Real-estate owners should give up their properties in the name of energy efficiency

Does the core competence of real-estate owners lie in owning the properties or in providing premises needed by the customer and the associated service experience to the user of the premises? If the answer is the latter one, giving up ownership of buildings would enable enhanced energy efficiency.

In relation to property, energy efficiency is defined by the ratio between the service level provided and the amount of energy consumed for providing it. Traditionally, we are used to measuring energy efficiency in terms of specific consumption per floor area, expressed in kWh/m2 or kWh/m3. Alongside this, indoor conditions achieved with the energy consumed have also been discussed for quite a while. For example, 10% saving in energy consumption is hardly profitable if it, at the same time, means an increase of even one per cent in salary costs due to, say, increased absences due to sickness. Being 100 times higher than the energy costs, the salary costs are of a totally different order of magnitude. The matter has been debated a lot, but people still tend to forget it. The reason may be that we lack such easy indicators as kWh/m2 that would observe indoor conditions.

The conception of energy efficiency shaped by the reporting of specific consumption per floor area is deeply rooted. When discussing indoor conditions, in principle, we focus on people and their well-being, but we still examine the matter using square metres. The next step would be to consider whether we need those square metres in the first place. This would shift the focus of energy efficiency to how much energy is needed for performing specific duties. Information is needed not only on system efficiency, but on the room occupancy and utilisation rates, and methods of managing them. These matters have been studied in the Virpa-C project as part of the impact of digitalisation and IoT (Internet of Things, on the real estate business.

Developmental stages of digitalisation

In his webinar IoT from Strategy to Practice, Frank Gillett from Forrester research company presented three scenarios for using IoT in the various stages of digitalisation: design, operate and consume. In the design phase, IoT is integrated into finished products, thus providing additional value for the product user. In the operate phase, on the other hand, IoT focuses on enhancing process efficiency with the help of digitalisation. The service provided by the company is developed instead of the product itself. As for the consume phase, the focus of IoT shifts to combining data from various operators for the purpose of creating a totally new kind of service.

Correspondingly, Granlund summarises the development of the real-estate sector in his IoT market review into the figure below. There the development advances first from operational productivity to a service model, then to platforms, and finally to the autonomous economy.


Figure 1 The development of IoT in four stages. [Granlund]

The monitoring of the room occupancy and utilisation rates serves as a good example of the impact of digitalisation and IoT. At first, the temperature and carbon dioxide content of indoor air were monitored and, based on these, it was possible report to the organisations using the property what kind of conditions can be arranged in the premises. The reporting also shows the problem situations, where the systems, for one reason or another, fail to provide high-quality conditions. When the actual realised conditions are known, it is possible to address them.

In the Virpa-C project, data produced by various parties was combined to produce a reliable estimate of the use of the premises. To establish, for example, the utilisation rate, occupancy data from building automation systems was combined with the data transmitted by occupancy sensors of the lighting system. Each one of the systems has its own original purpose of use, for which reason they provide slightly different data. When this data is further combined with a camera-based visitor counter at the door, we get a good picture of the use of the premises. The monitoring of the room occupancy and utilisation rates enables the users to utilise the premises efficiently, but it also enables a shift to a use-based pricing. Precise information on the use and conditions would also enable provision of different service packages for the users of the premises. The new Virpa-D project will continue to study these issues.

From platform economy to autonomous economy

As part of the collection of data, Virpa-C has also taken steps towards the platform economy. In the pilot project in Tampere, University Properties of Finland Ltd decided to develop its own platform, where all data collected in the pilot building is stored and made available to various users. Most producers of measurement data do have their own platforms, but different technical solutions and the lacking contract and cooperation models make joining the platform difficult for new and small operators. VTT has also made efforts to lower the threshold by providing its own platform as an easy-to-use alternative, where information can be collected and where it can be shared in the trial stage before the commercial platform to be established in the actual project site is completed. A similar approach was partially used in Virpa-C as well.

The next phase on the development path of IoT is the autonomous economy, where the system can, for example, autonomously conclude the premises needed for each situation and book them automatically. What would it feel like if you were writing an invitation to a meeting and your messaging software recognised the situation and automatically suggested a suitable room and some corrections needed in the proposed service level. The software could also request offers from the hotels and other operators in the near area if there were no suitable premises available in your own company.

