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SoftBank's $1.8 billion investment can't save the smart building company with a vague future

2022-09-16 06:51:31

Furthermore, building informationization in the future can extend from single units to parks, to urban areas or cities, so although the scope varies in size, but many of the problems presented are extremely common: for example, the problem of information smokestacks and data islands is difficult to eliminate; the phenomenon of blind investment and repeated construction has long existed; the situation of reconstruction rather than operation has increased; The degree of technology-enabled architecture remains


It is reported that Katerra was founded in 2015 and has a founding team from Silicon Valley with rich resumes, including Michael Marks, who has been at the helm of Flextronics for 13 years and was the interim CEO of Tesla; and Jim Davidson, one of the founding partners of Sliver Lake, a well-known PE institution; Fritz H. Wolff, executive chairman of Wolff Company, a former U.S. integrated real estate investment firm.

In the six years since its establishment, Katerra has completed 7 financings totaling more than $2 billion, of which SoftBank has made three consecutive shots in 2018, 2019 and 2020, totaling $1.8 billion for Katerra.

Katerra is known as digital construction, and its difference from traditional builders is that it adopts the model of "prefabricated building platform integration":

On the one hand, self-built factories, in the factory processing and production of building components and accessories (such as floor slabs, wall panels, stairs, balconies, etc.), so that the building productization, and then transport it to the building construction site for assembly (it is reported that the first factory it established is used to manufacture prefabricated components that can be traced through the RFID chip system - including wall panels and floors);

On the other hand, the upstream and downstream of the industrial chain such as design, production, construction, procurement, logistics and so on are integrated and provided with one-stop services, so as to reduce the circulation premium of middlemen and shorten the construction period.This process will require tools such as ioT networks, SAP HANA intelligent data platforms, and BIM to support the completion.

总的来说,因为相信改造传统建筑行业能产生的巨大空间,资本一度将Katerra推举为建筑行业的“吸金怪兽”,其估值最高达到40亿美元。按照创始人兼首席执行官Michael Marks 2019年的设想,公司甚至计划在 2020年实现盈利,并且可能在2021年之后IPO。

Unfortunately, when it comes to the operation of the company and the project in reality, Katerra exposes many aspects of the problem:

根据《Real Deal Miami》的报道,截至2019年底,Katerra承诺的26个项目中有12个项目没有如期完工。

Former employees revealed that Katerra's mechanism for quoting projects was flawed, and cost overruns occurred frequently.For example, in a project in Kirkland, Washington, the actual cost was $50 million over budget.




What is the imaginary space of smart buildings?


However, in the evaluation of the informatization index of each industry, the results show that the ICT industry, media, finance and insurance industries are the most digital, with the same level as other countries; Industries such as real estate, agriculture, hospitality services, construction, etc. are classified as some industries with a lower level of digitalization.

Image: Mccon Institute of Global Studies, China in the Digital Age: Building a globally competitive new economy






In November 2020, Midea's air conditioning division was renamed the HVAC and Buildings Division, focusing on smart buildings.

In January 2021, Zhang Lizhou, former president of Huahong Jiaxin, joined Alibaba as vice president of the group, responsible for the smart building business unit.The division is mainly for construction enterprises and promotes the informatization process of the construction industry.

过往众多科技企业的加入已经可以证明该行业的前景,再考虑2021年两会重点提及的 “碳达峰”“碳中和”目标,由于建筑碳排放是主要碳排放源之一,此时推进绿色建筑必然成为趋势,那么建筑商们就有必要顺应潮流,规划新的数字化转型策略。

The challenges of smart buildings

Of all the reasons for Katerra's collapse, the most important thing to ignore is its understanding and practice of the construction industry.While Katerra is solving problems in the way of tech companies, barriers in the industry have blindly expanded and the model of not making ends meet is unsustainable.

According to our country“Intelligent Building Design Standard”, the description of intelligent architecture states that“Building as a platform, based on the comprehensive application of various kinds of intelligent information, integrates architecture, system, application, management and optimization into a whole, with the comprehensive intelligence ability of perception, transmission, memory, reasoning, judgment and decision-making.”




Form a trusted and reliable network transmission infrastructure;

Platform side:

Connect the IOT device to the bottom, apply to the upper supporting platform, obtain and use data to support decision-making;

Application side:

Through reasonable top-level design and forward-looking planning, it provides an open and interoperable application management environment.


For example, the problems of information smokestacks and isolated data islands are difficult to eliminate; the phenomenon of blind investment and repeated construction persists for a long time; the situation of Reconstruction and light operation is increasing; the level of technology-enabled buildings remains inadequate; BIM collaboration is still a problem; decision makers have a poor understanding and understanding of the project; industry standards are unclear, and so on.

In short, the current smart building is still the development of the early stage, there is no fixed market pattern, there is no typical head players.





Huawei & Accenture, White Paper on the Future of Smart Campuses (2020)