percent on electricity with complete lighting control, and up to 50 percent on heat when an individual heat control system is applied in rooms.
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