In his presentation, Gillett asks whether you should give up the product you have been selling so far. In other words, should the current real-estate owners give up their own properties and start providing premises owned by others as a service

Read more:


Teemu Vesanen
Research Scientist

Finnish energy companies will conquer the world or will they?

Could energy selling one day be transformed into a life-style service, enabled by smart meters and automated services? Will users of the future one day shop online for their dinner, a movie and a side dish of energy? If so, Finland is well-positioned to lead the way.

Finland already a leader in smart metering

Digitalisation is not the key to next generation services but the enabler. Finland was the first country in the world to digitise its electricity metering with smart meters and remote monitoring on a large scale. Electrical energy consumption in almost all of Finland’s 3.4 million smart meter points is now measured hourly, with the data available to customers the following day. Compare this with Germany where the most meters are still manually read and energy companies are pushing consumers to accept smart meters only in the next few years.  Customers in Finland also have automated invoicing, which they can pay on Netbank. Compare this with some parts of the US, where you typically heat your house with natural gas then drive to a local office and pay with a written check. So Finland has successfully taken the first step to a new future with fully digitised energy sales. But what’s next?

Next step to get users closer to their data

Electricity consumption data tells us something about people. Just like Facebook, Finnish energy companies now have valuable information on customer behaviour patterns. How can providers find new ways to maximise the value of that data and simultaneously use it in discreet way?

At the moment only 5% to 10% of Finns check their consumption online, even though almost all energy companies have their own web portals available. Electricity in Finland is relatively cheap and consumption data not that interesting. So first, energy companies need to find ways to get their customers more involved with their data?  Then they need to start coming up with compelling energy services that will enhance the customer experience in ways that people would be willing to pay for.

Find ways to enhance energy user experience

At my home, we have geothermal ground source heat pumps installed. A couple of months ago a fault developed in the pumps, but we only discovered it at the end of the month when we saw our family energy bill, which had doubled. When I called the company, the representative was able to identify the exact day when the system had developed a fault and our consumption had increased to twice the usual amount.

What if there’d been some kind of automated warning service in place to inform me of the fault at the time? And what if, the energy company had come over the next day to fix the problem? These are services I would be ready to pay for. Geothermal heat pumps are not commonly sold by energy companies and they don’t normally come with full service agreements. You either fix them yourself or go out and search for someone to come over and do it. Compare this with district heating, which is essentially a heating service with a lifetime guarantee. One enlightened energy company development manager told me: “If we lose a district heating customer to geothermal heat pumps, wouldn’t it be better if we were the ones to sell them the pump, the electricity and service for it as well.” This thinking demonstrates a larger vision and understanding of the changing market situation.

And what about leasing? In the same way that consumers are moving away from owning cars to leasing them, or even just buying ride space, city energy companies should also be moving towards leasing agreements for heat pumps, solar panels or other distributed renewal energy sources  like windmills. Which company will be first to start leasing smaller size of windmills in Finland? I´m pretty sure there would be a bunch of heavy industry companies using masses of electricity which would welcome this opportunity even just for good PR purposes. These kinds of options would give users the opportunity to generate their own green energy and sell it back to the grid, without having to own the infrastructure. It would also help promote the feel good eco-friendly image that Finnish energy companies are moving towards.

VTT scientists and engineers are working with our energy companies now to brainstorm and develop ideas for new services that bring value to consumers as well as to the energy providers. But there are many that are not even yet imaginable in today’s context.

Time to act today!

Sadly, some of our energy companies lack vision; others lack the funds; while some are just waiting for something to happen, perhaps to be acquired, instead of reinventing themselves for their own future. But the frontrunners in Finland are hiring up and preparing for action!

There is plenty of evidence already to suggest that buying productized energy services will be the next big thing in the emerging lifestyle services sector, which is now dominated by broadband, television and media streaming. Think back to fifteen years ago. Only a few people had signed up for satellite TV or paid entertainment services. Now nearly everyone has Netflix or HBO and is ready to pay for a whole range of streaming services.

It’s time for Finnish energy companies to ask themselves if they want to continue at the top. If so they need to figure out what it will take, then get cracking! If the energy sector is auditioning now for its own Netflix launch then Finland would be my top pick for the starring role.

