2017-the-Year-for-a-Property-Tech-Boom

Is 2017 the Year for a Property Tech Boom?

20.03.17

Technology has been a disruptive force in most industries in recent years. Not so however for the real estate and construction sectors where the adoption of new technologies has fallen woefully behind. Take the construction industry, a prime example of which is the use of manual systems for project planning and management; a 'dinosaur' practice compared to the intelligent benefits of advanced data and analytics, drones, automation and robotics. That said - changes are afoot on the PropTech front, with an infiltration of high-tech gizmos shaking up the market.

 Drones

Dubbed the remote-controlled flying-squad - they've had their share of headlines recently – both good and bad. In the construction industry their role can be especially valuable for example, during surveys to check the condition of hard to reach places; a much quicker and safer solution compared to a roof survey, which would normally involve workers scaling ladders to view. Equipped with lenses, drones can also read serial and model numbers, meaning that surveys can be performed in precision detail. This new heights technology however isn't without its downsides - notably increased regulation, with aviation authorities in particular, pushing through legislation to address perceived privacy and security concerns. More and more countries are also now demanding licences or permits to use drones for certain activities including those around important landmarks.

 Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) in the property world is already a USD1 billion global industry and Goldman Sachs estimates that it is set to treble by 2020. The application has obvious enhancement attributes for real estate: notably in the sales and marketing of luxury homes, where investors often live miles away from the properties they want to view. Asset mapping is a growing spin-off business too, with 3D visualisations of buildings’ infrastructure such as air conditioning, plumbing, smoke detectors and security cameras, set to make building management more efficient.

As a ground-breaking technology VR is also very much viewed as the next phase of Building Information Modelling (BIM), and as an enhancement to computer-aided design (CAD): developers can use VR to create more realistic and detailed renderings, which are now transitioning into virtual reality walkthroughs.

This year will also see VR transition from gimmick to a legitimate tool across the REC sector as the emergence of VR headsets, interactive hand controllers and movement sensors revolutionise how designers and contractors experience the construction process.

Smart Technology

The term ‘smart building’ has been in use for some time but 'smart technology' is now making significant inroads into real estate with buildings designed to be ‘smart’, and in being so, making tenants and homeowners lives easier. The use of smart devices to control functions such as heating and lighting has a myriad of spin-off benefits including energy and cost savings for homeowners.

While the construction industry has yet to truly adopt robotics, human-controlled machine equipment is widely used. Robots for high-precision activities isn't new (consider welding or vehicle painting) but advances that allow robots to “see” via sensors mean that robots can now be used to perform previously human-only tasks, such as couriering, cleaning or gardening in hotels, warehouses or office buildings.

Security

In construction, cyber security issues are only just starting to make their presence felt. In real estate, it's a more advanced concern as buildings become increasingly ‘smart’ and with it, vulnerable. Thanks to the Internet, everything down to your Christmas tree lights can now be controlled electronically, thus making buildings the new target of cyber-attacks.

The use of ransomware is also becoming more targeted to property. In recent years, it was claimed hackers stole the blueprints to Australia’s secret service agency HQ, presenting obvious terrorist threat concerns. It's therefore understandable that landlords and building-owners would be concerned for the security of their assets, with the need to work with cybersecurity experts to protect their businesses.

Given the REC industry’s poor track record on innovation and the adoption of new technologies, tools and approaches, it's vital that governments, developers and deliverers invest collectively to achieve these shared goals and future-proof the industry. Firms need to get involved at the coalface too, developing digital road maps, appointing dedicated staff to think boldly about the digital agenda and partner with technology firms. In the digital age of collaboration, we need to embrace this catalyst for change.

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