Co-working space a living lab for solutions

Corporates and startups can propose to test and study various solutions in their space. They get three months at District6 to run their products, collect data and study outcomes.

Singapore

MEMBERS of co-working space provider District6 would have recently seen their environs outfitted with gadgets and gizmos ranging from the latest large-format monitors from Dell to ceiling sensors that detect occupancy levels by facility management solutions company, Pointgrab.

That's because the co-working space at Odeon Towers is now home to JLL's first ever Liquid Lab, globally.

Since the Liquid Lab concept soft-launched in September, District6 has acted as a living lab for corporates and startups to develop and test products to solve workplace problems.

JLL believes this initiative will complement the global consultancy's other recent thrusts into proptech here and in the region, and also connect its clients with innovative solutions for their offices.

Ian Chadsey, director of solutions development at JLL Asia-Pacific and the lab's project manager, said: "We were thinking both for ourselves and clients - how can we give our clients more access to innovation and technology and environment, an understanding of what's going on?"

"Technology is constantly changing and when you design a space, it's for today's technology. By the time the design is done, the construction is done, you're already behind. It's constantly evolving. How can you create an environment that is constantly staying up to date?"

Corporates and startups can participate in Liquid Lab by pitching solutions to respond to "challenges" set by JLL.

They can propose to test and study various solutions in their space. Then, they get three months at District6 to run their products, collect data and study outcomes.

JLL clients could choose to implement these solutions in their workplace, while Liquid Lab participants can also access other clients of JLL. A new crop of participants will then move into District6.

Besides Dell and Pointgrab, other participants include office furniture company Humanscale which is piloting a new app by adjusting users' chairs, desks, computers, and monitors according to the latest research in ergonomics. Others include startup uHoo, which is collecting data on air quality from its sensors installed in District6; and adaptable office designer and manufacturer Haworth, which wants to learn whether co-working members would pay a higher membership fee for better furniture and workplace solutions and has installed ergonomic seating and quiet areas, with sensor technology to collect data on usage.

In the ethos of creating an equal playing field, Liquid Lab is open to any startup or corporate regardless of size, sophistication of technology, or whether it is an existing JLL client, Mr Chadsey said.

As for why they went with a co-working space as partner, Mr Chadsey said that this would allow participants to collect more accurate data on the behaviour of a variety of office workers.

Though he declined to comment on how much it will cost companies to participate, he said the cost to JLL to run Liquid Lab is "minimal" since companies invest in their own costs, such as the cost of their products.

Mr Chadsey believes that the magic will happen when a diverse group of companies and products are brought together to tinker in the same space. "What we'd really like to do is to have multiple corporates come together and then they co-create a solution," he said.

The alchemy could also come from re-imagining different ways to solve a problem. For instance, Mr Chadsey is now working on getting a company that makes air quality sensors for cars to use the Liquid Lab environment to test if their product can be adapted for the office environment.

In time to come, graduates of JLL and Australian property and construction group Lendlease's Propell Asia accelerator programme for proptech solutions, could also test their products at Liquid Lab, he said.

uHoo's co-founder and chief executive Dustin Jefferson Onghanseng told BT that participating in Liquid Lab was a way for the startup to build links with JLL and clients; build more Singapore case studies of its solution and work with more big companies to use their sensors in more of their office spaces.

"We are also currently in discussions with JLL to deploy uHoo in some of its clients' workspaces to enhance the health and wellbeing of its clients," he added.

Mr Chadsey said JLL has already seen interest from some big corporates in setting up Liquid Labs in their own workplaces. Liquid Labs in other countries in Asia could also soon be a reality.

"What works in Singapore may not work in Bangalore and what works in Bangalore may not work in Tokyo, so the idea is to build as many of these as possible in many different types of environments to test different ecosystems," he said.