Read more: 


Juha Hämekoski
Head of Sales and Customer Partnerships



This is the second in a series of VTT Smart Energy blogs, bringing you the very newest thinking and action around Smart Energy. Stay tuned for our next blog post in Autumn about Smart Otaniemi ecosystem – open playground for innovation, by Kari Mäki, Research Professor.

Have you already read our first blog post about the essence of Smart Energy by Sanna Öörni?

The limits to openness in research – As open as possible, as confidential as necessary

To open or not to open? The openness of information and data is increasing as tools and attitudes evolve. Publishing results and conclusions is a clear issue in the case of parliamentary committees and scientific articles, but communicating and being open about background data and work in progress is more complex. In this blog, Tuula Hämäläinen, the leader of VTT’s team responsible for knowledge discovery, discusses the limits of the openness of research output and data.

Openness of research is now being required by funders and even legislation. Open access, or open publishing, has become a familiar idea in the research world. However, open science involves many conceptions and assumptions that are either slightly distorted or even “fake news”.

Assumption 1: All information is free and freely available online – false

Although the number of open scientific articles is growing sharply, they are still of marginal importance and relatively small in number. For example, only just over 10% of scientific articles uploaded by VTT researchers are open. The others are based on subscription fees.

Other relevant information is also subject to a fee. Payment is required for either information content or its usability. The financial statements of private companies or standards are not available for free. Classified and easy-to-use patent or news information is not free of charge.

Copyright applies to almost all information, including free information on the Internet. The use of ordered information is also restricted by subscription and licence agreements.

Assumption 2: Open publishing is cumbersome and costly – both true and false

Research funders often compensate for publication fees, so that the research project or organisation does not have to pay them in full. Publication and the related costs should be planned in good time and be included in the project budget.

Publication in an openly available publication (“Gold Open Access”) is easy in administrative terms, but costs are incurred due to article publishing fees. “Green Open Access”, i.e. the self-archiving of articles in an organisation’s own systems, involves embargo periods and version control.

In most organisations, the library, information service or a similar function supports and assists in open publishing processes. This leaves the researcher to focus on the substance, while requesting administrative help.

Assumption 3: Corporate clients prevent all openness – true and false

Data associated with confidential projects cannot be published. Similarly, nothing can be disclosed about an innovation that is to be patented.

However, the fact that an organisation is engaged in confidential projects does not preclude disclosing of results and data associated with publicly funded, collaborative projects. You need to understand the type of data being processed on a case-by-case basis. You can then consider how and with whom it will be handled, and how to share it with others.

Assumption 4: The opening up of research data leads to abuses – true and false

It is increasingly required that data in the background of a publication or research project should also be open. But just uploading a set of files into the cloud and opening them up to the world benefits no one. Such data could also be abused.

Data and files must be uploaded in accordance with a research data management plan and systematic metadata must be created for them. When publishing your data, you can impose an embargo, only publishing it when it is no longer of use to you. The most rational approach may consist of opening up metadata or publishing certain datasets.

The concept of no longer disclosing anything to anyone no longer works. You need to decide what course of action is best for the competitiveness of your own organisation: what to disclose, to whom and when.

Data management becomes more important

Good data management and the control of personal data are even more important in a world where modern tools enable the easy sharing of data. Not everything should be tweeted or posted on the social media, and if it is uploaded into the cloud, then not just into ‘the cloud’ as such. Secure cloud solutions exist – we have long trusted in online banking services.

However, you cannot afford to retreat into a corner and never open up data to anyone because you fear the risks, but should think more carefully about what to open up, and to whom.

VTT is committed to complying with good scientific practices and ​promotes open science – see our open science principles


Tuula Hämäläinen
Tuula Hämäläinen
Team Leader, Knowledge discovery

Tutkimuksen avoimuuden rajat – Niin avointa kuin mahdollista, niin luottamuksellisesta kuin tarpeen

To open or not to open? Tiedon avoimuus kasvaa kehittyvien välineiden ja asenteiden ansiosta. Valmiiden asioiden julkistaminen on selkeää niin eduskunnan valiokunnissa kuin tieteellisen artikkelin osalta. Isompi haaste on se, miten tiedotetaan ja avataan taustatiedot ja keskeneräiset asiat. Tässä blogissa VTT:n tietoaineistoista vastaavan tiimin vetäjä Tuula Hämäläinen pohtii tutkimustiedon avoimuuden rajoja.

