The idea of a united world sounds more like a Hallmark card than a commercial real estate phenomenon. Regardless, connectivity is at the core of almost all major developments in the last 15 years, many of which actually created new markets. This is an age when we can be as close to our thermostats from a hundred miles away as we are to coworkers in the same office. 2016 should mark another major step forward for technology and commercial real estate, helping us deliver better service in ways we haven’t yet considered.
For decades, we have been promised a future full of seamless, convenience-based technology that makes life better. From Star Trek’s info-pads to Marty McFly’s hoverboard, the reality of the 21st century isn’t far from the movies. Technology is breeding unique solutions to unrealized problems more quickly than most people can keep up. “There’s an app for that” isn’t just a punch line; technology’s march forward is creating new, efficient ways to live our lives.
Instead of recycling old ideas and incrementally improving them, all eyes are on emerging markets. Usually described as “Uber for [insert industry here]”, torrents of new concepts are flooding into view. From geo-location and proximity-based functionality to on-demand services, these disruptive ideas have literally created a new economy. Although they run the gamut from ridiculous to “why didn’t I think of that?” it’s important to remember that many runaway Internet successes would have seemed absurd ten years ago.
We’re already seeing the impact of the today’s astounding connectivity on commercial real estate. Modern buildings have created dramatic savings over their analog ancestors. They allow for granular infrastructure control and embrace efficiency. Evolving building management systems – in concert with electronic tenant request systems that track and trend service needs – will, and to some extent already do, detect trends that seem sporadic and pinpoint losses. By communicating directly with sensor networks and internet-enabled device controllers, a new level of precision is available. At CalPERS in Sacramento, CA, smart, Internet-enabled irrigation controls predict the best watering schedules and allow for human refinement whenever necessary. That same capability also allows for remote monitoring and management of much of asset infrastructure.
CRE has a lot to gain from new tech, and it also has a lot to offer. Real estate will succeed with this emerging market by figuring out what these businesses have in common and what their needs are. This could mean massive amounts of ultra-reliable bandwidth or extremely flexible space for a highly mobile workforce. There is also a unique opportunity to engage with some as amenity partners. By eliminating transaction costs in day-to-day errands like dry cleaning of gassing up during rush hour, the convenience of working with a particular asset can increase in meaningful ways. Even something as simple as engaging Breather to take space in hard-to-lease parts of assets can work in favor tenants and owners – and even bring extra foot traffic in to buildings. If nothing else, it’s a great way to get a decorator into old, dreary rooms!
Of course, startups come and go. After filtering through the chaff, the surviving tools can be looked at as a distillation of human priorities. They can either help tell us what the most important things are to our clients, or help us deliver our services efficiently. Anything we can use to take the guesswork out of our day-to-day activities lets us focus on providing memorable, meaningful experiences.
A mentor, a real estate executive and a mom, Karen spends time all over the map. If she isn’t traveling, Karen is busy with everything from IREM to Virginia Tech’s Real Estate program. When she has a few minutes to spare, she considers it a personal mission to find new homes for all of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue’s four-legged companions.