Flexispace service model and how to apply it on temporary use

A smarter way to offer, book and use spaces is being developed and tested in Kalasatama, Helsinki. A big trend for smart cities is sharing economy, that covers different spaces: private, residential and public. Here we take a look at how this Flexispace model could be applied to temporary use (TU).

Smart city development is also about opening the spaces. Flexispace project develops an ecosystem for space sharing, bringing together booking services, IoT technologies and flexible parking. At the same time, REFILL projects are searching new ways for making better use of empty buildings and spaces. How could Flexispace model serve temporary use and bring digital tools to support?

What is a Flexispace service model?

Flexispace service lets people to book different spaces for their use on an hourly basis. All the available spaces can be found from a web service. At the moment, the model is tested and developed in collaboration with one booking service (www.flextila.com). Most of the spaces are equipped with a smart lock which is integrated into the booking service. After payment is done and reservation is completed, you get a temporary PIN-code that lets you enter during the hours that you paid. The service can also include features of strong authentication, e.g. integration with camera, verification by web bank, access restriction, group access rights. Flexispace service complies with different level of security required by the space owners.

The flexispace service is a step on the way to create an open service ecosystem for real estate asset management and optimization. The concept of such an ecosystem is built upon open APIs: the interfaces that allow different services to exchange data between them in a standardized way. Some examples of these are services for sharing spaces and parking, smart lock and IoT cloud services, catering and cleaning services, security services. Different actors, such as smart lock providers, IoT- solution providers and cleaning service providers can then connect to the ecosystem in an easy and standardised way in order to deploy information about their services and access information about other services. These parts of the service chain can then be brought together to form user friendly, multifaceted service solutions and provide opportunities for new business and value formation. Thus, the ecosystem enables development of both B2B and B2C service concepts.

Oranssi Ry rents out their hobby room in old factory area of Suvilahti via Flextila service

Using the open APIs and sharing information between several databases will make possible to find the same spaces from several space sharing services in a similar way that the hotel rooms or flight tickets are sold through several booking sites. So, the service model is not bound to only one service but there can be several applications meeting the needs of different use cases. Some booking services such as Varaamo-service offer their information model to be used freely elsewhere (see Varaamo in Helsinki Region Infoshare). Other cities, organizations and companies can then use Varaamo model as a baseline and build their own variations.

Specific needs of temporary use

The flexispace model has been used mainly for the intensification of the space (e.g. renting out the extra hours that the spaces are not needed by its owner). This has been the context where the service model has been developed, but it has also been already used for turning empty office buildings into hub spaces and sharing hobby rooms in a TU location.

In a report “Tyhjät tilat” (Empty spaces), architect Hella Hernberg pointed out the need for services and operators for management of empty spaces and to ease the communication between the users and the owners of the spaces. There is a need for operators or agencies, as the real estate owners prefer renting out big amounts of spaces for bigger organisations. The smaller companies, freelancers or projects are not the preferred renters, as it takes more time to manage several contracts. The owners don’t see that smaller scale renting could bring enough revenue for them.

The flexispace model offers one part of the solution to this identified need. The benefits are that the available spaces could be found and browsed in an easy way. The tools that make the communication between the owner and the renter easier are needed.

As the more specific needs of TU’s are identified, this allows developing new service chains to meet these use cases. The “flexibility” of the service model refers to its adjustability too, and how it allows new business models to form around the new needs.

One possibility would be combining the use of digital flexispace services with agency model. Often there is need for help with communications, reaching other local initiatives and citizens and supporting the long-term development of the whole area, that a space operator or agency could offer.

Advantages for applying flexispace model for TU

The service enhances visibility: many TU sites will be available from one place. For public or semi-public spaces, a spaces sharing service helps intensifying the use of spaces
A space sharing service produces vast amounts of reservation data. This helps to make the use of spaces more open – also in terms of who gets to use the space and how much it costs. This information can then help making the right decisions, too.

Using a digital service offers an easy way to make contracts with the users of space. The owner of the space can choose how long is the maximum duration of booking: hours, days, or weeks. They can choose which times are free for booking, and maybe just offer some hours from a week for events or similar. This way, the empty slots between reserved hours are easy to sell out.

The digital services support the testing of the fit between a place and it’s user: potential new TU projects can test the space by booking it first on hourly/daily/weekly basis.

In the cases when TU organises lots of events the helps with management (calendar, billing, contracts, responsible persons, opening the doors, extra services…). It also allows developing service chains inside TU: e.g. a local restaurant can provide catering for those who book the space. By using automation this takes less time.

New technologies such as smart locks support the flexible use of spaces



Pros and cons

+ Visibility and large selection of different spaces
+ Easy way to manage contracts and handle big amounts of bookings
+ Easy access way to test a new place and its suitability
+ Hourly renting most suitable for spaces in need for intensification of use and on good locations + Owner gets money by renting out the extra hours
+ New technologies for easy access and management

– With some smaller actors, it might be essential to arrange bookings in a very customised/personalized way, and this is not so easy with the digital service
- Service is not suitable for long term renting (e.g. legislation for real estate brokering) – Open API’s are still rarely available
- Service and business models are still on a developing phase
- For large empty buildings on less favourable location other support for renting needed

Maija Bergström, Forum Virium Helsinki

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