Tutkimuksessa avoimuutta edellytetään myös rahoittajien vaatimuksilla ja jopa säädöksillä. Open access eli avoin julkaiseminen alkaa olla tutkimusmaailmassa perusajatukseltaan tuttua. Avoimeen tieteeseen liittyy kuitenkin paljon luuloja ja oletuksia, jotka ovat vähän joko vähän vääristyneitä tai jopa ”fake news”.

Oletus 1: Kaikki tieto on ilmaisesti ja vapaasti käytettävissä netissä – tarua

Avointen tieteellisten artikkelien määrä kasvaa voimakkaasti, mutta niiden osuus ja merkitys on vielä marginaalinen. Esimerkiksi VTT:n tutkijoiden lataamista tieteellisistä artikkeleista vain runsas 10 % on avoimia. Muut pitää hankkia tilausmaksuilla.

Myös muu relevantti tietoaineisto on maksullista. Joko sisällöstä tai tiedon käytettävyydestä pitää maksaa. Yksityisten yritysten tilinpäätöstietoja tai standardeja ei saa ilmaiseksi. Luokiteltua ja helppokäyttöistä patentti- tai uutistietoa ei saa maksutta.

Tekijänoikeudet koskevat miltei kaikkea tietoa, myös ilmaista tietoa internetissä. Tilattujen aineistojen käyttöä rajoittavat myös tilaus- ja lisenssisopimukset.

Oletus 2: Avoin julkaiseminen on hankalaa ja kallista – totta ja tarua

Tutkimusrahoittajat hyvittävät julkaisumaksuja, joten ne eivät jää täysimääräisinä tutkimusprojektin tai -organisaation maksettaviksi. Julkaiseminen ja siihen liittyvät kulut pitää vain hyvissä ajoin suunnitella ja sisällyttää projektin budjettiin.

Julkaiseminen avoimesti saatavilla olevissa lehdissä (”kultainen linja”) on hallinnollisesti helppoa, mutta kuluja syntyy kirjoittajamaksuista. Avoimen julkaisemisen ”vihreään linjaan” eli artikkelien rinnakkaistallentamiseen organisaation omiin järjestelmiin liittyy karenssiaikoja ja versioiden hallintaa.

Useimmissa organisaatioissa kirjasto, tietopalvelu tai vastaava tukee ja auttaa avoimen julkaisemisen prosesseissa. Tutkija voi keskittyä substanssiiin ja pyytää apua hallinnointiin.

Oletus 3: Yritysasiakkuudet estävät avoimuuden – totta ja tarua

Luottamuksellisten projektien tietoja ei voi julkaista. Vastaavasti jos innovaatio halutaan patentoida, ei siitä voi julkistaa mitään.

Se, että organisaatiossa tehdään luottamuksellisia projekteja, ei kuitenkaan estä julkisesti rahoitettujen yhteistyöprojektien tulosten ja aineistojen julkaisemista. Pitää ymmärtää tapauskohtaisesti, millaista tietoa käsittelee. Sen jälkeen voi miettiä, miten ja kenen kanssa sitä käsittelee ja miten sitä jakaa muille.

Oletus 4: Tutkimusdatan avaaminen johtaa väärinkäytöksiin – totta ja tarua

Yhä useammin vaaditaan, että julkaisun tai tutkimusprojektin taustalla oleva data pitäisi myös avata. Siitä, että läjä tiedostoja heitetään pilveen ja avataan maailmalle, ei ole kenellekään mitään hyötyä. Silloin on myös mahdollista, että tietoja käytetään väärin.

Tietojen ja tiedostojen pitää olla tutkimustietosuunnitelman mukaan laadittuja ja niistä pitää olla olemassa systemaattinen metadata. Tietojen julkaisemisessa voi käyttää karensseja ja julkaista datat vasta kun niitä ei enää itse hyödynnä. Järkevintä voi olla vain metadatan avaaminen tai tiettyjen datasettien julkaiseminen.

