WE AIM HIGH Interview with Marek Koźlak, CEO of SIMLAB Grzegorz Przepiórka: SIMLAB is a Polish software producer. The company has been operating for only three years and has already managed to expand into foreign markets. How did SIMLAB begin? And why did you choose to pursue the direction of 3D technology?
Marek Koźlak: The foundation of SIMLAB dates back to 2015, but its proper activity and work on products started only 3 years ago. The business idea is the result of combining several aspects of my professional and scientific development. The area we are currently dealing with in the company is the result of many years of fascination with the subject of digital imagery of space. For the past 12 years, I have been focused on VR and AR work, developing advanced real-time applications and professional simulators for clients around the world. As a Ph.D. student at the Silesian University of Technology, I combined my professional interests with academic activity and the publication of content on digital simulation and virtual reality. I am a co-founder of the first VR company listed on the Polish stock exchange. 3D technology is naturally used in the construction and architectural industries, so my professional path is still related to computer graphics, and my private mission is to create consistent software for the entire construction industry, but also for every owner of any property. G.P.: The company's flagship products are two applications, STAGES and SIMON. How did they come about, and what was the process of their creation?
M.K.: SIMON is the first “child” of SIMLAB. Its creation is connected with my private life. I have always been interested in technical novelties, and working in the construction sector has directed my attention to the area of smart home systems and building automation. The fascination with this topic coincided with the construction of my private house. As a smart building user who uses IoT solutions on a daily basis, I have seen many technical aspects that could be improved. I began to notice problems at different levels of the system's functioning, and visions of practical innovations sprouted in my head. This is how the idea of an application based on a virtual walk and combining support for various standards of IoT devices was born.
G.P.: The second concept that you decided to develop in business is the STAGES application, which also uses 3D visualizations. M.K.: At the beginning, it was just a side experiment during the work on SIMON, but soon we realized its potential and possibilities. If I had come up with this idea before building my house, I would definitely use this tool to document the entire process of creating a property. The development path leading to both applications in their current form is the conceptual work of the entire team, which through multi-level analyzes of individual functionalities translated my visions into a programming language. A key aspect was implemented into our software the digital twin technology developed by Matterport, which is a global leader in the 3D Capture market. From the
strictly business point of view, certainly the Matterport’s investment and the grant granted to us by the NCBiR allowed us to get the wind in our sails. G.P.: Let's get to the point and bring both applications closer. SIMON is…? M.K.: SIMON is an innovative platform for controlling IoT devices and property management in 3D space from a web browser. The application is fully compatible with the standards of the most important suppliers in the area of a smart building. As the first software of this type on the market, it uses 3D visualization in digital twin technology, where the user interface is integrated with a real, spatial representation of rooms that we remotely manage from a computer, tablet, or smartphone. The second function is the ability to create documentation of equipment and objects located in a given space – adding notes, archiving documents, and adding regarding the maintenance of the object dates to the timeline, etc. G.P.: And what about the use of the second application? M.K.: STAGES app is used to manage the process of renovation and construction works of any property. Thanks to the use of digital twin technology, it allows you to create documentation of individual stages of the investment, which is a comprehensive history of real estate implementation. The various stages of the interior, from 2D and BIM designs to spatial models and 360 walks, are saved on the timeline in the form of separate, interactive visualizations, to which the user adds important information, such as the course of installation or the specification of the materials used. You can return to each stage at any time to track changes in construction progress, analyze the course of the installation or submit a report on the progress of work. The second key function is to monitor the current state of renovation in 3D space with the possibility of applying sketches, adding notes, and audio-video comments. STAGES allows for intuitive communication between the contractor and the investor, who instead of going to the construction site, can remotely manage his investment from the couch. G.P.: What distinguishes SIMON and STAGES from other solutions? M.K.: Currently, there is not a single company on the market that offers solutions that coincide with all the functions of our software. Other smart building applications are based on 2D desktops, containing collections of icons corresponding to given devices. The essence of the SIMON application is an interface based on 3D visualization of the actual object, and the active icons are arranged in the 360 space. Diversification of the
market results in a multitude of applications dedicated to specific brands of IoT devices. This situation prompts the user to use only one type of hardware, and if they want to equip their facility with devices from different manufacturers, they are forced to use several types of software to control them. Our application is compatible with multiple IoT standards. With just one tool, you can create home automation scenes, combining devices from different manufacturers. When we collate this with the function of assigning and storing in the cloud information related to equipment and the function of managing the maintenance of real estate on the timeline, we get a multi-tasking platform for remote control of our immediate surroundings and any real estate. And BMS or FM systems installed in expensive commercial facilities suddenly become available to anyone.
