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What does the ultimate service offering look like? Michael Fell considers the logical extreme for the trend in 'as-a-service' business models.


Could you sell Happiness?

Credit: James Wainscoat for Unsplash

To coincide with our Bartlett 100 exhibition, The Next 100 Years, we’re running a series of seven pieces by researchers at The Bartlett that offer speculative responses to the statement: ‘The built environment in 2119’. Writers have been invited to interpret it in whichever way they like, with the aim being to explore questions at the heart of how we shape the world we live in over the next century.

04: Hyperservitization

By Dr Michael Fell, Research Associate at The Bartlett’s Energy Institute

Servitization – the strategy of creating value by adding services to products or even replacing a product with a service – has been going on for decades. In the 1960s, the emergence of high-quality photocopy machines led to the manufacturer (Xerox) adopting a lease and pay-per-copy model, rather than selling the (very expensive) machines themselves. In the energy sector, energy service companies (ESCos) do not sell units of electricity or gas like other suppliers – rather they provide a service package often involving installing energy efficiency measures and assuring levels of (for example) lighting and heating for a lower overall cost.

Increasingly there is interest in so-called ‘as-a-service’ models, following earlier developments in the IT sector. In the built environment, these include offerings such as ‘Energy-as-a-Service’, ‘Heat-as-a-Service’, ‘Mobility-as-a-Service’, and even ‘lifestyle services’. Built on digital platforms, they aim to provide consumers with the services they need (e.g. a certain level of warmth, of being able to get to certain places) in cost-efficient and easy-to-manage ways, often on a subscription basis.


Is the logical extreme of 'as-a-service' models – XaaS (Everything-as-a-Service)?

Credit: Lucrezia Carnelos for Unsplash

Your privacy matters. Accept and move on.

The question I pose is: what does the ultimate service offering look like?

If people want electricity in order to provide heat, and want heat in order to be warm, and to be warm in order to be comfortable, and to be comfortable in order to be happy – could you sell happiness?

All hail XaaS (Everything-as-a-Service)

Imagine that…


Say in ENERGY: what do you actually want?

  1. These electrons.
  2. This heat.
  3. This warm room.
  4. To be warm.
  5. To be comfortable.
  6. To be welcoming.
  7. To Be Happy.

Energy supplier: have some nice kilowatt hours of electricity.

District heating operator: have some nice kilowatt hours of heat.

Heat-as-a-Service operator: have a nice 19 degree Celsius home.

???: Please, take my jacket.

???: Turn down the lights, sit in this armchair with a blanket, light the candles.

???: Let me select the most perfect tune in all the world.

???: Let me deliver to you these fresh-from-the-farm ingredients, grown and selected for you and your genes, ready chopped, or even better, comingled and cooked and served up on a tray on the blanket, to you and your friends in a circle.

And then why not…

Your privacy matters. Accept and move on.

So you want to Be Happy? I have an energy for that, and maybe a mobility too, maybe. What would you like?


  1. A litre of fuel.
  2. This motion.
  3. To be at that place nine kilometres away.
  4. To be in that pub.
  5. To have a fun chat with those people.
  6. To belong.
  7. To Be Happy.

Garage: have some nice fuel (see also: Energy.)

Taxi: have some nice motion.

Travelcard: I grant you permission to get to that place, and any other around here.

Video chat: You can chat.


Could you sell Absolute Happiness?

Credit: Joshua Sortino for Unsplash

???: Let me deliver to you these fresh-from-the-farm ingredients, grown and selected for you and your genes, ready chopped, or even better, commingled and cooked and served up on a tray on the blanket, to you and your friends in your own apartments, in your very discreet headset, sufficiently together in your thoughts somewhere.

I have an:

energy mobility

fashion fun


fitness and serenity

and even popularity


Mmm niiiiice sitting room, would you like decorative Book-Holding-as-a-Service please? Or we can even read the book straight to your head. You know, that book we know you’ll love.

Your privacy matters. Accept and move on.


Do us a favour, let us make you Happy? We can turn you off and on when the sun is shining, send you out when the roads/cars are empty, prod your preferences to find out what makes you Absolutely Happy, and give you more and more of the same.

Your privacy matters. Accept and move on.

After the budget plan? We have an energy for that. We’ll turn you off and on, keep the heat on, the price down. Warm – but not too warm! – at reasonable times, most of the time, all the light that you like, and microwave meals at reasonable times, and mobility too, outside of core hours but in core places, and sharing, sharing, sharing … you’ll even be doing us a service, doing the others – doing society – a service!

Accept and move on?

The Energy Institute delivers world-leading learning, research and policy support on the challenges of climate change and energy security. It is part of The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources (BSEER) in UCL's Faculty of the Built Environment. Find out more:

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