Ajatusmalli, että mitään enää julkisteta kenellekään, ei enää toimi. Pitää vain ratkaista, mikä on oman organisaation kilpailukyvyn kannalta paras tapa toimia: mitä julkistetaan, kenelle ja milloin.

Tiedon hallinta nousee uuteen arvoon

Maailmassa, jossa modernit välineet mahdollistavat tiedon helpon jakamisen, on hyvä tiedon hallinta ja omien tietojen kontrolli entistä tärkeämpää. Kaikkea ei tviitata, kaikkea ei laiteta someen, ja jos viedään pilveen, niin ei ole vain yhtä ”pilveä”. Tietoturvallisia pilviratkaisuja on olemassa – olemmehan jo pitkään luottaneet pankkipalveluihinkin internetin välityksellä.

Riskien vuoksi ei voi kuitenkaan käpertyä kuoreensa ja olla avaamatta mitään tietoa kenellekään, mutta pitää entistä tarkemmin miettiä, mitä avaa ja kenelle.

VTT on sitoutunut noudattamaan hyvää tieteellistä käytäntöä ja tukee ja edistää avoimen tieteen tutkimuskäytäntöjä – katso avoimen tieteen periaatteemme.

Tuula Hämäläinen
Tuula Hämäläinen
Team Leader, Knowledge discovery

Shoshin for Synergies

Shoshin  is a Japanese word meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject. Within this framework, there are many possibilities in the beginner’s mind, whereas there are only few in the expert’s mind. European Commission is now encouraging us to think and act with “Shoshin” and tap all the synergies. I believe that going beyond the obvious will prove useful.

We scientists and experts are masters of brilliant thinking, eloquent speech and organised communication, when in our own territory. When  we start going to events where we get exposed to ideas and truths from people whose topic is strange to us, we may feel uncomfortable. We may decide to stay out or we choose to jump into a discovery process and start listening to arguments, such as:

I am historian. I like to look at past to understand the present. I am chemist. I am interested in molecules. I am physicist. I need to know if we can have a mathematical model. I am economist. I am interested in productivity and I am not going to challenge the good old theories. I am political scientist. I am a bit of a pessimist as I am looking for failures in the democratic system. I am psychologist. I am interested in the human factor. I am philosopher and artist. I love conceptual design. I am citizen. I am not sure at all what those experts are doing or could care less.

Being biased is human

Is Artificial Intelligence going to even the bias out? AI is about algorithms, data and software. Can we master  complexity by systemic approach and selection of taxonomy? Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification.

Investing in research and innovation

European Commission proposes a pragmatic and focused long-term budget with modernised programmes to deliver efficiently on the EU’s priorities in the next Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (MFF).  Investing in areas, such as research and innovation, young people, the digital economy, border management, security and defence, will contribute to prosperity, sustainability and security in the future.

The upcoming Horizon Europe programme emphasizes cross-cutting approach, synergies and partnerships

Proposal for Horizon Europe, the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, was published in June 2018 as an outcome of extensive EU-wide assessments and consultative processes. In July 2017, the Lamy Report recommended that within the next Framework Programme, the Commission should set R&I missions “that address global challenges”, and made a broad call for greater involvement of stakeholders and citizens within the programme.

Importance of cross-disciplinary, cross-sector and cross-border collaboration was stressed in the Lamy Report. And again, in the Mazzucato Report on Missions, published in January 2018. We have heard and spoken about synergies earlier but until now we have not seen it taking place in practice.

Compared to Horizon 2020 programme, cross-cutting approach of Horizon Europe is becoming stronger. For example, all Clusters in Pillar 2 (health; inclusive and secure society; digital and industry; climate, energy and mobility; food and natural resources) are cross-cutting, and it is expected that they use different financial instruments. Here, the synergy element becomes important.

In future, also partnerships should be focusing on delivering more, not only through Horizon Europe, but also through other programmes. This means opening up more towards Member States funding and programmes, alignment of research agendas and private investments – and vice versa

Synergies element is quite distinct also in the Multiannual Financial Framework proposal, and one can observe that there is a true attempt to connect various legal bases better to serve the purpose of building critical mass and focused interventions through combined funding.

