technology trends

Eight technology trends that could impact CRE

New report identifies which emerging technologies will most influence global business
Monday, August 8, 2016
By Rebecca Melnyk

Eight technology trends have recently been flagged in a new global report, spanning various regions and industries, including real estate. They are predicted to have a significant impact on global business, while influencing elements such as strategy, customer engagement, operations and compliance.

The PwC study, Tech breakthroughs megatrend, evaluated more than 150 technologies around the world and narrowed down those which PwC believes will be most noteworthy, based on business impact and commercial viability over the next five to seven years. The trends are also seen as flexible, able to scale from a business unit to the overall global enterprise landscape.

The report reminds readers that disruption is happening quicker than ever before. Yet, many companies believe that such technology trends won’t affect their industry in the near future.

Some of these technologies are maturing fast; others have been around for years, but are finally picking up. For companies wishing to implement an innovation plan, PwC recommends that executives explore, learn about and quantify the technologies and make them part of a company’s corporate strategy.

“Most companies have laid a foundation for emerging technology, investing in areas such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud,” said PwC’s Global New Business Leader Vicki Huff Eckert. “Now it’s time for executives to take a broader view of more advanced technologies that will have a greater impact on the business.”

Here is a list of the “essential eight” technologies and how they impact real estate:

Artificial intelligence (AI): software algorithms that are capable of performing tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making and language translation. AI is an “umbrella” concept that is made up of numerous subfields such as machine learning, which focuses on the development of programs that can teach themselves to learn, understand, reason, plan and act (i.e., become more “intelligent”) when exposed to new data in the right quantities.
Impact on real estate: While AI is still in its infancy, there are exciting prospects ahead. This past spring, a Seattle-based startup called EveryHome unveiled CityBldr, new software that helps commercial developers find the right property in one second. The software uses AI to scope out underused properties and potential land assemblages, and it’s the first time AI has been used in such a manner. The product scores sites on their redevelopment potential, using algorithms and feedback from more than 180 variables, including sales data, zoning, lot size, topography and proximity to transit. Owners can review open offers, request counter offers and modify proposed terms. Developers can make offers directly to owners, find infill opportunities and save money on real-estate-related fees. Future trends, among many, include, living and working recommendations based on intelligence and understanding user values, not just based on location.

Augmented Reality (AR): places visuals or information into real-world environments using computer graphics and/or audio overlay (think Pokémon GO). People can see these digital elements though tablets, smartphones or digital eyewear. AR is distinct from Virtual Reality (VR); the latter is used to re-create reality within completely fabricated space.
Impact on real estate: Exciting advances, while not mainstream, are already changing the industry. For instance, AR is showing brokers and buyers how offices and condos will look before construction has begun. The Lanterra AR app, for instance, allows people to go on 3D virtual tours. Recent innovations include the Phab2 Pro phone. Levono partnered with Google, and last month released the first smartphone designed to run AR applications using Tango—a Google project that enables tablets and mobile phones to see the way humans see. Phab2 Pro uses software and sensors to track motions and map building interiors, including the location of doors and windows. A Project Tango device can instantly measure a room and record an area’s dimensions. It will quickly be able to map offices or homes for listing online, or be used for renovations. It could even change how consumers interact with e-commerce.

Blockchain: public ledgers that use software algorithms to record and confirm transactions with reliability and anonymity. They accept inputs from many parties and can be changed only when there is a group consensus, making them more secure.
Impact on real estate: According to Deloitte, “real estate is one of the many industries that are expected to make great use of blockchain” as the demand for more information and ethical standards continues to rise. While its impact is too early to judge, it’s too important to ignore. Deloitte spots three advantages of blockchain for the industry: total transparency, removing the risk of fraud and speeding up the process associated with buying or selling a property.

Drones: air or water-based devices and vehicles that fly or move without an on-board human pilot. Drones can operate autonomously (via on-board computers) on a predefined flight plan or be controlled remotely. This type is distinct from autonomous land-based vehicles.
Impact on real estate: Drones are becoming a hot product among the real estate industry, particularly in construction where they are a quick and inexpensive way to visually document on-site inspections and progress in hard-to-reach locations. According to Lauren Hasegawa, a structural engineer and the co-founder of construction software company Bridgit, researchers are currently developing new systems that work with existing 3-D project models and identify problem areas. On the real estate front, Colliers International is one company already using drone-shots in its marketing strategy to help sell larger scale industrial properties. As it stands, anyone operating a drone that weighs more than 25 kilograms must apply for permission to Transport Canada.

Internet of Things (IoT): a network of devices all connected to the internet. This includes cellphones, wearable devices, coffee makers, washing machines and even people. Almost anything could be connected, including transportation. IoT enables connected devices to be remotely monitored or controlled. The Industrial IoT (IIoT) is a subset of IoT and refers to its use in manufacturing and industrial sectors.
Impact on real estate: While the world continues to grasp this concept and its inherent security issues, companies will eventually have to find ways to store, track and measure the generated data. Opportunities include smarter cities that understand how to improve waste reduction and energy use in buildings. At a conference earlier this year, American economist Jeremy Rifkin said, “Buildings are nodes of the Internet of Things.” All these nodes can connect in a smart way. Each building that is retrofitted becomes more efficient, then turned into a big data centre, with a micro power plant to generate energy, an electric charging station, etc.

Robots: electro-mechanical machines or virtual agents that automate, augment or assist human activities, autonomously or according to set instructions — often a computer program. (Drones are also robots, but are listed as a separate technology.)
Impact on real estate: From robotic butlers who deliver extra towels and toothbrushes to hotel guest rooms (Savioke) to robotic brushes that clean large solar panels (SolarBrush), robotics is making its mark into the built environment. According to a recent Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) article, new sensor technologies are allowing robots to safely perform facility maintenance jobs, such as scrubbing floors and mowing lawns, because they can sense obstacles in their path. One of many examples the article cites is Corrigo Incorporated that uses “automation to streamline tasks like initiating and monitoring work orders and organizing bids and invoice payment.”

Virtual reality (VR): computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or a complete environment, within a defined and contained space (unlike AR) that viewers can interact with in realistic ways. VR is intended to be an immersive experience and typically requires equipment, such as a helmet/headset, mobile devices, an IPad or a computer.
Impact on real estate: Many corporate headquarters are located far from new or developing buildings. Companies want to be in a space before they lease or sell it, while having control on how a room is outfitted to their needs. In B.C., a company called Vividus is already responding to these needs, allowing clients to roam freely around in non-existent, virtual environments. People can get a sense of a post-renovation or the design and space of a brand new office.

3D printing: physical objects are created directly from digital data into any form imaginable. 3D printing relies on innovative inks including plastic, metal, and more recently, glass and wood.
Impact on real estate: The technology is making waves because it helps eliminate construction-site waste, large storage centres and transportation costs. On the residential front, its already helping to create homes. One of the first examples is a six-storey apartment building in China, unveiled last year. For the industrial sector, JLL says it’s too early to determine what the long-term impact of 3D printing will be, and that it does not “foresee a meaningful supply and demand impact on logistics and industrial markets.” Tech hubs may see more influence. Last year, Anjee Solanki, national director of retail services for Colliers International, said three potential changes to the industry include, a decrease in the need for inventory space, the need for this light manufacturing to be located in an industrial area without zoning restrictions and the potential for government to enforce taxation.

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