G.P.: What are the advantages of the other application? M.K.: In the case of STAGES, we are dealing with an innovative possibility of combining all the components that make up the documentation of the real estate development process. Thanks to the synchronization of 2D plans, BIM projects, 360 scans of individual development stages, and 3D models, as well as archives on the timeline, we get quick access and accurate insight into the history of the creation of an object. Diversified configuration of software in the web and desktop versions, the function of project management within the organization, and tools for notes and fault management allow for communication in the team, or on the contractor-investor line. The availability of the application is also important. It is a combination of an advanced
tool for professionals with moderate hardware requirements, and a friendly, intuitive interface, all for an affordable price. Thanks to STAGES, various professional groups involved in the real estate construction process, using various project file formats, get at their disposal a visual platform for archiving the state of the building at a given moment, with a simple and efficient system of communication, task management, and work coordination. G.P.: How do SIMLAB solutions fit into the current market situation? M.K.: We found out that the idea to develop STAGES application was a bull's eye when it was used by NOHARA Holdings, a Japanese construction company, to document the construction of a hospital in Tokyo. SIMON application has also been appreciated in the Land of the Rising Sun by the development company MISAWA Homes and is used as white-label software to demonstrate luxurious villas packed with smart building technology. On the domestic primary construction market, our solution was adapted by ECHO Investments, by creating an internal system for managing the automation of apartments and commercial spaces offered by SIMON. G.P.: The development of SIMLAB was influenced by the acquisition of partners, including Matterport. What level have you reached together? M.K.: As I have already mentioned, the highest-quality geometric mapping of space, which underlies the operation of our products, is possible thanks to the use of digital twin technology by Matterport, a global leader in the 3D scanning market and a strategic partner of SIMLAB. Thanks to the support of this Silicon Valley giant, our products reached a completely different level and signing our solutions with such an important and globally recognizable brand is undoubtedly an opportunity to reach customers on many foreign markets. Matterport's policy on collaboration in the new technologies sector is very important here. In the history of this company, we were and still are the first startup in which they decided to invest. We appreciate that SIMLAB was among the unique companies that managed to convince such a large player, recognized all over the world, to our vision. G.P.: Speaking of cooperation, SIMLAB cooperates with device suppliers such as Fibaro, SmartThings or Schneider Electric. As I understand, you all speak one language, literally and figuratively? M.K.: In a sense, the purpose of the SIMON application requires collaboration with brands that set directions in the smart building industry. If we want to aim high, our
product must be compatible with the best standards available on the market. And a brand new concept of a platform that supports various environments of IoT devices is changing the point of view of the providers themselves. Thanks to our solution, their mutual competition may turn into cooperation. It should be clearly emphasized what is the reason for the compatibility of SIMON at present. Last year, we were admitted to the international organization KNX Association, which brings together entities using the international standard building automation of the KNX brand in their solutions. The result of our membership is the current cooperation with KNX, caused by their entry into the IoT market. SIMON has been recognized as the official software which, thanks to a device supplied by the KNX brand by Schneider Electric, communicates online facility automation with IoT devices from various vendors in the interface offered by SIMLAB. G.P.: SIMLAB is active not only in Poland, but also in the USA, Japan and Scandinavia. What exactly does your overseas expansion look like? M.K.: We are currently preparing to launch both products for retail sale in the US and Europe. We also provide regular b2b services for Japanese development companies, developing white-label versions dedicated to their individual needs in parallel to our products. Our newest expansion direction are the MENA countries. We are talking with large construction companies in the United Arab Emirates, and we are also planning to participate in GITEX – the world's largest technology fair organized in Dubai. The official premiere of SIMON for KNX partners has just taken place, and its culmination will be the joint presentation (KNX, Schneider Electric, SIMLAB) of our solution at the largest L + B home automation trade fair in Frankfurt this fall. G.P.: After a good start, you have to face the question of what’s next. What are the plans for the future? M.K.: For now, we are faced with the great challenge of introducing products for retail sale to foreign markets in Europe and the USA. The MENA market looks very promising, so we plan to visit Dubai more often – it is our platform for business in the Middle East. We are applying for another EU grant, this time at the headquarters in Brussels. There are certainly plans to enlarge our design and development team and further develop both products. The assumptions concern the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate processes in the SIMON application. We also see great potential for it in the e-commerce market, which may result in the separation of a new, autonomous product. We intend to continue the policy of the work culture adopted
by us at SIMLAB, in which passion is combined with knowledge and talent, and continuous development with good humor.