Investment dimension and regulation dimension to research and innovation

Partnerships are obvious places where pooling of resources and synergies can happen. Particularly, innovation relates to partnerships. Much more synergies and innovation can happen, if the partnerships become more cross-cutting (cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral, cross-border). Here, the value-chain approach may prove useful.

The MFF attempts to bring an investment dimension and a regulation dimension to research and innovation . Current Public Private Partnerships should get excited about the opportunities enabled, when Commission is introducing the new amendment to Council Regulation (EU) 2015/1588 of 13 July 2015, on the application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to certain categories of horizontal State Aid. Similarly, Member States authorities watching over national finances, should spend some time together with key stakeholders in territorial development and research and innovation to create a joint vision about how to benefit from synergies.

Leena Sarvaranta Head of EU Affairs


Leena April 2017.9057Leena Sarvaranta

Head of EU Affairs, VTT




Making everyday life easier for the consumer

Soon running your daily errands will be quick and easy: Groceries you ordered will be automatically delivered to your door, or directly in your fridge. The same delivery also includes the party dress you ordered for yourself, and new football boots for your child.  Before heading back, the delivery vehicle picks up your recyclable cardboard and bottles, and perhaps gives your children a ride to soccer practice or piano lesson.

This is a future in which service package integration will make the consumer’s daily life much easier.  Instead of focusing on individual purchases, consumers will be able to choose which solutions they need in their everyday life, and manage these using a single service platform. Other items provided as a service include clothing, hobby equipment, tools and home decor. Using a service instead of buying offers better adaptability to each life situation and current needs.

Everyday Life as a service– everyday solutions from a single source

In the transition to a service economy, it makes sense for the service provider to offer serviceable, upgradeable high-quality products, which will extend the life cycle of products. Resources can be put to efficient use when efficient use of materials is in the consumer service provider’s interest. The service provider will also be responsible for the recycling of products that have reached the end of their life cycle.

In the future, consumers will be able to obtain services by using a single integrated platform. This makes it easier to run several errands in one go, blurring the boundaries between individual services. Furthermore, all the goods consumers currently own can be offered as a service. What would you think about having your seasonal wardrobe delivered to your doorstep?

A solution for running Everyday Life as a servicesimplifies data flow, and as the volume of data grows, relevant services can be suggested to consumers almost automatically. This makes it easy for the consumer to choose the services they need, and it makes their everyday life easier. Better flow of information makes service provision a profitable business. To make everyday service logistics efficient and optimally suited to the consumers’ needs, products and services from multiple companies should be brought to the consumer in a single delivery.

Think differently, benefit more!

This is a revolutionary idea that requires a rather dramatic change in our thinking. To make them attractive, services offered should be superior in comparison with the existing ones. Understanding consumers, their daily activities and things that create value for them – and demand sacrifices – is a core element of development efforts. VTT’s AARRE project studied these carefully and created a customer’s value path to illustrate the value creation process and to provide a tool for companies.

Experimenting with various tried and tested services such as car and apartment sharing services will gradually drive changes in the way we think. Companies should embrace this opportunity to introduce experimental business models. Experiments like the provision of tools as a service can help to understand what the consumers are ready to accept and what their real needs are. Pilot projects could be launched to test the ecological benefits of the service.

Reliability is everything

Everyday Life as as serviceconcept offers superior value to the consumer, since the service can be taught to anticipate their needs and build a customised service portfolio for each consumer. Having a single service platform to cater to the needs of an individual consumer or families means that an enormous amount of confidential data will pile up in the service. The more information consumers are willing to disclose, the better and more tailored service they are likely to receive. It is therefore essential to ensure the reliability of the service to make it attractive. And because no two consumers are alike, a number of different options for limiting the collection and use of data must be provided.

The practical implementation of the model is still a long way away, and requires considerable development efforts. One of the key requirements is a mindset that embraces the shift away from ownership. Just imagine how services could change our daily lives!


Maria Antikainen VTT
Maria Antikainen

Principal Scientist

Anna Aminoff VTTAnna Aminoff

Principal Scientist


Outi Kettunen
Senior Scientist


The ABC of plastics in the circular economy is a series of five blog posts exploring the world of plastics. The series discusses bioplastics, plastics recycling and the related business operations, as well as the future of the circular economy. And last but not least – mythbusting!