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CENSIS support helps proptech company scale up

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23 July 2021
  • Utopi targets Europe as it aims to build on early UK sales success

This story was featured in The Scotsman, 22 July 2021

Utopi, the Hamilton-based property technology (proptech) company, is scaling up for growth in Europe after securing initial orders for more than 2,000 of its unique sensor devices from the UK’s build-to-rent and student accommodation sectors in only its second year of business.

The company, which was established in October 2019 and now employs 15 staff, has designed a multi-sensor device that provides real-time insights of buildings, individual rooms and shared spaces. Over time, data can be used to show a full ‘service history’ for property assets, making them more valuable to investors and asset managers, as well as boosting sustainability.

Designed with support from CENSIS – and manufactured in Scotland – the device captures a variety of data, including temperature, humidity, ambient light, noise, and CO2 levels. The readings are then transferred over an IoT network to the building’s operators or Utopi team for analysis and action.

CENSIS supported Utopi throughout the development of its multi-sensor, with a range of services. The Innovation Centre designed the prototype, created the initial hardware design, and wrote the device’s software, including all of the device’s manufacturing software support.

Applicable to a range of managed residential properties – from rented apartments and student accommodation to care homes – access to the data allows property managers to deliver more effective and efficient performance from buildings. Through a dashboard they can see data from hundreds of individual rooms or apartments in a single view and identify any anomalies or outliers.

The device can also be combined with electricity, water, property size, and occupancy data to determine what typical consumption levels should look like and support tenants to make savings on their bills and reduce their use of resources.

Built with a UK and European-compliant chipset, Utopi’s multi-sensor can be deployed on the continent without modifications and was specifically designed to be exportable. The company said that, after Europe, with a change of chipset and re-certification its next phase of expansion would be the North American market.

Falk Bleyl, co-founder and chief technology officer at Utopi, said: “Understandably, developers, contractors, and owner-operators of buildings have typically been more interested in the overall physical asset, rather than the technology applied to it. The individual rooms or apartments are essentially blind spots to them – they have little data about how the space is performing and how residents use it.

“Our device works at a strategic level to help property companies understand the wider picture, providing them a view on the current and historical performance of their building. With that information they can more effectively manage their properties, identify potential problems, and support their occupiers to reduce consumption. Having a catalogued history of a building’s performance can also make it more attractive to potential investors.

“When we set up the business, we decided to focus initially on managed residential space, but our solutions are also relevant in the commercial office market. The UK is a growing market; but Europe is a big opportunity for us, where renting is more common, and North America will be our next target after that. We have big plans for the device and our business, with ESG becoming an increasingly important focus for the property industry.”

Stephen Milne, Director of Strategic Projects at CENSIS, added: “Utopi’s multi-sensor device is a great example of how access to the right data can help an entire industry understand its environmental impact, drive efficiency, and become more sustainable. The built environment has one of the largest carbon footprints and has been identified as a priority area in the fight against climate change – the more data we can capture, the more we can take action to make positive change.

“Utopi is also a great example of the growing number of innovative Scottish tech companies that are creating products that have global potential. These businesses will be a critical part of how Scotland builds back better, and greener, as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.”