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Come and change the world with me

Hitachi, Marketing - Jack FitzGerald Blog

Jack FitzGerald, Hitachi’s Director, Smart Cities and Real Estate Tech, Asia Pacific, is working in the unique space at the intersection of property and technology to create the smart cities of the future.

Jack is passionate about how technology can make our interactions with buildings and cities more intuitive, efficient, and sustainable.

As good as Google

I spent almost nine years working for Lendlease in Singapore, building shopping malls and office towers. I was in a development manager role overseeing those projects but I was becoming increasingly interested in technology.

On my last big job with Lendlease, two things happened. I was made Head of Innovation for Asia and asked to be responsible for the over-arching technology strategy for a big Barangaroo-style mixed-use precinct, with residential, office and retail. (Barangaroo is a large development near Sydney’s The Rocks, with commercial office space, residential and recreational areas).

You start with a big chunk of dirt and think about what it is going to turn into in five years, which is an exciting process. This includes the layers of technology we include and how these new buildings will be a better experience for the people using them.

So, I morphed from a “property guy” to a “property guy who understands the technology”. The intersection of property and technology is an amazing space. Property is the biggest asset class in the world – we all use it and touch it every day. And while technology has always been part of it, the impact is really starting to gain momentum. To watch it happening, and be part of that, is an exciting place to be.

I’ve always felt that as property developers, we need to be as good as Google. When you open your laptop Google knows what you’re doing, what you like and where you’ve been. But if you walk into most buildings, they have no idea who you are or even that you are there. The future of technology in property is getting to know every single user so that you can vastly improve their experience through personalisation.

There’s all kind of systems in a building, elevators, CCTV, gantries, car-parking systems, aircon, fire systems, lights, sensors … all of those things have smart technology in them. The step the industry’s trying to take is to integrate all of that, so they talk to each other, which is incredibly difficult, but there is a tonne of progress happening on that front.

An example often used is that when you turn up to work, the building knows you’re there, the lift knows which level to take you to because it knows where you work, the aircon will change to the temperature you personally like, the meeting room books itself for you automatically, because it is connected to your diary, and your presentation is up on the big screen.

There’s a long journey to get there and it’s harder than people think, but every new building completed is in some way including something new and driving the industry forward.

Blown away

As I was thinking about a move into technology, I got a call from a head-hunter who said “I’m working for a Japanese company in the area of smart cities. Interested?”

I met Hitachi’s Chief Strategy Officer, APAC, who’s my boss now. He painted this amazing picture of the sheer size and scale of the Hitachi business. It seems like we’re involved in, well, everything, from bullet trains to buses, from robots and AI to highly technical medical devices. If you buy a Toyota Camry in Australia, 37 percent of that vehicle is made by Hitachi. The company has over 300,000 staff worldwide. I was blown away by both the reach of the business and the level of technological innovation.

I also met the APAC Chairman and I’ll never forget that at the end of the interview he said, “Jack, come and change the world with me.” So, I did.

The mantra of social benefit

Social innovation is Hitachi’s mantra. Whenever you talk about new projects, they must have a social benefit. It’s not just something on the website, it’s what you’re asked first when you have an idea or make a presentation. What’s the social benefit? I love that about my job. On top of that, Hitachi has made decarbonisation the number one priority both internally and for our clients. Of course, saving energy is a fundamental part of smart buildings so it all comes together and is a key objective when talking to clients.

Natural fit

I think everyone’s considering the world they’re leaving for their children and their legacy to the planet. To step into a company like Hitachi and see its genuine commitment to social outcomes was a natural fit for me, something I hadn’t expected to find.

We are very focused on helping the transport industry decarbonise and I’m doing a lot of work on electric bus fleets. In Australia, there are more than 20,000 public buses and every state and territory has plans to electrify. The capital, technology and expertise required to make that change is significant and Hitachi can play a big role in accelerating the change to help cities meet their environmental goals.

It’s a great example of Hitachi’s scale – I joined to work on smart cities and that’s included buildings, airports and health precincts, and now I get to learn all about mobility and electrification. It’s the combination of these things, scale, breadth and social commitment, that makes Hitachi a special place to work.