One of China's up-and-coming smart city proptech startups, Zhongzheng Information recently won a spot in Microsoft for Startups, a global initiative by the tech behemoth to nurture young companies in their early stages of funding.
Fresh from securing Series A funding in May 2019, Zhongzheng won a place to start the Microsoft program in November the same year. Selected startups receive R&D and marketing support for business expansion, plus $120,000 worth of Azure cloud services over two years and access to a global network of over 100 leading VCs, and Microsoft's global sales and partner channels.
Founded in 2015, Zhongzheng is banking on big data opportunities generated by the smart devices and personalized services offered to companies and managers of commercial buildings. It currently partners with building owners, management companies and tech developers to build fully integrated AI-powered property management systems for smart building projects.
The market value of smart buildings in China exceeded RMB 1.2tn last year, according to research by ASKCI Consulting Co Ltd.
Zhongzheng's ZEUS Big Data platform gathers real-time data that can be used to improve building facilities, maintenance and other services for corporate tenants, employees and visitors. By optimizing the performance of office buildings, Zhongzheng's smart data solutions will help landlords to reduce operational costs and minimize energy wastage.
“We are an integrator of good service solutions. We string them together just like a string of beads,” said Chen Hong, the company's co-founder.
Customized smart building services
Zhongzheng recently customized a big data platform for Shenye TaiRan Building, the HQ of realtor Shum Yip. The integrated smart system will generate real-time data to enable building managers to respond faster to resolve issues and make more informed decisions by using data analytics.
“Whether it's the existing office buildings or the newly built ones, both will have strong demand for smart upgrades in the future, a necessary step to preserve and increase their values,” Chen said about the potential growth of the smart building industry.
In January 2018, Zhongzheng obtained seed funding from Northern Light Venture Capital. In May 2019, it raised Series A funding, again from Northern Light Venture Capital and from a new investor, Jindao Industry Consulting. The financial details of both deals weren't disclosed.
With over 50 employees, Zhongzheng is currently servicing more than 5m users of smart buildings located in major Chinese cities like Shenzhen, Beijing, Chengdu and Tianjin.
Smart City Shenzhen
In 2018, three major smart city projects were completed in Shenzhen including the DBH Life Sciences & Health Industrial Park and the upgrading of Winlead Intelligent Park, an industrial park for hi-tech companies specializing in smart hardware and machinery.
The Winlead upgrade was a collaboration with Zhongzheng's strategic partner Ling Yun, which specializes in smart access control systems. The customized access system for Winlead was integrated into the Winlead app developed by Zhongzheng. Employees and visitors can now access designated building areas by using smartphones instead of swiping access cards.
As the operator of Shenzhen's landmark building China Energy Storage Tower, Zhongzheng has co-developed the building's UFine app with Zuolin, an experienced developer of smart operations platform and solutions for urban spaces.
The UFine app is connected to Zuolin's mobile services for access control and car parking. Visitors can simply scan a QR code to use the elevators. The integrated system will automatically identify the visitor's access authorization and activate the elevator to bring the visitors to the correct office floor.
Zuolin also runs the car park payment service. Zhongzheng has added other on-demand services like food delivery, courier, punching clock time cards, video conference calls and maintenance requests. The UFine app is also an e-commerce platform that connects more third-party businesses to its app users.
Integrated management model
In 2019, Zhongzheng clinched a project at Shenzhen Kuang-Chi Future Centre and jointly developed the IoT operations center at Shenye TaiRan Building. More projects are in the pipeline, including the development of smart industrial parks and communities in Chenzhou city in collaboration with the city government of Chenzhou, in Hunan province.
The startup is also expecting smart building and tech upgrade projects in the future, mainly through partnerships with other companies to jointly develop customized smart solutions for property owners and developers.
Zhongzheng's proprietary software includes its Louzhangmen app and smart visitor management system for office buildings, industrial parks and city complexes. The visitor self-service machines are operated by an in-house IoT platform XoTHub. Employees and visitors don't need access cards. Facial recognition software can be used to allow automatic entry to designated office areas and use of elevators.
Visitors can book appointments via smartphone by giving the required information in advance, or opt to use the self-service devices at the reception. After giving details such as ID, mobile number, purpose and person being visited, a QR code will be issued to allow the visitor access to the correct company's office in the building.
Compiling data for better services
Zhongzheng has also built an Intelligent Building Eco-platform (LZM-IBE) to customize building management solutions for clients, using IoT and other related technologies. It offers two separate apps: one for companies and employees using the buildings, and the other for building management staff.
Users can easily send requests for repairs, car parking and other services via smartphone. The managers can also quickly process these requests and mobilize the maintenance staff via the app, a convenient option when they’re not at their computer desks.
Hardware devices and building services like elevators, surveillance cameras, firefighting, car parking, temperature controls, water and power meters can also be seamlessly integrated into the XoTHub management platform. Building managers and maintenance staff can receive alerts in real time when an equipment malfunctions or when a security risk like unauthorized entry has been triggered.
In the longer run, Zhongzheng's business model focuses on creating better services and products through data-mining and AI-powered analytics. The company has already started compiling data for at least 10 categories including office tenant turnover for the last 12 months, industrial sector profiles, parking-lot occupancy trends, equipment flaws and security alerts.
Other monetization opportunities and global partnerships can be identified, adding new on-demand services, e-commerce and payment features to smart building platforms for digital natives and employees.