Technology

Passport to PropTech: how technology is changing real estate models

How can property portfolios thrive amid the turbulence of mass digitisation? WORKTECH’s inaugural specialist PropTech conference explored the issues

As workplace experience tops the charts as a key success ingredient, tenant expectations are steadily on the rise and traditional real estate models are struggling to keep pace. The gap between what is offered by real estate and what is expected is widening, and developers and landlords are looking to technology as their silver bullet. This has seen 97 per cent of business leaders admitting that tech innovation will impact their business, with 60 per cent saying the impact will be very significant, according to an annual survey by KPMG.

This shift in focus to technology has seen the rise of PropTech in the past decade – and to mark its significance the inaugural PropTech19 event was held at DLA Piper’s office on 6 March 2019. A dozen experts in the PropTech industry challenged traditional models of property management and shared ideas on how to best leverage data for mutual benefit for the city, tenants and developers.

The data exchange

As the real estate industry becomes more digitally connected through the proliferation of IoT devices and smart connected systems, the digital exhaust produced by a single building can be significant. Ben Mein of Harness Property Intelligence told the PropTech conference that data sharing is critical to creating the best possible experience for tenants and ensuring the success of a property – but this has to be done strategically so real estate companies don’t give away their entire hand.

Mein explained that data comes in two streams: slow moving and fast moving. Slow moving data is intrinsic and does not change, e.g. date of birth of employees– this type of data is the most valuable and companies should try to maintain control over it. Fast moving data, on the other hand, is transient and constantly changes, e.g. what you had for lunch this week. It is the fast-moving data which should be used a bargaining tool with partners, argues Mein.

The Property Passport

One pain point of traditional real estate models is the lack of standardised property data. Andrew Baum of Oxford University’s Said Business School, a keynote speaker at PropTech 19, explained that we could see the emergence of a ‘property passport’ – a digital platform which is able to store all information relating to an individual property in its own unique data file, maintained by the owner or tenant of that building. This would provide a single pool of up-to-date, standardised property information across the city’s portfolio. Companies such as Chimni, Property Made Liquid and PropTWIN are already exploring the potential of a property passport.

In order for this to become a reality, however, Baum made a call to action for all stakeholders in the property market. His advice to government is to digitalise all relevant real estate data in the city, while business groups should innovate ways to extract and transfer digital data across platforms and to enable a risk-free transfer of digital property files. Industry groups should develop protocols which encourage common standards for digital data and individuals need to take data responsibly.

The bionic building

PropTech isn’t just transforming the way property is managed, but also the way people interact with the building. Philip Ross, founder of UnWork and Cordless Consultants, discussed some of the emerging technologies that will be commonplace in our workplaces in the next few years. Biometric identification to access the building, voice-activated technology to help us navigate the building, and apps that can be used as a tool to control almost every aspect of our working day – technology is getting personal, and tenants are ready for it.

Some of these technologies will be implemented in the new 22 Bishopsgate development by AXA, James Goldsmith of AXA Real Estate told the PropTech 19 conference. In a bid to create a transformative tenant experience and keep up with rising demands, the new development will implement new technologies while maintaining a people-centric approach.

The private/public divide

At the moment private technology companies are responsible for so much of the city’s data that they are more cognisant of what is happening in the urban environment than public authorities. A panel of urban planners and experts, chaired by Professor Jeremy Myerson of WORKTECH Academy, looked at the issue of data disconnect between the public and private sectors in London and how this could impact the city as a whole. The panel included: Euan Mills of Future Cities Catapult, Julie Alexander of Places for People, Dr Stephen Lorimer of Greater London Authority and Daisy Estrader of the Department of the Built Environment in the City of London.

Sharing data across the two sectors could improve urban planning in the city, as a new sector of technology comes into play: PlanTech. PlanTech refers to the use of technology to enable better planning of the city. Still in its infancy (running about 10 years behind the PropTech market), PlanTech aims to help sift through the data of the 45,000 planning applications per annum submitted to the city – a process which is currently done manually.

The data from private companies can lend itself to PlanTech to help better plan the city, and create environments where people want to be. Could a mutual desire of placemaking ease the tension of data sharing across the city? The first PropTech conference left delegates with a feeling there is plenty of appetite for collaboration.

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Cordless Consultants Cordless Consultants is an independent IT, AV and Smart Building consultancy. All opinions expressed in the Academy's Technology section are not necessarily the view of Cordless.